NFC East: Steve Young

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Look, I'm not saying he can and I'm not saying he can't. I have nothing but respect for Eli Manning's abilities and the things he can do. He can beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, and if you didn't believe that after the first time, he did it again for good measure. The New York Giants' quarterback is largely underrated and underappreciated, and he's perfectly capable of having a great season even though he's coming off his worst season.


If Manning completes 70 percent of his passes this year in Ben McAdoo's new offense, as quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said Monday he'd challenged Manning to do, then McAdoo, Langsdorf and anyone else who had a hand in it should have their choice of NFL head-coaching jobs next January. And they can ride unicorns with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to the interviews.

Start with the very short list of quarterbacks who've ever hit that number in a full NFL season. It's basically Drew Brees (twice, in 2009 and 2011), Joe Montana (1989) and Steve Young (1994). Langsdorf said the list he gave Manning also included Sammy Baugh, Ken Anderson and Alex Smith. But Baugh played only eight games in the 1945 season in which he hit the mark (the league played a 10-game season that year). Anderson's 1982 season was only nine games long due to a players strike. And Smith put up his 70.2 mark in 10 games in 2012 before losing his job to Colin Kaepernick.

So if Manning is to hit this goal over a full season, he'll be doing something only three other players -- two of whom are in the Hall of Fame, and one of whom surely will be -- have done. The fact that it's a nearly impossible achievement is the first and best reason to doubt it. Manning's career completion percentage is 58.5, and his career high for a single season is 62.9, set in 2010. He would have had to complete an additional 69 passes in 2013 to get to 70 percent from the dismal 57.5 at which he finished. That's 4.3 more completions per game. Even in 2010, he would have needed 39 more completions, or 2.4 per game. May not sound like a lot, but it is when you think about what it means.

Secondly, as much as we've written about the Giants' new offensive scheme, there are still legitimate concerns about whether they have the personnel to run it effectively. The offensive line isn't set yet. Their wide receiver group is littered with question marks after Victor Cruz. They do not have a reliable pass-catching tight end on the roster. And as much as they want to stress high-percentage plays and completion percentage, it's tough to imagine they'll throw to the running backs all season.

Which kind of leads me to my final point: Eli Manning, risk-taker. Manning's calling card as a quarterback has always been, to me, his fearlessness. He has the confidence to try any throw, no matter how risky, because (a) he believes he can make it, and (b) he has an uncommon ability to put mistakes behind him and not let them affect his performance as the game goes along.

It's inconceivable to think that McAdoo and Langsdorf could change this about Manning even if they wanted to, and it's inconceivable to believe they would want to. Manning's ability to deliver an uncanny throw in a huge spot is one of the few things you can point to right now in this Giants offense that might have a chance to set it apart from others in the league. Their challenge is to install an offense that's more efficient and less turnover-prone while still making use of what Manning does best. So there's still going to be plenty of downfield stuff, and that stuff will come with more risk.

Now, OK. I understand about coaching and motivation. If Langsdorf sets a goal of 70 percent and Manning aims for it but falls 5 percent short, he'd still obliterate his career high and improve on last year by 7.5 percent. The Giants would surely take that. But hearing Langsdorf say this Monday brought home the ideas of (a) how much different this offense is going to be than it has been for the past decade, and (b) how hard it's going to be for the Giants to be proficient in their new offense in its first season.

RG III report: Protect thyself

September, 5, 2013
RGIIIJohn McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty ImagesWill Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III pitch out more on read-option plays this season?
Robert Griffin III, and everyone else it seems, knows what he must do Monday night. Before trouble arrives, hit the ground. Or get out of bounds. Or throw the ball away. It’s the same conversation that was had before his knee injury late last season; the volume, though, has increased. A lot.

Griffin will not abandon the run, whether a designed call or a scramble. It’s too much a part of his game and to ask him to just become a pocket passer is ignoring reality: Griffin makes huge plays with his legs, whether by running for a 76-yard touchdown (as he did against Minnesota last season) or by extending a fourth-down play by nearly 10 seconds and eventually picking up a first down (as he did against the Giants).

Still, the great debate has been how to keep Griffin safe. He can help himself by trusting more of what he sees downfield. He can also keep the ball alive when he does scramble, pump-faking as he approaches the line or even crosses it, something other mobile quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger do well. It can cause enough hesitation to either create an opening or allow him to slide without still getting hit.

"He can’t run as much," running back Alfred Morris said. "He has to be a smarter runner. A lot of times on options I’m like, 'Give me the ball.' Not because I want the stats, but give me the ball to let me take the hit. I can take this hit. I’m built for this. So just not as many hits and being smarter sliding instead of making something big happen."

Morris brought up a good point, too: Griffin can trust his weapons. With a highly productive back in Morris and healthy receiving targets in Fred Davis, Pierre Garcon and even third-down back Roy Helu, Griffin does not need to go it alone.

