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Shanahan’s ‘gut’ called for change

Donovan McNabb has had a rough go in first season with Redskins. (Associated Press)
Donovan McNabb has had a rough go in first season with Redskins. (Associated Press)

McNabb pulled for lack of stamina, coach says

ASHBURN, Va. – Mike Shanahan changed his story in a hurry. The new explanation: Donovan McNabb was benched more because of his body, not his brain.

Less than 24 hours after declaring he yanked McNabb because of a “gut feel” relating to the quarterback’s less-than-full competence in the offense, the Washington Redskins coach instead insisted Monday it was a pre-planned move that had more to do with “cardiovascular endurance” issues.

McNabb, because of nagging hamstring and groin injuries, wasn’t in good enough shape to run a two-minute offense with no timeouts – according to Shanahan.

“The cardiovascular endurance that it takes to run a two-minute, going all the way down with no timeouts, calling plays, it’s just not easy.” Shanahan said. “If I thought it was the best situation to do, then Donovan would have run the two-minute offense.”

Somewhere in between the range of explanations is the cold fact: McNabb, who turns 34 this month, is not having a very good season.

With the Redskins trailing the Detroit Lions by six points with 1:50 to play, Shanahan pulled McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman. It didn’t work. The backup’s first snap of the season turned into a touchdown for the other team, with Grossman fumbling the ball on a blindside sack and Ndamukong Suh returning it for the score.

Detroit won 37-25, leaving the Redskins at 4-4 as they enter their bye week.

After the game, Shanahan justified the move by citing the complexities of the two-minute offense. The game speeds up. Multiple plays have to be called at the line of scrimmage. It all has “to come automatically,” the coach said.

But one should always expect the unexpected with the Redskins. Shanahan came up with a fourth explanation: cardio.

Shanahan said McNabb, who has two tight hamstrings, a sore groin and a bruised shin, hasn’t been able to practice the two-minute drill for five weeks. The coach said he even called the quarterback into the office last week and discussed the possibility of McNabb sitting out the game.