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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

McNABB: A REDSKIN



During this off-season, the Eagles traded away their franchise quarterback, Donovan McNabb. Despite being the face of the Eagles for a decade, McNabb's career in Philadelphia has not been so brotherly. On Draft Day in 1999, the Eagles had the second overall pick. Many of their fans were expecting them to take University of Texas running back and 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams after the Cleveland Browns selected Kentucky Quarterback Tim Couch with the first overall pick as part of the Browns return to the NFL. The next five teams picking after the Browns (2. Eagles, 3. Bengals, 4. Colts, 5. Redskins, 6. Rams) were hoping that somehow Ricky Williams would fall to them and be that player that takes their franchise from picking at the top of the draft every year to the team that picks last. (The team that owns the last pick won the previous season's Super Bowl. Explanation here)

Conventional wisdom says that the Eagles take a Quarterback. I see either Cade McKnown or Akili Smith fitting into rookie head coach Andy Reid's system.

And now NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has stepped up to the podium to announce the Philadelphia Eagles pick……..

No surprise. They boo Santa Claus and cheer injured Dallas Cowboys wide receivers.

Ricky Williams ended up being drafted by the New Orleans Saints in one of the strangest draft day trades in NFL history. Saints head coach Mike Ditka traded to the Washington Redskins all their 1999 draft plus PLUS a first and a third round pick for 2000 in order to move up to the fifth overall spot. Ricky Williams WAS the Saints 1999 Draft. Afterwards Ditka went home feeling content that the Saints drafted the second incarnation of Walter Peyton. However, this was when the Saints were the 'Aints (and played as such). They went 3-13 that season. Ditka was fired. Ricky Williams was traded to Miami in 2002 where his career briefly rebounded before being suspended by the NFL for marijuana usage followed by briefly leaving the league to pursue other interests. He returned to the NFL in 2007 where he is currently in his second stint with the Dolphins.

Now with all those draft picks, a team should be able to get good players and build a championship caliber team, right?

How many Vince Lombardi Trophies have the Redskins added to their trophy case since that draft?

Because neither team gained or lost anything as a result of that trade in 1999, you could say it was a tie.

Back to the topic at hand: How did the Eagles fare with McNabb under center? Well, quite well. Despite another dismal season in 1999, the Eagles made the playoffs in 2000, the first time in four years. In 2001, they won the last NFC East Title before re-alignment and as a #3 seed in the NFC they made their first Conference Championship game appearance since 1980. 2002 and 2003 ended with disappointing losses in the NFC Championship game in Philadelphia in part due to facing defenses that forced turnovers (Tampa in 2002, Carolina in 2003) and the lack of a big play receiver.

In 2004, the Eagles made a trade for controversial 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens. McNabb suggested it and felt that Owens would get Philadelphia over the conference championship game hump and into the Super Bowl. The Eagles stormed through the 2004 NFL season with a purpose en route to their first Super Bowl appearance in 24 seasons as McNabb posted then career highs in passing yards (3,875) and became the first NFL quarterback to throw for more than 30 touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions in a season (31 TDs-8 INTs).

Again, the season ended in disappointment as the Eagles lost Super Bowl XXXIX to the Patriots 24-21. That game was not as close as the final score indicated. The Patriots had taken a ten point lead after Adam Vinatieri's field goal with five minutes remaining. It was a two possession game so the Eagles needed to go into hurry up mode on offense. Instead, the Eagles methodically drove the down the field for a touchdown that took too much time. (This was at the early part of deployment. I was in the M Div berthing on the Vinson watching this. I had just gotten off watch. I was on shaft alley patrol, meaning, I could leave the plant, tour my watch station which happened to be near the galley. So, I would sneak a look at the game and then come down to the plant with an update. Even though I didn't see much of the game, it is the second best Super Bowl memory in my life. #1) The Eagles got the ball back deep at their end of the field, but they were out of timeouts and there was not enough time to get downfield to tie the game with a field goal.

McNabb was still a good NFL quarterback heading into the next five seasons, but each of those seasons would be faced with some sort of adversity. In 2005, Terrell Owens criticized McNabb for his lack of enthusiasm on the sideline during the Super Bowl. This was not the first instance that McNabb was publically criticized. In 2003, Republican Party Chair
current St. Louis Rams minority owner talk radio host Rush Limbaugh was briefly hired for the ESPN NFL Sunday pregame show where he said this.

