Curtains Down. McNabb Era Officially Ends

Easter Sunday was an emotional roller coaster. First, my adopted NBA team trounced the Lakers. Awesome. Then, baseball season officially started. Exciting. Shortly after that I learned firsthand that Klondike Bars are now 2/3 their original size. Bummer. Finally, my favorite Philadelphia Eagle got traded to a division rival. Devastating.

After a month of hearing and reading about trade suitors, it was inevitable that Donovan McNabb was going to be traded. Regardless of whether or not you expect it to happen, it’s a weird feeling when a franchise player-someone you’ve watched week in and week out for the past decade-is officially shipped out of town.

I’m a sports nut. Maybe I care a little too much about sports, but last night was like putting your dog down at the vet. After my wife learned of the trade, she looked at me and sincerely said, “Are you ok?” When your wife asks if you’re ok after a sports trade, you’re either too involved or it was a really big trade. This was a really big trade. Here are my thoughts.

First of all, why the Washington Redskins? When you dump an underachieving girlfriend you DUMP her. No more movies, no more hanging out, no more future. You part ways and that’s that. Why on earth would you extend her an exclusive pass to spend two Holidays with you and your family every year? You wouldn’t…unless you’re Andy Reid.

Reid dumped Donovan McNabb on Sunday night and then essentially invited him to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with the Eagle family. Now Donovan, we’re trading you but we really like you, so we want you to visit us twice a year. How’s that sound?

That sounds great to the dumped girlfriend, of course. You just extended her the opportunity (and motivation nonetheless) to get in shape, turn into a supermodel, maximize her potential and show up twice a year to shove it your face. Not only are you embarrassed, but her presence and drop-dead looks humiliate you in front of your entire family. Your uncle laughing and asking, “You dumped Her?!?!” is the icing on the cake.

Obviously, McNabb’s resurgence isn’t guaranteed, but it is likely (at least in my opinion). Athletes (as McNabb has demonstrated) aren’t the most secure individuals on the planet. Their feelings get hurt by silly things and they often perform their best when motivated by revenge. Regardless of how amicable the trade process was, McNabb will see the Eagles twice a year with an overwhelming desire to prove his worth and torch his former employer. As anyone in Wisconsin can tell you, there are rules to follow when moving a franchise quarterback. Rule #1: Never provide him an opportunity to embarrass you twice a year.

Well played, Andy Reid. Well played.

Moving Donovan McNabb makes sense. I’ve already explained my position as a McNabb apologist. I thought he gave the Eagles the best chance to win in 2010. I know he’s not Brady, Brees, or Manning, but he’s still a top 10 quarterback in the NFL.

With that said, I’m not outraged over moving McNabb (except the division rival thing). It was clear the relationship between him and the team was strained, and a change for both sides was necessary. Many, including the front office, believed he took the Eagles as far as he was going to take them. Thus, a trade was necessary to implement Kevin Kolb. (By the way, Reid is mostly to blame for never winning a title. When did McNabb have a running attack AND a solid defense? Brees, Manning (Eli and Peyton), and Roethlisberger all won with both.)

If the Eagles are indeed rebuilding their roster, (which it looks like they are), I support moving McNabb. Having a young team grow together is the best formula for building a champion and possibly a small dynasty. I was thrilled when they moved the overrated Sheldon Brown and released veterans like Darren Howard. If rebuilding is the plan, McNabb had to be moved. Kolb needs time and reps to grow with the Eagles’ young playmakers. Standing behind McNabb would only delay that process. For the Eagles’ future, trading McNabb was the right move.

The trade may actually benefit Donovan McNabb. For the first time in a very long time, McNabb will finally have a reliable running game. Moving into an offense run by Mike Shanahan guarantees this. McNabb will no longer have to throw on 3rd and inches, attempt 35+ passes week in and week out, and watch as defensive lineman pin their ears back and attack. A balanced offense will provide McNabb a new opportunity to prove he can still play at a high level.

Yes, McNabb had offensive weapons in Philadelphia, but he rarely (if ever) was protected by a solid and consistent rushing attack. You see, a running game is equivalent to a salad to Andy Reid. There’s no purpose to it. It’s useless, unsatisfying, and not worth his time. Shanahan is the master of a ground game. He made 1,000 yard rushers out of no-names in Denver. Look for Washington to be in the top 10 in rushing next year and expect McNabb to thrive because of it.