"No one person will win this game," Morris said. "It’s a team sport. You don’t have to make the big play every play. You won’t hit a home run every play. I know he’ll use that sideline a lot more and I know he’ll slide a lot more.

"If he tries to hit a home run every time out there, you’re living in la-la land. That’s unrealistic so you have to nickel and dime, nickel and dime and know that you have to be patient and that big plays are going to come."

Michael Vick understands the dilemma Griffin faces, trying to remain dangerous while running less. Vick has run the ball 791 times in his career, with two seasons of at least 120 carries, the same number Griffin had a year ago.

"Well, it's one of Robert’s strengths," Vick said. "It’s something that he does well and it's made him the type of quarterback that he is today -- and a successful one and a good one. But what I’ve learned is that you have to be cautious because these guys in this league they hit so hard and we only weigh about 210 pounds, 215 pounds and these guys taking all types of angles on us and we don’t even see them sometimes. So it's important for us to protect ourselves and be conscious of where we are on the field and most importantly understand how much we mean to our football team."

Vick's career has been marked by big plays and big hits, leading to concussions or other injuries. He has played in all 16 games in a season once in his career and hasn’t topped 13 in the past three. Vick said he's only now running smarter.

"It happens in time. It happens over time, and I can honestly tell you right now I didn’t learn it until this year," Vick said. "This preseason was the most I’ve gotten down and slid and ran with a sense of getting down and not trying to score all the time. I think once you tell yourself that's what you’re going to do, then you kind of ingrain it in your mind."

It's not as if Griffin ran with abandon last season. He got hurt trying to extend plays against Atlanta (a concussion on a third-down play in the red zone); and Baltimore (a second-and-19 scramble late in the game trailing by eight); and Seattle (rolling to his right in the red zone; he wasn’t hit). And he was better at running out of bounds after his Week 5 concussion.

Still, he said he'll have it down Monday night.

"I mean, you guys have been talking to me about it for eight months. I think it’s ingrained in my head now. I'll be getting down on Monday night," Griffin said.

Two other mobile quarterbacks in recent decades, Steve Young and John Elway, ran much less than Griffin. The most Elway ever ran was 66 times in 1987, his fourth full season as the starter. In 1997, he ran the ball 50 times. Young ran it more often (4.2 times per game) and in his last full season as the starter he ran the ball 70 times, the second-highest total of his career.

"If they can stay healthy, they can have dominant careers," ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden said of the read-option quarterbacks. "Now, the style in which they play concerns me because I'm not accustomed to seeing quarterbacks take the kind of hits and as many hits as these men take.

"I'm concerned with any quarterback that runs the ball and plays the position recklessly because as far as I know, the quarterback is the only guy that can't play on Sunday if he has a sore passing shoulder. That's my only concern. I love watching them play. I love the style of offense that they play. The combination of dropback passing and option football is just downright nasty to a defense to defend, but can they sustain that style of play deep into their careers and eventually become $100 million quarterbacks as well?"

The Redskins say they don’t have a number on how many times Griffin should run. It’s hard to do something like that anyway. But Griffin's size -- he’s listed as 6-foot-2, 217 pounds -- means that questions about durability will be in play, whether he's a pocket passer or scrambler. The fewer hits he takes, the better. They won't abandon the zone-read -- it provides big plays, both in the run and pass game, and they have a strong belief it protects him better.

"It is what it is, whatever that number ends up being," Griffin said. "I just want to make sure I go out there and play tough, play hard, play fearless, and at the same time, play smart."

On Dennis Dixon and the Eagles

February, 14, 2013

You never do know what a given day will bring. If you'd asked me this morning, "Dan, do you think you'll do posts today on two different Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterbacks?", I'd probably have said, "No, I doubt that very much." And yet here we are.

The Eagles have signed quarterback Dennis Dixon to a two-year contract. Dixon is a five-year NFL veteran who played his college football at the University of Oregon. His senior year there was 2007, which was also the first year Chip Kelly spent at Oregon as offensive coordinator. Kelly is now the head coach of the Eagles. All fits together, right?

Now, people are going to talk about how much sense this all makes because Dixon is a running quarterback and oh my goodness how could Kelly ever possibly call a single offensive play in the NFL without a super-fast running quarterback taking the snap. And I'm already getting questions on Twitter about whether he'll compete with Michael Vick and Nick Foles for the starting job or whether this means they're trading Foles. And so I figured a post was in order. Here is the basic point I would like to make:

It is Feb. 14.

Elaborate? Sure, I'll elaborate. It is Feb. 14. The Eagles' first game of the season will be on Sept. 8. That's enough time for Kelly to design and build a convincing cyborg quarterback and make it the starter if that's what he wants to do. (Seriously, Phil Knight has to be working on that anyway, right?) Stocking the roster with quarterbacks in mid-February is an indicator of absolutely nothing other than the fact that coaches know they need to make sure they have one. Most NFL teams go three-deep at quarterback all through the season. Three is actually kind of a small number for February.

