ASHBURN, Va. - Never mind the talk about whether Donovan McNabb will be the Washington Redskins' quarterback next season. Coach Mike Shanahan won't even say whether McNabb will be the quarterback on Sunday.
"We're not committing to tell you who the starters are at any position," Shanahan said yesterday, explaining how he hopes to keep the Dallas Cowboys guessing about a possible switch to Rex Grossman. "They've got to get ready for a couple of players. That's good for us."
It's important to note that Shanahan was in a playful mood as he dodged those quarterback questions, and that it's hard to find anyone who really believes there's a chance that Grossman will supplant the six-time Pro Bowl player for the latest edition of the NFC East rivalry.
And, for the record, if McNabb weren't starting, he made no bones about the fact that Shanahan should have told him by now.
"I would have hoped," McNabb said. "That's professionalism. Communication."
Yet the very fact that McNabb's status is such a topic demonstrates his uncertain status as he winds down his first season in Washington. With the Redskins (5-8) eliminated from the playoff race, Shanahan has made it clear he intends to use the final three games to determine who should be on the roster next year. Many players have also stated they're playing for jobs, even if it that job might be with another team in 2011.
McNabb would seem to fit into that category. He is 34 and is having his worst season since he was a rookie in 1999. He's thrown a career-high 15 interceptions and ranks 25th in the NFL with a 77.1 rating. He's been inconsistent and has bounced far too many passes in front of open receivers. When the Redskins gave him a contract extension last month, it came with a clause that allows the team to cut him at the end of the season with no further financial obligation.
McNabb, however, is not a fan of the play-for-job motivational tactic.
"I look at these three games to get better," McNabb said. "When you have a mind-set to go out and to try to impress and to do a little bit more than what you're capable of doing, it takes away from being in the framework of the schemes and what we're planning on doing. A lot of times you focus too hard on different things, and it takes you away from things that are just easy to you. In this situation, obviously with three more games left, we want to do whatever it takes to win and we can't control anything else after that."