Would the Eagles Consider a McNabb Return?


Editor’s note: Parts of this article were originally published on Oct. 20.

The saga of Donovan McNabb continued this past week when he was released by the Minnesota Vikings, the third team to dispose of McNabb in the last 19 months. So where will McNabb land next, if anywhere?

Despite an obvious need at quarterback, the Bears appear in no hurry to bring in McNabb to stabalize a rapidly deteriorating situation. Wide receiver Devin Hester said Monday that bringing in McNabb wouldn’t make sense, explaining that it would be virtually impossible for McNabb to learn Mike Martz’ system on the fly. Makes sense.

But there is one offense that McNabb does know…

Has there been a more polarizing athlete in the Philadelphia sports landscape over the last decade than the Eagles’ all-time leading passer? Terrell Owens aside, the answer is a resounding “no”. By now, you know the story–McNabb played in 158 games for the Eagles, compiling an impressive stat line along the way. He threw for 32,873 yards, 216 touchdowns, ran for over 3,000 yards, and scored 28 times on the ground. Pretty damn good. What’s more, McNabb led the Eagles to the brink of the Super Bowl four times and got there once, but never sealed the deal.

But he was often aloof–he smiled when he shouldn’t have, played the victim in a city where the vast majority of the fan base adored him, and never truly understood his surroundings in this city or the people that inhabit it. And I rehash these well-known facts because after a mediocre year in Washington that ended with his surprising move to Minnesota, McNabb’s season was cut premature when he asked for his release after being demoted to third-string quarterback. McNabb wasn’t terrible this season, but was timid with the football in leading in leading the Vikings nowhere fast. He compiled a respectable 82.9 passer rating, but in a league where quarterbacks are putting up video game-like numbers, McNabb’s four touchdowns and two interceptions reads like the stat line of a quarterback who had a good game–not six starts.

Despite playing with arguably the best running back in football in Adrian Peterson, McNabb was on pace to throw for under 3,000 yards this season. He’s never thrown for less than 3,216 yards in any season in which he’s played at least 13 games. Once it became obvious that Minnesota’s preseason visions of being a postseason contender were nothing more than a mere pipe dream, the Vikings turned to rookie Christian Ponder. What’s does this all mean for McNabb, you ask?

Contrary to popular belief, or maybe just the hopes of the masses who still resent McNabb for never delivering a Super Bowl, he is not done as an NFL quarterback. It does mean, however, the disparity is growing between the player McNabb is and the player he perceives himself to be. And it does mean that Donovan McNabb is no longer a starting-caliber NFL quarterback.

And while McNabb probably still thinks he can perform at an elite level, he’s never going to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season again. And eventually, when the phone doesn’t ring with the offers he expects, he’s going to realize this.

And here’s why I mention all of this.

McNabb, as evidenced by his struggles in Washington and Minnesota, isn’t very good at picking up a new system. He’s getting older. He probably would like to win a Super Bowl, even if he’s not the quarterback that leads his team to the win. And then there are the Eagles, a team that regardless of how this season plays out, will be extremely talented and certainly less turbulent (sorry, folks, but Andy Reid isn’t going anywhere). Once Vince Young departs, and he most certainly will, Andy Reid will likely need an experienced quarterback to back up Michael Vick, unless they really think Mike Kafka can fill that role–and I’m pretty sure they don’t. And so, while we wait for the misery of this season to continue to unfold, I’m just wondering–is it possible that Donovan McNabb could go full circle and return to Philadelphia?

Just a thought.