And Dixon, dear reader, is a backup quarterback. He has played in a total of four NFL games and thrown a total of 59 NFL passes in his five years since he and Kelly teamed up at Oregon. Is he a useful backup? Sure. He's got two Super Bowl rings, including one he just won after playing Colin Kaepernick on the Ravens' scout team in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. He's got certain specific athletic abilities that are quite useful in practice. Maybe he can play Robert Griffin III in the weeks before the Eagles play the Redskins next year. Maybe his experience with Kelly, however brief, makes him useful as a guy who can help teammates who are unfamiliar with the new coach's style and terminology. These are important tasks for a backup quarterback, and Dixon may be well suited to them. But I sincerely doubt they signed him today with the expectation that he will play a significant number of regular-season snaps in their offense.

Hey, I've been wrong before. Maybe Vick gets hurt and Foles stinks it up and Dixon goes in there and becomes the next Steve Young. Maybe Kelly has some kind of crazy package he wants to run a couple of times a game and Dixon will be perfect for it. None of us can see the future. I just wanted, in light of the news and the response to it, to come here and make the point that not every player an NFL team signs is expected to compete for a starting role. Not even quarterbacks. And especially not on Feb. 14.
It took a while, but it seems people are finally starting to figure out what's at the root of the NFL officiating fiasco -- and who's to blame. Several New York Giants players spoke out Tuesday, and they pointed the finger squarely where it belongs -- at commissioner Roger Goodell and the league's owners, who have locked out the real officials and don't appear to care how bad the replacements are. Per the New York Daily News:
"I am not necessarily mad at the replacement officials," said Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. "I am more upset with the NFL for not handling this and taking care of this in due time."

"There's no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not having the regular officials out there," added Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka. "We've got to get that taken care of."

Good for these guys. I'm so sick of people saying and writing things like, "It doesn't matter whose fault this is, it just has to be resolved." Anybody's who's said or written that is an enabler, plain and simple, making it easier for the league and the owners to get away with their new favorite labor-dispute technique, the lockout. This is 100 percent the NFL's fault. Just as the players weren't last summer, the officials aren't on strike. They are locked out. The league will not budge until it gets everything it wants, and in the meantime the product is suffering. Everyone agrees that the product is suffering -- coaches, players, fans, analysts. Everyone but the league, whose official statements continue to portray everything as fine and the replacement officials as improving in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

[+] EnlargeJim Core
AP Photo/James D SmithThe NFL's replacement officials have been under heavy scrutiny.
But see, from the league's standpoint, everything is fine. If quality of the product were the concern, the league would already have moved to settle with the officials and done so in time for the start of the regular season. But quality of the product is not the league's concern. Size of audience is the league's only concern. And as long as ratings keep skyrocketing and people keep turning out for the games, frothing at the mouth in anticipation of them and climbing all over each other to break them all down, the NFL has no incentive to change anything it's doing. Long games? Bungled spots? Officials unafraid to proclaim themselves fans of one of the teams? Who cares? You're all still watching. You're all still willingly forking over your money. Why should the league move to do anything at all?
"I think all the success that this league is having, you don't want this to be a damper," Tuck said. "I think the replacement referee situation can start to put a damper on the league in some way. You don't want that to happen."

Problem is, unless this becomes a damper, nothing will get done. Unless this really begins to have a deleterious effect on the league's lifeblood -- TV ratings and the advertising dollars that go with them -- the owners will have no incentive to get it resolved. They'll just wait for the officials to cave in and give them what they want, and they'll march smugly into the future, assured that they were completely justified in locking out their employees and refusing to negotiate seriously. If the Giants' players are really that upset, they should be talking to their owner, because he's one of the key people behind the whole mess in the first place.

It was so refreshing to hear Steve Young on "Monday Night Football" go off on his "They don't care" rant about the league, because I really don't think people understand what this is about. The NFL could afford to pay its officials any amount of money it wanted to. It could afford to fund pensions for the officials and their kids and their dogs and cats and fish. The NFL has more money than any of us will ever be able to conceive, and if it cared to put the best possible product on its fields and your TV screens, it would simply have solved this by now. But it does not. The league and the owners care more about getting it the way they want it -- the best possible deal that lines their pockets to the maximum extent possible. And they don't care whether you like the way they do it or not. They know, no matter how upset you may get about it, that you're not going anywhere. And until they're scared you are, they're not going to change the way they behave. Not one tiny little bit.

