ASHBURN, Va. - Donovan McNabb to second-string. Then to third-string. Then no guarantee that he'll be back next season.
Maybe he's no John Elway after all.
The ever-dramatic Washington Redskins upset the NFL apple cart once again Friday when coach Mike Shanahan announced Rex Grossman as his starter for the rest of the season, beginning with Sunday's game at Dallas.
McNabb will be the No. 2 quarterback against the Cowboys, then drop to No. 3 behind Grossman and John Beck for the final two games of the season.
And after that?
"I also told him," Shanahan said, "that I cannot guarantee him that he will be back next year."
That's how far the 34-year-old, six-time Pro Bowl quarterback has fallen. The player acquired with such fanfare in an April trade with the Eagles - the quarterback who would do for Shanahan in Washington what Elway did for him in Denver - is benched in a season in which he has been woefully inconsistent, throwing a career-high 15 interceptions and ranking 25th in the NFL with a 77.1 rating.
In a statement issued through his publicist, according to NBCSports.com, McNabb said: "I respect Mike's decision as a head coach, but I strongly disagree with it."
Asked if getting McNabb was a mistake, Shanahan said: "I think there's a lot of mistakes that you make. You really don't know if you made a mistake, but if you do make one, you make it and you go on."
McNabb's performance has the coach leaving all options open at the team's most important position for 2011. Shanahan said he had been planning to make the move after the Redskins (5-8) were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, which happened last weekend after a 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay.
According to ESPN.com, McNabb's agent, Fletcher Smith, called the move "disrespectful to Donovan. He has not been more disrespected his whole career than he has this season. It's absolutely ridiculous."
McNabb was benched only once in 11 years with the Eagles, and he's already doubled that total with the Redskins in less than one season.
The Redskins gave McNabb a five-year contract extension in November nominally worth $78 million - but the only thing it guaranteed was that the quarterback would receive 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.