Here's what I would say if I were Donovan McNabb and every time I showed my face in public (i.e., the Syracuse-Villanova basketball game) somebody felt compelled to shove a microphone in front of me:
"Dude, these are pretty much the same questions I answered in Tampa, to every media outlet that approached me, and for three nights in a row on SportsCenter. Shockingly enough, my answers haven't changed. Look up one of the tapes and dub it into your 'report.' The only thing that is new is the talk-radio-manufactured 'throwing the defense under the bus' canard. All I have to say there is that I did no such thing, and my teammates know that."
For further evidence on that last point, here's bleedinggreennation's take.
But your Eagletarian would like to redirect the conversation. I submit that the real news isn't what McNabb said or didn't say in this or that venue, it's the fact that he's hanging around Philadelphia in February. The man has a perfectly good offseason home in Arizona, albeit one that might need a little landscaping repair, thanks to those overzealous Cardinals fans. The Eagles' offseason conditioning program (which Yahoo.com's Jason Cole has hinted McNabb might skip if he doesn't get the new contract he seeks) doesn't start for more than a month. I'm guessing DMac isn't overcome with nostalgia over the final season of the Phantoms, or completely riveted by the Sixers' turnaround.
No, he's still here because that much-anticipated sitdown with the Eagles' brass is going to happen, either this week or next week. It almost certainly will take place before the NFL Scouting Combine kicks off Feb. 18 in Indianapolis.
"I would hope so," McNabb's agent, Fletcher Smith, told Eagletarian this week.
Smith pleaded other, pressing business when asked for some sense of what McNabb is seeking. But I'm not sure the exact numbers are all that important; we all know what he's seeking, what Yahoo's Cole termed "a financial apology" for the short-lived benching. An "apology" that raises the cap consequences for cutting or trading McNabb to a level that ensures the Kevin Kolb Era will be pushed back a few more years, if not permanently forestalled (Kolb is only under contract to the Eagles for two more seasons).
Free agency starts Feb. 27. A new McNabb deal -- which sources close to the situation have told your Eagletarian the team is prepared to discuss -- would affect the Eagles' 2009 salary cap situation (it would open up more room, by amortizing guaranteed money over several seasons). The Birds don't need to reach agreement with McNabb by Feb. 27, but they probably want to have some sense of whether he is going to count something like $10.3 million against the cap, which is what's on the books right now, or whether the figure is likely to be much less.
Of course, if the Eagles don't like what McNabb has in mind, they can just tell him he's under contract and that's that. If he wants to assure his role as the starter, all he needs to do is outplay Kolb in training camp and perform consistently well once the season starts.
This approach has worked so well in the past, with Terrell Owens and Lito Sheppard, among others. It has seemed to me that over the past few years, one of the problems with McNabb during these "lulls" he has experienced, such as the one that led to his benching, is a lack of genuine excitement on his part. This might have had something to do with the weapons he has been given. I think it also has had to do with the permanent change in McNabb's relationship with Andy Reid that took place two years ago, when Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to the playoffs, and then Reid used his first draft pick on Kolb.
We'll lay it all out again, one more time. Bottom line, from Eagletarian's perspective, is this: McNabb has been healthy pretty much the last two seasons now. It seems much more likely than it did two years ago that he can be an effective quarterback into his mid-30s. He seems to need reassurance, seems to function best when he feels everyone in the organization is behind him. We can debate all day whether this is optimal, whether he should care so much, but the fact seems to be that he does.
With an improving young defense, it sure seems the Eagles' best chance to win a Super Bowl next season is with a happy, secure McNabb. No, I'm not saying he will lead a bunch of game-winning touchdown drives in the final minutes, or never again throw an off-target pass, or become an expert on the arcane rules of overtime. But if you think you can get to Super Bowl XLIV, is that more likely with (A) McNabb or (B) Kolb?
I think Kolb has gotten a bad rap from being stuck in some unfortunate situations, but I don't see how anybody can say the answer is (B). You can watch tape of practices and preseason games until your retinas implode, and still not have enough information to make that leap, with a team that seems to be an offensive line tweak and an added running threat away from being as good as any.
So, here's hoping Reid, Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie channel their inner Ruben Amaro Jr., have the darned meeting and get this resolved, quickly. Then we'll have something new to ask Donovan.