The transcripts have become worn and nearly unreadable, but it is likely the Roman Senate gave Caesar a vote of confidence just before delivering its pointed retirement plan to the emperor.

So take it for what it is worth - a means of shoving aside unpleasant questions, a way of trying to settle things before yet another crucial game - but Eagles president Joe Banner's embracing of Donovan McNabb last week was only as good as the airwaves it occupied.

"I can't envision a situation in which he is not our quarterback next year," Banner told Howard Eskin on his WIP show Thursday. "I believe there is a very, very sizable silent majority who realize how lucky we have been to have Donovan McNabb."

Which is fine and could even be true. At his best, McNabb is among the five or 10 best quarterbacks in the game. He has not been at his best this season, however, bringing his future status with the team into question and further muffling the loyal majority that Banner believes exists.

The Eagles added weight to the questions themselves, of course, by drafting Kevin Kolb as heir apparent, and by not rushing McNabb back onto the field while A.J. Feeley was given a second start to possibly build his own momentum.

Add it up and it might be just the way the Eagles spin it - calm down, all is well - but for anyone, particularly someone as sharp as Banner, to say there is no conceivable situation in which McNabb isn't the 2008 quarterback is to stretch the boundaries of common sense.

What if McNabb gets hurt again? What if he is not very good these last four games (or however many he is allotted)? What if he says after the season, "You know what? Maybe it

is

time for a change of scenery"? What if it's all that stuff, all of which is possible, but none of which Banner can apparently envision?

"My expectations, and I can't really even picture a different scenario, is that he'll be the quarterback," Banner said.

Perhaps but not necessarily.

Less surprising was Banner's belief that Andy Reid will return as coach in 2008. Reid has steadfastly said he intends to remain, and there's no reason to either doubt him or pull the plug. This is a good coach going through a bad time, and the list of those who don't eventually is very short. Have there been some roster errors this season? Oh, my, yes. But three of the losses - Green Bay, Chicago and Seattle - would have been wins if the players had merely done their jobs.

Give the Eagles an 8-4 record right now and they could do an imitation of a good team, which is precisely what the New York Giants, today's opponent, are doing.

It doesn't work that way, naturally, but it is fair to make the argument.

McNabb, for his part, hasn't been good enough to salvage the season, which is occasionally what you want your franchise quarterback to do.

It is what Eli Manning has done only sporadically for the Giants, a good lesson in the wisdom of hanging hopes on a young quarterback savior. Maybe Kolb will be a good NFL quarterback someday. Or maybe he'll have the 25th-best passer rating in the league, which is what Manning the Younger has - behind such notables as Kyle Boller, J.P. Losman and Joey Harrington.

If you want to see it that way, today's game is a nice contrast in that way, the veteran gripping tightly to his job, the kid trying to get a grip on the job.

McNabb's future, regardless of statements from the front office, is very much in doubt here. Although the injuries are unrelated, he gets hurt every year. His mobility, once a key weapon for buying him time behind the line of scrimmage, has diminished. Without it, a great deal of what made him special is diminished as well. He's 31 and if the team is going to move him, the now-or-never time is approaching. One more serious injury and he will be largely untouchable.

That makes these final games very interesting, if only from that standpoint. McNabb can cement his roster spot for 2008 with an impressive end to this season, even if it falls short of boosting the Eagles into the playoffs. He can quiet the questioners and give the silent majority its voice with more performances like his earlier showings this season at home against Detroit and Minnesota and at Washington.

A few more like this year's here against Dallas and Miami, and it could be the reverse.

Whatever else you say about the possibilities, you have to give them at least that much. They are possible.

The team president doesn't think so, can't envision them, doesn't conceive of them. This is a team, remember, that had a receiver giving a press conference on his lawn while doing sit-ups. Was that conceivable ahead of time?

So it's good to remember that odd things can take place, particularly once the emperor falls out of favor. Votes of confidence are tallied in pencil and there is an eraser hidden beneath the toga of even your most loyal supporter.

Contact columnist Bob Ford

at 215-854-5842

or bford@phillynews.com.

Read his recent work

at http://go.philly.com/bobford.