Pardon me for not getting caught up in the apparent playoff euphoria that is sweeping Redskins Park. My esteemed colleague and pal John Clayton has elevated the Washington Redskins to "co-favorite" status, along with the Dallas Cowboys, to win the NFC East.
Sorry, but I'm not there yet. Clayton points out that the addition of Brett Favre to the Vikings added 5.7 points per game and took them from 10 to 12 wins (and an NFC title game appearance).
My issue with that comparison is that McNabb won't have anywhere near the talent surrounding him Favre enjoyed. The Vikings had the best running back in the league heading into the 2009 season. The Redskins counter with a stable of running backs who each peaked about four years ago. I realize Clinton Portis was good in 2008 but he faded late.
Let's not act like drafting Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung in this month's draft is going to completely fix one of the worst offensive lines in the league. What, did you guys get excited about that Artis Hicks signing? He couldn't start for the Vikings last season but I guess he'll get the Redskins to the next level.
By trading for McNabb, Shanahan is acting as if the Redskins are prepared to win now. You don't pay an aging quarterback $11.2 million in 2010 to be a stopgap player. To me, this smacks of the old Dan Snyder way of doing business. McNabb is a blockbuster name like, say, Deion Sanders or Bruce Smith. It sounds like another expensive shortcut, albeit a highly-intriguing one.
But let's not forget McNabb finished his 2009 campaign by playing miserably in back-to-back losses to the Cowboys. Are the Redskins a better team with McNabb at quarterback? Of course they are. But it's hard to imagine him making a seven-win difference -- and that's what it would probably take to challenge for a division title. Clayton immediately has the Redskins passing the Eagles with this move.
"As for the Eagles, who were 11-5 last season, the pressure falls on the unproven quarterback Kevin Kolb," writes Clayton. "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."
Again, the good news for Eagles fans is that McNabb isn't exactly inheriting the Fun Bunch. Santana Moss still has breakaway speed, but he needs time to get open. And let's not act like McNabb is the same guy who once kept a play alive for 14 seconds on "Monday Night Football" against the Cowboys. In Philadelphia, McNabb played the majority of his career with offensive tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. He'll likely be breaking in a rookie on his blindside in 2010 and the pedestrian Stephon Heyer will man the right side.
This is certainly a fascinating trade in terms of its impact on two franchises, but to say that Washington and Dallas are the co-favorites in the division is a pretty big stretch.