Believe me: I will try to convince myself otherwise. There’s just nowhere to hide it: the Redskins aren’t getting anything substancial out of the Donovan McNabb deal.
For some people, the ability to root for someone who isn’t Jason Campbell, more specifcally, the ability to root for a player who they’ve rooted against for so long is enough on it’s own to excite them. I can’t blame anyone who takes this perspective. The Redskins have once again blown away every other team in contention for the title of 2010 offseason champion, and have firmly established themselves as the March-April team of the decade. Their pop-cultual relevance is undeniable.
Prior to making this trade, the Redskins featured a competent quarterback who, to his fault, was merely the fourth best quarterback in his own division. You’re not going to win consistently with that. So the Redskins took it upon themselves to trade for an unwanted franchise player who comes over to Washington as: the fourth best quarterback in the division. McNabb is more established than the man who will take his old gig, Kevin Kolb, but you didn’t need me to tell you that Philadelphia wouldn’t have pulled the trigger at this time if Kolb’s 2010 value hadn’t surpassed McNabb’s, especially considering just how much that organization loved Donovan McNabb. They loved him enough to wait for the Redskins to up their offer, rather than take the best available deal on the table from Buffalo and Oakland. Andy Reid and the Eagles organization did right by their old quarterback: they moved him at the right time, and they moved him to a spot where he will have ample opportuinty to show the Eagles that they were wrong.
The Eagles had soured on McNabb for a reason: his play has dropped off significantly since the days where he could buy time running and still find a Duce Staley, or a Terrell Owens, or a Donte Stallworth, or a Brian Westbrook down the field for a big gain. The fact that the Eagles could stand to trade him within the division really tells you everything you need to know about his future value. In the grand scheme of things, the Eagles have bigger plans than making sure McNabb won’t get his revenge on him. So McNabb and the Skins might go into Philadelphia and win a game this year? They don’t much care about that, as long as they finish ahead of the Redskins in the standings.
Probability says they will. They believe they have the better quarterback (they probably do), they have the better team, the better athletes, and they have the better coach. McNabb has the most reason to want revenge, but why should the Eagles give a crap? If they wanted to be malicious to McNabb, he could be a Bill or a Raider already, but instead, he’s a Redskin and there’s no shame in that.
So the Redskins have acquired a player on the decline who used to be a perennial pro-bowler, until Tony Romo and Eli Manning and Drew Brees joined the conference and upped the quality of quarterback play. Hey, Jason Campbell probably would have been a pro bowler as well, if not for that pesky competition. McNabb represents an upgrade of sorts on what Jason Campbell brings to the table, but you have to wonder about the arrogance that’s running through Redskins Park that suggests that the extra 2 TDs or 150 yards or 2 fewer sacks/INTs that McNabb could bring this year might represent the differnce between an 8-8 team and a super bowl contender. As far as I can tell, the long-term plan appears to be: be bold, and hope to get really lucky. Andy Reid suggests the Redskins are a better team with Donovan this year than with Jason Campbell, and it’s hard to argue that point. It’s also hard to argue that the Redskins are so much better off that the Eagles consider them a threat to their ability to win the division. Mike Shanahan might fancy a squad a playoff team, but the other teams in their division aren’t worried. After all, they all have better quarterbacks than the Redskins do. At least the Redskins temporarily have the best backup in the NFL, which should factor into the official Offseason Champion Power Rankings in the team’s favor.
Don’t be surprised if the Redskins continue to post above average pass offense metrics with McNabb at the helm in 2010. I would expect nothing less, seeing as the Redskins have managed to remain above average in Passing DVOA every year since 2005. This move might have a net positive effect on developing receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, not to mention it makes Santana Moss viable once again. Will it have a net positive impact on points? That’s doubtful. McNabb is not a risk-taker, by trade. He’s second behind only Neil O’Donnell on the list for all-time lowest INT rate. He takes a lot of sacks, probably* more than Campbell does, and fumbles about as often as you’d expect with a guy who takes as many hits as he does. In the famous 4th & 26 playoff game vs. Green Bay, McNabb was sacked eight times, including on that series that led to the 4th & 26. GB’s pass rush ranked 20th in ASR that year.
*Trying to adjust for OL quality is a fools game, but their sack rates are roughly equal for career.
McNabb will play to the quality of his passing offense. According to DVOA, that’s 12th, 14th, and 17th in 2009-2007 respectively. In Washington, you can expect a sizable downgrade in quality of that offense. Where does that put us? Charatably, somewhere between the 15th and 20th best passing game in the NFL.
Oh, wait, that’s where the Redskins are right now with I-forget-his-name at quarterback.
McNabb is unlikely to play a full 16 game season in Washington, as he has done so only once in the past five years, and injury is usually the most obvious sign of decline. Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, and Drew Brees have not missed a start due to injury since 2006. That Rivers streak has survived a torn ACL. Campbell had made it two seasons in a row without missing a start. That streak may continue, but not in Washington. The injury record suggests that McNabb is not aging nearly as well as any of the above quarterbacks. He might age as well as Tony Romo, but McNabb has a four year head start on Ol’ Faithful. With a labor lockout looming, I am setting the over-under for Donovan McNabb games played in Washington at 12.5. That’s not quite Michael Barrow, but it’s no Jason Taylor either. That dude made it to 13 games (and 8 starts)!
Finally, I have to credit TheWarpath.net fourm user CRedskinsRule for his excellent, unique take on this trade when he summed it up in this sentence:
[Vinny Cerrato] would have gotten [Donovan McNabb] for a 2nd and a 6th
At the beginning of this era, this is probably the most enduring issue I have with the McNabb deal: the Redskins have been down this road before, and fans already know how this is going to end.