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Billy Vargus thinks McNabb trade to Redskins signals the end of an Eagles era

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V FOR VICTORY WITH BILLY VARGUSBill Vargus

Just as the Phillies are about to start their new season, the Eagles are starting a new era. The Eagles ended the Donovan McNabb  era by trading him to the Washington Redskins. Kevin Kolb  will take over the reigns.

It had become clear over the last couple of weeks that McNabb was going to be traded. It was time. He and Kolb were both entering the final year of their contracts, so the Eagles had to decide which way to go. Even though McNabb has been the best QB in Eagles history, it’s all about who will better serve the team in the future. McNabb will turn 34 years old during the season, while Kolb will be 26.

There’s no need to again go over McNabb’s shortcomings as a quarterback. The national media doesn’t get it, but they don’t watch every play of every Eagles game the way the hometown fans do. I remember listening to this year’s Pro Bowl on the radio, and as they usually do during such a meaningless game, the announcers cut away for a sideline interview, causing them to miss several plays. When they got back to announcing the game, they said, “Donovan McNabb, quarterbacking the NFC, has not looked good on this drive. He threw a ball into the ground five feet short of an open receiver, then came back and threw that interception that was fortunately called back because of a penalty."

The color analyst, Boomer Esiason, then said, “Speaking of which, it gives us a chance to talk about fans in Philly who want McNabb traded.” Naturally, I thought this former NFL quarterback was about to agree with the desire for a trade, since he had just seen first hand the exact thing that has driven folks crazy for the last eleven years. But instead, he ripped the fans, talking about the Eagles five NFC Championship appearances under McNabb, etc. And if that’s what you’re looking at, McNabb’s statistics are very good, including his won-loss record. But if you’re watching every play, living and dying with every throw, then you’ve seen far too many of those throws in the dirt or interceptions in critical situations (even though he has an excellent career interception percentage overall).McNabb and Reid: the marriage is over.

What’s surprising is that the Eagles traded McNabb to a division rival, a team they face twice a year every year. McNabb will be a significant upgrade over Jason Campbell  as the 'Skins quarterback. What’s more, Washington has brought in two veteran running backs, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, to compete with Clinton Portis. Though all three are on the downside of their careers, if any one of them returns to form they could be tough. Especially with new head coach Mike Shanahan, who always managed to have a great running game when he coached Denver. Shanahan will do exactly what Andy Reid never did, letting the running backs carry the offense and removing the weight from McNabb’s shoulders. McNabb will flourish in that offense.

It’s the same thing Shanahan did when he arrived in Denver. John Elway was the quarterback, and the offense revolved around him. Despite the acclaim that Elway had received for pulling off great comebacks late in games, the Broncos had never won anything. Shanahan gave him a running game, with Terrell Davis really making the offense go. The result was two Super Bowl wins where previously there had been none.

If Andy Reid had ever done that—put his offense on the shoulders of Brian Westbrook  and Correll Buckhalter  and let McNabb be part of the supporting cast instead of the main cog--the Eagles might have won a Super Bowl as well.

But having failed that, it’s time to re-load. Even though Reid denied it during his news conference Sunday night, it’s obvious the Eagles are rebuilding, with Westbrook, Shawn Andrews, and Sheldon Brown  all gone, and now McNabb, too. I think the management of the Eagles realizes based on the two butt-kickings they took at the end of last year that they are not good enough to compete with Dallas. At the same time, they weren't able to sign any free agents who can make a real difference. So they're getting rid of several veterans, going with youth again, and if Washington also passes them temporarily as a result, so be it.

With their own first round pick, and the 2nd round pick they got from Washington for McNabb (along with a 3rd or 4th next year), the Eagles will have two of the first 37 picks, so they can start to work on the many holes they have on the defensive side of the ball. But they’re going to be a work in progress. The Eagles will be a very young team next year, lacking in veteran leadership, though from what I’ve seen of Kolb, he definitely has leadership qualities.

Incidentally, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Eagles timed the McNabb announcement to take the headlines back from the Phillies, just as baseball season is about to start. The Eagles hate taking a back seat to the Phils, and I’m told, have at times prevented their players from taking part in charity events sponsored by the Phillies. Right now, Phillies fever is at an all-time high, with fans locally being joined by experts nationally in picking them to get back to the World Series for a third straight year. Meanwhile, the Eagles had done very little this offseason—until Sunday’s headline-grabbing announcement.

Billy Vargus is an Emmy Award Winner for Best Sports Anchor for 2008 and 2009. (Mid-Atlantic region, covering all of Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware.) Bill has been a TV sports anchor in the Philadelphia area for 18 years with the last 12 coming at Fox 29. He’s also had stops at Channel 10, Channel 12, plus at other television markets around the country. He has also served as the pre-game host for all Seventy-Sixers games in the past and also has acted in films, TV shows and commercials.

He can be contacted at billv@philly2philly.com