You want this officials' dispute resolved? It's pretty simple. Stop putting up with it. Stay home this week. Keep your TV turned off. Hit them in the wallets, because that's the only place these guys feel anything. If you're not prepared to do that, then no amount of hand wringing is going to help. It doesn't matter to the NFL that the replacement officials have made the game harder to watch. It will only matter if people actually stop watching.
"Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden did a conference call Wednesday to discuss the quarterback prospects with which he's had a chance to work for his "Gruden's QB Camp" series in advance of the draft. He discussed them all, but the one of greatest concern to Washington Redskins fans is of course Robert Griffin III, whom the Redskins are expected to draft with the No. 2 pick two weeks from Thursday night. As reported fom Rich Campbell at the Washington Times:
"He can revive the Redskins as long as he stays healthy and he buys in and really takes to this new system and he continues to work. But this is a special young man whether the camera is on or off."

Gruden believes Griffin will succeed under Redskins coach Mike Shanahan because of Shanahan's track record with mobile quarterbacks.

"Some of the best tape that I've ever studied was Mike Shanahan and John Elway in Denver," Gruden said. "The back-to-back Super Bowl championship teams, they took advantage of John Elway’s mobility. A lot of people forget just how extraordinary Elway was handing the ball off to Terrell Davis, and those naked bootlegs off of those stretch plays were devastating.

"What Mike did in San Francisco with Steve Young, another mobile quarterback, those were as good of offensive tapes as I've ever seen. I think when you get Robert Griffin, one of the most explosive quarterbacks to ever play the position, in a Mike Shanahan-type system, the possibilities are very exciting, I think, with Mike Shanahan's imagination."

Gruden and Shanahan are friends, it should be noted. And it's also worth noting that Elway and Young are two of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the sport. Griffin could surely have a long and successful career without ever being nearly as good as either of those two players. But that word "revive" is a good one, since that will be the young man's task. (Unless the Colts surprise everyone and take him No. 1, in which case it will be Andrew Luck's task.)

The Redskins and their fan base are yearning for something about which to feel good. Excitement about the Redskins has been dormant for a long time. Just imagining Griffin in a Redskins uniform has begun to "revive" that excitement, but Griffin must deliver on his considerable promise in order to create a real "revival" for the Redskins and their fans. It's hard to find an expert anywhere who doesn't think he is capable of doing that.
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- As you may have heard, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has been wandering around the NFL owners meetings saying his team is undecided on whether it will take Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Irsay could be telling the truth, or he could be putting up a smokescreen, as everyone does about the draft this time of year.

One thing is certain, though. The Washington Redskins, who traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick to the Rams earlier this month to move up to the No. 2 pick, don't care. They know they're getting one of those premium quarterbacks, and that's all that matters.

[+] EnlargeMike Shanahan
Jerome Miron/US PresswireMike Shanahan feels both of the top quarterbacks available in the NFL draft are athletic enough to thrive in his offense.
"That's a decision, when you get to the second pick, you've got to feel great about both guys," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Wednesday morning. "There can't be any, 'Oh, I hope I get this guy, I hope I get that guy,' because you don't know what's going to happen. You know what's reported, but you just don't know, especially with this process. But when we did move up to that position, we had to feel great about both of them before we gave up what we gave up."

It's widely believed the Colts have been set on taking Luck for some time, and the likelihood is that the Redskins will end up with Griffin. And because of Griffin's exceptional speed and mobility, conventional wisdom has begun to coalesce that says Griffin "fits Shanahan's system" better than Luck would. But Shanahan disputes that notion, indicating that he believes it underrates Luck's athleticism.

"I say both of these guys, because they've both very athletic," Shanahan said. "When you take a guy (Luck), who's 6-4, that's 240 (pounds) and can run a 4.6 forty, that guy can move pretty good. And obviously with Robert, running a 4.4 or under, usually guys that are that fast can't throw. And he can do both."

The Redskins have not worried, since making the trade, that they paid too much. The franchise has been in need of a franchise quarterback for years -- decades, really. And Shanahan believes that it's an essential ingredient to a championship team.

"The Super Bowls that I've been involved with, with Steve Young, with John Elway, both were franchise quarterbacks," Shanahan said. "They can make plays when everything breaks down. And if somebody can do that, then you've got an opportunity, once you get to the playoffs, to do something special. Now, can you still win without one? Sure you can. But you'd better be pretty special."

Shanahan said he and his staff are spending 11 hours a day preparing for the rest of the draft, going over every possible player and trying to identify potential future stars they can find in the later rounds. But what the Redskins did when they made the deal with the Rams was buy themselves their biggest present a month before Christmas. And every day, they walk past it, wrapped and sitting under the tree. And as excited as they are, they're happy to wait to unwrap it, because they know it's going to be awesome.
ASHBURN, Va. -- One of the most common criticisms of Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan is that he's a slave to his own offensive "system," and more interested in finding players who fit that system than in finding the best possible players and constructing a system around them. Shanahan has heard this criticism, and when I brought it up in my interview with him last week, this is what he had to say about it:

"It's kind of funny, because when I had Steve Young and we had to run a West Coast offense [in San Francisco], and Steve was so much different than Joe Montana, you know, it was different. And then [John] Elway -- Elway didn't want to run the five-step drop. We were in a shotgun formation all the time. He hated the West Coast offense of three- and five-step drops, so with John it was a seven-step drop and a lot of shotgun. And then we wind up getting a guy like Jake Plummer, and of course Jake... totally different. He had to be outside the pocket, all those quarterback keeps, boots, none of the drop-back, none of the seven-step drop. He was good on the run, good on the play action, but the drop-back wasn't his game.

