One of the hardest things for an NFL player to do is finish his career. Players rarely get to go out with a storybook ending, a la John Elway with the 1998 Denver Broncos or Ray Lewis with the 2012 Baltimore Ravens.
No, a player usually ends his career the way Donovan McNabb did. A six-time Pro Bowler from 1999 to 2009, McNabb's skills diminished so quickly that he was out of the league in 2011, just two years after his final Pro Bowl selection. Playing for weak Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings teams didn't help either.
In the NFL, a player can go from elite to out of the league in no time. Besides McNabb, guys like Ed Reed and Nnamdi Asomugha fell off the face of the earth just a year or so after earning Pro Bowl selections.
The following slides will highlight the players throughout the league's history who walked away while they were still at their peak. Some of these players chose to walk away, while others suffered serious injuries and were forced to retire. But all were still elite players, even during their final season.
Honorable mentions go out to Philadelphia Eagles offensive end Pete Pihos (1955), Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders (1998), Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (2013), Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens (2010), Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith (1968) and Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe (1983).