Redskins Were Best Trade Option for Both Eagles and McNabb
The divorce late Sunday between quarterback Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles -- the partner in this strained relationship that clearly lost interest -- was inevitable. Once coach Andy Reid, who made McNabb his very first draft pick in 1999, failed to deny rumors that the franchise's signature player was available for trade, whatever trust remained between the most important members of the Eagles' organization was obliterated.
An 11-year love/hate affair came to a surprising conclusion, if only because Philadelphia dumped McNabb and turned him over to a division opponent, the Washington Redskins, and a quarterback-savvy veteran offensive coach in Mike Shanahan.
Reid said he talked more with general manager Bruce Allen than Shanahan, and said the trade discussions had been going on "for awhile."
"It was the best deal for us and for Donovan." Reid said late Sunday in a conference call, speaking without any hint of emotion. He almost sounded relieved this whole thing was finally over. He even laughed several times while taking questions.
Reid did concede it was unusual to trade a starting quarterback within the division.
"Yeah, hey, we thought about that," Reid said. "But things like this happen in the National Football League and we obviously thought that was OK by doing it."
Preposterous? Of course -- unless the Eagles realized that this uncomfortable estrangement had gone beyond the point of return, and that no other team was willing to give them what they sought in the time frame they wanted: a top 42 pick in the 2010 NFL draft, along with a taker willing to pick up the hefty remnants of McNabb's soon-to-expire contract.
The package was probably about as good as the Eagles were going to get for a 33-year-old quarterback with one option year remaining on a renegotiated contract that will pay him $11.2 million this season. Philadelphia also wanted to move McNabb before May, when he is due a $6.72 million workout bonus.
The Redskins surrendered the 37th overall pick in 2010, along with a conditional third- or fourth-round pick in 2011, to get a quarterback that led Philadelphia to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl appearance.
It helped that McNabb wanted to go to Washington, Reid said. The Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals, McNabb's rumored preferred destinations, weren't interested.
And yes, all those rumors about the Oakland Raiders had legs; forget the unnamed organizational denials. The Raiders are desperate to win now, are overleveraged in salary and are burdened with colossal flop JaMarcus Russell under center. They also have the 39th overall pick and several pricey contracts -- most notably, Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (one year, $16 million) -- that are available for the right price.
But McNabb to the Raiders was tantamount to NFL exile for a player who had no interest in wearing silver and black.
And while the Eagles clearly were intent on turning this deal, owner and chairman Jeffrey Lurie is a man who cares about people, and it was evident in his words Sunday after Philadelphia acknowledged the trade.
"Donovan McNabb was more than a franchise quarterback for this team," Lurie said. "He truly embodied all of the attributes of a great quarterback and of a great person. He has been an excellent representative of this organization and the entire National Football League both on and off the field. I look forward to honoring him as one of the greatest Eagles of all-time and hopefully [to] see him enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton one day."
So why did the Redskins, the most surprising element in this quickie settlement, emerge as the team most eager to embrace the most unappreciated quarterback in the NFL?
First off, Shanahan. The Redskins' new head coach always has been obsessed with smart, athletic quarterbacks. He also understands patience. It took Hall of Famer John Elway three previous Super Bowl attempts and 14 NFL seasons before he finally won a world championship for Shanahan and the Denver Broncos. Shanahan always has admired and appreciated McNabb's ability, and he no doubt sees a Super Bowl championship in McNabb's future -- even if the Eagles did not. Shanahan also has not expressed any confidence in incumbent Jason Campbell as his starting quarterback.
Second, Sam Bradford. Shanahan and the Redskins' organization, multiple NFL sources say, have had their eyes set on drafting Oklahoma's star as a quarterback of the future. But moving up from No. 4 overall to No. 1 to make that pick happen was going to be cost-prohibitive and very risky.
While Bradford's people may have preferred to see their quarterback learn under Shanahan's capable tutelage, that dream is over. It's possible the Redskins may take now a chance and draft Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, put him on the shelf and let him grow and learn under McNabb. Or Washington may use that pick to improve its porous offensive line.
For now, the Redskins appear to have their starting quarterback for 2010, and McNabb -- as Reid confirmed -- made it to a team of his choice. The divorce, probably years in the making, is now final, and at least on the surface, it is amicable.
Lurie, Reid and team president Joe Banner -- all of whom had given McNabb votes of confidence at the end of last season -- clearly realize they will face their former playmaker twice a year. Apparently, their need to make Kevin Kolb the starting quarterback supersedes any revenge McNabb may exact in a Redskins' uniform.
Kolb got two starts in 2009 for a reason, Reid said Sunday. "I think it gave him good game experience, and we were able to see what he could do under those conditions," McNabb said of Kolb's play last season.
But still ... a trade within the division?
"I'm going to sit here and tell you that he will make the Washington Redskins a better football team, and then time will take care of the rest," Reid said.
This kind of inter-division swap isn't unprecedented. The New England Patriots felt this strongly about moving Drew Bledsoe to Buffalo in exchange for a first-round pick in 2003. All that did was clear a path for some backup-turned-Super Bowl hero named Tom Brady
Does this mean that Reid thinks Kevin Kolb is the next Brady? Reid isn't saying. But he's not looking back.
"I'm pretty confident that this is the right thing to do," Reid said with a laugh, summing up his feelings about the blockbuster transition from proven starter to unproven player who put up back-to-back 300-yard passing performances in 2009.
We know this much: Kevin Kolb is not Donovan McNabb. And that's exactly what the Philadelphia Eagles want.