Analysis: Redskins benefit from Reid's respect for McNabb
In the end, it seems, the Washington Redskins were the beneficiaries of the respectful relationship between Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid.
Soon after Reid was hired as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, he drafted McNabb to be his quarterback. The fortunes of Reid and McNabb were tied inextricably for more than a decade, and Reid demonstrated every bit as much loyalty to McNabb as Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and team president Joe Banner showed to Reid.
Reid and McNabb reached--and, mostly, lost--NFC championship games together. They failed to win the Super Bowl title that so often seemed within their grasp. They took more than their share of criticism from the franchise's demanding fans. Reid benched McNabb once, but went right back to him as the starter. Reid was Lurie's (and Banner's) coach, and McNabb was Reid's quarterback, through good times and bad.
Until he wasn't.
For some reason, the Eagles seemed to decide in recent week that they had to trade McNabb, and they were going to make the best deal possible for him. McNabb is entering the final season of his contract, and the Eagles have Kevin Kolb to take over at quarterback and Michael Vick to back him up. The problem was, according to multiple reports, that the most interested teams appeared to be the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills, and McNabb didn't seem particularly eager to play for either. So Reid, wanting to make the best possible deal for McNabb as well as the best possible deal for the Eagles, made the unusual move of trading such an accomplished quarterback to a division rival, rather than sending McNabb somewhere that he didn't want to be. Reid and the Eagles might have made a decision to move on from McNabb at quarterback, but they weren't going to make the trade too distasteful for McNabb.
The Redskins have benefited from that, and they clearly are a better team than they were before getting McNabb. They now have a quarterback who has demonstrated that he can reach Pro Bowls and win playoff games. At times, all of that seemed possible with Jason Campbell. But it was promise, not established fact. The Eagles have made the Redskins a factor in the NFC East.
But how much of a factor? That depends on how successfully the Redskins can rebuild their offensive line. It would be difficult to envision McNabb staying in the lineup and playing effectively behind the offensive line that allowed Campbell to be hit so often and in such jarring fashion last season. It's now imperative that the Redskins use the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft on a left tackle, presumably Russell Okung of Oklahoma State.
The receiving corps might not be overwhelming. But McNabb has done fine with worse groups in Philadelphia. Mike Shanahan, the Redskins' new coach, always found a way to craft a solid running game in Denver. Shanahan also won two Super Bowls with John Elway late in Elway's career, and Elway was older when Shanahan became the Broncos' coach than McNabb is now.
The Eagles, meanwhile, turn to Kolb to replace McNabb. Kolb threw for more than 700 yards in two starts last season while McNabb was hurt. But the Eagles went only 1-1 in those two games, and the win was over the Kansas City Chiefs. Perhaps the transition from McNabb to Kolb will go as smoothly as the Eagles hope and envision. But it's not a given. The only sure thing in the McNabb trade, in fact, is that things have gotten far more interesting in two NFC East cities.
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