With April Fools’ patiently lurking on the horizon, last week’s report that the Eagles were actually listening to trade offers for Donovan McNabb really appeared to be a season-themed joke. Armed with the perception that the 6-time Pro Bowler seemed well past the point of having to fear for his job security in the city of Brotherly Love, I gotta confess that such story initially rubbed me the wrong way.
Indeed, as a bad prank.
But once I learned that one of the teams interested in his availability was none other than the Oakland representative (and I have to give the benefit of the doubt on this matter to Jason LaCanfora and Adam Schefter simply because of their ties with the League-operated Network), the gag suddenly stopped being funny and started getting serious — mainly for one reason.
It sure made sense.
The start of the new League year (symbolized by the beginning of the free agency-period) brought along several changes in the AFC West. The release of RB LaDainian Tomlison marked the end of an era in San Diego; the signings of NT Jamal Williams, DE Jarvis Green, and DT/DE Justin Bannan can do nothing but fortify the already-skilled defensive unit of the Denver Broncos; and the acquisitions of RB Thomas Jones and OG Ryan Lilja emphatically placed the Kansas City Chiefs at the top of the off-season evaluation charts, for no better explanation that almost nobody expected the Chiefs to be able to entice these very consummated players into a situation where the expectations still reign supreme over the results accomplished.
And yet, it won’t stop there.
To assume that the proverbial off-season Shake-N-Bake is nearing conclusion can only be interpreted as naïve thinking; and to believe that the right to improve is a prerogative exclusively conferred to the teams that I mentioned just a couple of paragraphs earlier would be shortsighted and right down arrogant. As we all are aware, the beauty of the Downtime Period on the gridiron is that all of the 32 squads that integrate the National Football League are given an equal (and annual) chance to make themselves better.
Even the ones in disarray.
Contrary to the preceding year, there’s quite a different setting currently being mounted in the Western Section of the American Football Conference. Last season (at a similar point in time), the Chargers were the consensus head of the class, and the Chiefs, Broncos and Raiders were uniformly trapped in transitional stages, with the three of them scrambling and fighting for position — literally and figuratively. Nowadays, San Diego looks somewhat vulnerable because the almighty presence of Tomlinson will no longer cast his shadow within the jurisdiction of the division, and as a consequence, a small window of opportunity has been opened for the rest of the Occidental contenders to come right through it.
And that’s exactly why all of this got additionally interesting.
The moment that both the Chiefs and Broncos voiced their off-season opening statements through the frequency of free-agency, I sensed that an old-fashioned face-off between these ball clubs was bound to occur, in order to eventually determine the new challenger to the Chargers’ four-year old stranglehold of the division. The swiftness in their actions implied that they were serious about that notion, and that lone disposition undoubtedly gave them a simultaneous head start over the rest of the pack. But just when I thought that the next news of relevance could be expected until the day of the Draft and/or straight out of San Diego, the “information” regarding the Raiders’ interest for the one-time undisputable franchise quarterback of the Eagles made me reflect on a terrible omission committed on my part.
I had forgotten about Oakland.
Over the last seven years (thanks to their continuous commitment to mediocrity), the Raiders gradually became one of the League’s punching bags — and in recent times, they’ve deservedly evolved into a token punch line. After three dismal seasons in which the Silver and Black got almost zero contributions from their 2007 1st round-pick, the disappointing JaMarcus Russell, it’s safe to say that the team has finally reached an unbearable boiling point. With the fan base getting tired of being on the receiving end of the taunts; the local media running out of lamentations; and the ever-controversial Al Davis growing restless by the minute, the city from the Golden State could not proverbially scream any louder for a turnaround to take place in the worst way.
And you know what? That moment might be approaching. Fast.
Among the things that I’ve reinforced in my particular line of thinking (by watching the world of sports), is that even though you may be trapped in a recurrent dead-end situation, the tables can truly be turned rather easily in your favor. All that is needed for that to happen, is to achieve the development of a basic mindset that albeit effortlessly named, it really falls into the category of those previously labeled as hard-earned.
Simply put, the willingness to make a change.
Having said that, I genuinely cannot help to think Oakland is approaching that point — if not because of verifiable incidences, at least (yes) by way of elimination. After all, the Chargers (in their detriment) made a landmark move; the Chiefs made a couple of those; the Broncos were not left behind; and sooner or later, the Raiders will follow this path too. In essence, I wouldn’t expect less — the Domino Effect is that powerful. The issue of the timing remains to be solved because the balance of the pendulum establishes its own parameters, but, notwithstanding that detail, it sure does feel like the Raiders’ turn is coming because the odds are working on their favor. Actually, the very nature of the existing McNabb gossip leads you to believe so.
It really doesn’t matter if you think that Donovan McNabb is either a still capable performer or an over-the-hill veteran; the reality within the speculation resides in the fact that trading FOR a 33-year old QB when you’re universally regarded as one of the residents of the League’s cellar, definitely fits the mold of a desperate move. And if you remember the asseveration that desperate times call for desperate measures, then you’ll have to agree that at some level, it all adds up. Ironically, if logic prevails, the Raiders could be on their way back to respectability.
Sometimes it’s that simple.
Now, you may ask…what does all of the above specifically have to do with the Chiefs?
Here’s your answer: Everything.
For all the satisfaction that the aforementioned additions of Jones and Lilja supplied to the Red and Gold faithful (and all of the comfort that Scott Pioli’s résumé still brings to the table), the discussion of a possible scenario where McNabb could be sent packing to Oakland really struck a chord in me, because it served as a reminder of how things are far from finished in the AFC side of Missouri. And yes, I know that I’m not alone in that assessment.
The bulk of the attention spawned in the blogosphere is a true indicator of the accuracy of my thesis. There was an “action” and a reaction; and the reaction spread like wildfire along the boundaries of the message boards. Fittingly, that was nothing but a predictable repercussion. Given that, at the present time, we are the followers and not the leaders (at least not yet), we are left to react instinctively to whatever incentives are thrown our way, and we have to abide by those unwritten rules until we get to the point where we do enough to be considered the trendsetters. It’s just how it works.
Nevertheless, this hypothetical scenario is practical in that it should initiate some fair (not inquisitive) questioning about Kansas City’s ability to respond to such stimulations. Not because of vain curiosity, but rather in search of assertive knowledge regarding the state of the Chiefs. And if you don’t believe me, I’ll leave you with these samples:
- Will Matt Cassel’s game improve by its own merits, or only when paired against a multiple Pro Bowler?
- Would Eric Berry’s draft status around One Arrowhead Drive shoot through the roof at the sight of a good QB finally donning a Raiders’ jersey?
And more importantly:
- Does the current regime always stand pat on its established plan? Or does it find room for some flexibility?
Of course, as always, time will give us the definitive answers when-or-if those inquiries should arrive. But one thing’s for sure, though. I can’t wait to find out.
However, regardless of whether the potential trade comes to fruition — or even if the rumors are truthful in the first place –, this happening has already fulfilled a subtle function. With the Raiders’ picture back in the grand scheme of things (at least on paper), and the whole thing up for grabs, the writing has been painted on the wall for the Chiefs (as well as for the rest of the teams in the AFC West) to see, and there’s no way that they can’t ignore the message:
If they want to succeed, they better hold up their end of the bargain. Or else.
And that’s no laughing matter.