Ex-Eagle Garcia: 'I felt . . . snubbed'

Quarterback describes a 'great relationship' with McNabb, says he's eager for fresh start in Tampa.

Posted: June 16, 2007

Side by side they stood yesterday morning on the crowded practice putting green at RiverCrest Golf Club, Eagles quarterbacks past and present, smiling for the cameras.

It was day one of Donovan McNabb's weekend of fund-raising for the American Diabetes Association, and Jeff Garcia left the impression that if a still photo of the quarterbacks crossed the desk of Eagles president Joe Banner or head coach Andy Reid, he would be air-brushed out.

"I think there was a lot of anger within myself," the 37-year-old Garcia said, describing his feeling when the Eagles waived him goodbye after he led them into the playoffs last season as the very capable fill-in for the injured McNabb. "Here was finally a situation where I felt so comfortable and I felt like I had a good home and a good place, and I wanted to be able to experience more of that and, hopefully, not have to relocate all over again. That opportunity wasn't presented to me."

A few minutes later, Garcia gave a more abbreviated version: "I felt personally snubbed."

But what's done is done, and Garcia landed on his feet after getting knocked for an emotional loop. The quarterback is with Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers now, the team's likely starter because the NFL doesn't throw around $5 million for backups.

"As much as I would have liked to continue here, now I have a chance to start and I'm in a place where I see a lot of similarities with the Eagles in Tampa Bay, as far as veteran leadership and quality guys in the locker room," Garcia said. "It's hard to replace that sort of situation. It's a good thing for me."

Garcia won six of eight starts and took the Eagles to their fifth division title in six years after McNabb went down with a season-ending knee injury. So, of course, he became the people's choice, mostly by people with short memories of McNabb's impact, by people who have forgotten the grim days of Bobby Hoying and Doug Pederson.

The flip side of that debate, however moot it is, is that Garcia, tough, smart and fiercely competitive, would have been an attractive hedge against the oft-injured McNabb, who is coming back from major knee surgery. But backup A.J. Feeley is younger, and cheaper, and the Eagles saw enough in rookie Kevin Kolb to make him their surprising first pick in the draft.

Yes, Garcia said, he was just as surprised the Eagles chose Kolb, figuring they would address more immediate needs. But he also knows that he has new concerns now, and they are in Tampa, Fla., and that he resurrected his career in Philadelphia after unhappy pit stops in Cleveland and Detroit.

"At the time that I left Detroit, I was giving it one more year in Philly and see how that year turned out," he said. "It might have been my last year. It just depended on how much I enjoyed the game or whether the game became enjoyable to me again, because it was getting to the point where it wasn't worth it anymore. Fortunately, the experience I had in Philadelphia was a quality one. It put me back on the map."

Garcia's presence at McNabb's charity event in Oaks, Montgomery County, and their good-natured exchanges on that practice green seemed enough to debunk the notion that theirs wasn't a good relationship. Still, Garcia addressed it.

"We had a great relationship, and it stems from playing in Pro Bowls together six years ago," he said. "It's one of those things where I was always very supportive of Donovan, and when I had the opportunity to step on the field because of his injury, he was supportive of me.

"As a matter of fact, a couple of weeks ago, I was going to invite him out to my event, but I knew he was rehabbing. But he sent a jersey out for us to raise some money for our charities. It's important for me to be here to support him, and when I have things going on, he's going to be supportive of me. That's the way it is. It's unfortunate people want to create something negative out of something that's really positive."

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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