Despite a rough stretch over the past two years, the Washington Redskins have some nice talent on offense too. Add that talent with Mike Shanahan’s offensive genius, and the Redskins could be a force in the NFC. They have talented tight ends in Chris Cooley and Fred Davis, young receivers in Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, and a proven running back that has already thrived under Shanahan’s system in Clinton Portis. McNabb is moving to a situation where he can win right away.

Furthermore, he FINALLY has big, physical receivers that can go after his errant throws. Only once in his career has McNabb been matched with a receiver from this prototype. His name was Terrell Owens. I’m pretty sure that turned out well (at least on the field). Devin Thomas is 6’2, 215. Malcolm Kelly is 6’4, 225. In other words, both could eat DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. (Not saying they’re better, just that they could literally eat them.)

This could be a significant advantage for McNabb. In Reid’s west coast offense, McNabb needed to be precise with his passes. Accuracy isn’t exactly his strength. With Thomas and Kelly (if Shanahan can get him to perform), McNabb will be able to play more on his instincts and give his bigger receivers opportunities to go up and get the ball. The throws won’t need to be perfect because both should have an advantage over smaller defensive backs.

The trade won’t turn McNabb into Peyton Manning, but it should improve his numbers and relieve some of the pressure of carrying an entire offense as he did in Philadelphia.

A history lesson. There’s a classic saying; history often repeats itself. A few months back I pointed out how similar McNabb’s career to date has been to John Elway’s (access here). When Elway finally won two Super Bowls in his twilight years, it was a young coach that led him there via a ferocious running game. What was that coaches name? Oh yes, that’s right. It was Mike Shanahan. I’m just saying.


  1. danielle

    love the ex-girlfriend analogy. hopefully no one tries to give Ryler a discounted eagles mcnabb jersey that was on sale at tjmaxx.

  2. Pops Coyle

    After reading your analysis I am actually rooting for #5 to get his ring with a coach who understands the importance of a running game. Reid is too arrogant to acknowledge his throw first, second, and third then run doesn’t work in the NFC East – or anywhere else either.

  3. Rick

    Reid is very good.
    McNabb is very good.
    The thing is, when you add very good + very good, you don’t get ‘great’, you get ‘good’.
    Good Luck Donovan, I sincerely wish you the best the Shananigan. He is amazing.
    Guess I have to return that jersey to tjmaxx now…

  4. aaron

    aren’t you just making an argument that any quarterback who can throw a ball within 5 yards of a receiver can win a superbowl under shanahan in dc? you are saying the quarterback won’t be pressured to throw too much, and when he does have to throw he just has to get it out there for a big receiver to go after. so then why didnt the redskins just keep campbell who was probably a lot cheaper?

  5. Ryan (Author)

    Rick – I’ll still take the jersey. We can frame it.

    I think your equation is absolutely correct. very good + very good doesn’t = great.
    More commonly known as the Stockton/Malone era for the Utah Jazz.

  6. Ryan (Author)

    Aaron – not exactly. An NFL quarterback that struggles with precision as McNabb does, only misses a throw by a few inches. Obviously, this can still be the difference between a first down and a touchdown or even a completion and an interception, but he’s not misfiring by THAT much. He’s not Peyton Manning, but he’s not Jay Cutler either.
    What I’m arguing is that Reid foolishly built an offensive system that essentially exploited McNabb’s weakness. Eagle receivers in the McNabb era (other than TO) have all been quick and tiny or flat out horrible. If the pass was a little off, they couldn’t contend for it because they were too small. Last time I saw DeSean Jackson go across the middle in traffic he left with a concussion. It’s McNabb’s fault for not being more accurate, but I blame Reid for continuing to build his offense as if Peyton Manning was his quarterback. Reid’s ignorance is not Donovan’s fault.
    Even Peyton Manning and Drew Brees couldn’t win a Super Bowl without a running game. Reid will continue to fail until he stops being an idiot. McNabb will now have a running game. That helps a lot. Ask John Elway.

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