Your Eagletarian finally got a text from Fletcher Smith, agent for Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, whom we've been trying to reach since word broke late Monday afternoon about Michael Smith's ESPN.com report, saying McNabb and Smith have met with team management, and McNabb will not deign to sign a contract extension with the Eagles until he passes judgement on their offseason acquisitions. If McNabb deems those acquisitions worthy, he won't ask to be traded.
Never mind that Fletcher Smith point-blank denied such a meeting had taken place, two days after it happened, or that McNabb soft-peddled the whole "weapons" angle in extensive interviews at the Super Bowl a little more than three weeks ago.
Anyhow, if you know anything about how the newspaper/radio/TV biz works, you know that Fletcher Smith's BlackBerry was buzzing with calls and e-mails from every news outlet in the Delaware Valley yesterday evening. No response. But this morning we had a text message from the agent, which read: "I can't respond to every report by ESPN or any other news outlet for that matter. Moreover, I am not commenting on any Donovan-related issues at this time."
We messaged back with the thought that if someone (especially someone with a national media platform) was reporting something that directly contradicted what we'd been telling people for days, we'd want to get that cleared up.
No response there, yet.
Reading the comments appended to my column on the matter this morning, fans seem as divided as ever on whether McNabb is a victim or a villain in the Eagles' struggles to win a Super Bowl.
Previously, I've always leaned more toward the victim camp, feeling management could have given him much more to work with, and that his shortcomings have been overblown by critics. I've also acknowledged I'm uncomfortable with how easily Donovan reaches for those excuses, how seldom he seems truly, specifically critical of his own poor play.
I came into the offseason thinking McNabb had some leverage from his play down the stretch and in the playoffs, that he could probably extract some sort of half-hearted apology for the Nov. 23 benching, and enough dollars in a restructuring of his contract to ensure he'll be firmly in place as the No. 1 guy in 2009, at least.
But enough leverage to tell the Eagles he'll let them know when they've proved themselves worthy of his continued allegiance? Enough leverage to go public, tweaking management with details of a meeting that both sides apparently agreed would remain a secret?
In the words of an esteemed Saturday morning philospher of my youth, "Ruh-roh!"
Again, as I said in the column, these come off as the actions of a man who wants a ticket out of town, but doesn't have the sand to stand up and say so, point-blank. And that's really, really disappointing.
Even if you take what Michael Smith wrote at face value -- that McNabb still wants to play here, and is only considering asking to be traded -- if I'm the Eagles, I want no part of a quarterback with one foot out the door. I think McNabb's lack of excitement about the weapons around him played a role in last season's struggles, before the benching and the strong finish. Yes, they can force him to continue to play for them for two more years, but they're going to win a Super Bowl that way? Don't think so.
I can understand McNabb being frustrated about weapons, but again, free agency doesn't offer that much this year. I expect the Eagles will somehow add a wideout, draft a significant running back, draft an offensive tackle high, and somehow come up with a blocking complement to Brent Celek at tight end, at least. Is that enough for McNabb? Do they have to convince Arizona to trade Anquan Boldin, using the draft picks that could have solidified their o-line? And again, are the Eagles just going to wait around to get the thumbs up from Donovan on their offseason before they know how their starting QB situation shakes out?
Maybe stranger things have happened, but not many. I'll be surprised if we don't start hearing the McNabb to Chicago-Minnesota-Kansas City-wherever rumors again pretty soon. This does not look much like a conventional contract negotiation to me.