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McNabb to D.C.: Elway Redux, or Bledsoe, the Sequel?

In the last piece, I offered a brief view of the Redskins' rationale for acquiring Donovan McNabb.  But what of Philly's thinking?  Andy Reid certainly didn't dither too much over the trade, figuring the high 2nd the Redskins offered may have more value than anything Oakland may have offered.  Recent history may be on his side.  Let's take a quick look at some of the intra-division QB trades, which have tilted heavily in the trader's favor.

Let's begin by looking again at Washington's reasoning.

Both members of their football operation, GM Bruce Allen and HC Mike Shanahan, know the value of veteran QBs, Shanahan more than Allen.  Shanahan had presided over one of modern football's most prolific offenses in the '94 49ers, and the team was eager to keep him in house, as heir-apparent to incumbent George Seifert.  However, John Elway's presence helped sway Shanahan to the mountains.

Shanahan was quite successful with Elway, winning two Super Bowls in the '97 and '98 seasons. Yet, Broncos partisans and rivals never let him forget that he never approached that success after Elway retired.  Denver did play in an AFC Championship Game in January '06, but Jake Plummer was outgunned by Ben Roethlisberger.  Shanahan's offense produced solid numbers for Brian Griese, Plummer and Jay Cutler, but Shanahan could never develop a signal caller to rival the salty old veteran he inherited. 

Combine that with low odds of obtaining Sam Bradford (Washington lacks young depth to trade and already lacked a 3rd round pick) and the lure of McNabb became quite strong.  Add an impulsive owner, who has never met a potential free agent he didn't like and you have the conditions for a deal.

Reid's deal indicates he does not fear McNabb.  Why else would he trade him to a team he has to face twice a season?  Let's look at the recent trade of a quarterback in a similar situation -- New England's trade of Drew Bledsoe to Buffalo in 2002.  Bledsoe had been a good but not great starter, who let his team to the Super Bowl in '96.  He racked up impressive stats and led the Patriots to the playoffs, but once Tom Brady emerged, the Pats did not hesitate to trade Bledsoe.

What's more, they traded him to division rival Buffalo, who felt Bledsoe could be the missing piece they needed for a playoffs return.  The Bills had been contenders under HC Wade Phillips and QB Doug Flutie but had cratered under HC Gregg Williams, dropping to 3-13 in '02.

The Patriots knew Bledsoe would help Buffalo, and indeed the Bills jumped up to 8-8 during Bledsoe's first year, but Bill Belichick never feared that Bledsoe would hurt his team:  Bledsoe went 1-5 against his old team.  He caught the Pats flat-footed in the '03 season opener, beating them 31-0.  When the team met in the rematch, the Pats shut Drew's Bills out, by the same 31-0 score.

I'm not going to compare Kevin Kolb to Tom Brady, but the Bledsoe comparison may fit.  He's leaving a team that has been a playoff contender for nearly all of his career, but which appears to be re-tooling.  He's also joining a team which bottomed out, much like the '02 Bills.  Washington has talent, but they went 4-12 last year and appear far from contention.  McNabb may indeed add several games to their total, but his old team must feel it can contain him.  Reid would not have made the trade otherwise.  You may have several choice adjectives for Eagles fans, but "shy" will never be among them.  They will never let Reid live this trade down if McNabb haunts them.

Cowboys fans know the Bledsoe deal from the good side.  In 1974 they shipped Craig Morton to the rival Giants in a trading deadline deal.  New York was trying to kick-start a season which had started 1-4.  Dallas had also started 1-4 and felt the 1st round pick obtained in the deal could help restock their aging squad.

Morton had been a valued player, but was not feared by his old team.  He made his first Giants start against Dallas and was sacked four times in a 21-7 loss.  The Cowboys went 6-0 against Morton.  Five of his losses were as a Giant.  The last one occurred in Super Bowl 12, where the the Cowboys rush knocked Morton out early. (One of Morton's tormentors that day was Randy White, the tackle Dallas drafted with the Giants' pick.)

Which avenue will McNabb take?  Will he play Elway II at Fed Ex field?  Shanahan's passing game isn't much different from Reid's, so the adjustment should be quick. 

Or, will McNabb instead be Bledsoe II, or Morton II?  The last time Cowboys' fans watched McNabb, he played air-guitar to display his "looseness" in the wild-card playoff game warmups.  He fooled nobody on the Cowboys defense once the game began.  The Cowboys coaches respect Shanahan, but they probably figure McNabb is McNabb, regardless of which jersey he wears, and they were absolutely inside his head last January. 

The Eagles also saw that false-calm, and seem convinced they need to be on the opposing sideline the next time Donovan decides to jam.

Let's rock.

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