GLENDALE, Ariz. - There will be a conversation with Donovan McNabb, Eagles president Joe Banner said last night. As to whether it will involve McNabb's contract, well, that is a more difficult question.
Banner also did not want to speculate on the futures of the team's honored veterans whose contracts are expiring - 35-year-old free safety Brian Dawkins, 35-year-old right tackle Jon Runyan, and 34-year-old left tackle Tra Thomas.
"We're very, very lucky to have [McNabb]," Banner said. "He's a great player, he's a great guy. He's been the foundation, for 10 years, of much of our success . . . we wouldn't be able to have done what we've done without him. I haven't heard him say anything about his contract," which McNabb can void after the 2010 season. A new contract, presumably with a large signing bonus, would make it pretty much impossible for the team to trade or release McNabb within the next few seasons. "I've heard him say he wants to sit down and we'll be happy to sit down with Donovan . . . He's one of the greatest players to play for this team, ever.
"It's too close to the season. That's not stuff you talk about or work on during the season. Time will pass here. Everybody will step back a little bit, get away from the moment, and figure out what we want to do on a whole bunch of different decisions we have to make this offseason."
Banner said the decisions will wait for the coaches' review of the season on tape, and their final assessments of strengths and weaknesses.
With Dawkins making his seventh Pro Bowl, while also making it clear he isn't looking to break the bank, that decision would seem to be the easiest. Thomas had a strong year in pass protection, though he might have been part of the reason why the Birds couldn't run the ball effectively much of the time. Runyan, a valiant warrior, might be just about used up.
"I don't know, but I've said it - I don't have too many doubts in my head that say I won't be back here," Dawkins said. "Everything that I'm thinking is just positive that I'll be back."
Runyan was less certain.
"You tell me," said Runyan, Andy Reid's first big free-agent signing, back in 2000. "I have no idea."
It goes without saying at this point that tight end L.J. Smith will not be franchised again, and that somehow, unhappy corner Lito Sheppard will change addresses.
It's hard to see from here how the Eagles avoid doing what McNabb wants - unless what he really wants is a trade, as Deion Sanders keeps claiming on TV but McNabb denies. McNabb was healthy, playing in all 19 games this season, breaking his own franchise passing-yardage record. He threw for 375 yards yesterday and brought his team back to lead in the fourth quarter, after it trailed by 18 points.
Of course, he also lost the NFC Championship Game for the fourth time in five tries, and given plenty of time to marshal a final charge downfield to force overtime, he came up 47 yards short, which was a lot easier to overlook the first time it happened, 7 years ago.
"I don't know. We'll see what happens," said McNabb, who asked for time to deal with this loss before any discussion on his future. "We'll handle that at a later date."
Meanwhile, reports indicate Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur could be the next offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, who hired ex-Giants and Eagles assistant Steve Spagnuolo as their head coach over the weekend. Spagnuolo also is believed to be close to Eagles secondary coach Sean McDermott.
Banner said last night he hadn't heard anything concrete about Spagnuolo looking to the Eagles' staff, but he said he certainly wouldn't be surprised.
"History says people tend to be drawn toward people they know," Banner said.
Here are the four plays the Eagles ran, trailing 32-25, after Brian Westbrook scooted out of bounds after a 19-yard pass reception at the Cards' 47. They had first-and-10 there, with 2 minutes and 9 seconds left, needing a touchdown and an extra point to force overtime.
* Incomplete to Hank Baskett, who dropped a dumpoff that wasn't going anywhere.
* Incomplete, Donovan McNabb overthrowing DeSean Jackson, who was open. McNabb said he was fleeing pressure and couldn't set his feet, causing the ball to sail on him.
* Incomplete, behind Baskett.
* Incomplete at the Cards' sideline, pass dropped by Kevin Curtis, who stumbled as he tried to catch it, well beyond the first-down sticks. Curtis got up and pointed at former Eagle Rod Hood, who had fallen across Curtis' legs as he made his break, causing the stumble.
"I'm running my route, obviously there's some contact," Curtis said afterward. "It forced me to kind of fall and stumble. That's way out of my hands, you know? You can't really leave that in the ref's hands. It's a good game, and you know they don't want to have to call that. I just think, I still had an opportunity to get my hands on the ball. I feel like I should have come up with it."
Said Hood: "I tripped over his foot. It was incidental . . . That's why they didn't call it."