Donovan McNabb is a Washington Redskin. That just sounds odd, huh? Up is down. Black is white. Dogs and cats are living together. This is the crazy world of the NFL. You have to remember that Reggie White finished as a Carolina Panther and Johnny Unitas as a San Diego Charger. Very few guys get to stay put forever.
The Eagles made this move because they felt the time was right to play Kevin Kolb. That's the key thing to understand. No one was trying to get rid of McNabb. At some point, we were going to have to make the move. McNabb has been a great player for us for a long time, but no player lasts forever. Kolb has worked hard behind the scenes to get ready. He finally got to start a couple of games last year and showed the Eagles enough to make them feel comfortable that it was time for the transition.
I'm excited to see what Kolb can do. I was a big fan of his when he was in college at Houston. He was a natural leader and good passer down there. Kolb has done some good things in his short Eagles career. He's played well in the preseason. He played well in his two starts last season. The thing that none of us can see is what he's done in practice. Ravens coach John Harbaugh has openly praised Kolb's practice performances. Harbaugh coached our defensive backs for a year. He said Kolb was unstoppable at times in practice, especially in the red zone.
I think the average fan would be surprised to find out how much the other players like Kolb. Yes, this was Donovan's team, but Kolb made a real impression. I was shocked to see the sideline reaction last year when Kevin threw touchdowns in his starts. You could tell that players were genuinely excited for him. They had seen Kolb work hard every day in practice and it really meant something when they got to see him succeed in a game. What the other players think is what really matters. Quarterback is the most important position in football. If the other players have doubts in the new player or flat out don't like him, the team is in for a rough time. Thankfully, that situation doesn't apply to us. Kolb is popular in the locker room. I think the thing that the other guys like so much is Kolb's work ethic. He's a gym-rat-type of player. Kolb doesn't care about being a star player or celebrity. He wants to play football and win games. He will do anything and everything in his power to better prepare for that.
I know some people have doubts about Kolb and see this as a sign we're rebuilding. No way. We have too many good pieces in place. One of the reasons to go with Kolb is that the offense is good enough that he can step in and all the pressure isn't on him. Remember McNabb's first year as the full-time starter in 2000? He was throwing to Charles Johnson, Torrance Small and Na Brown. He was handing the ball to Darnell Autry. All the pressure was on McNabb. He finished second in the MVP balloting that year because he played so well and we won games. Kolb steps into a whole different situation. He simply has to run the offense and be the leader. Kolb won't try to be Superman. He will just play quarterback and do his job. That is what we need. The offense can still function at a high level with Kolb at the helm. In a year or two, Kolb will have plenty of experience and the offense could be great.
Kolb will have some hiccups. No one expects him to be perfect or a major star right away. At the same time, this notion that he's a scrub or some idiot rookie and we'll only win a couple of games seems ludicrous to me. Reid hand-picked Kolb to be McNabb's successor. This isn't an accident.
As for McNabb and his side of things, I do hate to see him go. I watched every one of his NFL throws. I watched more than half of his games at Syracuse. I'm used to seeing No. 5 run around and create magic. I'll miss him. McNabb came here in April of 1999 and success was right behind him. We've been a good team for a long time. I remember the late 1990s when things weren't so good. Winning wasn't the goal back then. You just wanted to see Hugh Douglas get a sack or Duce Staley score a touchdown so that you'd have something to cheer about. McNabb won us a lot of games and gave us a lot of great memories. He also was a player you could be proud of. He's never been in trouble off-the-field. Thank you, Donovan. Good luck in the new chapter of your career.
The trade wasn't ideal, but this was a complex scenario. Rather than re-hash all the details let's just talk about the key points. Trading McNabb to a division rival is OK with me. If I felt like Washington was a good quarterback away from winning a Super Bowl I'd hate the move. I see that as a team in transition that will need a year or two in order to get going. McNabb will turn 34 this November. At some point his age will start to become a factor. That could be 2010, 2011 or 2012.
Getting the 37th overall pick gives us another good resource for the draft. This is a deep draft class and there will be good players on the board. We have a lot of good options now. We could go for a pass rusher with the 24th pick and then get a defensive back with the 37th. Or we could take a cornerback at 24 and then go with a safety at 37. Maybe linebacker becomes a possibility. There are all kinds of interesting options.
I am thankful for a resolution. All the waiting and guessing was killing me. McNabb was going to Oakland, Buffalo or Siberia. I even heard Mars made a good offer, but McNabb apparently didn't want to go there because of the atmospheric issues. Best to keep him here on Earth. I am very glad that the deal is done. Everyone now knows that this is Kolb's team. Michael Vick is the backup quarterback. We have an opening for a rookie or developmental quarterback. The pecking order is clear and there is no more speculating to be done about what will happen at quarterback. We close the McNabb chapter of Eagles history. We never did win the big one, but anyone who characterizes the last 11 years as anything other than a great time is crazy. Now the Kolb era begins.
Inside The "Other" Trade
Since my last column, the Eagles made another deal. Sheldon Brown and Chris Gocong went to Cleveland for a pair of picks and linebacker Alex Hall. We've heard reports that this deal was in the works for a couple of weeks.
Brown was a terrific cornerback for a long time, but had started to show some limitations. He never had ideal size or speed, but made up for that by being smart, tough and ultra-competitive. I've had cornerback pegged as the Eagles biggest need for a while. I wanted the team to draft someone early to come here and challenge Brown for his spot. I was fine with having the trade happen. Brown is another player I love for all his accomplishments, but it is time for him an upgrade.
Gocong looked so good in 2007 and 2008. He was a project, moving from defensive end to linebacker. He showed real promise. Then 2009 rolled around. The progress stopped. Gocong leveled off. The Eagles felt that he was as good as he was going to get, in a 4-3 defense. Gocong now goes to the Browns and their 3-4 scheme. It is a more natural fit since he can attack upfield more often.
Alex Hall is a real interesting player. He is listed at 6-5 and 250 pounds. I think he's a bit lighter. He has sort of a skinny lower body. He played SAM linebacker for Cleveland, but it was in the 3-4. Hall had a good rookie year in 2008. He had three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. Rob Ryan was brought in to run the defense in 2009 and Hall fell out of favor and his playing time fell drastically.
The person who drafted Hall is Phil Savage, now a draft advisor for the Eagles. I'm sure Savage talked to general manager Howie Roseman and pro personnel director Louis Riddick quite a bit about Hall. The Eagles had reports on him already in place, but obviously Savage knew him from their year together in Cleveland.
Hall comes here to play SAM. I watched a couple of his games from 2008 to take a look at him. Hall has a good frame, but could stand to bulk up a little. He has pretty good athletic ability. Hall has good feet and looks very agile at times. He looks more natural on the move than Gocong did. Hall showed the ability to play in space. I wouldn't say he's got coverage instincts, but he didn't look lost. He gets good depth in his pass drops. He lined up over slot receivers in some sets. He played defensive end sometimes in the nickel and dime units. He has some quickness, but didn't show the explosion you'd want in a defensive end. Hall will battle to hold the point of attack on run plays. He does need to work on shedding blocks.
We received in the trade a player with ability, but limited experience. He is only 25 years old. Hall has the potential to develop into a starting SAM, but he might only turn out to be a backup and special teams player. I didn't get a good feel for his tackling ability, but a guy with his length and speed should be of real interest to Bobby April, the new special teams coach.