"So what you've always got to do is, whatever quarterback you have, you adjust your system to your players. The one thing I think I have been categorized with is the zone blocking scheme. People say, 'Oh, he loves the zone blocking scheme.' So I think I've been stereotyped there, relative to the running game. But in the passing game, if people look at what we've done in different places, they're gong to say, 'Oh, he adjusts the passing game to the quarterback.' Like with Rex [Grossman]. You can't run quarterback keeps with Rex, but you can do it with John [Beck]. So whatever somebody can do, you try to adjust accordingly."

Omar from Washington, D.C., sent in several questions for Shanahan last week, and one of the ones I used was about his relationship with his son, Kyle, who is his offensive coordinator. Omar wanted to know what Mike Shanahan thought of the criticism Kyle receives and how he feels his son has progressed in the role.

Mike Shanahan: "The important thing is that your coordinator knows what he's doing. Until you see a coordinator in meetings, or how he runs the meeting ... you're not really sure until you see him under the gun -- running game, passing game, installation of the run, installation of the pass, how he shows film, how he relates to the team. So that's where it's been very ... I shouldn't say a surprise, but it's natural for him, and it's easy to see that he understands the game. He can handle himself in any meeting, and until you see that as a coach, you just don't know, especially when it's your son. But he was very natural at that right away, so I became very comfortable with him, because I knew he knew what he was doing."

I told Shanahan that I often get questions from fans about whether Kyle will be fired, and that I generally respond to them by pointing out that Kyle's father is his boss and that a firing is therefore unlikely. He seemed to agree with my assessment, but here's what he had to say about the criticisms and the coaching staff in general:

MS: "I think what I've always been able to do is look at things very objectively in terms of where we're at. So when somebody says, 'Hey, your offense sucks,' I go, 'Hey, wait a minute. You look at my body of work over the last 27 years, we're No. 1.' And we’re going to continue to be up there. And I also know what it takes to have a good offense, in terms of coaches and personnel, and we're gong to get there, on both sides of it. And if I have a bad coach, I'm going to make changes, and if I don’t have the right personnel, I'm going to make changes. And we're going to get that thing fixed the right way."

Wendell Washington from Landover, Md., wanted me to ask the elder Shanahan about Redskins owner Dan Snyder -- specifically, whether Snyder has bought into Shanahan's belief that the way to build a long-term winner is through the draft rather than free agency and is sticking to his promise to let Shanahan do it his way.

MS: "Oh yeah, he's been very good. He's been very good letting me do it the way you want to do it. Been very supportive. I said to him, 'If you don’t count on me being here five years, you shouldn't sign me. Because this isn't going to happen overnight. We've got a lot of work to do. This is an older football team.' But he's been good."

Later on, though, I asked what impact the fact of his 11-21 record in his first two seasons as Redskins coach has on his faith that he's building the team the right way.

MS: "You just know that you've got two more years to get the job done, because they never let you go through the five years. You get it done in four years or you're gone. But that's what I love about this profession -- the pressure of it, what goes with it. The thing that I enjoy is that I've got an owner that's going to give me a chance to be successful. And if I can't get it done in four years, even though I've got a five-year contract, then I shouldn't be here."

We're going to do this every day until I run out of stuff. Thanks again for your help with the interview, and I hope you're enjoying what we've got out of it so far.

Shanahan compares Vick to Young

September, 29, 2010
Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was in San Francisco when both Joe Montana and Steve Young were on the roster. And without prompting, he brought up Young's name when he was asked Wednesday about Michael Vick now being a throw-first quarterback.

"When you can do both, you really present some problems," Shanahan said. "When I was in San Francisco and had Steve Young, Steve Young could do it all. He could sit back there and read. When he had to make a play when things would break down, he could make plays on his feet. That’s what it looks like Michael [Vick] is doing right now. He can sit back there pretty poised and obviously is very fast and elusive.”

Something tells me Jim Haslett is going to throw everything at Vick on Sunday. You'll see him bring the pressure up the middle in and effort to try and throw Vick out of rhythm. I would expect for Haslett to assign a spy to Vick at all times. It will either be London Fletcher or LaRon Landry.

Shanahan: This is not a circus!