Because of his off the field actions, Owens would be suspended and later traded to the Cowboys the next season. McNabb's 2005 season started off strong as he was named the NFC Player of the month for September, but he was regularly battling injuries. He suffered a season ending groin injury after throwing a pick six that capped the Cowboys coming back from down 13 in the fourth quarter to win 21-20 on a Monday Night in early November. Theoretically Philadelphia was still in the playoff race at 4-5, but without their star player the Eagles would lose five of their next seven and miss the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. In 2006, the Eagles would reclaim the NFC East crown in a tightly contested three team race, but McNabb missed the final six weeks of the season and the playoffs due to an ACL tear. The Eagles got off to a slow start in 2007, in part due to McNabb returning too soon from his knee injury. Despite finishing in last place in the division, the Eagles finished the season strong at 8-8, making them a playoff favorite team heading into the next season.

The Eagles made an upgrade at receiver with the drafting of wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the second round in 2008. The ability to have a big play receiver, similar to Terrell Owens was in the 2004 campaign, put the Eagles back into the playoffs with a 9-6-1 record as the NFC's #6 seed, convincingly finishing a half-game better than their division rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. McNabb started under center for the Eagles for every game that season; a feat that he hadn't achieved since 2003 due to missing 17 out 18 games due to injuries from 2004 to 2007 (Includes two playoff games. He was held out the 2004 season finale due to the Eagles wrapping up the #1 seed two weeks earlier). He also set career highs in passing yards, completions, and attempts that year as Philadelphia would become the first NFC #6 seed to reach the Conference Championship game. Even though the Eagles rallied from a halftime deficit of 24-6 to the Arizona Cardinals to take a one point lead with 10:45 remaining in the game, they were unable to prevent the Arizona Cardinals from appearing in their first league championship game since 1947.

The 2009 NFL Season saw an exciting NFC East race that came down to the final week of the regular season. The Eagles were on a 6 game winning streak entering their regular season finale at Dallas (or Arlington….). In order to secure the division title and a first round bye, the goal was simple: beat the Cowboys in the regular season finale (like they did the season before to clinch the final playoff spot). 24-0: Dallas (KARMA!!). Dallas Cowboys: 2009 NFC Eastern Division Champs, #3 NFC Seed.

6 days later, the two teams met again at Jerry World with the stakes a little higher. The winner of the game, their season continued for another week; the loser would have to wait until September 12 to play another game. Despite the Eagles briefly leading 7-0, the Cowboys rolled to a convincing 34-14 win and recorded their first playoff victory since 1996. The chatter began that this was possibly McNabb's last game in an Eagles uniform.

McNabb is the Eagles all time leader in passing yards, touchdown passes, attempts, completions, and wins. Out of the quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the 1999 National Football League Annual Selection Meeting (AKA: The Draft) , only two (McNabb and Dante Culpepper) have won a playoff game. McNabb was the only quarterback picked in the first round to remain with his drafted team the longest. Despite being the best Eagles quarterback since Randall Cunningham and statistically since Ron "Jaws" Jaworski, there have been rumors going as far back as the end of 2006 that each season could be McNabb's last in Philadelphia. Despite the Eagles making the playoffs eight times (5 times as division champs, 3 as a wild card entry) and posting a 103-56-1 regular season record for the 2000s (tied for third best regular season record with another Keystone State based team: Pittsburgh. Top two: Indianapolis and New England), the fans are not satisfied with the Eagles' playoff performance. The most glaring is posting a 1-4 record in the NFC Championship game during the 2000s. The Eagles owned the best regular season record among teams without a Super Bowl win during the 2000s. Translation: Regular season success does not equal post season success.

Another point is the Eagles front office decisions regarding the quarterback position over the last few seasons. The Eagles have learned from experience the importance of having a reliable backup quarterback which is why the Eagles' front office drafted University of Houston and Stephenville (TX) High School quarterback Kevin Kolb in the second round of the 2007 draft and signed dog fighting ring leader former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

Examples of GOOD backup quarterbacking: A.J. Feely was able to keep the Eagles in the playoff race when McNabb suffered a broken leg in 2002. Former 49er star, Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to the NFC East crown and a playoff victory in 2006.

Examples of BAD backup quarterbacking: Even though the Eagles were still technically in playoff contention with a 4-5 record after the Dallas loss at home in 2005, Mike McMahon was unable to keep the Eagles postseason streak alive which included the (Jeff Albertson Voice) WORST. MONDAY NIGHT BEATDOWN. EVER! Despite not making the playoffs in 2007, A.J. Feely, in his second Eagles appearance, did his best to keep the team in the playoff hunt, including a near upset of the then perfect Patriots. However, he was unable to duplicate the magic he had back in 2002 as the Eagles lost in a turnover heavy game to the Seahawks.

