Father says his son can always find job

Now that the new quarterback has been introduced, dissected, skewered and gored, the Philadelphia sports community waits for the caller from Moorestown, N.J., to weigh in.

But as has been his custom since he first endured the heckles and jeers in New York City on his own draft day, Donovan McNabb remains silent, preferring to deflect the controversy that once again swarms around him.

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Four months after the Eagles memorably canceled a planned news conference in which McNabb was expected to share his views about his rehab, Jeff Garcia's popularity and his team's refusal to allow him to travel to a playoff game in New Orleans, No. 5 has yet to offer his own opinion or reflections on his employer's decision to use its first draft pick on Houston QB Kevin Kolb, a move viewed almost universally as curious at best.

Which leads us, of course, to Sam McNabb. Where his son wades cautiously into hostile waters, dear old dad, God bless his heart, dives in headfirst. The same man who opined that Terrell Owens' attack on his son was a black-on-black crime long before No. 5 said it, said yesterday he has no reason to worry about Donovan's status behind center with the Eagles for one simple reason.

"I'm not concerned about [the decision to spend the first pick on Kolb]," Sam McNabb told the Daily News. "My son works for the Philadelphia Eagles right now and when he doesn't any longer, there are 31 other NFL teams he can play for."

Grenade launched. Parry, Eagles?

Sam McNabb wasn't hostile or defensive when he said it. In fact, he was fairly relaxed, but there is doubtless an undercurrent broiling there. Hardly a threat, Sam McNabb's statement still implies that, lucrative and lengthy contract not withstanding, no NFL marriage has to last forever.

Other than that barb, the 10-minute cell-phone conversation with Papa McNabb was noteworthy as much for what Sam McNabb didn't say as what he did. He never said he saw no reason to fret over the Eagles' decision, never said he respected it, thought it was a good idea, thought his son wouldn't be threatened by it.

Nothing.

Over and over again, he said that he wouldn't worry about something that was out of his hands, that whether he liked the decision was a moot point because at the end of the day, the Eagles would do what they wanted.

"It really doesn't matter what I think, does it?" Sam McNabb asked. "They're going to do what they're going to do, no matter what I think."

But if anyone was looking for a man to buck up the Eagles' controversial decision, this wasn't the place to find it. Asked whether the Eagles did, in fact, attempt to contact McNabb about their draft pick before going public - as Andy Reid said he did on Saturday - Sam McNabb pleaded ignorance.

"You're asking the wrong man," he said. "I'm in Chicago. I don't know."

What Sam McNabb did know and wanted desperately to get off his chest is that anyone who is counting his son out, that the critics who are lining up saying it's time to look to the future because the current QB has been dinged up, beat up and sewn up in recent years, couldn't be more wrong.

He is, he said, fed up with the notion that Donovan is prone to injury and that the mounting procedures would compromise his effectiveness. And once more, Sam McNabb preached a similar message. Namely that Philadelphians have never been grateful for what they've had behind center for the past 8 years.

"Having been around Philly, no matter what happens or what he says or does, it doesn't stop people from talking," Sam McNabb said. "I just wish people would appreciate what they have while they have it. You have to enjoy the moment.

"I love this talk about how he's been injured. If it were up to him, he wouldn't be injured. If he played 20 more years, he may never be injured again, so I'm not sure what that has to do with anything."

This, quite naturally, isn't the last of this controversy, be it real or conjured. Donovan McNabb once joked that his relationship with Owens was like an episode of "Days of Our Lives." Truthfully, McNabb's entire tenure in green and white has read more like a soap-opera script than anything Reid could have brought to his job interview in that memorable binder.

The Eagles made a stunning decision on Saturday, one that caught everyone off guard and left almost everyone scratching his head. And until the protagonist in this ongoing drama closes the plot, it won't go away.

Sam McNabb's argument, that he isn't on the Eagles' staff so what he thinks about this choice is irrelevant, is a lovely sentiment, but when it is said with an undercurrent of caring a whole lot, well, that changes everything.

"Look, my bottom line is, what I think doesn't matter," Sam McNabb said. "It's not my choice to argue. I'm not getting into any controversy because what I think isn't going to change anything. They're going to do what they want. Why worry about what you can't control?"

Well, because it's Philly, Sam. That's what we do. *