- Jemele Hill, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine
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The unofficial credo in sports is that it's always about the money.
So financially, it makes some sense for Donovan McNabb to sign a five-year, $78 million extension with the Redskins, even though he's guaranteed only $3.75 million until the team picks up an option after this season.
The Redskins have given McNabb, who will turn 34 later this month, the appearance of a long-term contract, and in return, McNabb's ego can be placated by the surface-level numbers.
I don't begrudge McNabb for getting some extra money on the table this season, but if there were ever a situation in which money needed to be an afterthought, it's this one.
The Redskins' embarrassing 59-28 loss to the Eagles on Monday night was more than just a colossal meltdown. It was foreshadowing, a warning to both McNabb and the Redskins that any kind of marriage between them is a mistake for all involved.
Why would McNabb want to play in an unstable situation that might ultimately threaten his legacy?
If McNabb learned anything with the Eagles, it's that it doesn't take long for the mob to rise against you. And if sentiment turns quickly in Philadelphia, where there has been coaching stability and success, it's doubly capricious in D.C., where the Redskins have cycled through coaches and high-profile free agents under owner Dan Snyder but have only two playoff victories in the past 17 years.
The timing of McNabb's contract extension couldn't have been worse. The Eagles jumped to a five-touchdown lead, and McNabb had to watch his replacement in Philadelphia, Michael Vick, put on a breathtaking, six-touchdown performance that cemented the Eagles QB as the most exciting player to watch in the NFL. Maybe even in all of sports.
Just a few hours after the franchise announced the new contract with McNabb, the deal was being characterized by the media and fans as another example of how badly the Redskins do business.
Even McNabb's favorite nemesis, Terrell Owens, couldn't resist dropping some napalm on McNabb. After the Redskins' loss, this tweet came from Owens' account: "How do u justify a 78 million contract w/ this type of performance?"
Sticking to the unofficial foot-in-mouth Twitter policy of athletes and celebrities, Owens later said his brother sent the tweet, not he.
But the bitter words resonate with a lot of Washington fans.
It's expected that people would be down on McNabb after such a humiliating defeat, but what's baffling is why McNabb would entertain finishing his career with a team surrounded with too little talent and too high expectations.
The Redskins aren't close to regularly competing for anything, and making matters worse, they have a power-hungry coach who seems hell-bent on creating drama with his best players.
McNabb shouldn't want any part of Mike Shanahan after the coach openly disrespected the quarterback by benching him in favor of Rex Grossman in the final minutes against the Detroit Lions a couple of weeks ago.
Shanahan's decision to bench McNabb and his bizarre power struggle with Albert Haynesworth shows that he's not above sacrificing team success to prove he's in control. In Denver, Shanahan had a number of tumultuous relationships with his quarterbacks from Bubby Brister to Jake Plummer. If McNabb thinks his relationship with Shanahan will be different, he's deluding himself.
Besides, McNabb has the added pressure of dealing with Shanahan's son, Kyle, the Redskins' offensive coordinator, who reportedly wasn't happy with McNabb's progress in picking up the offense. Handling a power-hungry coach and his son will be challenging.
When you're at the tail end of a Hall of Fame career and you've dealt with as much controversy as McNabb has, having peace of mind should be just as important as money. McNabb won't get peace of mind with the Redskins, nor is he likely to get another real shot at a Super Bowl.
Although Snyder seems to have taken a less intrusive role lately, the Redskins have proved to be clueless when it comes to putting a team together. The Deion Sanders and Dana Stubblefield deals immediately come to mind.
McNabb deserved another contract, but it's debatable whether the Redskins should have been the team to give him one.
As crazy as it sounds, McNabb should hope that the Redskins decide to go in another direction at quarterback when the season is over. Arizona or Minnesota is a better situation for McNabb, and although the payday may not be $78 million, having a real chance to return to the Super Bowl is priceless.
Jemele Hill can be reached at email@example.com.
I don't begrudge Donovan McNabb for getting some extra money from the Washington Redskins this season, but if there were ever a situation in which money needed to be an afterthought, it's this one.