I’m pretty much on record at this point saying that the Redskins will regret the McNabb trade. Thing is, I don’t think anyone inside Redskins park is actually going to regret trading for McNabb. It’s easy to look back at the Jason Taylor trade, see a paltry 3.5 sacks, and just call it a bad deal. Vinny Cerrato admitted as much when he cleared Taylor for the $8 million dollars of cap space his release created. It’s much harder to evaluate a trade in a negative light if McNabb throws for 3,400 yards and 22 TDs as starting quarterback of the Redskins in 2010.
Those numbers are no “3.5 sacks”, that’s an above average quarterback season. And, if you poll the peoples, that’s the expectation for McNabb’s season in Washington this year. Sure, the Redskins have managed to post a 4-12 record with identical quarterback numbers, but you can win with 3,400 yards and 22 TDs. And with the running game that the Redskins are flashing in training camp, chances are they probably will win with those numbers. The larger picture is that those numbers would mean little in a season where all phases of the team weren’t ready to compete except the passing game. It remains to be seen how close to competing this roster actually is, but if the Redskins decreased their total of wins by one (a conservative total) in each of the next three seasons by trading two picks for McNabb, it seems like they’d be looking for much more than just a one win increase this year.
McNabb’s acquisition would require both a playoff berth, and considerable success in the playoffs to make sense for the Redskins in the long term. If the Redskins merely make the playoffs under McNabb, it wouldn’t be clear exactly how that’s different from what Jason Campbell has already accomplished here. If there’s a little bit of a playoff run, then it will be much easier to feel good about the trade. But if McNabb is one of the offensive leaders on the best offense the Redskins have had in the last five years, are we really going to criticize the deal that brought him here if the team declines in future seasons? Even one good season could take a very legitimate criticism of the McNabb trade, and make it hard to critique honestly. It still hurts the future, and it still might not have brought much return, but if there’s a tangible improvement in the offense in 2010, people are going to point to that. I know, because I did it when Mark Brunell was here.
But today, we have an interesting tidbit from ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, referenced to in the linked post at Hogs Haven. Sal notes that, in the wake of more Favre retirement talk, McNabb’s people might have their eyes set on a bigger prize: starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings.
It’s not a bombshell. Pretty much no one expected Favre to play past this year anyway (at least, he doesn’t have an NFL contract past this year), and McNabb had his eye on Minnesota at the time he was acquired. This is not a distraction. McNabb is all in for the 2010 season with the Redskins. But, as fans are just now finding out, McNabb has a lot of options for football after the 2010 season, and the Redskins have to convince him that this is where he should finish his career, and also, he has to convince the Redskins to postpone a much needed rebuilding movement. If the Redskins want McNabb, and McNabb wants to be a Redskin, what happens in Minnesota is irrelevant. The second to last thing McNabb wants at this point in his career is to bounce around the league unable to find the kind of stability he once had in Minnesota. The last thing he wants is to get locked into a long term contract on a franchise with no direction.
This is why it’s best for the Redskins and McNabb to postpone an extension for about five to seven games of the 2010 season, and really evaluate how he takes to the system and what the Redskins truly have. Fans need to ignore what happened in Philadelphia, and analysts — ahem — must ignore what the Redskins traded for McNabb. It’s a sunk cost. The Redskins realize that McNabb and Mike Shanahan could be just a one year marriage, and that it’s the on the field play that could determine if there’s more here than just a lukewarm relationship.