Donovan McNabb: Will Continuing To Play Only Further Tarnish His Legacy?

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer IJanuary 9, 2011

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 12:  Donovan McNabb #5 of the Washington Redskins passes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  at FedExField on December 12, 2010 in Landover, Maryland. The Buccaneers defeated the Redskins 17-16. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

Donovan McNabb once again finds himself at a crossroads, and there are no easy choices for the star quarterback.

McNabb now has to consider whether to take what money he can get off of the Redskins and call it a career, or start over elsewhere. While this view may seem somewhat extreme, consider McNabb's record in "big" playoff games versus his regular season record.

McNabb's regular season performances up to this year with the Redskins were pretty consistent. He had some down moments, he had some bad times, but if your career is long enough, you're going to have those.

But let's look at his record in the playoffs, when great quarterbacks are supposed to be great.

McNabb led the Eagles to three straight NFC Title Games from 2001-2003, he played poorly in all three games, with the caveat being he had torn rib cartilage for part of the 2003 game. However, his cumulative passer rating in the three championship games was 50.5. That's not even remotely good.

McNabb's performance in the 2000 Divisional playoff game produced a very forgettable day with McNabb going 20-for-41 for 181 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Then in 2004, McNabb held it together long enough to get to the Super Bowl where he famously melted down, turning in one of the biggest "choke" performances in the history of the Super Bowl. He threw two interceptions in New England territory and allegedly got sick during the second half as the pressure mounted.

McNabb denies getting sick, but center Hank Fraley, wide receivers Freddie Mitchell and Terrell Owens both claim McNabb was not looking well in the second half. McNabb admitted to being "tired," and this is a theme that continues to pop up throughout his career when he hasn't performed well.

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan famously pulled McNabb earlier this season from the end of the game because he didn't think McNabb was physically fit enough to keep up with the pace, among other reasons.

In 2005, McNabb started off well, but his last four games prior to be injured produced bad stats and forgettable performances. Again, the ebb and flow of a season can produce highs and lows, but with McNabb, there always seemed to be an excuse when he didn't perform well.

One great example of an excuse was the quality of McNabb's wide receivers, which were consistently considered below average by a lot of NFL analysts, However, outside of Wes Welker, find me someone who isn't a Patriots fan or fantasy football geek who can think of Tom Brady's big receivers without having to stop and think about it.

The point is a good quarterback elevates the play of the players around them, McNabb hardly ever seems to do that.

His 2006 season was as inconsistent as his 2010 season, but an ACL injury once again gave McNabb a convenient out from having to seriously answer anything his critics might have to say.

In 2008, McNabb seemed to have finally shaken the demons of earlier seasons and had a great playoff run, but then the Eagles lost to the 9-7 Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game. McNabb was ineffective in the first half of that game, and missed crucial passes in the second half.

Statistically, McNabb looked fine in that game, but watch the tape—the stats don't tell the whole story of that game.

In 2009, McNabb blew the season finale against Dallas, dropping the Eagles to the sixth seed, and then lost again in an even worse performance against Dallas the following week in the Wildcard game.

This season, McNabb was anything but consistent, and while some of the blame must fall on the coaching staff, McNabb has been around the league long enough that he should have performed better no matter the circumstances.

At this point in time, McNabb is seen as a highly skilled quarterback who has had some tough breaks and played some bad games at the worst times, but if McNabb starts over somewhere else next year, it'll be just another year of all of his flaws being exposed as the 34-year-old quarterback continues to age.

McNabb is long past the point where the fundamentals of his game can be corrected. That just doesn't happen to any player in their mid-30s. McNabb has nothing to gain and everything to lose by continuing to play.

At age 34, it's time for McNabb to assess whether age and injuries have finally caught up with him. After this past season, it's a legitimate question.