back to the future

When the Philadelphia Eagles traded quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins, it was a franchise-defining moment for two of the NFL’s most storied teams.

The Eagles were willingly turning the page on the face of their franchise, while the Redskins were acquiring a quarterback whose career numbers far surpassed anyone who has ever donned the burgundy and gold.

What happens next for these two rival franchises largely depends on McNabb. Can Philadelphia adequately replace him? Does he still have enough in the tank to turn the Redskins around? We’re about to find out.

And, while the trade was formally announced on April 4, this story actually begins 46 years earlier.

That’s when the Eagles traded quarterback Sonny Jurgensen to the Redskins in exchange for quarterback Norm Snead, who was five years younger, April 1, 1964. After seven seasons in Philadelphia, Jurgensen was deemed expendable and traded to the rival Redskins. Sound familiar?

Of course, anyone familiar with Jurgensen’s body of work knows he went on to have a highly-productive career in Washington and the five-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. So, in hindsight, maybe it wasn’t Philadelphia’s brightest moment trading him to a divisional rival.

“Honestly, when I saw the trade, my first thought was ‘Those people from Philly never learn,’” said Jurgensen.

“First of all, I could not understand why Philadelphia made the decision to take the worst team in their division – a team that was 4-12 a year ago – and give them a veteran quarterback, an all-pro quarterback that made them significantly better,” he continued. “As it was, that was basically two wins for Philadelphia, so I could not understand it.

“Unless they know something I don’t, why would Philly give away their starting quarterback and make the Redskins that much better overnight,” Jurgensen asked. “He’ll be 34 years old this year, so if he can stay healthy he’s going to be very productive for the Redskins. Also, he’s made them a much better football club because he’s given them a level of leadership that they didn’t have. There’s no question, this is something that is definitely going to make the Redskins a better football team.”

The Redskins, you might remember, were one of the laughingstocks of football a year ago. Jim Zorn, the team’s head coach, knew more about dodgeball and slip-n-slides than playcalling, which is why the front office scoured retirement homes across the country for a suitable replacement.

If that’s not enough, there was drama galore within the locker room. If the rumors are accurate, then Redskins Park fostered a dysfunctional environment where some players received special treatment by running to the front office when things didn’t go their way.

With all of that going on, it’s no wonder the Redskins routinely lost games before even taking the field. That’s why everyone associated with the franchise is so genuinely excited to have professionals like head coach Mike Shanahan and McNabb on board.

“He’s a proven quarterback,” said Hall of Fame receiver Art Monk of McNabb. “He’s a class guy. He’s not a cocky guy and he’s not about himself. He’s about team and really helping his team to succeed and do well. He brings a level of leadership and those qualities that we’ve lacked in recent years. He really is the total package. Even though he’s 33-years-old, he still has some good years left. We really are excited to have him here.”

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