August, 6, 2010
ASHBURN, Va. -- If you ever want to break up a pleasant conversation with Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, just start pressing him on the Albert Haynesworth situation. That's what did the trick for me Friday evening. And by now you may have heard that Haynesworth will attempt to pass Shanahan's infamous conditioning test Saturday morning, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

While sitting in Shanahan's office admiring his sophisticated video equipment, I asked him if he regretted how this whole conditioning test had become somewhat of a "circus." Needless to say, the coach didn't like that particular word.

"There has been no circus here at all," Shanahan told me. "Our guys are coming here and getting down to business."

Earlier in the week, Shanahan made a statement to reporters indicating there was a chance he might eventually allow Haynesworth to participate in practice even if he did not pass the test. But he clarified his position on that point.

"There a chance I could win the lottery," said Shanahan. "But it's very, very unlikely."

So at some point Saturday morning, Haynesworth will try to complete two 300-yard shuttle runs, thus ending one of the most durable story lines of camp. And I don't blame Shanahan for being sick of the topic, although he could have made it go away by now.

The good news is that I asked a few questions on your behalf before we got around to Haynesworth. Johnaldrichl wanted me to ask Shanahan what it would be like working with his son, Kyle. He wanted to know how that dynamic would play out.
Shanahan: It's been very enjoyable so far and Kyle's very good at what he does. I'm not any tougher on him than I am on my other coaches. He's already had success in the league as an offensive coordinator, so I think that helps in this process. But it's something that is certainly rewarding.

A reader named aberlickij wanted me to ask Donovan McNabb how many years he'd ideally like on his new contract.
McNabb: The three quarterbacks going into the final year of their contracts are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and me. That's pretty good company. I'm really not worried about it. If we do what I think we're capable of doing, things will take care of themselves.

Received an email from DDunsworth wondering why Shanahan was so excited to trade for McNabb.
Shanahan: I coached Steve Young and John Elway and they could make plays when nothing was there. They could make plays with their legs and their arms. It's rare you have a chance to get a special player like that, and we had to do it.

You can read a lot more about Shanahan and McNabb in my upcoming Redskins Camp Confidential. Thanks for all your questions. I asked at least four of them on your behalf during my visits with Shanahan and McNabb.

McNabb opens 'Book of Donovan'

April, 6, 2010

Mitchell Layton/Getty ImageDonovan McNabb was officially introduced as a member of the Redskins in a Tuesday press conference.

Donovan McNabb made it pretty clear in his introductory news conference Tuesday he has an enormous chip on his shoulder.

That's a great sign for Redskins fans.

Washington landed an elite-level quarterback who spent the past 11 seasons making the Eagles one of the most successful organizations in the league. Watching him hold his new No. 5 burgundy and gold jersey with coach Mike Shanahan was the first of many surreal moments this blockbuster trade will produce.

McNabb talked about how John Elway was 34 when Shanahan became his head coach in Denver. The two went on to win two Super Bowls together. The 33-year-old McNabb smiled as he talked about the similarities. Fortunately, reporters were gracious enough not to point out that Elway had Terrell Davis at running back and a stable offensive line. But let's not deal with those harsh realities in this entry.

McNabb tried to keep the focus on Washington, but he couldn't help poking the Eagles with a sharp stick a couple times. Twice he said that he would treat the Eagles just like the Cowboys or Giants, but we all know better.

"They're rebuilding," McNabb said of the Eagles, knowing that word drives them nuts. "They're going young. I never knew 33 years was old, but I guess I'm too old."

McNabb said he's in good company when it comes to former Eagles stars who've finished their careers elsewhere. And it was no accident he brought up the "ultimate Eagle," safety Brian Dawkins, as an example. Without Dawkins, who signed with the Broncos in free agency, the Eagles were exposed at safety in '09.

But in a lot of ways, McNabb seemed grateful Tuesday all the offseason speculation had ended, saying, "I'm just so happy that it's over."

Dressed in a three-piece suit and standing next to Shanahan, McNabb seemed completely comfortable talking about himself as a Redskin. He spent Tuesday morning working out with his new teammates and he seems particularly excited about providing leadership to a new group of players. I think McNabb offended some of his young teammates when he called them out late in the '09 season. And that's probably why you didn't hear an outcry of support from the Eagles locker room once they began shopping McNabb.

Make no mistake. McNabb desperately wanted to finish his career in Philly, and he confirmed that during Tuesday's news conference. But now he's been given the rare opportunity to prove the Eagles made a poor decision by playing against them twice a year. McNabb said he talked to his replacement in Philly, Kevin Kolb, last night by phone. He obviously wants to beat the Eagles, but he has no ill will toward Kolb.

"I'm excited for him," McNabb said. "Andy's a great coach and great guy. He's shown the trust and confidence in [Kolb]."

Asked to talk about Mike Shanahan's offense, McNabb delivered the zinger of the day. Apparently he believes the Redskins will make more of a commitment to the run game than the Eagles.

