Mar 24, 2010
Without elaborating on my background, let’s just say that I’ve been to a good share of Andy Reid press conferences in my day. And as a trained journalist, I soon found out that one Andy Reid press conference is more than enough to whet my appetite for clichés, catch phrases and non-answers.
That’s why it was so striking, to me, that Big Red admitted this week at the NFL Owners Meetings in Orlando that the Eagles have listened to offers for their three QBs.
It was a careful choice of words, of course. Reid’s exact quote said other teams “are entertaining [the Eagles] with offers,” and that the Eagles “are evaluating all of them.” But he reiterated that all “three quarterbacks are Philadelphia Eagles” at the present time. Reid did not mention Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick by name, and did not suggest there was any likelihood a deal would get done. But Reid is such a cork on the information within the Eagles’ bottle, it’s worth discussing that he said anything at all, as opposed to his signature “I’m not going to get into all that.”
Higher-ups in the Eagle organization, most notably Reid, have spent the NFL off-season thus far declaring McNabb their QB in 2010, without any qualifying statements. This is the first time anyone has given any ground on the possibility of a move at the position. So, at the risk of making myself look utterly foolish, let’s read into it a little bit.
First, let’s look at Vick. The Eagles recently picked up his seven-figure roster bonus, obviously with the knowledge that moving him before the option kicked in would be near impossible. Vick has expressed a desire to start, and reports suggest the Eagles are looking for a relatively high draft pick in exchange for Vick. The problem is Vick wasn’t overly productive in a situational role with Philly a season ago, accounting for just 181 yards of total offense and 3 TDs. Vick was clearly rusty, didn’t have the same burst and elusiveness he had years ago, and his arm strength was just not there. In other words a team would have to be desperate (or the Raiders) to consider Vick a starting QB in the NFL at this moment in time.
Now, there’s Kolb. The youngster will be just 26 when Week One rolls around, and he’s spent the last three seasons biding his time behind McNabb after the Eagles surprisingly made him their top pick in the 2007 Draft. In limited time before the 2009 season, Kolb did not impress. He looked erratic, indecisive and flat-out bad in limited regular-season time. But he started two games early in 2009 for an injured McNabb, and a full week of practice as the starter seemed to do wonders for him. In just two starts (against the Saints and Chiefs), Kolb threw for 718 yards, completed 64.7% of his passes, and chucked 4 TDs against 3 INTs (all of which came against the Saints). The indecisiveness and erratic play we saw in Kolb’s short stints was barely there. He had a couple of lapses, but he was throwing the ball well and seeing things well. This was the first time he took all the snaps for a whole week in practice, and it wasn’t a coincidence that he played well. He does have a good arm, and the ball comes out really well. And most importantly, he leads his receivers, an absolute key element of the West Coast offense, and one McNabb never exactly grasped. In short, we think Kolb is ready to start in the NFL, and we think it’d take a king’s ransom to pry him from the Eagles.
That leads us to McNabb. We’ve established that there’s likely no market for Vick, and that the Eagles would have to be absolutely blown away to even consider dealing Kolb. So that leaves #5. In my personal opinion, McNabb is one of the most underappreciated athletes in professional sports. He’s a great guy, a competitive and effective player, and though he may not be the “fired-up, all-in” leader the sports radio crowd wants in Philadelphia, he was the steady captain of one of the NFL’s most effective offenses for the past decade. But the Eagles must ask themselves two questions when it comes to McNabb:
1) Are we in a place right now where a Super Bowl run in 2010 is likely?
2) If so, does Donovan McNabb make us significantly more likely to win a championship than Kevin Kolb?
If the answer to both questions is yes, it makes sense for the Eagles to keep McNabb around until his deal expires at the end of the 2010 season, try to go for the gold, and then let him go without any compensation. But if the answer to either is no, then trading McNabb must be a priority for Philadelphia over the next month.
