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Are Redskins tanking to draft a quarterback?

Donovan McNabb

Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb (5) reacts after a play during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants won the game 31-7. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)


The Washington Redskins’ decision this week to bench Donovan McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman has a lot of people asking, What is Mike Shanahan thinking?

Perhaps he’s thinking about drafting a quarterback in 2011 -- and thinking that losing the final three games gives him a better chance of acquiring the quarterback he wants.

That was the subject of a discussion this morning on NFL Network, focusing on whether Shanahan is throwing the rest of the season so he can get a high draft pick next year.

“They’re really thinking about drafting a quarterback,” NFL Network reporter Michael Lombardi said. “The move to Rex Grossman, I’ve been told reliably by people in the Washington organization, has nothing to do with him being the quarterback of the future. It’s about them being in position next year to draft a quarterback.”

NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk also suggested that the Redskins, who are currently 5-8, would rather finish 5-11 than 8-8.

“Those five wins? That’s all they want,” Faulk said. “Five wins and 11 losses, that might put you in the Top 5. . . . If they can get in the Top 5, there’s a lot of good college quarterbacks coming out this year. . . . Is that throwing games? I don’t know. But you understand that Donovan McNabb gives you the best chance to win, and you start Rex, and John Beck is second and Donovan is third? You’re sending a crazy message.”

Warren Sapp was blunt in his assessment: “Right now they’re tanking the season looking for that Top 5 pick.”

So who would Shanahan want to draft with that Top 5 pick? Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is widely regarded as the best prospect in the 2011 NFL draft. But he’s likely to go first overall, and it’s impossible for the Redskins to get the first overall pick, so tanking games to get Luck wouldn’t be a very smart strategy.

But there are other good quarterbacks Shanahan might covet, including Ryan Mallett of Arkansas and Cam Newton of Auburn. Would Shanahan want to lose the last three games of 2010 so he can draft one of those quarterbacks in 2011?

A team intentionally losing games to get good draft picks would be a terrible thing for the integrity of the National Football League. That the league’s own network is openly discussing the possibility of a team doing just that shows what a bizarre year it’s been in Washington.