LANDOVER, Md. - Fifteen days after his head coach benched him for lacking the physical endurance and know how to run the Washington Redskins' two-minute offense, Donovan McNabb on Monday signed a five-year contract extension with the Redskins.
The deal, conveniently announced a few hours before the Redskins hosted the Eagles at FedEx Field, was for $78 million, with $40 million guaranteed according to ESPN.com.
It certainly was a big deal for a player who is about to turn 34 and, statistically at least, is having his worst season since his rookie year of 1999. It also served as a huge apology from the franchise for subjecting McNabb to the humiliation of being taken out of a game and being replaced by journeyman backup Rex Grossman.
A source close to McNabb said that he was relieved to have a long-term deal and not have to go through the uncertainty of being a free agent following this season. There was a natural connection for McNabb in Minnesota with head coach Brad Childress, the former Eagles offensive coordinator, and a potential fit with Arizona, where McNabb lives in the off-season.
But no situation is guaranteed, and now McNabb will remain in the NFC East and will still get to play the Eagles twice a year.
McNabb's agent, Fletcher Smith, said before kickoff last night that McNabb loves it in Washington, is close with his teammates and was happy not to go bouncing around the National Football League chasing a championship.
"Donovan has been in this cycle for three or four years now, with the Eagles sort of year to year, so I think it was important for him to know that this would be his home for the next few seasons," Smith said.
Going into Monday night's game, McNabb had completed 159 of 277 passes (57.4 percent) for 1,971 yards, seven touchdowns, eight interceptions for a 76.0 passer rating. The completion percent is McNabb's worst since 2006, and the interception percentage and passer rating are the worst since McNabb since 1999.
Playing behind a shaky offensive line and with few playmakers, McNabb has struggled on third down. His 44.9 third-down completion percentage entering last weekend's games ranked 38th, and his 62.8 third-down passer rating ranked 33d.
Nevertheless, the Redskins are certain that McNabb will only get better as he continues to learn Mike Shanahan's version of the West Coast offense.
"When we made the trade for him, we understood what we were getting in Donovan," Washington executive vice president and general manager Bruce Allen said. "We're pleased with the leadership that he brings, and we believe he can help us win."
The fans who packed FedEx Field for the game gave McNabb a standing ovation when he was announced and ran out of the tunnel.
It has been a crazy couple of weeks for McNabb. Shanahan benched him late in the game against Detroit two weeks ago, then said after the game that McNabb did not have a firm grasp on Redskins' two-minute offense. The next day, Shanahan said that because of various injuries, including to both of his hamstrings, McNabb had been unable practice the two-minute offense for five weeks and also was not physically fit to run it.
Through it all, McNabb took the high road. He went to Arizona for Washington's bye week, then returned to practice last Monday. He claimed he and Shanahan had a "good friendship" and reiterated that he wanted to stay in Washington for this season and beyond.
But even Smith, McNabb's agent, admitted to being shocked by Shanahan's decision to put in Rex Grossman for McNabb. On the first play, the Lions sacked Grossman, stripped the ball and scored a touchdown.
"Probably a little bit of a shock, from a pure fan perspective," Smith said. "Donovan had played a pretty good first half of football, if I remember correctly. . . . It just didn't make sense to me at that time in the game that you would pull him out for anyone, whether it was Rex or any other quarterback for that matter."
It is a moot point now. McNabb got his money and his extension, and that was apology enough.