It has taken me quite a bit of time to come to grips with the Donovan McNabb trade. I followed him when he was the star quarterback for Syracuse. Contrary to other Eagles fans, I was thrilled when he was drafted second overall in 1999.
I loved him for the NFC Championship games and Super Bowl XXXIX. I loved that he could do things with his feet that, with the exception of Michael Vick, were virtually unheard of from the quarterback position.
I loved that he was honest and well-spoken. I hated Terrell Owens for his sake.
I stuck with him through the injuries, the interceptions and the jitters.
And then, on April 4, he was lost to me.
What follows is an obituary, a tribute, and a fond farewell. These are the five stages of grief for Eagles fans.
I had heard the rumors. It seemed like a formality that McNabb would be traded.
I found myself holding out hope that the Philadelphia Eagles would see reason. I couldn't understand how they would even consider breaking up the quarterback-coach tandem that had lead the Eagles to unprecedented levels of success (also, disappointment).
Was there something I was missing about Michael Vick? Were Kevin Kolb's performances against weak Kansas City and New Orleans defenses more impressive than I thought?
I settled on the fact that, no, I wasn't missing anything. There was some fundamental split in the front office or the locker room and someone important decided that McNabb was the odd man out.
Then the trade happened.
Really, the going rate for a franchise quarterback and borderline Hall of Famer is a second-round draft pick? (Note: the Eagles also received a conditional third or fourth-round pick in 2011.)
I couldn't believe it. And, to make matters worse, I live in southwestern Virginia. The heart of Washington Redskins country.
It was enough to make me vomit at halftime.
What the hell?
The Eagles really want to usher in the Kevin "Korn" Kolb era? With Michael Vick as a back-up?
I was beside myself.
I was going to have to watch my favorite quarterback in the NFL go against my favorite team twice a year. Playing for a team that I despise and giving my Redskin fan friends fuel with which to mock me for the foreseeable future.
It was unbelievable to me that the Eagles' front office could be so moronic as to trade their best player to a division opponent. To get back anything less than a well-known player—not that the Redskins roster is replete with stars—was inexcusable to me.
It was equally unbelievable to me that they were giving up a player who was basically the team's career statistical leader in almost every category that mattered. His career record of 73-39 is third among active quarterbacks (behind Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, ahead of Brett Favre) in terms of winning percentage.
His 2.16 TD-Int ratio is third all-time (behind Brady and Steve Young). In 3,732 career pass attempts, he has been intercepted 79 times, 0.01 percent behind the career record holder, Neill O'Donnell.
And my freaking Eagles gave him away.
Initially, I thought maybe McNabb would somehow fail a physical. Or that somehow the trade would fall through, however unlikely.
Mostly, I was trying to talk myself into Kolb as a successful NFL quarterback. Sure, the scouts and talking heads have been high on him as an underrated backup. But the starting role? For me, that belonged to McNabb.
Faced with the loss of Donovan McNabb, I even found myself considering (secretly) rooting for the Redskins. I mean, at least they're not Dallas.
I know I can pull against the Redskins. I don't know that I can pull for a team facing McNabb.
I have spent the majority of the last few months trying to avoid news about the Eagles' upcoming season.
I don't really want to hear that Kolb is developing chemistry with Philly receivers. I don't want to hear that he's a more accurate quarterback that McNabb.
And I absolutely don't want to hear that McNabb is developing rapport with other players on the Redskins.
It has been 10 years since I last started an Eagles season without McNabb at the helm. It's quite likely that a Detmer brother was the starting quarterback before that era.
It's hard to suppress a shudder at that. Only Rodney Peete unretiring and signing for the Eagles, then being announced as the starter, would be more disheartening.
The worst part is seeing McNabb in a Redskins jersey and flashing that infectious smile. It's like seeing an ex-wife with her new husband through the front window of an expensive restaurant. While you're outside in the rain changing a tire. And you're still in love with her.
I also find two possibilities increasingly frightening: the Eagles winning the Super Bowl in the next couple of seasons (sans McNabb) or McNabb winning the Super Bowl with someone else.
It is going to be a rough season.
Nowadays, I'm getting used to seeing McNabb in that Redskins jersey.
He seems happy enough and the talk of the Eagles going through a rebuilding year is gradually fading away. They've shown that they can succeed (at least in the regular season) with Andy Reid's system.
It's still difficult to look forward to the season with the uncertainty at starting quarterback and the thought of two games against a McNabb-led rival. But I've come to understand that I do not run the Eagles and that it would be distasteful to change allegiances based on a single player.
A part of me will always be glad for the wonderful times I spent with McNabb leading my squad. Especially in his early years, every time he touched the ball was exciting.
I'm as bitter as the next fan for the Eagles' playoff futility, but I've always been much more inclined to blame Reid's playcalling and clock management than I've ever been to throw the losses at McNabb's feet.
I suppose that will be the most telling storyline of this season. Not just how the Eagles do without McNabb leading, but whether Reid still appears to be effective until it counts.
I'm trying really hard to get behind Kevin Kolb. Playing in Philadelphia, he'll need it.
So in the end, I wish McNabb nothing but the best. He was always classy and treated me well. I'm sure he'll have some success with the Redskins, but frankly, their receiving corps is hardly intimidating. I hope he is able to find success (so long as it's not at the Eagles' expense). I hope he makes the Hall of Fame.
Most of all, I hope when he's inducted, it's as an Eagle.