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Eagles have a clear plan -- Redskins? Not so much

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Didn't it seem on cue that the Washington Redskins got steamrolled Monday night, at home, by the quarterback whose ribs they broke a few weeks ago on the same day their quarterback, who was recently benched, got a five-year, $78 million contract extension (in theory)? The Eagles' pounding of Washington, though it was just one game, seemed to exemplify why the two franchises are what they are -- particularly the Redskins.

The Eagles had a plan and a backup plan, both well thought out, like the way they've revamped their franchise over the past two years. Their moves, like trading Donovan McNabb to Washington and releasing players like Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook, were controversial, but they didn't veer from the process. They seem better for it. They opted to go with a young roster and if they took a step back, then so be it. They haven't. In fact, Philadelphia looks every bit like the team that will come out of the NFC East and possibly create some drama in the playoffs.

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They gambled on Kevin Kolb being the starting quarterback a season after they gambled on Michael Vick following 18 months in prison. They supported both along the way, despite treacherous criticism at times. That hasn't quite happened in Washington, but more on that later. Vick has overtaken Kolb and pretty much most of the quarterbacks in the NFL, capitalizing on an opportunity many still don't think he should have.

Washington, well, it's hard to tell what it is doing -- again -- with the developments from Monday highlighting the oddity of what's happened since coach Mike Shanahan's celebrated arrival this offseason, particularly the past two weeks.

This summer the Redskins traded for McNabb, which was supposed to be the missing piece; except the piece was missing in the final two minutes of a loss at Detroit on Halloween. Shanahan benched him, citing poor knowledge of the two-minute offense and poor conditioning as the awkwardly orchestrated reasons that came with the accompaniment of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Mike's son.

Can't quite say that came off like the type of support Eagles coach Andy Reid has shown Kolb, Vick and even McNabb when Reid benched him in 2008 against Baltimore.

Then, oddly, Washington trumpeted signing McNabb to a long-term extension Monday, which we've found out, is really a potentially lucrative raise with little job security beyond this season. The whole sequence is bizarre, but so Redskins. Sure, the extension had been on the table for months but the culmination of everything after McNabb's benching and before Philadelphia's trashing Monday night just added to the peculiar.

The Redskins do things other teams don't. They keep finding themselves failing, only to do it again. They haven't seemed to learn that going for the short fix doesn't work, despite years of acquiring a big-name player or two, paying him or them, only to find out they've already done their best work elsewhere.

Though the extension given to McNabb isn't a mammoth risk because of out triggers, it comes after the Albert Haynesworth fiasco. Shanahan inherited Haynesworth, his $100 million contract and 100 million headaches, but locking up McNabb -- at least in theory -- would seem that they haven't taken anything from that mistake. I feel bad putting McNabb into the same conversation with Haynesworth because they seem to be on opposite ends of the character scale, but the point is that the Redskins keep doing what they've done in terms of spending on players that might not be ideal fits.

I can see the Redskins wanting to safeguard themselves in case they can't find someone better -- the Eagles aren't trading Kolb to Washington -- but if things go rapidly downhill against a tough but not grisly remaining schedule, this whole experiment will get even messier.

Thing is the Redskins aren't a disaster. It's just hard to figure out Washington's blueprint. We know Minnesota went for the "all-in" approach this season and it's backfired to this point. On similar grounds, Carolina went for the "quick-deconstruction" method and it's working to perfection, as its 1-8 record and talent void attest. Then there are teams like Atlanta and Philadelphia who have managed to transition to younger teams, while switching quarterbacks, and winning while growing.

Washington is built to win now, but it isn't either. The offensive line is too young to be dependable. The skill players are older and really not much of a threat. Still, there is some talent. Defensively, the Redskins have been a sieve, ranking among the worst in the league in several categories, but that's not a huge surprise since they're shifting to a 3-4 from a 4-3 front without 3-4 personnel. Just ask Haynesworth -- and others who haven't been as outspoken.


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The Redskins are better than last season. They're 4-5 and still in the playoff hunt in the NFC East. So that is consolation. They play hard and they've won some tough games and they'll probably win a few more. The end game, though, is hard to tell. With so many veterans and so many young players, they're caught in between rebuilding and transitioning.

They are going to have to get rid of a sizeable chunk of the roster and find more 3-4 scheme-friendly personnel on defense. With the possibility of their being an overabundance of free agents on the market -- if a labor deal is struck -- the temptation to pay big for big names will probably engross the Redskins once again.

A lot will determine on how they finish this season because they could end up being in the quarterback market and the deciphering of the Redskins' blueprint will begin again.

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