Right now, without any knowledge of how key players like Stewart Bradley will return from injury or the offensive line will rebound from a disappointing season, where could the Eagles realistically rank themselves among the NFC’s contending teams? Dallas shellacked them twice in a row at the end of the year, and their roster will be practically the same in 2010. The Saints are the defending champs. The Vikings should have beaten the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, and all indications right now are that Brett Favre will be returning. The Packers are another strong team without much roster turnover. While the Eagles are certainly in the playoff conversation, it’s hard to suggest they’re a top-two or three NFC team right now, even with McNabb. Things would have to fall in all the right places for Philly to make a push to Super Bowl XLV.
It’s also interesting that everything Philadelphia has done this off-season suggests a shift to a new era. The Eagles have cut loose a ton of dead weight. Brian Westbrook, Darren Howard, Kevin Curtis, Will Witherspoon and Shawn Andrews were all let go before their deals expired. They acquired Mike Bell to join with Shady McCoy in the backfield, and Bell is essentially a one-dimensional downhill runner, something the Eagles typically don’t value in a back (a slight shift in philosophy, perhaps?). Additionally, there’s a lot of uncertainty at the LB position and in the secondary.
If the Eagles are gearing up for an all-in Super Bowl run, it sure doesn’t look like it. That’s why I think the Eagles will be trading one of their three QBs, and that’s why I think that one will be McNabb.
So which teams would have interest in McNabb right now? Several, through off-season moves, look to have taken themselves out of the equation. The Browns added two QBs to compete for their job, and they’re a long way from competing anyway. The Broncos are bringing back Kyle Orton and brought in Brady Quinn to provide some competition. The Cardinals “compensated” for the retirement of Kurt Warner by handing their job to Matt Leinart and bringing in an experienced veteran in Derek Anderson to push him. The Vikings (read: Favre) are a Wild Card, but only if that guy (read: Favre) retires for good. The Seahawks just traded for Charlie Whitehurst and signed him to an extension.
San Francisco and Carolina seem like possibilities, but the Niners added David Carr and seem content with Alex Smith as their starter in 2010 for the time being. In other words, the Niners have been thrown around as a possibility because of a bogus rumor earlier this offseason having to do with the fact that they have two 1st-round picks. The Panthers are excited by the potential of young Matt Moore, and don’t have high enough picks to entice the Eagles, at least in 2010.
The three most likely destinations I see, then, are Oakland, Buffalo and St. Louis. On the surface, all three teams look bad, but I think one of these teams could be in an interesting position in 2010 with a guy like McNabb at the helm.
The Rams, of course, have the advantage of playing in the NFC West. The Cardinals have been far and away the best team out there for the last few years, but Warner’s retirement destroys a big advantage. And though the Rams finished 1-15 a year ago, the pieces are in place for them to have a pretty effective offense in 2010. They have been methodically building the offensive line for a few years. They have one of the NFL’s best backs in Steven Jackson. Donnie Avery, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola are a solid set of receivers, and don’t forget that Laurent Robinson looked awesome last year before a heartbreaking leg injury (he’ll be back). The thing keeping the Rams from scoring points last year was atrocious (and we mean ATROCIOUS) QB play. A.J. Feeley is not going to fix that.
There’s also a connection with McNabb and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur from their days in Philly, as is the case with head coach Steve Spagnuolo. And rest assured that Spagnuolo will improve that defense this off-season.
The Rams obviously won’t be trading the top pick in the NFL Draft, but the 33rd overall pick must be appealing to the Eagles, who would then possess four of the first 70 picks in the draft, allowing them to get younger and add depth where it’s desperately needed. The Rams would get a veteran QB (returning McNabb to his native Midwest) and could be a surprising team in football’s worst division. And selecting a blue-chip prospect like DT Ndamukong Suh with the #1 pick would solidify the defense and prevent them from reaching for a guy like QB Sam Bradford. It seems like all too perfect a fit for both teams.
Hey, maybe this is why Andy Reid prefers to keep his mouth shut. Just a handful of words from his mouth led to nearly 2000 on my part. But the point remains: trading McNabb makes too much sense for the Eagles, as Kolb is ready to play and the Eagles need to see what they have. And with a player of McNabb’s draw, the Rams would drum up interest in their moribund franchise and (gasp!) put themselves in position to shake things up in a poor division.
So, Philadelphia, time’s yours.