While fellow quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Kevin Kolb have struggled this season, Donovan McNabb has had no trouble transitioning to Washington and helping a once-dormant offense finally show signs of life.
I know fans of the Washington Redskins are still hurting after watching the Houston Texans rally back from a 27-10 deficit to win in overtime, 30-27. And you know what? Honestly, I can't blame them.
The Redskins had several chances throughout that game on offense, defense and special teams, and for whatever reason, they simply couldn't seal the deal.
Even with head coach Mike Shanahan, one of the most successful coaches in today's game, on the sidelines, the Redskins still looked an awful lot like what we've grown accustomed to in recent years. Do just well enough to get everyone's hopes up and then find a new and creative way to lose in dramatic and heartbreaking fashion.
Even though it's already crystal clear that the 2010 Redskins are leaps and bounds better than anything we saw during the Jim Zorn era (which is the polite way of saying the team now takes the field on even footing, as opposed to losing the game before kickoff), Washington still has work to be done. Like linebacker Lorenzo Alexander told me in the post-game locker room, the Redskins need to learn how to win.
But what I am taking away from that game is that, with not much else to work with around him, Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb showed definitively that he's still got plenty of miles left on those tires. The guy who couldn't even make it through the preseason without being sidelined due to injury has not only avoided further injury -- he's been the team's best player.
On Sunday, McNabb completed 28 of 38 attempts for 426 yards and a touchdown. He completed 73 percent of his passes, didn't turn the ball over and finished the day with a 119.0 quarterback rating. This on a day when the Redskins ground game finished with 18 yards on 17 carries (the third-lowest output in franchise history). I should also point out that, last I checked, McNabb only has two reliable weapons in the passing game -- receiver Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley.
So basically, he's got two options in the passing game, no support for the ground game and a coaching staff that inexplicably thinks now is a good time to start rotating offensive linemen. Forget continuity and everything else that professional football has taught us -- Kory Lichtensteiger and Stephon Heyer are so talented, the Redskins have to find a way to get them onto the field (wait, can either of them play receiver? Nevermind.)
But I digress.
The last time a Washington Redskins quarterback threw for more yards than McNabb did in just his second game in burgundy and gold was Brad Johnson, back in 1999. On the day after Christmas, Johnson threw for a franchise-record 471 yards against San Francisco. As it stands now, McNabb's effort against Houston was the third-best day of his career and the fourth-best effort by a Redskins quarterback.
During the game, McNabb passed Steve Young and Phil Simms to move into 20th place on the NFL's all-time passing list and moved ahead of Johnny Unitas and Jim Everett into 17th place on the NFL's all-time completion list. If he completes 30 passes this weekend against St. Louis, McNabb will move to 15th place.
In short, McNabb is still capable of playing at an elite level and by all accounts was an absolute steal for the Redskins this past offseason. Not that McNabb is in a hurry to pat himself on the back or anything.
"I’m a guy that is a competitor and I hate losing," McNabb said. "It doesn’t matter if I pass for 400 or 500 yards or if I pass for 100 and something yards. It’s about winning, and that’s what the bottom line is. At the end of the season, it’s about the wins and losses. Who has eight, nine, 10 wins to get into the playoffs or who’s not able to get into the playoffs. I think this team is talented enough where we can be able to bounce back after a game like this and get this thing rolling. I look forward to being able to lead that for these guys."
Just look in Oakland, where quarterback Jason Campbell got benched at halftime of his second game. The former Redskins quarterback was eight of 15 for 87 yards with an interception before coach Tom Cable felt he had seen enough. Sure, the Redskins lost to Houston, but does anyone think Campbell would have given the team a better chance at victory? No need to speak up. Redskins fans already know the answer.
And look in Philadelphia -- you know, the place that felt no longer needed McNabb. They had Kevin Kolb waiting in the wings and just knew he was the next Phillip Rivers or Aaron Rodgers. Except Kolb looked terrible in the limited action we've seen from him this season, completing just five of 10 passes for 24 yards while being sacked three times in one half of football. Damn. Even Campbell could do better than that.
But he's the guy they had to clear the way for. He's the next big thing. Too bad Mike Vick has looked 100 times better calling the shots for the Eagles. With 459 passing yards and three touchdowns (and 140 yards rushing to boot), Vick has shown he's the quarterback who gives Philadelphia the best chance at victory on Sundays. Too bad the Eagles have no choice but to turn the team back over to Kolb.
That being said, I've always enjoyed watching Philly fans suffer, so I'm all for Kolb jumping back into the starting role. The entire football-watching world will be focused on Kolb, Campbell and McNabb all season long, and while fans in Oakland and Philly are already cheering for Bruce Gradkowski and Vick, there's no doubt that 'Skins fans have already fully embraced McNabb.
As odd as it may be to say, McNabb is officially the face of the franchise. When football fans think about the Washington Redskins, it's McNabb's soup-eating mug that they envision.
Sure, there's still plenty of work to be done (like establishing a rushing attack, or at least teaching Larry Johnson which way to run when he gets the football), but it could definitely be worse. Don't take my word for it -- ask a Raiders fan, if you can find one.