DONOVAN McNabb is talking about next season, which is something.
Hard to say exactly what it is, really, but it is something.
In the same news conference yesterday in which McNabb acknowledged he thought his Sunday pregame conversation with Fox reporter Pam Oliver was either off the record or not for attribution - the conversation that resulted in Oliver reporting that McNabb felt the Eagles organization was distancing itself from him, and that he'd said he would win wherever he went if he were traded - McNabb talked about building momentum for 2008 in the Birds' final two games.
So, does McNabb really expect to be here? If he does, is that expectation realistic? And, if McNabb really wants to stay, why is that, exactly? He seems to feel wronged by fans, reporters and the Eagles organization itself. Wouldn't it be a relief, at this point, to start over elsewhere?
By April, surely all of this will be settled. Right now, all we know is what people tell us.
"It's not about moving on [somewhere else]," McNabb, 31, said after yesterday's practice. "We're going to move on next year, with this team getting better."
Earlier, McNabb challenged the inference that he feels ill-treated in Philadelphia.
"When did I say that?" he asked. "Every time I've been asked that question, I've said I'll be back. I look forward to being back, maybe for 8 more years. That's always been my answer, all season. Nothing has changed from that. [Team president] Joe [Banner] said that I'll be here . . . I look forward to playing well and winning games going into the offseason, to start the season off next year like we know we can."
Of course, what Banner said was that he "couldn't envision a situation" in which McNabb would not be the Eagles' 2008 quarterback, a statement that has been interpreted in some quarters as a bargaining stance, as people around the organization continue to assume the 9-year relationship between the team and the quarterback it drafted second overall in 1999 is irrevocably broken. Coach Andy Reid, asked after Sunday's victory over the Cowboys whether McNabb would be the quarterback next season, said "yeah," and then quickly moved on to take issue with being asked such a question minutes after McNabb engineered one of the biggest upsets of his career. But Reid, of course, could have just said, "Absolutely, no question, write it down."
There are arguments for moving on with rookie Kevin Kolb, McNabb's designated successor, and there are arguments for trying to win with McNabb, at least next season, with the benefit of another offseason of rest and rehab for his right knee. As ominous as some of the portents seem, nobody on the outside really can say for sure that McNabb will or will not be traded.
Reid reiterated that Kolb again will be the third QB this week.
"I'm not saying none of the young guys will play, but we want to go after these next two games to come out on top," Reid said. "We're not going in to experiment . . . we're going to play our best football."
Oliver has said she was surprised that McNabb denied her characterization of his remarks. Yesterday, McNabb seemed to want to play down their disagreement, while implying that whatever he might have said, he didn't understand it would be beamed to the Fox audience, with his named attached.
"Would you expect her not to defend herself?" McNabb asked. "That would be the right thing for her to do. For me, when I addressed it, it's over. In my mind, it's a dead issue. I'm just focusing on the Saints right now. There's no more to go into."
But, of course, there was: "She told you that she paraphrased . . . that wasn't a direct quote from me," McNabb said. "I told you guys that I didn't say that.
"I did go to Syracuse University and I definitely know when somebody says a statement, that's what you say in their statement. I look to being an analyst or maybe in the media someday, too, so I definitely know that point of it."
Pressed on the circumstances of their exchange, McNabb said: "Something you have to understand is that when you're asking a question to somebody, then you ask the question. But if you're just having a conversation with somebody, then that's not something that you go and report that 'Donovan told me this.' Again, that situation is over, and we're moving on to the Saints and trying to help ourselves win the game and have a good Christmas."
McNabb hasn't been in this situation since his rookie season, finishing the year healthy but with nothing to play for. His previous two seasons ended with injuries in November.
"It is disappointing and frustrating," McNabb said. "It's something that I can look back at, especially after the last two seasons of not being able to finish, and use it in the last 2 weeks, and in the offseason. It's something that I'm not used to, but I think our way of approaching it this time should be to make sure we're doing what we need to do in order to propel ourselves, going into the offseason. We're trying to get two more wins under our belt and to go into the offseason with confidence, which will then lead to minicamps and training camp and starting the season next year with that confidence."
McNabb said he felt in his 5-11 rookie season, winning the last two games after losing seven of eight really helped the team's offseason attitude. The next year, the Eagles began a 5-year playoff run.
"It really helped us out in so many ways, especially the younger guys that we had, who were being asked to move into the starting role the next year," McNabb said. He noted that the final win came over eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis. "We had guys knowing what it took and how it felt to win those particular games, on the team we had." *