On the surface, the Eagles trading Donovan McNabb to the Redskins just means that the draft order in the second round is a bit re-shuffled. Obviously, it's not as altering as the Jay Cutler trade was last year, but it still leaves a few ripples in the NFL Draft pool. However, bigger than draft implications is the sense that an era of NFL history as literally come to an end. Allow me to explain...
For Philadelphia Eagles fans, Donovan McNabb's arrival in 1999 brought the same expectations as Peyton Manning's arrival did to Indy one year earlier. Prior to McNabb, the Eagles did not have a Jim Harbaugh-like player that rallied their fans and galvanized their city around the team. Eagles fans were known to be nothing more than a rabble of classless goons who boo Santa Claus and cheer when a then-partially paralyzed Michael Irvin lay twitching on the Veterans Stadium
Then, McNabb showed up, and almost instantly the Eagles went from doormat to contender. No longer did fans clamor for the old days of (HA!) Buddy Ryan, who is quite possibly one of THE most over-rated coaches in the history of football. The guy won ZERO playoff games in his tenure as Eagles coach. Rich-friggin-Kotite won more playoff games as an Eagles coach than Ryan. Buddy sucked, pure and simple. Sorry. I'm rambling. But, when else can I take a few shots and the over-rated blowhard schmuck that was Buddy Ryan, head football coach?
Anyway, McNabb showed up, took the Eagles to the Divisional Round of the playoffs in only his second year, and people were openly stating he was the best QB in all of football. Better than Favre. Better than Peyton. He was hailed as the heir to John Elway, another mobile QB who found success working in a West Coast-style offense. He would eventually take Philly to five NFC Championship Games, one Super Bowl, and capture nearly every passing record in the team's long and illustrious history. Philly had never seen this level of excellence from the Eagles since the days of Dick Vermeil and Ron Jaworski in the late-1970s, early 1980s. Hell, I bet half of the readership here and at Bleeding Green Nation wasn't even born at that time!
One could make the argument that for the last ten years, Donovan McNabb was Philadelphia sports. More than Allen Iverson or Ryan Howard, when you saw "DNab," you thought of Philly. Hell, I know a whole slew of Philly fans who began rooting for the team the moment McNabb was drafted.
Now, Don is gone.
So, how does this affect us Colts fans? Well, take a nice, long look at the Eagles right now. Watch how they play in 2010 (I say 6 wins). Take note of possible drops in season tickets sales after this season.
This is what will likely happen to us when Peyton Manning leaves the Colts.
It's highly unlikely Peyton will ever be traded, but in the next five or so years, Peyton will indeed stop playing football. An entire generation of Colts fans will loose the one galvanizing figure that has come to represent the city of Indianapolis for over a decade.
I cannot fathom how the Indy fans would react if Peyton were traded to a division rival the way McNabb was dealt to the Redskins. If Bill Polian thought fan reaction after Week Sixteen was rough, trading Peyton Manning might mean the Colts President could never set foot in the state again unless he's looking to get scalped with a butter knife, or something. The point is, I cannot imagine just how much of a shock to the system this trade was for Philly fans. McNabb was the best player that franchise has ever seen, period. I'll argue that point with anyone. To see him up and leave, on Easter Sunday, really hit me.
This is what it will feel like when Peyton leaves, only 10 times worse. It really makes you think.