What a strange, strange press conference Mike Shanahan gave just now. The majority of the 23-minute exchange dealt with Shanahan's decision to bench Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman in the final two minutes of yesterday's loss to the Detroit Lions. On that front it appears Shanahan is changing his story a bit, which we'll discuss more below. Nevertheless, the big news is this: Shanahan affirmed that, if he had to make the decision again, he would still bench McNabb for Grossman.
The rationale, however, seems to have changed a bit. Yesterday, after the game was over, Shanahan said McNabb was healthy enough to play and that he made a gut decision to sit him because he felt Grossman knew the terminology better. Today, Shanahan said he actually thought about potentially making the move earlier in the week, and added that McNabb's poor health (he had been nursing a hamstring injury) was a big factor in his decision.
Referencing McNabb's "cardiovascular conditioning" multiple times, Shanahan said he did not feel McNabb was in good enough condition to properly run a two-minute drill, which he defined as having no timeouts with the length of the field to go. He said that while Grossman hadn't practiced running a two-minute drill either, he was "in good shape" and was better-equipped to do so in that situation due to his experience in Houston.
"When you are calling plays in a two-minute drill ... two plays in advance, and you're working on your cardiovascular [condition] ... it's really hard to do that," Shanahan said. "I thought it would be in the best interest to go in a different direction."
Shanahan said he actually sat down with McNabb earlier in the week and asked him if he was healthy enough to play in the game. McNabb was nursing a hamstring injury and didn't practice much during the week, but he said he was willing to go. But one day after saying it was a gut decision to bench McNabb, Shanahan admitted he had decided earlier in the week that he would bench McNabb if a two-minute drill like that ever came up.
"If it was a situation with no timeouts, when we had to move the length of the field with no timeouts, I thought it would be in the best interest to not have him play," Shanahan said.
However, Shanahan said he did not talk to McNabb about that, saying he didn't want to worry him.
"You're hoping you're not going to be in a two-minute situation," he said.
Shanahan said he did tell some people before the game that he was planning on sitting McNabb in that situation, but declined to elaborate on which people he told.
"I did talk to some people. I'm not going to tell you who I talked to, because once I go down that road, I open up a Pandora's Box," he said.
All this said, Shanahan reaffirmed that McNabb is the team's starting quarterback. When asked about how this affects McNabb's future with the team, Shanahan said it changes nothing, and that they will continue to talk to McNabb's agent to try to get a long-term deal done.
"We all know Donovan is a franchise quarterback," he said.
[HT to ESPN 980 for broadcasting the press conference]