If it’s one thing football fans should know by now is that you can’t trust the NFL. You can’t trust its owners, its players or its teams. A contract extension means just about as much as no contract at all so Redskin Nation shouldn’t read too much into McNabb’s recent five-year, $78 million extension with $40 million guaranteed. McNabb has a $10 million option bonus due at the end of the year if Washington decides to pay it. If they do, then the 33-year-old is the District’s to keep. If they don’t then Washington is only on the hook for $3.75 million and in the market for a shiny new signal caller all over again.

So why the new extension you ask? Politics, politics, politics. McNabb’s benching against Detroit had the whole Washington, D.C. area on high alert. His bags were definitely packed, his bus ticket was definitely purchased and his potential to leave was definitely planned. Playing the rest of the season with a lame duck quarterback is a scenario that’s already ran its course in D.C. and nobody was anxious to see that rerun again. So how do you quiet the murmurs? You slap an extension down, smile for the camera and act like the benching never happened.

Actually, this whole week might be something ‘Skins fans will try to block out of their memory banks. It’s hard to even justify a dollar-a-year salary for any player on this roster after Monday night’s execution at the hands of Michael Vick—which imprudently soured the hoopla over McNabb’s extension. However, McNabb won’t be the only one to blame after the debacle but a few more games like the ones against the Lions and Eagles could make for the shortest five-year extension in recent memory. The six-time Pro-Bowler hasn’t exactly played like his former self in his first year in the District. He’s missed on short throws, long throws, medium throws and screens. Apparently, he hasn’t mastered the playbook or been in the best of shape either (Mike Shanahan’s words, not mines). Frankly, you can sum up McNabb’s first year as a Redskin in two words: inaccurate and average.

It’s hard to grade a quarterback in his first season under a new scheme so No. 5 deserves some slack. But when you sign a spanking new extension, you deserve to lose some slack as well. McNabb has a long ways to go before he returns to Washington next season. His new extension may look nice on the outside, but as we know, looks can be deceiving.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO