As long as the Philadelphia Eagles' power brokers of the past decade -- owner Jeff Lurie, team president Joe Banner and coach Andy Reid -- had Donovan McNabb around, the team could take a licking but keep on ticking.
However, with the Easter trade that shipped the 11-year veteran quarterback to the Washington Redskins for a couple of draft choices, the mainsprings of the Eagles' trusty trinity might require repair.
The goal of most trades is to create a win-win situation, but the McNabb deal is a lose-lose venture. Washington figures to be mediocre in 2010, even if McNabb -- surrounded by inferior talent, and with a coach who hasn't won a playoff game since '05 and is just 1-4 in the postseason in the 2000s -- doubles the club's paltry victory total of this past season. And the Eagles, despite getting a lot younger for the long run, probably have surrendered their best chance to win a Super Bowl ring in the foreseeable future.
I don't agree with assertions that acquiring McNabb will lift the Redskins to playoff status in a diluted yet still rough-and-tumble division. Yes, it's true that Brett Favre, seven years older than McNabb, led Minnesota to the NFC Championship Game this past season. But the Vikings were a playoff team before Favre arrived in the Twin Cities. The Redskins, on the other hand, won four games in 2009.
And it isn't as if McNabb is the finishing piece for a team that hasn't won the division since 1999 and has as many last-place finishes as playoff appearances over the past six years (two). Instead, he is merely another piece for a team that must address a lot of holes. Owner Dan Snyder has failed before in trying to buy a title. He might employ a new general manager and a new coach, but they appear to have fallen for the same ill-advised approach that derailed their predecessors.
Despite turning over much of their roster the past five years, the Eagles have remained a contender. Since opening day 2007, Philadelphia had ridded itself of 15 of its 22 starters (before the McNabb trade), including both offensive tackles, both wide receivers and both cornerbacks from that season's first game. One of the few constants was McNabb, who, while often injured, was still mostly effective.
Make no mistake, McNabb wasn't as universally beloved in the locker room as perceived by outsiders, was viewed by some teammates as too cozy with club management and failed to bring a Super Bowl trophy to the Eagles. And he wasn't a favorite of mine, either. But he won, with the league's third-best win-loss mark since he became a starter, and he typically held the promise of a title, even if the promise turned out to be paradise lost.
Nothing against the man who will replace him, Kevin Kolb, but I'll wager that he will struggle to approximate the .651 winning mark McNabb accomplished in 11 seasons with the Philadelphia franchise.
As for McNabb, well, he'll find out in 2010 what it's like to hand off to whoever wins the starting job from a three-is-a-crowd trio of declining tailbacks (Clinton Portis, Willie Parker and Larry Johnson). And he'll discover that the suspect Washington wide receiving corps, which hasn't had a player catch more than six touchdown passes in a season since 2005, isn't quite DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
The Redskins, who would prefer to buy talent rather than take the time to develop it, have opted for McNabb over Jason Campbell. Campbell, who maintained his class even as Washington attempted to replace him last spring, first with Jay Cutler and then Mark Sanchez, is a player I've touted. Now the franchise that has thumbed its nose at him even while he has taken the high road must trade him.
Since he became a starter midway through the 2006 season, Campbell is just 20-32. Despite only 11 fewer completions than his replacement, he has a passer rating of 82.7 during that span. In the same period, McNabb is 30-20-1 and has compiled an 89.2 quarterback rating. Those numbers are inarguably compelling. But McNabb is five years older, which means the Redskins are banking on the present for a Super Bowl run and the Eagles are hopeful of cashing in for the future.
The bet here is that, in pursuing those goals, both teams will essentially go bankrupt. For the Redskins and Eagles, this was a pretty untimely deal.
Len Pasquarelli, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.