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Recently, I went to the Washington Redskins Web site and saw Donovan McNabb No. 5 jerseys available for pre-order. It’s a weird sight. Even his official Web site didn’t mention the trade a night after it happened.
For over a decade, we have watched as McNabb came out of Syracuse to become a perennial Pro Bowl player and a postseason fixture. He was the leader of the Eagles and was probably the only player on the team you liked. A cannon for an arm and could run as needed, he seemed to be the best quarterback as the league went more offensive.
He was not a player who was just talented. The once-horrendous Eagles were annual threats for the Super Bowl, making four straight NFC Championships before breaking through and meeting the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. He had three touchdowns, but it was a costly interception in the final seconds that handed the Eagles a 24-21 loss. Since then, he kept the team a consistent challenger, even with a team that often lacked talent or was plagued by injuries.
Now, McNabb is just another player who is being sent to finish his career with another squad.
We saw it last year with Richard Seymour. Then LaDanian Tomlinson and, former McNabb teammate, Brian Westbrook. In the past, there was Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice. With teams looking to stay young and keep under the salary cap, it has become difficult for players to be sedentary for an entire career. You would think Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would be safe, but you can just never tell. No player is guaranteed to remain with one team for an entire career.
In the past decade, I can only recall of three situations where a player freely retired from a team they spent their whole time with. Michael Strathan, Jerome Bettis, and Tedy Bruschi. Even guys like Steve Young and Troy Aikman were forced into retirement due to concussions. Future of Hall of Fame guys like Brett Favre and Kurt Warner were traded to make way for younger talent before their time was done (Since then, they both led different teams deep into the playoffs.). Others like Tomlinson were simply released for salary cap issues. For McNabb, it was both.
The Eagles knew they would be going with unproven Kevin Kolb eventually. They also did not want to be responsible for Donovan’s massive contract. In an act to true respect, Philadelphia allowed for McNabb to be involved with the trade and say where he would want to go, by saying where he would negotiate for a longer contract. He is currently involved with those talks in Washington. It is horrible to think the next time we see McNabb, he will be in Philly wearing crimson and gold. Still, that is the way of the current NFL.
It’s surprisingly bright. McNabb was notorious for being a mistake-prone quarterback. Now with new head coach Mike Shanahan, he might have the perfect mentor. Shanahan will most likely work hard with Donovan to turn him into a next John Elway, which is not a stretch. However, with Santana Moss being the best reciever, and Chris Cooley next on that list, Washington might have to go deeper into Daniel Snyder’s pockets to snag another target. Brandon Marshall? Dez Bryant?
Still, Washington will be a heavy passing offense. Their three top backs are Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, or as they should be known: The Past-Their-Prime Players. With the draft coming up, they might be looking towards C.J. Spiller, or Ryan Matthews, two of the top prospects. Washington is more likely to pick Eric Berry, but getting McNabb some toys to play with should be more of a priority.
The ‘Skins are still in the toughest division in football. Washington might not be the favorite to win the NFC East up against The G-Men and Cowboys, but I would not be surprised to see D.C. pick up two wins against McNabb’s old team.
I know what you’re thinking? So What. This is a Boston sports Web site and we’re talking about a guy we beat in the Super Bowl. However, McNabb is one of those guys who supercedes the game. He is one of the more marketable, friendly faces in the game has and someone who would have cemented his place in history should he have led Philly all the way. But he didn’t and now he moves on.
But the trade is also a good thing for New England. Before Washington came out of nowhere, the three potential destinations were apparently St. Louis, Oakland, and Buffalo. Now it’s obvious that with Buffalo, New England would be seeing him twice a year, which is never a good thing. St. Louis was no issue, but with Oakland…remember this: next year, the Patriots get the Raiders’ first round pick and it’s unprotected. Remember that as part of that Richard Seymour trade?
Now, Oakland will most likely not be playoff bound, although you can never predict the AFC West. Should they have gotten McNabb, they might have been the favorites. Donovan is that good where he can take a mediocre team and lead them to the promised land. He did that for the better part of his career in Philly.
So, good luck McNabb. I hope you can lead Washington into the playoffs and maybe make a run at the Super Bowl. But most importantly, thank you for saying no to Oakland.