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Shanahan dismisses talk of tanking

Mike Shanahan, Donovan McNabb

Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, left, and quarterback Donovan McNabb stand on the sidelines before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)


Over the weekend, a theory emerged that Redskins coach Mike Shanahan decided to bench quarterback Donovan McNabb and elevate Rex Grossman in part losing down the stretch would put the Redskins in better position to draft their quarterback of the future.

Shanahan, predictably, dismisses that notion.

That doesn’t even deserve an answer,’' Shanahan recently told Thomas George of, before providing an answer. “It is totally ridiculous. Anybody who knows me knows I want to win.’'

The theory originated with Michael Lombardi of NFL Network, who once worked for Shanahan in Denver and who thus “knows” Shanahan.

Though Shanahan has acknowledged that he’s willing to sprain the truth when necessary, we believe that he wants to win. The question is whether he’s talking about winning a handful of meaningless regular-season games, or whether he’s talking about building a program that consistently wins.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that a team’s long-term interests are buoyed by short-term struggles, when it comes to draft position. Right now, six teams have fewer than five wins. Nine teams have five or six wins. Thus, the difference between 7-9 and 6-10 and 5-11 can be dramatic when it comes to, say, getting in position to draft Cam Newton or to trade up for Andrew Luck.

“When you are trying to build something the right way, it can take off, but it usually takes time,’' Shanahan said. He’s right, and it usually takes a draft or two. And the higher the team drafts, the better.

Meanwhile, in an effort to stay true to the attitude that helped this site grow, we need to raise a related issue. Are we the only ones who wondered whether George’s item was an article or a press release? Though George poses some delicate questions to Shanahan, George gives Shanahan a platform for answering them without scrutiny, analysis, or skepticism.

And he assumes without evidence one key fact that may or may not be true -- that the owner who falls out of love with a head coach faster than any owner in sports has not yet fallen out of love with Shanahan.

Of all sports journalists, George should realize that the truth is often buried below levels of obfuscation. Indeed, it was George who harvested quotes from Broncos owner Pat Bowlen indicating that coach Josh McDaniels would definitely return in 2011, and who presented them without scrutiny, analysis, or skepticism.

In that case, it was clear that Bowlen’s words would not mesh with his actions. In this case, we think the assumption that Mike Shanahan continues to enjoy the trust of Daniel Snyder may be just as big of a stretch.