To evaluate Donovan McNabb’s(notes) value to the Redskins AccuScore we went back to the 2009 Season and “re-simulated” the entire season. While the 2009 Redskins only went 4-12, the re-simulated Redskins did better with an average of 6 wins (still last in the NFC East) and they even made the playoffs in 5.4% of simulations. With the addition of Donovan McNabb and RBs Willie Parker(notes) and Larry Johnson(notes), the Redskins improved by an average of 8.7% percentage points per game which translates to 7.4 wins (+1.4) and a 14.1 (+8.7) percent chance of making the playoffs. McNabb is having a significant impact on the team and based on this analysis the Redskins easily double their win total thanks to an offense that is scoring nearly 3 more points per game.
REDSKINS REPLAY 2009
w/ McNabb at QB
The Redskins have more reasons to believe they can out-perform this already optimistic forecast because their young receivers Malcolm Kelly(notes), Devin Thomas(notes) and TE Fred Davis(notes) could all show significant improvement and consistency if they develop good chemistry with McNabb. The defense is Top 10 against the run based on yards per carry allowed, and Top 10 in pass defense in terms of passing yards allowed. They can stop the run thanks to Albert Haynesworth(notes) and London Fletcher(notes) and they can pressure the QB with Brian Orakpo(notes) and Andre Carter(notes) (both had 11 sacks in ’09). If the team can add play-makers in the secondary and improve on their 11 INTs in 2009 to 16+ they can improve on their 18th rank in points allowed. If the defense forces more turnovers the Redskins should be at least 8-8.
EAGLES WITHOUT MCNABB
We also re-simulated the Eagles 2009 Season to see how they would have done without both McNabb and RB Brian Westbrook(notes) (who missed a good part of the 2009 Season due to injury anyway). QB Kevin Kolb(notes) and RB LeSean McCoy(notes) had good moments in 2009. Kolb averaged well over 350 passing yards per start and completed over 65% of his passes. However, do not get overly impressed by passing yardage. A majority of QBs average more passing yards in losses than in wins because they are playing from behind and passing the ball 75%+ in the 4th Quarter, if not for the entire 2nd half. Kolb had 4 TDs in these 2 starts but he also had 3 INTs.
In the re-simulations the Eagles slip by an average of 0.7 wins per season simulation. Interestingly, this drop-off is only half as much as the improvement seen by Washington. In other words, it does seem to make sense for the Eagles to make this move. They need to establish Kolb as their starter for the next 5+ years and they should be able to do so without seeing a huge drop-off in their win total. Although one could certainly question how wise it is to improve a division rival. Even though the Eagles only lose 0.7 more times their playoff chances drop by 15 percentage points (more than the Redskins’ improvement) because of the Redskins improvement. If they traded McNabb to a non-NFC East or to an AFC team they would likely only have seen a -7 to -8 percentage point drop in playoff percentage.
EAGLES REPLAY 2009
No McNabb / Westbrook
One thing that could result in the Eagles under-performing vs this forecast is the pressure on Kolb of replacing an All-Pro like McNabb. If the Schedule-Makers front load the Eagles schedule with tough opponents it could result a rocky start and diminished confidence. Eagles fans should hope for 2 games vs sub-par opponents to allow Kolb to not only build his confidence but also get the full support of the Eagles fans. Even if Kolb handles the pressure well, he may end up having a season like Aaron Rodgers(notes) did in his first year as a starter. Rodgers had a tremendously successful statistical season in his first year but the team went just 6-10.
The specific impact of the trade may actually be more or less than what we report here because this analysis is based on a re-simulation of the 2009 Season which not only includes the McNabb trade, but all the other trades and free agent signings in the off-season. The actual 2010 forecast will not be ready until well after the NFL Draft, training camp, and the pre-season.