Donovan McNabb contract extension with Redskins affirms Mike Shanahan's commitment

By Mike Wise
Washington Post Sports Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 1:44 AM

Unless the old man really did cover for his hyper-competitive kid, like Mike Wilbon says, there is no way to plausibly explain how Mike Shanahan did not want Donovan McNabb to run his two-minute offense two weeks ago after the Redskins coach signed off on a $78 million deal for his quarterback.

In light of recent events, the move to keep McNabb is a 10 on the out-of-left-field scale. And as reactive and dangerous as that might sound, it makes very good sense in the long term. Blowout loss to Donovan's old team notwithstanding.

Yes, the timing of the announcement - hours before a national television audience tuned into a "Monday Night Football" encounter between McNabb and an Eagles franchise that gave up on him - was pure Daniel Snyder: Big, glitzy and highly questionable, especially given McNabb's recent numbers, apparently slow transition to a new offensive scheme and, okay, being thrown under the bus by the Shanahan clan after the Detroit debacle.

But that's all short view. The decision to extend McNabb's contract was audacious, bold and finally shows a genuine level of commitment on Shanahan's part - an acknowledgement, if you will.

By getting General Manager Bruce Allen to work out the details and Snyder to sign another Monopoly-like check, the man who lords over the Redskins like no coach before probably realized he could not pass "Go" and end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame simply because he drew John Elway.

Either before or after Rex Grossman was crumpled in Detroit, Shanahan realized he needed McNabb just as much as McNabb needed him if the Redskins actually had designs on reaching an NFC title game, and perhaps beyond, in the next three years.

That's the realistic amount of time the coach and the player who turns 34 in nine days will be together and also about the time the window will still be open for a Super Bowl with McNabb at the helm - provided money is soon spent on procuring a respectable offensive line.

In turn, McNabb signs the last big-money deal of his career with an organization he has said he is committed to time and again, and continues marketing his image and the Redskins with his telegenic smile.

He also uses Shanahan's coaching acumen to get to Canton much quicker.

McNabb is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and many of the game's smartest observers believe his Hall-of-Fame resume is still incomplete despite six Pro Bowls, five NFC title games and one Super Bowl appearance.

If he gets to at least another NFC championship game with a second franchise, there is no question his credentials would be worthy of quick induction.

Shanahan with McNabb at the helm, meanwhile, has a chance to become the next Mike Holmgren, a guy who took two organizations to the Super Bowl.

However that eyesore looked Monday night, this is a win-win deal for the Redskins, the smartest move they have made financially with a marquee player who began his career somewhere else.

The names of abject free-agents busts in Washington are rote by now: Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeremiah Trotter, Jeff George, Adam Archuleta, Brandon Lloyd, Dana Stubblefield and Albert Haynesworth. Those eight players signed contracts for a combined value of $366 million.

But of all those awful acquistions - and, yes, the jury is still out for me on Big Al - McNabb is the one guy who deserves large guaranteed dollars, who gives the people around him like Chris Cooley and Santana Moss real hope that this team could make a bona fide run.

Look, I realize there is a segment of the s fan base that echoes all of Philadelphia's old concerns about McNabb: too inaccurate, too cool and serene, too flat-out flawed to take a team to a Super Bowl at this point in his career.

In fact, one of the most oft-repeated responses from the Philly crowd when McNabb is struggling goes like this: "See. This is the beginning of what we saw."

Really? Given that McNabb almost went to the NFC championship every other year of his career, that means one title game could be in the offing. And I'm guessing disenchanted fans in Washington, who have not seen one of those in nearly 20 years, would take that.

What people miss from afar is there is no Michael Vick, Jeff Garcia, Kevin Kolb or even A.J. Feeley standing with a clipboard here. Jason Campbell had some real tools, but the franchise refused to believe enough in his development to open the vault.

And it really doesn't matter if Donovan McNabb is sore or tired or really isn't that great with remembering four plays in a row in a no-huddle offense. He gives Washington a shot at the position, a genuine leader and talent at quarterback they have not had since, well, Joe Theismann.

Whether that says more about the sorry state of the Redskins or the unfair bar Philadelphia set for McNabb is immaterial.

The guy the Redskins acquired for a second-round pick this season and a third- or fourth-round pick in 2011 is here for the foreseeable future. If he left after one season, that's a terrible, mortgage-the-future deal made by Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen in their first big move.

Now that he's signed, it's on McNabb. If he can find another gear the next two months and beyond, the Eagles can crow about Vick all they want. Bottom line, Andy Reid thought Kevin Kolb was McNabb's replacement, so much so he forked over $12.5 million a year to the guy now backing up Vick.

And, yes, Mike Vick is now the NFL's It Guy. But I will take McNabb's body of work any day plus Monday.

Either way, immediately after the pen dried on five years and $78 million Monday afternoon, a bond was consummated, a covenant between Shanahan and McNabb. The coach and the quarterback whose seemingly strained relationship put this town on tilt the past two weeks are now tethered together -- their hopes of Canton and the postseason now one.

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