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For Donovan McNabb, a burgundy and (perhaps) golden age with Redskins

Donovan McNabb's time here could compare to Billy Kilmer, above, who went 50-23-1.
Donovan McNabb's time here could compare to Billy Kilmer, above, who went 50-23-1. (AP)
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By Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thanks, Iggles, you did it again.

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You'd think that the same franchise couldn't possibly make the same bonehead division-shaking blunder twice, but the Redskins have fleeced Philadelphia one more time.

Donovan McNabb may not have as many great years in Washington as Sonny Jurgensen after the Eagles traded him for Norm Snead in '64. But it'll probably be close.

Throughout the history of the NFL, one amazingly dopey mistake has been repeated over and over: When a great quarterback reaches 32-34 years old, his team gives up on him, thinks he has little or nothing left in the tank and lets him get away.

In almost every case, the quarterback proves his old team spectacularly wrong and has anywhere from two to six more stellar years. He often leads his new team to a conference championship game or Super Bowl. Trade a franchise quarterback in haste, live to repent it at your leisure.

Who have the Redskins just stolen? And what kind of production did those other quarterbacks, who were 32-39 when they changed teams, provide for their new clubs?

The list is as long as McNabb's arm. Brett Favre and Kurt Warner are just the most recent "retreads" who took teams deep into the playoffs. So did Fran Tarkenton (three times in the Super Bowl after the Giants traded him at age 32) , Brad Johnson (won a Super Bowl) and Rich Gannon (played in one).

After they switched towns at roughly McNabb's age, or even a few years older, Steve McNair went 13-3 with the Ravens, Randall Cunningham took the Vikings to a 15-1 season, Chris Chandler had a 14-2 year with the Falcons and Vinny Testaverde was 12-4 with the Jets. John Hadl went 12-2 with Rams after his Charger glory days were past and Craig Morton went 12-2 in Denver after he left the Giants.

All these quarterbacks, as well as those mentioned in the next grouping, completed more than 2,000 passes in the NFL. They were established, growing wiser at reading defenses and coping with pressure as they aged. If anything, they became better leaders the longer they played. Yet it seems that almost half of the premier passers in NFL history switched teams when they were 32 or older. At 33, McNabb is, if anything, a bit younger than most of these spurned quarterbacks and with an even more illustrious past.

When a star passer feels he has been abandoned by his old team, as McNabb surely does, they almost all get revenge with multiple superior seasons in their new towns. Look up Joe Montana, Ken Stabler, Norm Van Brocklin and Warren Moon.

In fact, the old quarterback who reaches his greatest heights as he ages is virtually the NFL's oldest heart-grabbing story line.

Bald Y.A. Tittle came to the Giants at 35 and immediately went 8-1-1, 12-2 and 11-2 as a starter and became a legend in his period. George Blanda landed in Houston at 33 and amassed almost every highlight of his storied career.


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