The phone call came shortly after 8 p.m. on Sunday. "Bombshell news," said Derek Boyko, the Eagles' director of football media services. "You'd better get down to the office now."
And with that, a flood of memories of Donovan McNabb's 11 seasons as an Eagle went through my mind. All of those wins, and all of the deep runs into the playoffs. It was great while it lasted.
An off-season that has been one heckuva a wild ride went into a new stratosphere on Sunday when the Eagles dealt McNabb to the Washington Redskins for their second-round draft pick (No. 37 overall) later this month and a fourth-round draft pick in 2011 that could become a third-round draft pick if McNabb hits certain performance levels.
And just like that, an era was over. After 11 seasons and all of those wins and the franchise record for most passing yards, most touchdowns, most completions, attempts, wins and playoff wins, McNabb is gone. An off-season that started with the rumor mill churning about what the Eagles would do at quarterback ended, for now, with McNabb being dealt to a bitter division rival.
Was it a good trade? The Eagles clearly think so. The Redskins think so, too. ESPN's Sal Paolantonio thinks it was a "steal" in favor of the Eagles, but time will prove the measure here. The Eagles dealt McNabb because they are ready to turn over the controls to fourth-year man Kevin Kolb, who impressed so much with his two starts in 2009.
We can talk more about Kolb in future days, and believe me, it is a subject on which I want to opine. I love the kid -- his demeanor, his on-field skills, his locker room leadership. I think he is going to be a great quarterback here.
But first, it is time to say a proper goodbye to McNabb. The team's first-round draft pick in 1999, the player upon whom Reid staked his future, went out and helped turn this franchise from an NFL doormat in 1998 to an annual Super Bowl contender a couple of years later. McNabb did it with great athleticism, with great heart and with the leadership to defy the critics and just win, baby. He wasn't pretty at times, and his completion percentage wasn't always where you wanted it to be, and he didn't win a Super Bowl, but McNabb was the best quarterback in franchise history.
And as hard as it may be for some, the era is over. McNabb endured numerous injuries, yearly controversies that he rarely had a hand in, and he went out every week and gave the Eagles a chance to win the football game. That doesn't happen in many NFL cities. It happened here, and we should all be grateful for the time we had watching and enjoying McNabb's career.
His legacy should be that he won more games than any quarterback in franchise history, rather than the failure to deliver a Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia. We should remember him with great fondness.
At the same time, the Eagles had a move to make. You knew they were going to do something from the time the season ended in a second straight beating at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. No way the Eagles could go into a season with all three quarterbacks -- McNabb, Kolb and Michael Vick -- working on the final year of their contracts. Something had to give. And after so much speculation, and after Reid came out and said a couple of weeks ago at the NFL Owners Meetings that teams had expressed interest in trading for all three quarterbacks, the deal went down with Washington.
The Redskins showed interest only a few days ago, and they made the best offer -- apparently -- that the Eagles heard. It wasn't a first-round draft pick, but who would pay that for a quarterback in the final year of his contract who will be 34 years old in November? Washington wanted a stable, winning presence at quarterback this season with new head coach Mike Shanahan, and they got it with McNabb.
The Eagles wanted to turn the team over to Kolb, a player in whom they invested a highly-discussed second-round draft pick back in 2007. Kolb played very little in 2007 and 2008, and then had a chance to start games against New Orleans and Kansas City and set an NFL record with back-to-back 300-yard games. He showed all the skills you want in a quarterback in this system -- the quick release, the accurate delivery, the head for the game, the athletic ability to keep a play alive with his feet. He has a chance to be a special player, which is something Tom Heckert said on the day the Eagles drafted Kolb. Walking past a television showing Kolb in action from his college days at Houston, Heckert, who at the time ran the Eagles' personnel department, turned to a small group in the room.
"That kid is going to be special," said Heckert.
Now is Kolb's turn to shine.
But not before McNabb is remembered as The Franchise. It was heralded at the best quarterback draft since 1983, but the Class of 1999 fizzled quickly. Tim Couch never amounted to a thing in the NFL. Cade McNown was a bust. Akili Smith stunk in Cincinnati. Daunte Culpepper had a few shining moments with the Vikings, but then suffered injuries and never bounced back.
Meanwhile, McNabb won games and took the Eagles to the playoffs. For those of you who watched the Eagles struggle at the position since the days of Randall Cunningham's prime, you no doubt appreciated McNabb's time here.
It's over now. The reality is just setting in. Thanks for the great years, Donovan. Good luck with the Redskins. Those games are going to be something special.
This is Kevin Kolb's team now, and he is going to have a chance to live up to the Eagles' high expectations. An generation of Eagles football has changed so much in the last two off-seasons, culminating with the trade of McNabb to the Redskins. The Eagles, with youth all over, channel all of their efforts to a draft in which they own five of the first 87 picks. That is an incredible arsenal of selections. New general manager Howie Roseman and his staff, along with Reid of course, have to hit home runs here. They need some major impact in a draft said to have a lot of talent.
The future is bright with a young and expanding core of talented, young players on the roster already. In an instant, though, it feels a little strange. McNabb is a Redskin. Kolb is the guy. How quickly the picture changes in the NFL, in an off-season that has not lacked in suspense for your Philadelphia Eagles.