Donovan McNabb likes to crack jokes, play loose and be silly. His act wore thin in Philadelphia, even though he was the best quarterback in the franchise's history. He was traded to Washington, where he has been a welcomed addition. It begs the question: are the Eagles better off without him? Are the Redskins better with him?
The answer could be yes to both questions. McNabb went to six Pro Bowls and led the Eagles to eight play-off appearances, five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl in 11 seasons. But he did not win the big one, and the organisation decided to move on with Kevin Kolb at quarterback. Though Kolb has started just two games in three seasons, he has received high praise from his coaches, teammates and analysts. He is considered a born leader who is well suited to run Philadelphia's offence.
"He's not like a first-time starting quarterback," Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles wide receiver, said. "He knows what he's doing out there. On the field, you see him directing guys where to go and what adjustments to make. It's like he's been doing this for years." While McNabb was the starter in Philadelphia, the Redskins had a revolving door at quarterback. They used 10 different starters in 11 years and only one made a Pro Bowl - Brad Johnson in 1999. Washington won only two play-off games during that time.
So, McNabb brings stability and a strong pedigree to a critical position. "I think it's more psychological for the team, because everybody knows what he's done," Mike Sellers, the Washington full-back, said. "There's no guessing, no questioning. He's proven. Just coming out with that mindset makes everything a lot better." McNabb's success in Philadelphia is tarnished somewhat by off-field issues. He was a model citizen, but seemingly always found himself in the middle of odd controversies. There was the famous booing on draft day, which he never forgot. There was Rush Limbaugh's critical comments in 2003, the feud with Terrell Owens in 2005, the half-time benching in 2008, vomiting incidents in the huddle and three regular season-ending injuries.
McNabb angered his younger teammates last year when he said the Eagles showed their youth after a costly loss. The final straw for many fans and some radio talk-show hosts was McNabb's air-guitar entrance on to the field before his final game - a 34-14 loss at Dallas in the play-offs. Would Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady act that way before a big game? Kolb, the son of a football coach, takes a serious approach. He also leads in a quieter way.
"I've always tried to be a leader, even in the back-up role," Kolb said. "There are some things that do change, but I don't want to go outside of my comfort zone or do anything that's not expected of me. "I want to be myself and do the things that are asked and expected. I know there won't be any problem with it, and the guys will respond well." Teammates love Kolb's confidence and intensity. They also relate better to him because he is just 26 and the average age of Philadelphia's projected starters on offence is 25.3.
"Kevin reminds me of exactly what he is, that quarterback from Texas that you know is like, 'Let's kick some butt, take some names and have a good time doing it'," Hank Baskett the Philadelphia wide receiver, said. The Redskins say glowing things about McNabb. "It's his swagger. Donovan comes in and he knows he can win a game for you," Casey Rabach, the Washington centre, said. "You know he can do great things. We have obviously seen a lot of him in the past from playing in the same division, and everyone is just as confident in his ability. It's nice to have a guy like that around."
McNabb's presence in a burgundy and gold uniform should make the Redskins-Eagles rivalry more interesting, too. Both teams hate the Dallas Cowboys more, and the New York Giants are a natural rival for the Eagles because of their proximity. But now the most-anticipated game in the NFL this season is McNabb's return to Philadelphia on October 3. * Associated Press