LET'S BE CYNICAL; 'tis the season, after all.
Let's say the Eagles had no
intention of keeping Donovan McNabb as their starting quarterback next season. Let's say they drew up a script of how they would hope the next couple of months might play out.
How would it be any different than what is currently happening?
The answer is that it wouldn't be any different, not one bit. If their hope were to trade McNabb in the offseason, they would not announce their intentions now, not in word and not in deed. They would not play Kevin Kolb (except for maybe the second half of the last game). They would not tell the world that they were preparing to turn the page.
They would do the opposite,
in fact. They would attempt to create the impression that they are completely happy with McNabb as their quarterback and ready to continue on with him for a 10th season.
Which is what they have done.
Take club president Joe Banner's recent appearance on WIP. Now, I have had a conversation with him in the past and quoted him in the paper about how you don't make big organizational
decisions in the heat of the
moment, that the middle of the season is a terrible time to try to make significant judgments, that the thing to do is let the season play out and then get away for a week or so and come back with
a clear head and some time and some perspective. All of that makes sense.
Then why proclaim to the world in early December that it will be Donovan McNabb today, Donovan McNabb tomorrow and Donovan McNabb forever? Because that is what Banner pretty much did, albeit with
the caveat that he couldn't
"envision" a circumstance
where that might not be true.
Where was the time? Where was the perspective? It went against one of his key management philosophies to declare himself so prematurely.
So, why did he do it?
For one, there is a chance that Banner meant it. Although it is hard to believe, after everything, that the Eagles wouldn't at least want to have a McNabb conversation in the offseason. And especially now that McNabb has
begun his I-need-more-weapons tour.
As in, "I think that, for this team, we could use a lot of
big-play types of guys - on both sides of the ball and special teams, as well. But that's not my decision to make. I'm not in the war room. I'm not sitting up there in my office making decisions with those guys. They'll
do whatever's needed for us to take another step further."
If they plan to keep McNabb, the Eagles will - at the very least - have to bring in the
biggest-name, biggest-money wideout they can find, whether they think they need him or not, or risk 12 more months of the same life-sucking conversation that has exhausted us this season. Again, is that something you want to commit yourself to in early December of the year
before? Because that is what Banner did, de facto, when he said McNabb was coming back.
But let's consider a second possibility. It might have been a ploy to repair McNabb's flagging confidence at a time when the team was still alive for the playoffs.
Because even though McNabb has insisted since Banner spoke that he has been consistent throughout this thing - "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" -
it isn't true. He was wavering.
On Nov. 28, when asked about his long-term future as the team's quarterback, McNabb said, "I can't control what happens later. I can only control what happens right now, and that's for me to get healthy and get back out on the field. What happens later, we'll see. Again, that's really none of my concern at this particular point. I think that's something that I don't think any of us need to focus in on."
On Dec. 5, when asked how he was viewing the last four games of the season, in terms of his
future with the team, McNabb said, "I don't know. I've always said it's out of my control, but I can look forward to playing well, hopefully helping us win this game, and getting to the playoffs."
Banner went on WIP the next day.
To summarize: McNabb went from expecting to be here for
8 more years, to the whole thing being out of his control, to
expecting to be here for 8 more years again after Banner spoke. So maybe that was Banner's
motive. Maybe it was an act of
reassurance at a key time.
Or maybe it was simply because he is a negotiator trying
to maximize the value of an asset. Read through that prism, his words make sense. (And all of Andy Reid's public support for McNabb in recent weeks is simply a coach supporting his player - entirely to be expected.)
If you were in his position, you would very likely have said what Banner said. If you were an
organization that already had McNabb's replacement in place, an organization that might naturally be a bit exhausted by all of the drama and, in the case of
McNabb, a quarterback ready for a fresh start - his lips to Pam Oliver's ears - wouldn't it make sense to try to create the impression that you were in no hurry to make a change?
Face it: If Banner is forced to start making phone calls in a
couple of months, hat in hand,
he might do OK if he can get a couple of teams involved in the bidding - but he will almost
certainly command a higher trade price if some team approaches him about McNabb and he can say, "I don't think so. We still think we want to give Kolb another year. You'd really have to overwhelm us."
And if somebody did overwhelm them, Banner could say
he never envisioned such a haul for McNabb, or that he never envisioned McNabb wanted out until the Pam Oliver thing, or whatever.
The point is, we don't know - because the keep-him script and the trade-him script are identical, until the last page. *
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