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By Mark F. Gray

In a high stakes game of NFL poker the Burgundy and Gold went straight Phil Ivey by acquiring Donovan McNabb from the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night. A shrewd piece of front office maneuvering that weakens a division rival has now given Washington a chance to change the direction of the franchise and restores its credibility immediately.

The team has been understated in their approach to rebuilding this offseason until this trade. Normally you can judge their activity by the frequent flyer miles of the team’s private jet and the notorious public courting of overrated free agents. However, the clandestine nature of this transaction was calculated and private with conversations remaining behind closed doors.

McNabb is not a flashy money grab signing like Deion Sanders or Bruce Smith. This is not an owner’s toy like Jeff George or a misguided fascination such as Adam Archuletta or perhaps Albert Haynesworth. Although with the recent track record of acquisitions it would be premature to start making plans for a Super Bowl parade. Fans have seen so many moves over the last decade that have blown up that its hard not to be jaundiced right now.

Unlike the other players who enjoyed the tremendous financial windfall by fleecing the Burgundy and Gold’s front office, McNabb will come to the District with something to prove. He won’t be satisfied with the expansion of his bank account. Instead he will play with a chip on his shoulder and carry an edge about himself that will make him a better quarterback thus making Washington a better team.

The rivalry with the Eagles has always been heated though now it has gone to another level. Washington now gets its own version of Brett Favre without the drama of wondering whether he will retire every year. Philly fans can openly despise the greatest quarterback in franchise history – despite what Sal Paolantonio says – who wears a division rival‘s colors and has a chance to beat them twice.

McNabb has always shown class in the face public scorn despite never being appreciated by the classy media and fan base in the city of brotherly scrubs. He was booed by the fans on draft day in 1999, criticized by the local chapter of the NAACP’s president in his newspaper (fish wrap) for not negotiating a new deal for Terrell Owens, and crushed by the press for never winning the Super Bowl. The Eagles, however, are the only team in the NFC East who has doesn’t have a Vince Lombardi Trophy, so presumably that is his fault too. Where’s Ron Jaworski’s culpability in that legacy?

For a team that has been in desperate need of leadership in the locker room and in the huddle, McNabb gives the team something that has been missing since the days of Mark Rypien. Where Joe Gibbs – the next generation – spoke of a team full of leaders – that means he really didn’t have one for the troops to rally behind. Alas, they now do. At least this signals that the Burgundy & Gold is no longer in rebuilding mode, they are retooling for a playoff run soon rather than later.

Talk about the audacity of hope in the Nation’s Capital.