A Redskin Fan’s Perspective on the Donovan McNabb Trade

Mike Richman, author of The Redskins Encyclopedia considers what the recent trade of Donovan McNabb means for his favorite team

My first thought when hearing that Donovan McNabb was traded to the Redskins is that it’s going to look incredibly strange seeing him wear the burgundy and gold. When you think of McNabb, you think of Eagles green. The two are synonymous.   

    All eyesores aside, the deal is just plain risky from a Redskins perspective. It comes down to this: How effective will McNabb be as he enters the twilight of his career? I know he’s been to six Pro Bowls, has led Philly to five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance, and has set almost every major Eagles passing record. But he’ll also turn 34 next season and has been injury-prone. Yes, freaks of nature like Kurt Warner or Brett Favre have played like superstars in their late-30s or early-40s. But can McNabb give the Redskins at least four solid seasons and possibly help elevate them to the elite level, or has Redskins owner Dan Snyder again won the offseason Super Bowl by signing the biggest name available, only to see that player underachieve?

    Think back to last year’s $100 million signing, mammoth defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who missed four games due to injury and was way out of shape, often collapsing from exhaustion on the field. He’s now the only Redskin player boycotting the team’s voluntary offseason workouts. I’m not saying McNabb is destined to be a flop like Mr. Jelly Belly, but I feel a paranoia due to the endless series of Snyder’s marquee free agent signings who evolved into busts.

   The Redskins have undoubtedly been in need of a franchise quarterback, someone who can lead them to a Super Bowl win that has eluded the franchise for nearly two decades. Jason Campbell just isn’t the answer. When Campbell became the Redskins’ starter in 2006, he looked to me like he’d be the team’s quarterback of the future. I was on his bandwagon. He’s a great character guy who posted career-high numbers last season. But Campbell lacks the intangibles a quarterback needs to distance himself from the middle of the pack, including an inability to take control of games in crunch time. Several times last season he was unable to lead the Redskins on late game-winning drives and twice threw killer interceptions.

   McNabb now supplants Campbell as the Redskins’ starting quarterback. His knowledge of NFC East opponents is a definite plus, as is his experience of playing in the West Coast offense in Philly. New Redskins coach Mike Shanahan will run a West Coast system, so McNabb’s transition on that front will be smooth. And he garners instant credibility as a leader, something Campbell seemed to lack among many of his teammates.

   But there’s a reason the Eagles parted with McNabb other than feeling that Kevin Kolb is their quarterback of the future. Andy Reid knows McNabb’s capabilities better than anyone else and had no fear in trading him to an NFC East rival. That in itself speaks volumes. And McNabb didn’t come cheap. The Redskins traded a second round pick this year and a third- or fourth-rounder in 2011 to acquire him, and unless they re-acquire those picks by trading players with value such as Campbell or tight end Chris Cooley, they’ll be stuck with no picks this year in the second and third rounds. (They used the third-rounder on a supplemental pick last season.)

   The Redskins just don’t understand that you win in the NFL by building primarily through the draft. You’d think this would be the year that that basic fact would click, especially with Shanahan, a two-time Super Bowl winner, and Bruce Allen, the team’s first true general manager during the Snyder era, aboard. Get this: During Snyder’s ownership period (1999-present), the Redskins have drafted the fewest players who have started at least 10 games – 24. Comparatively, the team with the best winning percentage from 1999 to 2009, the Colts (.706), has chosen 40 such players. Two other very successful teams of the same era, the Eagles (.611) and the Titans (.583), have produced 36 and 41 players, respectively.

   Are Redskins fans looking at a rebound from last season’s 4-12 abomination, the franchise’s worst season in recent memory? Will McNabb cure the team’s woes? My take: Don’t buy your tickets yet expecting to see the Redskins in next season’s Super Bowl. We’re eyeing a long rebuilding project, and an overnight fix isn’t the answer.

You can read more about Mike Richman and The Redskins Encyclopedia on his website, www.redskinshistorian.com.

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