Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb trade: Did Josh McDaniels get schooled by the Mastermind?

Talk about a startling NFL trade: The Eagles sent QB Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins for the 37th pick in this year's draft, plus a third- or fourth-rounder next year.

At first glance, new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan appears to have pulled off one helluva coup. Not only did he manage to get the Eagles to trade within their division -- a rarity at this position -- but he upgraded in a huge way (sorry, Jason Campbell's two fans) without giving up the team's first-round pick this year. Indeed, the price was so low that it makes you wonder why trade talks between the Broncos and the Eagles involving McNabb, which circulated in February, didn't go anywhere.

And why coach Josh McDaniels, Shanahan's successor in Denver, opted for hunky Brady Quinn instead of a proven commodity like McNabb. Aside from ego, that is.

Back in February, ESPN's Amy Lawrence argued that McNabb was a perfect fit for the Broncos shortly after conversations between Denver and Philly had reportedly cooled.

In the weeks that followed, Brady Quinn's name kept popping up more and more often in conjunction with the Broncos. In the end, Denver obtained his services from Cleveland for running back Peyton Hillis, who'd been on McDaniels' shit-list for reasons unclear to pretty much everyone but him, and two draft choices: a sixth rounder in 2011 and a provisional pick the following year.

Quinn's cost wound up being a little lower than what the 'Skins gave up for McNabb, but not a lot.

The likely reasons McDaniels and the Broncos braintrust preferred Quinn to McNabb? Obviously, youth has to be the biggest factor. But there's no guarantee that bodacious Brady will develop into the sort of franchise quarterback the Broncos desperately need.

Not that McDaniels has any doubt. He's brimming with confidence in his ability to transform just about any quarterback into a strong starter after doing the trick with Matt Cassel in New England. (Of course, Cassel didn't set the league on fire after moving to Kansas City last year -- but that's another story.) Presumably, Josh feels that once he lays his magic hands on his new acquisition, Quinn will blossom into a star.

Color us unconvinced.

As for McNabb, he would have given instant credibility to the Broncos this season -- and while he's undeniably on the back-side of his career, he's potentially got quite a few good years left. That's why most NFL observers are currently praising Shanahan for his brilliant maneuver. And why a lot of Broncos fans are probably thinking about what might have been.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts