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Mike Shanahan, Donovan McNabb and Bruce Allen: Three Guys Who Have Never Been In My Kitchen

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For those of you who get this Cheers reference, thank you. I had to channel Cliff Clavin today because I don't know the real right answer, so I was inspired to steal his wrong (yet still correct) response in Final Jeopardy while trying to not get angry in my headline. I always desperately wanted a quarterback like McNabb, but I never envisioned the Eagle would land here. (is that your first "The Eagle Has Landed" reference? 50/50 chance maybe?)

This is not meant to be a Kool-Aid post. I am very much conflicted about this new McNabb era. While I will do my best to refrain from covering ground you have no doubt covered already in previous posts, forgive me for hitting on common threads, as I plod through the various reasons this is not the worst move we have made since Snyder took over.

I believe Shanahan and Allen were committed to using the 2nd round pick on a QB in the upcoming draft. Setting aside for the moment that McNabb was an Eagle, if you would have told me that with our second round pick in this year's draft we would get a veteran, 6-time Pro Bowler that Shanahan would immediately trust and allow to take risks on the field, I would be wearing a huge grin. As much as we all may have wanted a guy like Colt McCoy or Tony Pike, or some other young buck to come in and learn under the Shanahans, the fact of the matter is that drafting a quarterback is like playing the lottery. You buy the ticket, and you spend all your time before the drawing dreaming about how you are going to spend your millions. Then the results are announced and maybe one person out of the millions who played is happy...or even more likely, everyone loses. This 2nd round pick was not wasted. We know exactly what we are getting. The long-term upside is not necessarily the same as hitting on a game-changing rookie. But if you are already sold on burning the pick on a rookie quarterback, landing a player of McNabb's caliber is a slam dunk (unless he plays for the Philadelphia Eag.....damn it.) Sticking with the 2nd round slot for a second, there have been murmurs that Jared Gaither could have been available via trade with this selection. We'll never know for sure of course, but the suggestion that the upgrade to Gaither would have been greater than the upgrade to McNabb is probably flawed.

It's Always SONNY in Philadelphia: I am probably the 79th person to bring this up in the last hour, but the symmetry is subconsciously reassuring. The lack of any precedent at all for me to clutch might otherwise send me spinning right off the freaking planet. Let's not waste our time and energy comparing the McNabb deal with the Jurgensen deal...the leitmotif here is that a very good quarterback migrated from the Eagles to the Redskins, and the world kept on turning.

I have been saying it since they signed Shanahan...veteran coaches want veteran quarterbacks. Did I think we were going to trade for McNabb...hell, no. But you look at what established coaches do when they move to new teams, and there is no surprise that Shanahan wants a veteran under center that he can trust. It is clear that Jason Campbell had not done enough to warrant being trusted to lead the new coaching regime into the future. What did Gibbs do when he got here? He moved quickly to bring in Brunell, with an unproven Patrick Ramsay swept aside at the first possible opportunity. Bill Parcells, Dick Vermeil, and even Tom Coughlin (to name a few of the older coaches in the league who took over teams in the last decade) all brought in veterans to lead their offenses (or at least push the incumbent to fight for his job.) Interestingly, Bruce Allen was the General Manager of the Oakland Raiders when they signed Rich Gannon-Gannon was essentially the same age as McNabb when he signed in Oakland. Gannon went on to win consecutive NFL MVP awards in 2001 and 2002.

Mike Shanahan and Jake Plummer's marriage in Denver is relevant here because Plummer reminds me at least a little of McNabb. He was younger when he signed with Denver (28 years old), and he was a free agent coming off a down year for the Cardinals, as opposed to getting traded. But Plummer took the Cardinals to heights they had not experienced in ages when he led them to the playoffs and beat the Cowgirls in 1998. McNabb put the Philly franchise on his back during his time there and is largely responsible for the respect that team has garnered league-wide during that time. Plummer had arguably his most disappointing season in 2002, falling below the league average in passer rating, yards and touchdowns. Unfortunately for him, it was a contract year. Shanahan was still trying to replace John Elway and Brian Griese was not cutting it (perhaps some of you remember the expressions on Shanahan's face on the sidelines as he watched Griese give games away.) Plummer was a mobile quarterback, fairly accurate, and had a reputation for winning games in the clutch, making him a perfect candidate to try and pick up Elway's place in Shanahan's offense. McNabb is a mobile, accurate quarterback that brings instant credibility to the offense Shanahan wants to run.

Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly just got better. So did Heyer, Dockery and Rabach. First the wide receivers...I know I wasn't the only one who saw those guys running open at times downfield with nary an attempt from JC. Campbell was unwilling to take certain risks--whether that was based on a mandate from the coaches or just his lack of confidence--and while this resulted in lower interception totals than some of his colleagues around the league, it also resulted in fewer big plays. McNabb pulls the trigger a lot faster than JC and if he smells a window for those bigger targets downfield, he is going to let it fly. Which makes our line look better too--I was being a little sarcastic about Heyer, Dockery, and Rabach, but the truth is that McNabb is more capable of identifying where a blitz is coming from and getting rid of the ball to the right guy than Campbell. He requires less time to compute things in the pocket than Campbell, which is a skill he will need unless they bring in a stud or two to upgrade the line.

The offense this year has instant credibility inside the offices of defensive coordinators around the league. As I said above, McNabb is a known quantity. He is an upgrade to the most important position on the field for us, and he is capable of making players who were glaringly insufficient last season look less so this year (not an excuse to ignore the OL in the draft.) Santana Moss is going to remind McNabb a lot of DeSean Jackson, and the tight end duo of Chris Cooley and Fred Davis should flourish with the seasoned quarterback reading the defense. Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly will benefit greatly by McNabb's willingness to spread the ball around and compute through his reads insanely faster than Campbell did. All of this should spell success for our running game as well, since defenses will have to play McNabb pretty honestly.

Bottom line: The 2010 Washington Redskins are a LOT better today then they were yesterday. But it still feels wrong...like there should have been some other way. It is one thing to inherit someone else's hand-me-downs, but to get a guy that the Eagles don't want...hurts. We have rooted against Donovan for the last decade. To see him wearing burgundy and gold is going to be so weird...gonna have to wait to see it before I put myself through the torment of unwinding the angst generated by years of wishing bad things upon him.

Does it matter that McNabb chose us over Buffalo and Oakland? I guess...though not much. After all, we're talking about Buffalo and Oakland. I was immediately distraught when I saw the headline, and that is 100% driven by the fact that an Eagle is coming to town. But all of the above points have weighed on me during the last 18 hours. I am still very much in shock on this one, but if you care about winning, we probably just brought in a few wins overnight.

To the extent we can "get used" to this, we will. Drafting a Left Tackle on April 22nd will go a long way to calming the masses here and identifying a quarterback of the future in the next year or two will also help us all out. In the short term, here is what I am counting on:

* McNabb wants to beat NFC East opponents as much as we do...he has no love for the Cowgirls, Giants, and now Eagles.

* There should be few limitations on our offense come September, which will make it more fun to watch than in recent seasons.

* McNabb will be a good teammate and leader.

In the meantime, we are just going to need time for this to sink in and make sense. I did make one decision though...call it my nonviolent protest to an Eagle coming to town. As long as McNabb is a Redskin, my family will not buy or consume any Campbell's soup. I know how stupid that sounds, but somehow it keeps my "inner Ken" from taking a crow bar to my insides for even considering this as a decent roster move.