In his new nest, McNabb keeps on smiling

Washington quarterback Donovan McNabb looks for a receiver under Cowboys pressure. A 17-yard scramble led to the first score.
Washington quarterback Donovan McNabb looks for a receiver under Cowboys pressure. A 17-yard scramble led to the first score.
Posted: September 13, 2010

LANDOVER, Md. - Fans had begun filling the lower bowl at FedEx Field Sunday night to see the Redskins play Dallas when the fourth quarter of the Eagles-Packers game came on the jumbo screens behind both end zones. At the first sight of Michael Vick in kelly green, the fans - Redskins and Cowboys alike - booed loudly.

Ten minutes later, Washington's newest savior, Donovan McNabb, jogged onto the field in a maroon No. 5 jersey and bright yellow pants. The fans serenaded McNabb with cheers and showered him with love. They haven't had a top-shelf quarterback in over 20 years, and in McNabb, they see a chance at a Super Bowl.

Two-and-a-half hours north of here, the Eagles were dealing with serious quarterback issues that could determine whether their decision to trade McNabb in April was, as some suggested, foolhardy. Throughout the early part of the off-season, Andy Reid boasted about having three quarterbacks who could start. After trading McNabb to Washington, the Eagles are down to two - and one, Kevin Kolb, has a concussion.

Not that any of that is McNabb's concern now. He is a Washington Redskin

For the first time in 11 seasons, McNabb played a regular-season game for a team not named Philadelphia. He wore a captain's "C" on his jersey and had matching bright yellow shoes. It was jarring, but as he said earlier in the week, "I feel like I've been here." Only now he plays for one of the Eagles' division rivals.

McNabb had played in this building 10 times before. Seven times he walked away the winner. And usually, he played well.

That's only part of the reason the Redskins faithful have been so excited about McNabb's arrival. They had seen good McNabb in their stadium over the years. At FedEx Field, McNabb completed 61.1 percent of his passes, with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. From 2000 to '04, the Eagles won five straight games here, and in a 2007 win McNabb completed 20 of 28 passes and threw four touchdowns in a 33-25 win.

But that was with the Eagles.

With the Redskins, McNabb has had to learn offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's version of the West Coast offense, which is different than Andy Reid's. McNabb has admitted that it has been "a challenge" to learn a new system, and it didn't help that he sprained an ankle in a preseason game against Baltimore and missed the last two preseason games. He only started practicing again last week.

McNabb was the last Redskins offensive player announced, and after he tapped his chest four times and pointed at the sky, he watched from the sideline as the Washington defense forced Dallas to punt. McNabb's first completion for the Redskins was a 2-yard toss to tight end Chris Cooley, and on the next play he hit Santana Moss for a 16-yard gain that turned into a 31-yard pickup after Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff was flagged for roughing the passer.

After two Clinton Portis rushes, McNabb dropped back to pass only to find all of his receivers covered. With Dallas linebacker Bradie James in pursuit, McNabb tucked the ball and ran to his left. After gaining 17 yards and with free safety Alan Ball about to hit him, McNabb ducked out of bounds, and the crowd went wild.

The drive ended with a Redskins field goal. It was the first time Washington had scored on its opening possession since 2006. The game ended too late for this edition.

One game does not a season make, but for a franchise that has won only one playoff game since 2000, it was a step. While McNabb takes his next step this week preparing for the Houston Texans to come to town, his former team will be dealing with a quarterback mess because of Kolb's injury.

Once a stable position with plenty of depth, at quarterback the Eagles now have questions.

Not that that's any of McNabb's concern now.

Contact staff writer Ashley Fox at 215-854-5064 or

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