"A lot of you people that came up from Philly don't know much about that run game," said McNabb, drawing laughs from the audience.

Shanahan yielded to McNabb for the most part, but he did point out that Elway was in his 13th season when he took over the Broncos and that Steve Young was in his 11th year when he worked with him in San Francisco. He said the starting quarterback "sets the tempo for the rest of the team" and he obviously believes that McNabb's experience is a huge plus.

Given the opportunity to address Eagles fans directly during the news conference, McNabb said, "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to come and display my talents...The most important thing is that every time the Eagles stepped on the field, we felt like we could win that game."

McNabb basically sounded like the same guy we've followed for the past 11 years. He was engaging at times and he also sprinkled in some defiant moments. If he walked away from the game today, he'd leave an impressive legacy. But he acknowledged there's something very important missing, and he's hoping a change of scenery will help him accomplish that goal.

"I'm starting a new chapter in the book of Donovan," he said with a smile.

Shanahan knows what a QB looks like

February, 26, 2010
Mike ShanahanAP Photo/Darron CummingsNew Redskins coach Mike Shanahan held court with the media at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday.

INDIANAPOLIS -- For years, Mike Shanahan hasn't had a presence at the NFL combine. Even with Broncos beat writers staking out every exit of his hotel, Shanahan's stealth-like approach allowed him to get in and out of Indy without being noticed.

That's what made his appearance Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium so unusual. He arrived at 10:45 a.m. ET and spent more than an hour visiting with reporters and other bystanders. At one point, Shanahan said, "Two more questions, guys." Then he stayed and did one-on-ones for the next 30 minutes. I'm not saying Shanahan's going to turn into an open book, but it's obvious that he's now the face of the Washington Redskins.

Now, if he'd just come out and tell us who he's going to take with the No. 4 pick in April's draft. Shanahan was predictably coy with most of his answers, although he didn't hide his passion for free-agent running back LaDainian Tomlinson when I broached the topic.

But the main thing on everyone's mind is the quarterback situation in Washington. Shanahan didn't exactly give incumbent starter Jason Campbell a ringing endorsement Friday, although he expressed his "admiration" for the way Campbell overcame so much adversity in '09 -- namely preserving most of his body parts while playing behind an injury-ravaged offensive line. Shanahan confirmed that the Skins will offer Campbell, a restricted free agent, a tender that probably will have first- and third-round compensation attached. If he signs the tender, Campbell would make $3.268 million in 2010 -- otherwise known as Sage Rosenfels money.

[+] EnlargeJason Campbell
Geoff Burke/US PresswireThe Redskins will offer Jason Campbell a tender for 2010, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Campbell is well within his rights to wonder why the Redskins would ask him to potentially start at quarterback while paying him second-string money. And while he's the ultimate team player -- as evidenced by his behavior last offseason while owner Dan Snyder fawned over other quarterbacks -- there's a chance Campbell could decide not to sign the tender and skip Shanahan's offseason workouts. General manager Bruce Allen is scheduled to meet with Campbell's agent Joel Segal during the combine, according to a league source. Maybe they'll flesh out some of the details. For now, though, Campbell's focused on remaining the starter in 2010.

"No matter who they take, I plan on winning the starting job," Campbell told me Friday. "My plan is to come out and have a great year."

Shanahan has had the good fortune of working with Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Steve Young and John Elway in the past. He knows better than anyone that this is a quarterback's league and that's what led him to trade the 15th and 68th overall picks in the '06 draft to move up and select Jay Cutler at No. 11. He made this move despite the fact that Jake Plummer had led the Broncos to the '05 AFC Championship Game. And by November of the '06 season, Shanahan had made Cutler the full-time starter.

I'm told that Shanahan became obsessed with getting a new quarterback after spending a lot of time with Peyton Manning during Pro Bowl week five years ago. He couldn't believe that Manning was actually studying for the Pro Bowl, something that a free spirit such as Plummer might avoid.

Obviously Shanahan's not going to tip his hand at this point, but you can guarantee that he already has a strong opinion on the top quarterbacks in this draft. I asked him how much college football he watched during his season away from the game and he admitted that it was more than usual. And you can bet that he was paying particular attention to Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Shanahan said he plans on going to the pro days for both of those quarterbacks.

"You just look at the film," said Shanahan, referring to Bradford. "He's played enough that people should have a strong opinion."

Of course, there's a decent chance Bradford will be off the board when the Redskins pick at No. 4. The St. Louis Rams could use a franchise quarterback about now. That leaves Clausen in the mix and perhaps Texas' Colt McCoy in the second round.

I think Shanahan definitely respects what Campbell has done with the Redskins, but the coach's track record suggests he's going to try to make a splash in this draft. And no matter how much you like offensive tackles Russell Okung or Bryan Bulaga, the game's not about the left tackle.

On Friday, Shanahan didn't say anything particularly revealing, but in a lot of ways, his past speaks for itself.

