How did quarterback Donovan McNabb go from being the face of the Eagles franchise to flying cross-county in the Redskins' private jet?

It's a tale bursting with the ups and downs and ins and outs of how trade are done in professional sports. In a blink, a sure thing can fall apart like a dropped egg. Or a dead deal can spark back to life like Lazarus.

In the case of the Eagles' Easter Sunday trade of McNabb, it was the latter. The Redskins had inquired about obtaining McNabb early in the process, but it seemed, at least according to the Eagles, to be merely out of curiosity.

Washington had a quarterback, a high draft pick, and were, after all, NFC East foes of the Eagles.

The Redskins apparently worried that the division rivalry would ultimately keep the Eagles from dealing McNabb. So they went away for a while, and the Eagles went about entertaining other offers.

They had a significant one from the Raiders, according to league sources. But they couldn't quite pull the trigger, and talks stalled. Then, Washington, sensing the stalemate, jumped back in on Thursday, an Eagles source said.

The teams spent the initial part of many conversations feeling each other out, the source said. The Redskins had to convince themselves - or be convinced - that the Eagles would indeed trade within their own division. And the Eagles had to know if Washington was serious about meeting their demands.

When both parties felt assured, the Eagles brought a third party into the negotiations - McNabb. His agent, Fletcher Smith, was contacted Friday, according to sources close to the situation, to gauge whether McNabb would be willing to play for the Redskins.

McNabb's preference was always to stay in Philadelphia. But if the Eagles were intent on trading him, he wanted to be involved. He appeared to have sway over negotiations, being in the final year of his contract. But in the end, the final four teams bidding for McNabb did not offer a contract extension, according to an Eagles source.

McNabb had made it clear, through Smith, that he did not want to play for Oakland and Buffalo, two lowly franchises with little hope of winning soon. There was a report on Yahoo Sports that McNabb had made threats that he would retire or hold out rather than be traded to one of those teams. But a team source said that wasn't the case.

"There were never any threats," the source said. "He let us know his preferences, and he was very particular about who he wanted to play for. But there was no way he wasn't going to play. He loves football too much."

McNabb's top two destinations were Minnesota and Arizona, but those two teams were never seriously involved in trade talks with the Eagles, the source said. Washington, however, was appealing for several reasons, primarily because Mike Shanahan was the head coach. It was Shanahan who ultimately helped a 35-year-old John Elway win his first Super Bowl.

While the Eagles did not have to consult with their onetime franchise quarterback, they decided to take his wishes into account. And when McNabb signed on for Washington, the ball started rolling feverishly.

Back and forth the teams went, the source said. The Redskins had agreed to part with their second-round draft pick, the 37th overall selection, but the Eagles wanted more. Washington offered defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, but the Eagles didn't want him. The Redskins came back and sweetened the pot over the weekend, and, as they did, the Eagles kept returning to the other three teams still in the hunt.

"We're getting close here," the source said the Birds told the other teams. "Make us your best offer."

Two teams tweaked their offers. One didn't. The Eagles went back to the Redskins and reminded them that they had other solid offers.

They knew they were playing a cat-and-mouse game with the new regime in Washington, the source said. Redskins general manager Bruce Allen was handling the phones, but Shanahan's fingerprints were all over the Redskins' pursuit of McNabb. Jason Campbell, who was the Redskins' starting quarterback for the last 31/2 seasons, was still in Washington. And the Redskins held the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.

But the Eagles sensed that Shanahan was ready to move on from Campbell. And they anticipated the Rams drafting Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with the first overall pick, and that Washington was not interested in Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen.

They figured Shanahan, with owner Daniel Snyder peering over his shoulder, wanted to win now. So they held their ground and waited for a better offer. When Washington finally upped its bid with a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2011, the Eagles were on the clock.

It was Easter. They still had three weeks until the draft, but their gut said this was the best offer they could get in terms of both compensation and pleasing McNabb.

So they made the move that could define - for good or bad - the organization for years to come.

Just two weeks ago, Eagles coach Andy Reid said McNabb was his starting quarterback.

Tuesday, when McNabb speaks publicly for the first time in months, he'll be doing so at Washington's practice facility in Ashburn, Va.

And he might be holding up a No. 5 Redskins uniform. The once-dead deal is now a done deal.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.