Fletcher Smith rips into Shanahans

Updated: December 25, 2010, 1:19 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ASHBURN, Va. -- The simmering feud between Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan and his son continued with a blistering statement from the quarterback's agent on Thursday and then a rebuttal from Kyle Shanahan on Friday.

Fletcher Smith took aim directly at the Washington coach and Kyle Shanahan, the Redskins' offensive coordinator, for the way they have handled the benching of his client.

Kyle Shanahan answered back on Friday, refuting Smith's claims in an interview with Comcast SportsNet.

"When I talked to Donovan, he said he didn't say any of that," Shanahan said during his weekly television interview. "I'm like, 'well, your agent did, which to me is you.' He said he didn't agree with any of that, that those words didn't come out of his mouth and that he didn't tell his agent that stuff. So all I can go off of is what Donovan tells me.

"We've never had a confrontation all year. We've never had an argument. Everything's been good, so it is really a different situation to hear that stuff, but when I cleared it up with him, I've got to go with the reality of what two guys between us talk about."

Smith said Thursday that the bad blood between the quarterback and the Washington coaches is due to McNabb's suggestions for improving the Redskins' offense.

"I believe there is tension between Donovan and Kyle that's rooted in the fact that Donovan has suggested modifications to Kyle's offense based on intricacies Donovan has learned in his NFL career," Smith wrote. "For example, Donovan has asked all year that the team run more screen passes to help manage the pass rush more effectively. Ironically, Kyle decided to employ Donovan's suggestions after he unceremoniously benched him on Sunday."

Kyle Shanahan called Smith's statement that McNabb suggested improvements to his offense "a joke."

"That quote was entertaining. Asking Donovan about that, he nor I remember that conversation. To hear that we had a different offense for Rex is a joke," Kyle Shanahan told Comcast SportsNet. "We ran six screens versus Dallas. We have ran five or six screens in every game since our bye week. I really have no idea what he's talking about, and it's completely inaccurate."

McNabb listened to questions from reporters Thursday while sitting in his car after practice but did not answer before driving off. He was benched before Sunday's game against Dallas and was told by Mike Shanahan that he would not play the remainder of the season.

Smith said in a statement that the Shanahans have made comments that go beyond disrespectful and are "unprecedented for a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback such as Donovan."

Smith said that the comments made by the Shanahans -- "both Mike and more specifically Kyle" -- have made the quarterback's relationship with Washington difficult to maintain.

Late Thursday, Mike Shanahan responded with a statement of his own.

"As I stated earlier, when I traded for Donovan McNabb I had hoped that he would lead us to the playoffs," Mike Shanahan said. "No one wanted him to be more successful than me. When the team was 5-8 and mathematically out of the playoffs, I made the decision to evaluate our other two quarterbacks.

When I talked to Donovan, he said he didn't say any of that. I'm like, 'well, your agent did, which to me is you.' He said he didn't agree with any of that, that those words didn't come out of his mouth and that he didn't tell his agent that stuff.

-- Kyle Shanahan on conversation with Donovan McNabb regarding comments from McNabb's agent

"This was not personal, but strictly professional. The decision was made in the best interest of the Washington Redskins and I stand by my decision. I will attempt to talk to Fletcher Smith directly to clear up every one of his misconceptions."

According to Smith, Kyle Shanahan said that McNabb "will never take another snap for me again" after McNabb drove the Redskins down the field for the potential game-tying drive against Tampa Bay on Dec. 12.

Kyle Shanahan on Friday denied making that statement to McNabb.

"I was with Donovan at the end of that Tampa Bay game. We were together the whole time, so I'd like to know where he got that quote," he told the network.

The 34-year-old McNabb was listed as the No. 2 quarterback during the Redskins' 33-30 loss to Dallas. McNabb said he felt "disrespected" by the way he was demoted.

"Everything was handled awkwardly," he said Tuesday on his weekly radio show on ESPN 980, "somewhat to a disrespect to me and to the team."

McNabb was benched only once in 11 years with Philadelphia, and he's already doubled that total with the Redskins since being acquired by the team in April. Shanahan yanked McNabb for Rex Grossman in the final two minutes against Detroit in October with the game on the line, then offered several strange excuses for the decision.

Smith said the benching of his client has been part of what he described as a "difficult season" for McNabb.

"Donovan is coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2009 where he threw for 3,500 [plus] yards on 60 [percent] completions, with a TD-INT ratio of more than 2:1," Smith wrote. "He also led his team to the playoffs with an 11-5 record, and that's what he hoped to accomplish in Washington.

"This year, Donovan was on pace to set the Redskins all-time passing yards mark before being benched."

Earlier this season Mike Shanahan said he felt Grossman had a better grasp of the team's two-minute offense, then said McNabb lacked the "cardiovascular endurance" to run a fast-paced drill because of nagging hamstring injuries. Kyle Shanahan said McNabb had been tipped off in advance that the team might go with Grossman; McNabb said he hadn't.

Then the Redskins gave McNabb a five-year contract extension worth up to $78 million -- though the quarterback is guaranteed to receive only an extra $3.5 million this season. The deal contains a clause that allows the Redskins to cut McNabb before next season with no further financial obligation.

McNabb has expressed a desire to return to Washington next season, and Shanahan said he would be willing to have McNabb as a backup -- a pairing that seems unlikely.

Smith left the door open in his statement, saying McNabb has taken the high road during the circus-like atmosphere.

"Donovan has maintained a high level of professionalism on and off the field," Smith said. "He is determined to continue his relentless commitment to win and looks forward to the opportunity wherever that may be!"

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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