23 April 2010

On 5 & Leadership

Recently Donovan McNabb was recently traded to the Washington Redskins by the Philadelphia Eagles. I have some interest in this as I am from (& still live in) the Philadelphia area and have been a Redskins fan since I was a little boy (yes, since even before Super Bowl XVII).

McNabb's time in Philly was done. He's the most successful quarterback in the franchise's history, by all significant metrics and he was a model employee. By all accounts, he has been an upright citizen. The move was mostly financial, he was in the last year of his contract. The Eagles' options were either to trade him, re-sign him to a long-term deal with a significant signing bonus or let him play out the final season and he would then leave as an unrestricted free agent.
The third option would have been a disaster as McNabb, head coach Andy Reid and every one else in the organization would have been asked about nothing other than McNabb's status. For the entire year. And after the same question 10,538 times, it may start to become distracting. Also, he does still have some worth, so it behooved the team to try to get something for him.
Re-signing him would have been silly. He's 33 years old. He's had several injury-shortened seasons. They would have had to have structured the contract in such a way that, had they been forced to cut him, the signing bonus, which would have to be significant, would be a serious hit to their salary cap. And the Eagles have been nothing if not savvy about their salary cap. They've also been shrewd about releasing older players before they become a liability.
So trade him they did. They got the Redskins' 2nd round draft pick this year and a third or fourth round pick next year. So the Eagles, who drafted Kevin Kolb in 2007 with an eye on him eventually becoming the starter, parted ways with McNabb.

And the Redskins got him. I've never particularly been a fan of Mr. McNabb. There was always something about him that was a little off-putting. Maybe it's the fact that he thinks he's funny (he isn't); or the fact that he took it personally when a few idiots booed the Eagles for picking McNabb instead of Ricky Waters (yes, back in 1999 this was a matter of debate and consternation); or his habit of stating how things are a team effort when they lose and then slipping in areas that could have been better (oddly, though, rarely the quarterback).

I'm not happy because, as bad as the Redskins have been, the problem wasn't quarterback. Now, I may not like McNabb, but I know he is a better quarterback, right now, than Jason Campbell. Running back has been touchy because Clinton Portis is getting dinged more and more and suffered his first, I think, serious concussion last year. The offensive line was wretched last year. Chris Samuels missed most of last season and retired this off-season. The other tackle spot has been a revolving door since Jon Jansen left (and he was starting to decline rapidly when the 'Skins cut him). Only Center Casey Rabach played his position well. Sean Suisham, their kicker, almost drove me to suicide. Their receivers came up small; the defensive backs played soft (DeAngelo Hall is a locker room cancer and not worth what he can bring on the rare occasions when he wants to); The LBs were about the only unit that played well all season.

The point is, with all of the things that are going poorly on the team (almost everything), the one (slight) glimmer of hope was a young quarterback who was unlucky enough to have had several different coaches (and offensive systems) in his short career. So they give away draft picks to bring in a moderately successful, older QB that will keep Campbell off the field for a few years. And giving away draft picks is something the Redskins have excelled at since Dan Snyder bought the team. In fact, the few things the Redskins have done better than piss away draft picks is sign free agents that don't fit the team, hire and fire coaches on sheer whimsy, and lose football games. They have also, counter-intuitively, made gobs and gobs of money.

Another of the things that struck me about McNabb was/is his constant refrain that he was "the leader" of the team. In my experience, the guy who says he is the leader, isn't. And the guy who is never, ever has to say it. I don't remember ever hearing Joe Montana or John Elway or Brett Favre say he was the leader. I do remember Favre, who I respect but don't necessarily like, saying he was responsible. And there is a tremendous difference. Also, I get the feeling that if, in the huddle, someone could hear a quarterback who is a leader, someone would tell their teammates to be quiet. If he couldn't hear McNabb, I get the feeling that someone would tell McNabb to speak up.

There is a recent political analogue. When George W. Bush said he was the "decider." I don't believe in conspiracy theories or shadow governments or that Dick Cheney secretly ran things. Ok, maybe a little bit on that last one. But the one thing I knew, as soon as Bush said that, that of all the people making decisions down in Washington DC, he wasn't one of them.

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