For the Eagles to consider trading Donovan McNabb, they'd have to be certain that Kevin Kolb is another Steve Young or Aaron Rodgers, worthy of shoving aside a franchise quarterback to accommodate his talent. In other words, they'd have to be deranged.
|Donovan McNabb, like entrenched coach Andy Reid, has been a playoff regular. (US Presswire)|
The Eagles, however, have developed a near-fetish for shedding players as they head toward the periphery of their prime, and the patience-challenged Philadelphia fans don't know how good they have it with McNabb. They don't remember what it's like to dwell in quarterback purgatory, watching an Alex Smith, David Carr, Joey Harrington or JaMarcus Russell flounder for years. The Eagles already have the most important element of a successful team. They have a rock where at least a dozen clubs have a crater.
After the team's evisceration by the Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs, McNabb's detractors grew louder than ever. He's overrated, inconsistent, comes up small in big games, will never win a Super Bowl ...
But that loss wasn't McNabb's fault; the entire team looked horribly unprepared.
The bulk of the wrath should have been directed at Andy Reid. But he's not going anywhere. The Eagles' brass seems to have absolute faith in the head coach, realizing that it would be ridiculous to dump a man who has taken his team to five of the last nine NFC title games.
Of course, it would be just as silly to get rid of a 33-year-old quarterback who has reached five of nine conference championship games. That sort of success doesn't happen by fluke, or by drafting off a good defense. (More on that later.)
Speculation about a trade started because the Eagles have three quarterbacks, McNabb, Kolb and Michael Vick, with contracts that expire after next season. The unreliable Vick shouldn't be a serious contender for the starting job, unless the Eagles have really taken leave of their senses. But Kolb has been lurking for three years now, and he achieved the unprecedented by throwing for 300 yards in his first two NFL starts last season (benefiting from facing the pitiful Chiefs). He made a decent case for himself ... and for replacing McNabb in a few more seasons.
Reid has said that McNabb is still his starter, but like most coaches, he has been to known to flip-flop on statements and/or run misdirection plays on the media. Nobody in management has aggressively quashed the speculation.
McNabb has said he wants to stay put and finish what he started in Philadelphia. If being traded weren't so insulting to a star, he should probably be eager to move on, especially if Favre retires and Minnesota can cut a deal.
McNabb has every reason to be exasperated in Philadelphia, or at least flummoxed by the foolishness that has come his way since he was chosen second in the 1999 draft and Eagles fans booed because they preferred future pothead Ricky Williams.
Since then, McNabb has endured years without a serviceable receiver, then been forced to dodge the pathological narcissism of Terrell Owens. He has put up with race-baiting critiques from both Rush Limbaugh and an editor at Philadelphia's historically black newspaper, who essentially accused McNabb of playing white when he started sticking closer to the pocket.
He took the team to the Super Bowl after the 2004 season, lost 24-21 against a Patriots team that had held the prolific Colts to three points in the playoffs and dispatched the 15-1 Steelers, and took grief from Owens for looking fatigued in the second half. Never mind that the Eagles' vaunted defense looked just as weary late in the game; McNabb was the goat.
Defensive failures against Arizona in last year's conference championship have also been trivialized. After a limp first half, McNabb led the Eagles back from a 24-6 deficit to a 25-24 lead. The NFL's third-ranked defense promptly surrendered the winning touchdown to Kurt Warner.
A lot of Eagles fans get it. They see the danger in trading McNabb, and they realize that neither Kolb nor the talent acquired in return would be worth the gamble. If the team executives don't understand, they're much crazier than when they took a chance on a gifted free-agent receiver, hoping his ego wouldn't metastasize. They might even be more unhinged than Owens himself.
Gwen Knapp is a sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.