Skins can't let Bears beat them to Shanahan

December, 26, 2009
The worst-kept secret in the NFL right now is that the Washington Redskins intend to make Mike Shanahan their next head coach. Players not named Albert Haynesworth have tried to remain respectful to the current Redskins coaching staff in public, but they've made no secret of their admiration for Shanahan and what he could bring to the organization.

[+] EnlargeMike Shanahan
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireIt looks as if the Redskins could have competition for Mike Shanahan's services.
When I asked Jason Campbell about Shanahan on Wednesday, he said that friends from around the league had called and texted him about Shanahan's reputation for taking quarterbacks to the next level. He knows that Shanahan has worked with Hall of Famers Steve Young and John Elway -- and both of those players give Shanahan a lot of credit for their success.

But now there's a report on indicating that Shanahan might also have an interest in the Bears' head-coaching position -- if Lovie Smith is fired. Here's what a "close friend" of Shanahan's told Melissa Isaacson:

"The job is really attractive to Mike," the friend said. "It's home [with relatives of his, including his dad, in the Chicago area, and wife Peggy's family still in the Bloomington area]. It's a great challenge because that roster needs to be made over, and the one guy there to build the team around is the one guy he has already built a team around and with whom he has a tremendous comfort level, Jay Cutler."
It's not like Cutler has given coaches much reason to covet his services with his awful performance this season, but obviously he and Shanahan had a solid rapport in Denver. Most head coaches will tell you that inheriting a good quarterback makes all the difference. Just ask Norv Turner about that in San Diego. Cutler put up impressive numbers while working with Shanahan in Denver.

And I hadn't really given the whole Shanahan family angle a lot of thought before reading Isaacson's story.'s Peter King also mentioned that Shanahan might have an interest in the Bears job in his most recent "Monday Morning Quarterback."

I think Shanahan is probably using the Bears' situation as a way to drive up his price tag in Washington. A little leverage never hurt anyone. But in the end, I think Redskins owner Dan Snyder will still get his man. Sorry, Cowboys and Bears fans.

Steve Young's benching vs. Donovan McNabb's

January, 15, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

In 1994, 49ers head coach George Seifert benched quarterback Steve Young during a 40-8 loss (to of all teams) the Eagles. San Francisco was 3-2 before that loss, but Young helped the team win 10 of its final 11 games and then Super Bowl XXIX. 

Thanks to Jon Stewart (a different one) of ESPN Stats & Analysis, here's a look at how Young and Donovan McNabb responded to their benchings:

Steve Young (1994 Regular Season)
  Before Benching After Benching
Team W-L 3-2 10-1
Comp % 65.9 72.8
TD-INT 9-7 26-3
Passer rtg 89.8 126.3

Donovan McNabb (2008 Regular Season)
  Before Benching After Benching
Team W-L 5-5-1 4-1
Comp % 58.8 64.3
TD-INT 14-10 9-1
Passer rtg 81.1 98.7

Is McNabb already in the Hall of Fame?

January, 13, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

OK, don't take that headline literally. But in listening to "Mike and Mike" this morning, Greenberg thinks that Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb should get in the Hall of Fame no matter what happens the rest of his career. Golic said he's close.

Not that they asked me, but I don't think McNabb's in right now. But a Super Bowl title this season would put him over the edge. Longtime Philly Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann agrees with me, and came up with the following stats:

Troy Aikman…3 SB wins…5 10-win seasons…81.6 QB rating…1.17 TD/Int.

Steve Young…1 SB win…5 10-win seasons…96.8 QB rating…2.17 TD/Int.

Donovan McNabb…0 SB wins…4 10-win seasons…85.9 QB rating…2.16 TD/Int.

Will McNabb be back in Philly?

December, 17, 2008

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News thinks Joe Banner and Andy Reid will bring Donovan McNabb back if the Eagles finish the season 10-5-1. And with McNabb responding to his benching with some of the best football of his career, that seems like the prudent thing to do.

But Bowen points out something I was thinking while watching McNabb talk with Stu Scott, Steve Young and Emmitt Smith. No one plays the victim better than McNabb -- and all the fawning from Young and Smith led the quarterback to make the following statement:

"When you've been in one place for 10 years, people get tired of seeing you and they say they want something new," McNabb said. "Until you're gone, they don't realize what they have."

Cue the violins. On both the NFL Network and ESPN, the postgame analysts criticized the mean ol' Eagles management team in an attempt to produce some solid sound bites from McNabb. He took the bait and talked about how he didn't like being the "scapegoat" for what was ailing the Eagles. Well, who else did McNabb want Reid to blame for all those interceptions? Whether he agrees with it or not, the benching has galvanized this club. It put every player on the roster on notice.

Now, the Eagles have a legitimate chance at the playoffs. I think you have to say Reid made the right move -- even though that's not what I thought at the time.