Commentary

Donovan McNabb should set agenda

Updated: December 29, 2010, 10:49 AM ET
By Jemele Hill | ESPN.com

With Donovan McNabb expected to ask for his release from the Washington Redskins at the end of the season, I've been forced to realize that Brett Favre was right all along.

[+] EnlargeDonovan McNabb
AP Photo/Tim SharpMike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb do not have a warm relationship.

As critical as I've been of Favre and his distasteful annual waffling, I begrudgingly confess that McNabb's situation with the Redskins makes me fully understand why Favre has gone to such lengths to leave the NFL on his own terms -- even if it makes him look completely self-absorbed.

It's increasingly apparent that McNabb -- a class act who, like Favre, has earned the right to finish his career competing for a Super Bowl contender -- will have to settle for whatever career ending the Redskins deem appropriate.

McNabb made a colossal error by choosing to sign a five-year contract extension with the Redskins. The contract was worth $78 million -- which made a lot of jaws drop -- but as it turns out, the deal came with such significant strings that it ultimately puts McNabb at the Redskins' mercy.

The most glaring catch in the extension is that any team that wants McNabb might have to pay a $10 million option and also likely surrender draft picks.

The Redskins could release McNabb, but they gave up a second-round pick in this year's draft and either a third- or fourth-rounder next year to get him, so it only makes sense for the team to get as much as possible for him.

McNabb is on the Redskins' timetable, when it should be the other way around.

The uncertainty of the NFL's labor situation also will be an issue for any team wishing to sign the six-time Pro Bowler, as will McNabb's age (34 years old and entering his 13th season). But the far bigger problem for McNabb is the looming perception that he is no longer an NFL starter.

Minnesota, Arizona, Miami and Tennessee all have tenuous quarterback situations, but can one of those teams really afford to give up so much for McNabb after he's been benched for Rex Grossman and demoted to the No. 3 quarterback?

[+] EnlargeDonovan McNabb
Matt Stamey/US PresswireDonovan McNabb has been relegated to the sidelines. Will he ever get off the bench again?

Can a GM sell McNabb to his ownership and fan base as a franchise quarterback when Shanahan and his son Kyle, the Redskins' offensive coordinator, have insinuated that McNabb is uncoachable and incapable of improving?

I believe McNabb is still a starter in the NFL and that Shanahan was wrong to bench McNabb, even though it was obvious there were chemistry issues between the quarterback and coaches.

In a league in which production supersedes everything, no one will care that Grossman supplanted McNabb, in part, because of familiarity. Kyle Shanahan was Houston's offensive coordinator when Grossman was a backup last season.

It also doesn't help McNabb's case that Grossman has looked fine as his replacement, throwing four touchdowns in a loss to the Cowboys and leading the Redskins to a 20-17 win at Jacksonville, which broke Washington's four-game losing streak.

McNabb can blame only himself for being in this position at this stage of his career. When Mike Shanahan benched McNabb in the final minutes of the Detroit game because, per Shanahan's words, McNabb lacked the "cardiovascular endurance" to run the Redskins' two-minute offense, that should have signaled to McNabb that it was time to use his questionable stamina to run away from the Redskins as quickly as he could.

Instead, news of his new deal surfaced before the team's next game. McNabb will see every penny of the 12-year, $115 million deal he signed with the Eagles in 2002. So the latest extension might have given him even more financial security, but at this stage in his career, a contract should be about something more.

[+] EnlargeFavre/Childress
Adam Bettcher/Getty ImagesThe Brett Favre-Brad Childress QB-coach relationship was all smiles -- until it wasn't.

McNabb has enough credibility in this league that his reputation could have withstood a more contentious beef with Shanahan, who is still living off what he accomplished when he coached Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.

McNabb has been a consummate professional throughout his career, but he should have strongly rebuked Shanahan. Sure, McNabb recently admitted he felt "somewhat" "disrespected" by the way Shanahan has treated him, but given all that has happened this season, that late, tepid response wasn't passionate enough to answer the questions and doubts now attached to his future.

Say what you will about Favre, but he would have never allowed himself to be subjugated the way McNabb has. Vikings coach Brad Childress tried to assert himself with Favre, and you see how that worked out. Granted, this season has been disastrous for Favre, who has lived under the cloud of a sexting scandal and is currently suffering from a concussion.

Regardless, you can't say that Favre didn't do things his way as he finished up his Hall of Fame career. He demanded respect at every turn. Yes, Favre sometimes behaved like a diva with the Packers, Jets and Vikings, but no matter when he takes his final snap, you can't say he didn't give himself the opportunity to go on a run with a Super Bowl contender.

I doubt that McNabb will be able to say the same.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.

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