— It’s been an offseason of wonder for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wondering whether Donovan McNabb will sufficiently approve of the personnel moves the team is making. Wondering if he’ll pull up to the table and talk about signing a contract extension.
Know what’s really worth wondering about? How McNabb flipped the whole situation around so that the perception from the outside is that No. 5 is running the show.
Remember that, during the first week of December, the 6-5-1 Eagles were in last place in the NFC East. They were coming off a 13-13 tie with the Bengals (a result that McNabb said afterwards he didn’t know could occur) and a blowout loss to the Ravens. In that Ravens blowout, McNabb – the franchise hood ornament since the turn of the century – got benched for the second half.
Irked and embarrassed by his benching, McNabb vowed to meet after the season with head coach Andy Reid and GM Joe Banner for an air-clearing meeting.
“We’ll discuss (the benching) when the time comes ... And the conversation will happen,” McNabb promised back then.
At that point, McNabb wasn’t really dealing from a position of strength. He was about to turn 32 and the Eagles weren’t on the hook for millions if they opted to go young with backup Kevin Kolb (a second-round pick in 2007). With two years left on his deal, the McNabb Era – for better or worse – seemed to be nearing its end. And for the anti-McNabb portion of Philly’s fickle fan base, that was good.
But within a month, McNabb turned the tables. The Eagles managed to go 3-1 in December and get into the playoffs. There, they beat the Vikings and Giants to advance to the NFC Championship at Arizona. They stormed back from a 24-6 deficit in that game before falling 32-25.
In early February, that air-clearing meeting occurred. McNabb and his agent sat down with head coach Andy Reid and team president Joe Banner. They talked about the benching and a possible contract extension. A week after that, ESPN reported that McNabb would hold off on considering a new deal until after he’d seen what the Eagles did in the offseason.
Wait, what’s that now? Even though he’s signed through 2010 (when he’ll be 34), McNabb was now getting it out there that the Eagles needed to appease HIM in the offseason before he’d consider signing an extension that could easily approach $40 million in value?
We put in a call to Banner about McNabb and the Eagles offseason moves. Not a scab he was interested at picking at in May. He said he’d be happy to talk but not about Donovan or what went down in that February meeting.
Still, this whole notion that the Eagles impressive restocking in key positions was done to appease McNabb stretches belief.
But repeatedly, all the shrewd moves Philly made this offseason – trading with Buffalo for standout left tackle Jason Peters, signing right tackle Stacy Andrews in free agency, drafting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and running back LeSean McCoy, even kicking the tires on Arizona wideout Anquan Boldin – have been garnished with a “what will Donovan think?” spin.
Yet instead of making these moves for McNabb’s approval, isn’t it just as likely these are moves that would have been made even if Philly went 2-2 down the stretch and missed the playoffs instead of 3-1 and going to the NFC Championship? Couldn’t they just as easily be stocking the shelves for Kolb, or are these weapons obtained for McNabb’s use exclusively?
While perception and spin has made it seem like McNabb’s been prodding the Eagles to make these moves, reality is, the Eagles have the hammer in this relationship. They’ve got an aging quarterback who has always been an uneven performer under contract for two more years. He’s never going to get another deal in the NFL on “potential” so he’s got to perform at a high level at all times or hear howls that he’s on the decline permanently.
McNabb’s camp intimating that he may play hard-to-get with Philly? Laughable. Or at least it should be.
Either way, McNabb is now fixed firmly in the crosshairs this season. He’s been provided with the weapons that his apologists have fervently claimed said he’s never had. He’ll be playing behind one of the most talented offensive lines in the league. He’s out of excuses. And there’ll be no flipping the situation next year if he fails to carry Philly deep in 2009.