The Eagles apparently paid good money for Kolb to play, not sit on the bench and carry the clipboard. For example, Brett Favre was originally drafted by the Atlanta Falcons early in the second round of the 1991 NFL Draft. Favre only appeared in mop up duty where he threw his first NFL pass for a touchdown.

To the other team.

His Falcon stat line: four attempts, zero completions, zero yards, one sack, and two interceptions for quarterback rating of: Zero point zero.

He was traded in 1992, in part because Jerry Glanville did not know what to do with him. Four seasons later, the Packers would return the Lombardi trophy to Green Bay for the first time in 30 years, while the Atlanta Falcons mired in below mediocrity.

Heading into 2008, the Packers were faced with a similar situation the Eagles are in now after Favre reneged on his first retirement: Do we let Favre play some more for us or what do we do with Aaron Rodgers, a player we drafted in the first round to prepare ourselves for a better post-Favre period?

Here's a good way to set your franchise back five years: Hall of Fame QB retires after team posts a 13-3 record. Because you had a good record, your team will be picking towards the bottom. MAYBE you'll get lucky and the next franchise quarterback falls to you. However, a couple of years ago, your team passed on a top QB that is now leading your division rival and is looking primed to make three… four… maybe five runs at the championship. Because the team lacked the vision that maybe the Hall of Famer will retire someday and it's best to take preventative measures now, it picked the prima donna wide receiver or the overweight linebacker or the "Makin' It Rain" cornerback or the liquored up kicker or (insert your own favorite talented yet heavily character flawed player here).

So, that 13-3 in one season becomes a 2-13-1 record (why you tied a game is beyond me?). One of those wins was by a ticky-tacky forfeit (the other teams Captains were one second late to the coin toss and the ref was having a REALLY bad day). The other was a league error that no one really bothered to follow up on. Players are pissed. Coaches are pissed. Front office is pissed. Most importantly: the fans are pissed.

Effigies of the coach are burned in the parking lot. Player jerseys are being returned to the pro shop. No one wants to buy tickets to the game because the team….. What's a level below sucks…. More suck? The game is blackout locally. During one nationally televised game, the camera gets a shot of this guy. All of your corporate sponsors pull their names out of your stadium. Even Goldman Sachs won't lend their name to your stadium.

The local TV station that is your "Official Team Station" now denies any existence. Somehow they Men-In-Blacked their memories about promoting your team. FEMA refuses to give you money because you do not qualify for natural disaster status. The Fox Network is paying record FCC fines due to the vulgar and offensive content that is being displayed. Finally Fox refuses to show your games, despite their heavy promotion of their new show Animal/Human Genital Swap.

You fire the coach during the final post game press conference where the team somehow managed to blow a 21 point lead. In the fourth quarter. Inside two minutes to play. Where the other team had no timeouts remaining. And you lost the game by 14.

Yeah, I am describing an extreme situation, but case in point, what is the goal Senior Chief Mayes Coach Edwards?

In closing, I leave with this final observation (FINALLY). McNabb going to the Redskins makes them a playoff contender (Note: I said contender, not a mortal lock) and relevant once again. Case in point: opening up at home on a Sunday Night against the hated Dallas Cowboys plus a couple of other big primetime games that they wouldn't have gotten if they did not have McNabb (the Colts on a Sunday Night and the Eagles on a Monday Night). The Redskins probably would have gotten ONE very early season primetime game (either week 1 or 2 hosting Dallas) to showcase new coach Mike Shanahan if they did not make the trade. The Eagles also made a big mistake: you DO NOT trade a popular player to a division rival. Especially a franchise quarterback.

I am also weary because this is what the Redskins have done during the Danny Snyder Ownership era. Instead of building a team through the draft like good teams do, they try to do it through free agency, which is what crappy teams do. Every year we hear the Redskins sign a free agent that is either on the decline (Bruce Smith) or clearly did not deserve that huge contract (too many players to list).

In the end, I think the trade will benefit the Redskins in the short term, but the Eagles will come out winners in the long term (Plus, I despise the Redskins. The Eagles too, but I have respect for them). Right now, it hurts. So, Eagles fans, when McNabb with his new team face you on October 3 (3PM, second part of the Fox doubleheader), before you boo him mercifully, try your best to remember the good times that he gave your team.
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