Dazed and Confused in Philly

By Marcus Hayes
Updated: April 5, 2010

PHILADELPHIA — Upon learning that Donovan McNabb had been traded, the reactions of his teammates, former and current, ranged from shocked to . . . shocked.

They weren’t shocked that McNabb had been traded. They were shocked he was traded to the Washington Redskins, where, for at least this season, he can haunt them twice a year.

“I was pretty shocked about the whole situation,” said safety Quintin Mikell, now the longest-tenured Eagle, “but even more shocked it was within the division.”

“You had a feeling he’d be traded, but it’s pretty shocking that he was traded to a team we play twice a year,” said right tackle Winston Justice.

“I was totally shocked by that,” said former Eagles linebacker Ike Reese, now a drive-time talk- show host. “I didn’t think he’d get traded within the conference, much less the division.”

“Either the Redskins were the only suitor or the Eagles were really eager to get rid of the guy. I know he’s still a top-10 quarterback in the league. Maybe they think they have nothing to worry about.”

Trading McNabb at all seemed foolhardy for Brian Dawkins. “I was very shocked,” said Dawkins, whose star as an Eagles safety rose alongside McNabb’s before he was cast off after the 2008 season.

Dawkins signed with Denver and played against the Eagles and McNabb at the Linc last December. “When you have a guy that’s playing at a level he’s still playing at, to me, you don’t get rid of the guy.”

Dawkins is the best example of how the Eagles might misevaluate a veteran’s ability and worth. They decided to not competitively bid for his services and lost him to Denver, where he made the Pro Bowl this season as the Eagles’ defense faltered.

McNabb led the Birds to a record in points scored in 2009; without him, might the promising young offense stagnate under 3-year backup Kevin Kolb this season?

Even with McNabb playing on the last year of his contract, Dawkins wouldn’t risk it. Besides, he says, after years of giving McNabb lesser targets, the organization owes McNabb the chance to play with speedy stars DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and superb tight end Brent Celek.

“He finally gets the receivers on the outside, and a tight end – the weapons everybody’s always talked about – and then, the next year, they send him off,” Dawkins said. “And it’s not that he ‘used to be’ anything. He’s still playing at a high level. What is he, 34? That’s young for a quarterback.” (He turns 34 in November.)

Will the Birds regret this move? “I think they will,” Dawkins said.

Kolb’s current teammates aren’t so sure. Most of them grew up admiring McNabb, but they believe Kolb can handle all of the shrapnel that comes with an explosive move like this.

“He’s probably following the best quarterback the franchise has ever had, but I think Kolb is more than ready. He has the sort of personality that, to me, makes me think he’s up to the challenge,” Justice said. “But, I mean, he has no choice, right? It’s now or never.”

For many athletes in Philadelphia, it’s been never.

“My advice to Kolb is to not let this city get to him. When the going gets rough, it’ll be up to how he reacts,” Mikell said. “This city can be hard on a quarterback. Donovan won a lot of games here and was still disliked, for whatever reason. I never understood that.”

Dawkins does; there needs to be a scapegoat, especially when a team repeatedly tastes the playoffs, deep, and fails to win a Super Bowl.

“We lost those games, myself included,” said Dawkins, one of the most popular Eagles in history. “For him to get so much of the blunt end of it – it’s one of the things that goes with being a quarterback, I think, unfairly.”

As a quarterback, McNabb can have a huge affect on the Redskins, Mikell acknowledged. Reese, a former teammate of McNabb, can’t wait until the second week of the season, when he believes the Eagles and Redskins will meet on “Monday Night Football.”

The NFL schedule has not yet been released.

“You’re giving Donovan added fuel every time you play him,” Reese said, laughing. “But I don’t want to hear any complaints from this town. It seemed like everybody wanted to see him go.”

Justice isn’t complaining.

“I wasn’t really worried about it, if Donovan was here or if Donovan wasn’t here,” Justice said. “I really trust the people in the front office. I think they’ll do what’s best.”

About 57 teammates and 5 million fans hope he’s right.