In the span of three months, the Washington Redskins have transformed their image from bumbling laughingstock of the NFC East to division contender.
With two division-shaking moves, the Redskins upgraded and legitimized their two most important positions: head coach and quarterback. First, Mike Shanahan relieved Jim Zorn. Now Washington finally has a marquee quarterback in Donovan McNabb, who puts the Jason Campbell era to an end.
By trading a second-round pick (37th overall in this month's draft) and either a third- or fourth-round pick next year to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins sent tremors through the NFC East that reverberated throughout the NFL, with players around the league chiming in on the trade on Twitter.
Nowhere will the buzz be greater than around the Beltway, where Redskins football finally feels like it is back with the newly formed burgundy-and-gold union between McNabb and Shanahan. The Redskins haven't made this big of a splash since luring Joe Gibbs out of retirement in 2004.
"I'm really excited about my future with the Washington Redskins," McNabb said in a statement. "I'm eager to work with Coach Shanahan. He's been a very successful coach with a couple of Super Bowl victories on his résumé. While it has been my goal to win a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, we came up short. I enjoyed my 11 years, and know we shared a lot more good times than bad."
Despite taking the Eagles to five NFC Championship Games, McNabb's efforts never seemed to satisfy many Philadelphia fans. McNabb, though, will arrive in D.C. as a savior. After all, the nation's capital has had to endure the likes of Campbell, Mark Brunell, Patrick Ramsey, Tony Banks, Brad Johnson, Trent Green, Gus Frerotte and Heath Shuler since Mark Rypien was heaving bombs back in the early '90s.
For all the finicky Eagles fans who hated on McNabb, consider this: McNabb has 27 career 300-yard passing games since entering the league in 1999. During that same span, Redskins quarterbacks have thrown for 300 yards or more 19 times, with Campbell leading the way with six.
McNabb does arrive in Washington with some question marks. The six-time Pro Bowler has a history of injuries and will turn 34 in November in the final year of his contract. The trade is also just the latest example of how Redskins owner Dan Snyder has routinely shunned rebuilding with younger players through the draft, instead acquiring big-named veterans through trades or via free agency. McNabb no longer makes the same type of plays he used to on his feet, and Campbell actually threw for more yards and had a higher completion percentage than McNabb last season.
McNabb will also have to play for a new coach and in a different offense for the first time in his NFL career, but at least he will still be working in the West Coast offense under Shanahan, who will try to provide the quarterback with a running game.
McNabb had Brian Westbrook in Philadelphia, but coach Andy Reid never liked running the ball. Shanahan has been loading up on running backs, with Larry Johnson and Willie Parker now joining Clinton Portis in the backfield. General manager Bruce Allen still needs to improve the offensive line to protect McNabb and find a playmaking wide receiver for the Redskins' new quarterback to throw to.
But with one stunning move, Allen and the Redskins upgraded at quarterback and altered the division.
The Eagles went from being division contenders to unknown commodity, with Reid handing over the keys to Kevin Kolb, who has started just two NFL games. And even if Michael Vick enters the picture, he hasn't been a full-time starter since 2006.
The Eagles will go with a youth movement, with Kolb and LeSean McCoy -- a tandem that has a long ways to go before matching McNabb and Westbrook. And they'll have to face McNabb twice in 2010. By accommodating McNabb's wishes not to be dealt to a team like the Raiders or Bills, the Eagles did something the Packers avoided at all costs with Brett Favre -- trade their franchise quarterback within the division.
The Giants probably wished the Eagles shipped McNabb out of the division. McNabb not only knows how to win in the NFC East, he knows how to beat the Giants, doing so four out of five times in the last two seasons, including a 23-11 win in the playoffs in 2008.
The Cowboys probably facilitated this trade after beating McNabb's Eagles back-to-back at the end of the regular season and then in the playoffs last year. But now McNabb's arrival in D.C. should provide new life to the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry.
One thing is certain -- it's only April, but Redskins football is the talk of the Beltway and beyond, and that hasn't been the case for a long time.