Andy Reid, for all his other coaching faults, knows quarterbacks. In his time he has worked with the great Brett Favre and coached Jeff Garcia to an improbable run to the playoffs in the twilight of his career.
He was also the only head coach Donovan McNabb had ever known at the NFL level, until being traded to the Washington Redskins. Under Reid, McNabb has great success during the regular season. And although the two never combined to win a Super Bowl, they did make it to five NFC Championship games, which is very impressive. At 34 years old, most people think McNabb still has something left in the tank, but Andy Reid seemed to think differently. If one of the best coaches when it comes to quarterbacks thinks it's time to move on, why should the Vikings think differently?
Trading the face of a franchise, albeit a face that was often on the wrong end of fan's criticism in Philadelphia, is always a difficult decision. But the Philadelphia Eagles not only traded their former franchise quarterback last summer, they traded him within their division.
If the Eagles still thought he was a dangerous player capable of playing at a high level, why would they trade him to a team they have to play twice a year? It could be argued that the Eagles were simply ready to move on to a new signal caller, but it still makes very little sense to trade a dangerous player within your division when those two games count for so much.
It could also be a case of the Redskins just being the highest bidder, but there were other teams rumored to be in the hunt for McNabb and it seems unlikely that the Redskins offer was that much better than anyone else's to where the Eagles felt they had to trade their star quarterback to one of their biggest rivals.
It seems like perhaps Andy Reid knew something about McNabb that none of the other teams knew or, perhaps more likely, Andy Reid is just good at maximizing his quarterback's value. Take A.J. Feeley for example. As the Eagles backup, Feeley never posted amazing stats, but he was serviceable. When he left to become the starter for the Miami Dolphins, he posted his second worst career quarterback rating at 61.7 (his career worst came with the Eagles in 2007 at 61.2). Now I'm not suggesting that under Reid Feeley was a great quarterback, but he definitely did better than he did without Reid.
McNabb had his worst statistical season last year (excluding his rookie year), including a career high in interceptions. This could be attributed to him aging and perhaps beginning to wear down, but just the season before in Philadelphia he posted a quarterback rating of 92.9, the second highest of his career.
His lower number could also be a result of not having the players around him, and it's true that the Redskins offense is a few notches below that of the Eagles. But aside from a much better running game, which should definitely help, the Vikings as of now aren't that much more dangerous than the Redskins were. Percy Harvin has had several injury problems and Sidney Rice might leave via free agency.
And no disrespect to the defenses of the NFC East, but the defenses of the NFC North seem more deadly with players like Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and the young defensive line of the Detroit Lions. At the very least, things aren't getting any easier for McNabb.
Another concern Minnesota should have is how short McNabb's stay in Washington was. After giving up a second-round pick along with a conditional pick for his services, Washington benched McNabb twice and is now trying to unload him. I know the Redskins have made some pretty big mistakes in recent years (Albert Haynesworth comes to mind) but this seems a tad extreme. Turning two relatively high picks into an ineffective rental and two late-round picks, is never a good plan.
It is very possible that the Vikings and McNabb will have a healthy and happy relationship that results in a playoff win or two, and for two sixth-round picks, it is certainly a risk worth taking for a veteran stop-gap to keep Christian Ponder's seat warm for him until he's ready to takeover. But if I was a Minnesota fan I wouldn't count on a great season from Donovan.