Right or Wrong? Rationalizing Redskins’ Trade of McNabb to Minnesota

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As expected, Donovan McNabb is now officially out in D.C. The quarterback departed in a trade to the Minnesota Vikings which shipped last year’s prize offseason acquisition to the “Twin Cities” for a pair of sixth round picks in next year’s draft.

It wasn’t too long ago that the 35-year-old McNabb was eyed as the best signal caller to don the burgundy and gold since Joe Theisman. But times have changed quickly. Was the trade baffling or brilliant? AFRO Sports Writers Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley break down the latest transaction off the Redskins’ offseason assembly line.

Riley: You couldn’t possibly label this a good move. Washington constructed a pricey plot to acquire McNabb last offseason and now they’ve basically shipped him out for peanuts. When you consider what’s left at the quarterback position between Rex Grossman, Jon Beck and the newly acquired Kellen Clemens, moving McNabb basically concedes their 2011 season. You would like to think the club is rebuilding, so maybe shipping McNabb off was a slight favor to the former All-Pro. But then they go out and make a rash of signings that indicate they want to compete next year. But why would you move your best QB if you want to compete? Washington is all over the map with this one in another boneheaded move.

Green: I’ll certainly agree with you in saying the decision-makers in Washington have made a ton of “boneheaded” moves over the past decade when it comes to players. But I must say that moving McNabb out of town was not much of a bad choice at all. Obviously, the relationship between him and the coaching staff in Washington was non-repairable given how McNabb was treated during last season. The first rules of coaching are motivating and inspiring your players enough to actually want—not feel as if they’re required—to go out and put their mind and bodies on the line for you. 

McNabb was humiliated by ‘Skins coach Mike Shanahan when he was benched not once, but twice in one season, and I don’t think there was much reason for Donovan to feel motivated to win here in Washington. Under those conditions, there was only one thing Shanahan could do with McNabb, and that’s let him go—or else he would have been another high priced, disgruntled star that just doesn’t buy into the team’s program. And we all saw how that scenario played out with Albert Haynesworth and his $100 million contract.  

Riley: When it comes to disrespect, no player has endured more and bounced back from it quite like McNabb. He was benched by the Eagles a few years ago and didn’t become a malcontent; he just went on about his business and everyone seemed to forget about it. A few years earlier, Terrell Owens led a mini-player revolt against him after their Super Bowl appearance, yet he sidestepped that and continued to compete. Philly fans booed him when he was drafted, and he went on to have a stellar career for the Eagles. The list goes on when it comes to how much mud has been unfairly splashed in his face over the seasons.

Yes, he was benched last year by Shanahan, but that was last year. Haynesworth and McNabb are two completely different players. There’s pride and self-respect revolving around McNabb that just won’t let him sit and sour on the sidelines and drive a team apart—that’s not his M.O. McNabb’s mature enough that the two sides could’ve buried last season and come to a resolution for this year. Again, it was a bad move and honestly, when it comes to handling tough situations and showing thick skin, more players in the NFL should be trying to emulate McNabb. The guy’s a class act who would’ve definitely helped whatever it is that the Redskins are trying to do.

Green: McNabb's one standup guy, there's no denying that, as you adamantly put.  I haven’t witnessed another superstar as genuinely kind and well-mannered as McNabb is. But even with everything he has gone through in the past, there's just nothing that can compare to what he had to experience last season. And even with all the drama that T.O. stirred up in Philly, he never once suggested the notion of taking McNabb off the field. The way Shanahan treated McNabb was a clear indicator that he just doesn’t believe McNabb can get the job done here in Washington. And it doesn’t matter if McNabb is capable or not, if the coach doesn’t believe you can, you'll never get a chance to prove you can.

I actually believe McNabb is very capable of operating a winning football team; I think he still has the arm, toughness, intelligence and raw athletic ability that made him so great throughout his career. But can he win with a coach that doesn't believe in him? I seriously doubt it. And can a player, even as kind as McNabb is, still go out and genuinely play to his best potential, when his primary motivator has no interest in him? I haven't seen it done before. The best thing to do is to just cut ties, break even financially, and invest in whatever's left over in rebuilding towards the future.

Riley: Trying to rationalize Shanahan’s decisions for last season would be dangerous. I can’t think of one move that he made that panned out in Washington’s benefit. People like to draw McNabb as the focal point of what went wrong in Washington last year but from top to bottom, that entire team was proficiently dysfunctional. There have to be a lot of moves that Shanahan would like to have back, and his handling of McNabb should be one of them. If Shanahan doesn’t believe in McNabb and would rather place his future in the hands of the Becks and Grossmans of the league, that’s just foolish on his part. We’ll watch McNabb lead the Vikings to the playoffs next year and watch Washington earn the top overall selection in the 2012 draft as the league’s worst team. McNabb and Minnesota are the clear winners in this deal. Washington however, will come out of this deal like they’ve finished the past three seasons: as a loser.