Redskins: Go long with McNabb
One take-away from an already incongruent season: If there is one indispensable player on the Washington Redskins roster, one guy whose absence would end any realistic hope of returning to the playoffs, it's Donovan McNabb.
Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen now have to answer an important question: If this is really about winning now, about the Redskins embarking on a one- to three-year run toward a championship - rather than admitting they're refurbishing a structurally flawed home - what's the hold-up?
Less than six months after McNabb was traded for and has emerged as the team's on-field leader and off-field ambassador, why hasn't his contract been extended?
Where's the news conference announcing a four- or five-year extension with an annual salary commensurate with any current quarterback not named Tom Brady, who is making $18 million per?
Contract talks are "ongoing and hopeful," said Fletcher Smith, McNabb's agent. When reached by telephone Sunday afternoon, he refused to fan any flames of a possible impasse. "Donovan definitely wants to be there."
The team maintains the same position, intimating something will eventually get done. And on the surface, there appears to be no reason for real concern.
Between the lines, though, the two sides have had since the first week of June to work out a deal. For myriad reasons, it hasn't happened.
If you're McNabb, this reason would pierce the psyche most: Maybe Shanahan is still unsure you're his guy for the long haul. After 11-plus years of establishing yourself as an elite NFL quarterback and taking your team to the NFC championship game five times in the past nine years, you're inexplicably still auditioning for the lead role for a franchise that hasn't been there since the 1991 season.
Shanahan can say all the right things about McNabb being tethered to the team's future, but real commitment amounts to a contract extension.
It's not McNabb's fault he joined the franchise during a new era of fiscal responsibility, where the people in charge have pledged to be smart with Daniel Snyder's money, or that he plays in an era where 30-something quarterbacks are suddenly resetting the bar for past-their-prime productivity.
His extension will be the new regime's first big financial splash, and after all the money the Redskins have pilfered away in the Snyder era, Shanahan and Allen understandably want to make doubly sure more millions for another town's star don't go to waste.
In fact, two former NFL executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity last Friday, said they believed Shanahan wanted to wait between eight to 10 games to gauge McNabb's ability to adapt to a new scheme and show his wares as he approaches 34 years of age before showing him the money.