AMONG THE many things we don't know is whether the impending birth of twins affected Donovan McNabb's play last month.
When a questioner offered that excuse at the quarterback's weekly news conference yesterday, noting the difficulties Brian Dawkins faced in 2007 from a more complicated twin-birth scenario, McNabb didn't exactly brush aside the concern.
"Dawk and I, our situations were a lot similar," McNabb said. "It's hard not to think about your wife going through something like that . . . I can't sit here and say, '[No, it wasn't] on my mind the previous weeks.' I tried not to let it affect my play, knowing that I didn't play as well as I wanted to in the previous weeks . . . It's sort of a weight off your shoulders, knowing that everyone is healthy and everyone is fine, and [you] can kind of come back out here and have fun."
Dawkins said he couldn't speak for McNabb, but, "If I'm in that situation, I know how it could have or would have affected me, as far as being able to dial that completely out of your head. That would be tough."
Maybe the addition of a healthy baby girl and boy to the McNabb household will bring, as Dawkins foresaw yesterday, "such a release of newfound energy," as McNabb tries to breathe life into the Eagles' season, and perhaps his own tenure as the starting quarterback, in a visit to the 11-1, defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
But we really don't know that, just as most of us didn't even know McNabb was going through this situation until Tuesday, even though he took a practice day off a few weeks ago to attend to a "personal matter" apparently related to the pregnancy. Just as the people who handle McNabb's public relations on behalf of the Eagles didn't know the twins had been born until Channel 10 called them about it. Just as we don't really know McNabb's purpose when he ambled onto the NFL Network's postgame show at the Linc last Thursday to tell the panelists he still needed to have a conversation with coach Andy Reid - presumably, about McNabb's role going forward.
After nearly 10 seasons, do we really know McNabb that well? McNabb chooses what he wants to disclose, how and when, and much like his coach, he tends to disclose sparingly. The names of the twins? McNabb declined to share that news yesterday.
Reid said he had no idea what a reporter was talking about, when Reid was asked about McNabb's "conversation" comment. If you're thinking that in the intervening 6 days, notice of the comment might have somehow crossed Reid's desk, well, you're not alone there, but saying he hadn't heard about it gave Reid the out he needed to avoid discussing the situation.
"I didn't hear that," Reid said. "We've talked, since then. I didn't know anything about that."
Of course, Reid didn't mean they'd had the kind of "talk" McNabb envisions.
Reid benched McNabb at halftime of the 36-7 loss at Baltimore, Nov. 23, in the midst of the worst slump of McNabb's career. Then he reinstalled him as the starter the next day. Then McNabb completed 27 of 39 passes for 260 yards and four touchdowns Thursday against the Cardinals, and visited the postgame show set.
A year ago, just about everybody in Eagles Nation, including McNabb, thought the quarterback was going to be traded after the season. It turned out the organization had no intention of yanking the rip cord just then. Now, just about everyone on the outside assumes McNabb is gone after this season if the Birds miss the playoffs. But we don't really know that, either.
"I said [on the show] that I'll be talking to Andy, Joe and Jeffrey," McNabb said yesterday, referring to Reid, team president Joe Banner and team chairman Jeffrey Lurie.
Asked the content of the proposed discussion, McNabb said: "We'll discuss that when the time comes. I think that at this particular point, it's just really [best] for us to focus on who we're playing, and that will be the Giants, and continue on from there. And the conversation will happen."
He added that it will happen after the season.
Although McNabb, who turned 32 last week, doesn't like talking about his family, it's clear he draws a lot of his sustenance and motivation from his home life. That is one area where there seems to be little to criticize; you've never read any stories about McNabb's gun going off in a nightclub, because he doesn't own a gun, and as far as we know, he doesn't spend a lot of time in nightclubs.
After he talked about the love and approval he can count on from home, McNabb was asked if he feels that same unconditional love from Philadelphia. It was something of a rhetorical question.
"I knew that was coming," McNabb said, laughing. "It's a difference when you talk about family love and love for what you do. I try to be a good role model. I try to set a good example and try to do the right things, obviously, off the field. And when it comes to family, despite whatever you may do, decisions you make, the mistakes that you make, when you go home, I can always look into my daughter's eyes and my daughter tells me she loves me, and that's a different feeling."
Someone wondered if the new twins stirred any thoughts of a fresh start in a new city for the 10th-year quarterback, who has endured ridicule this season for inaccuracy, and for acknowledging he didn't know the awful tie in Cincinnati wasn't going to continue to a second overtime.
"No. No. I don't even think about that," McNabb said.
Asked if he feels secure in his position, McNabb said: "I am the quarterback, and I will be the quarterback, so if that's where you're going with it, I don't look at anything else happening."
Does he need to win this game to keep his job?
"In order for us to go for [the playoffs], we need to win this game," McNabb said. "I don't look at anything further than that."
Brian Westbrook was asked if it would be a mistake for the franchise to move on without McNabb next year. Westbrook slipped free of that potential controversy as easily as he avoided the Cardinals en route to scoring four touchdowns.
"Donovan can help this team win this year," Westbrook said. "I'm not really concerned about what is going to happen next year. I just know that this year, he can help this team win." *