That news broke just when the Redskins needed their ugly coach-vs.-quarterback clash to go away -- after a bye week with no other news to fill it -- and right before the nation tuned in to a home game on Monday Night Football.
Yet, everybody overlooked the most harmonious timing of all: McNabb agreed to his extension on the day Michael Vick was showing up with McNabb's old Philadelphia Eagles team.
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So, Vick took the original plot, set fire to it and made up a brand-new one on the spot. And precisely 18 seconds into Monday's game, when he whistled a perfect pass downfield to DeSean Jackson for 88 yards and a touchdown on the game's first snap, Vick demoted McNabb to the second-most riveting quarterback on the field -- impossible to be topped for the rest of the night, no matter how good or bad McNabb's performance would be.
Along the way to a 59-28 Eagles win on a rainy night in FedEx Field, Vick managed a handful of other accomplishments. He reminded the nation that:
• McNabb's former team, the one that traded him to a division rival rather than pay him as the Redskins would, was in good hands.
• They're just not the hands Andy Reid and Co. had planned, proving that as smart as they seemed in unloading McNabb at the perfect time, they weren't as brilliant as they thought by making Vick wait behind Kevin Kolb.
• Vick's legs are just as electric as they were before his stretch in the federal pen. His arm is just as strong. His actual quarterbacking ability, though, is in a different stratosphere.
• On certain days, under certain conditions, he is perfect. (For example, the first half Monday night: his passer rating was 158.3, he threw three touchdown passes, ran for 66 yards and two more touchdowns, made the Redskins look like Pop Warner-leaguers, and took his team to an unconscionable 45-14 halftime lead.)
• He, like McNabb used to be, wasn't under contract for next season.
With everything that was going on, one would think that both teams would have a reason to smile. If the Redskins could look past this one game to the rest of the season and the next few, they could enjoy the fact that they don't have to worry about finding a starting quarterback, as they would have had to if they hadn't locked up McNabb.
And truth be told, with all the blame to go around for the humiliation ladled out Monday night, not that much could be put on McNabb. Each interception was worse than the last, of course, but by the time he started throwing them, the defense had long ago been twisted into the turf by Vick and the rest of the Eagles offense (not an exaggeration -- it was already 14-0 when McNabb threw his first pick, just six minutes into the game).
Plus, as usual this season, McNabb worked behind a sieve of a line, with exactly one healthy back and a set of receivers that make Freddie Mitchell look like Lynn Swann. In the grand scheme of things, the Redskins' chances of finding a quarterback willing to play with a bunch like this next year were slim, and putting a draft pick in there would prompt a call to Child Protective Services.
In short, McNabb may be "a'' problem, but he's not "the'' problem. Also in short: his extension might have been a smart move, but nothing else about the Redskins looked smart on this night, unless you include their fans who bolted early. (By the way, they got to experience their Dave Trembley moment: three years ago, the Orioles signed their interim manager to a contract extension, assuring stability for a listless franchise. That night, the team rewarded him with a 30-3 home loss to the Texas Rangers.)
As for the Eagles? They're the ones who banked this season on Kolb and only went to Vick in an emergency. They may not have to answer any quarterback-controversy questions for the rest of the season, but they'll have to make a decision that, in hindsight, will be far tougher than the one they made about McNabb last year: Do they give Vick the job for good and pay him what he's proved he deserves to be paid?
If they have doubts, Vick can just play back the reactions of the thunderstruck Redskins defensive players after the game. "It's tough,'' said cornerback DeAngelo Hall, still in uniform and pads long after the final gun. "It's tough accounting for a quarterback who's throwing the ball and who's running the ball. That's what made it tough years and years ago; that's what makes it tough now.''
"The other 31 teams should save their money and go out there and get Michael Vick,'' added defensive end/prospective agent Albert Haynesworth.
Or, Vick could cue up any number of highlights from the Monday throttling. The bomb to Jackson to open the game. "There are not too many guys that can throw the ball -- I'm not sure how far it was in the air -- 65 yards,'' Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "Very few guys can buy that time and take the ball downfield like that.''
Then there was the first touchdown run, where he shook Lorenzo Alexander down to the ground. The way he hit the corner and dusted two defenders on a 13-yard run after McNabb's first pick, which led to a shovel pass to LeSean McCoy for an 11-yard score. The deep ball that Jeremy Maclin leaped, caught and brought down on the pylon to open the second quarter. The 21-yard sprint that beat three defenders, followed by the race to the corner for his second touchdown where it seemed like the Redskins tacklers were running in tar.
That was just the first half. Before he rolled to his right, away from pressure, started to run, stopped on a dime, turned back left and nailed Jason Avant in the back of the end zone -- for the score that made it 52-21 in the third quarter.
All of that was Vick rewriting the story of the Eagles' visit to the Redskins' house. After the soap opera of the previous two weeks, did the Redskins need to change the subject? Sure. But not to this.
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