Redskins a co-favorite in division
By acquiring Donovan McNabb for a second-round draft choice in 2010 and a third- or fourth-rounder in 2011, the Eagles may have given Redskins owner Daniel Snyder the short-term tool to move ahead of the Eagles in the NFC East race. In a quarterback-driven league, the Redskins should be able to finally score enough points to not just be a wild-card playoff contender, but to be a division winner.
Despite being 33 years old, McNabb can add to the Redskins what Brett Favre added to the Minnesota Vikings last season and Steve McNair added to the Baltimore Ravens in a trade in 2006. Franchise quarterbacks add points to the scoreboard. Favre added 5.7 points per game to the Vikings last season and they advanced from a 10-win team to a 12-win team. McNair added 5.5 points per game to the Ravens in 2006, and they had a 13-3 season.
Former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs thought he drafted a franchise quarterback for Snyder when he took Jason Campbell in the first round of the 2005 draft. Campbell never produced enough points for the Redskins as a starter. Under Campbell, the Redskins never averaged more than 20.9 points a game, not good enough to be atop a division.
Improved quarterback play among the best teams has put more of a demand on scoring. The 12 playoff teams last season averaged 25.8 points a game. The Redskins averaged 16.6 points a game the past two seasons under Campbell.
With the play-calling of Mike Shanahan and the experience and arm of McNabb, the Redskins should easily reach 22 points and game and most likely 24. In addition to McNabb, Washington has added halfbacks Larry Johnson and Willie Parker and offensive lineman Artis Hicks this offseason. Because they used only their second-round pick in the 2010 draft in this deal, the Redskins have a chance to draft either left tackle Russell Okung or Trent Williams to improve an offensive line that got too old the past two seasons.
As for the Eagles, who were 11-5 last season, the pressure falls on the unproven quarterback Kevin Kolb. With this being his first year as the full-time starter, we can expect a two- or three-win drop in the Eagles' record because first-year starters have difficulty winning close games. The Packers experienced that after they traded Favre to the New York Jets for a second-round choice in 2008. Even though Aaron Rodgers threw for more than 4,000 yards in 2008, he struggled in the fourth quarter of close games, and the Packers dropped from 13-3 to 6-10.
The McNabb trade makes the Redskins and Cowboys the early favorites to win the NFC East, and puts the Eagles, who have moved 10 players this offseason, into just a wild-card possibility at best.
Snyder finally got his franchise quarterback. What he didn't expect was that it would be a quarterback who made the Eagles a conference championship contender every season.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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