As we all know, Sunday's matchup between the Eagles and Redskins is enormous for the Eagles for so many reasons. It's the Eagles' first divisional game, it's a chance to bury one of your division rivals (the Skins) in a 2 game hole, and put the preseason division favorites (Dallas) in a 1.5 game hole while they're on their bye. Not to mention, it's only of course the much-anticipated return of Donovan McNabb to Lincoln Financial Field in burgundy and gold.
Media attention this week will be squarely on Andy Reid and his decision to trade Donovan McNabb within the division. However, the reality after three weeks of the 2010 season is that this game means monumentally more to the Redskins' franchise than it does to the Eagles. Consider the following facts:
- Late in the 3rd quarter against Houston in Week 2, the Redskins had a 1-0 record and a 17 point lead over Houston - Things were looking good. They proceeded to blow that lead at home and followed it up with an ugly loss in St. Louis to the perennial doormat Rams.
- A loss this week would put the Redskins two games behind the division leader after only 4 weeks.
- After Philly, the Redskins face two elite opponents, followed a suddenly dangerous one... the Packers, the Colts, and the Bears.
- The Redskins are currently the oldest team in the NFL, and as usual, they won't have their full supply of draft picks in 2011 (they'll be without their 3rd and 4th round picks due to the trades to acquire McNabb and RT Jammal Brown).
- And last, but most importantly... Donovan McNabb is a free agent at the end of the season and has yet to sign a contract extension with the Redskins.
Now pretend you're Donovan McNabb:
You're on the team bus from Philly back to D.C. after another tough loss. You've been winning for the past decade, but you're now 1-3, and you've just lost the game you've undoubtedly been looking forward to for the past 7 months. On top of that, you now have to face the Packers, Colts and Bears. Your team is older than dirt, you have almost no "young impact players" and therefore your team isn't likely to get much better, your wide receivers are garbage, you have no running game, you have a shaky offensive line, and your defense has been non-existent since the 3rd quarter of Week 2.
Then you start daydreaming - "Do I look good in purple? Adrian Peterson is pretty good. I wouldn't mind throwing to Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. I already know Brad Childress. Hmmm... Larry Fitzgerald would be fun to play with, too. I already have a house in Arizona. We would have that division on lockdown. Or maybe San Fran? They have a bunch of pieces in place. They would just need a guy like me to complete the puzzle. Who else is out there?"
Now put yourself in the position of Daniel Snyder, GM Bruce Allen, and Mike Shanahan - What exactly are you going to try to sell to Donovan McNabb as a reason he should sign a long term deal with the Redskins? Realistically, aside from money, there really isn't anything. And if McNabb's decision will come down to money, then I'm sure he and agent Fletcher Smith will be looking for a boatload of it.
Consider some of the QB deals that have been done recently. Phillip Rivers signed a 6 year deal last year for $92M. Eli Manning signed a 7 year deal last year for $107M. Tom Brady just signed a 4 year deal for $72M. Brett Favre is playing this year for $16M. Peyton Manning is almost certain to sign the largest contract in NFL history at some point this season, and Drew Brees is likely to get an eye-popping extension as well. McNabb isn't on the level of most of those guys, but I'm willing to bet that he believes he is, and if he doesn't get similar love from Snyder, then what's the motivation to get something done before he can test the free agent waters?
Losing McNabb to free agency after only one year would obviously be an absolute disaster. Maybe the Redskins will grossly overpay during the 2010 season to keep McNabb. I don't think that would shock anyone, since they've handed out so many horrible contracts in the past. Either way, it could cripple that franchise for years.
I'm reminded of the quote from Chris Cooley when asked about his reaction when he heard about "the trade":
In time, it may very well be, Chris.
All of this is moot, of course, if the Redskins go into Philly, win on Sunday, and somehow become legitimate contenders.