Keeping McNabb is more than just denying the jackals an opportunity to howl in triumph outside the NovaCare window, however. It represents the best opportunity for the Eagles to win a title next year. That's how Reid will look at it, and that's how he will proceed. If the last 11 years have taught us nothing, they should have taught us that.
As the sun comes up this morning, a championship this season is still a possibility. Stranger things have happened, although not by much. The Eagles are hopelessly flawed on defense, with gaping holes that won't be patched until they are hoisted on the lube rack in the off-season. That alone should sidetrack them eventually.
They could win tonight's postseason game. They could win another. They aren't winning four in a row against playoff teams, though. Another season will go into the books without a shiny silver football placed into a display case that has become jammed with lesser idols - like the trophy room of a failed big-game hunter who clutters his walls with antelopes.
There will be two villains in this town for the latest failure, as there always are: Reid and McNabb. It is the easy answer, ignoring the idea that getting 11 wins out of this mess might have been Reid's greatest accomplishment, and scoring a team-record number of points behind a revolving offensive line, and without Brian Westbrook, might have been McNabb's.
The quarterback's numbers this season are on a par with the best in his career. He came back after missing two games because of a broken rib and retained the mobility of a younger player. He completed 60 percent of his attempts, converted long passes to DeSean Jackson as if it were a weekly video game, and won everything except the grudging respect of his critics. Of course, that's never going to happen.
McNabb is not going to win this debate with statistics. Only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have a higher winning percentage among active quarterbacks. No quarterback - that's none, all-time - has thrown at least 2,000 passes and has a lower interception percentage. And on and on.
The stats build one upon the other like a snowdrift. For this franchise, McNabb is the career leader in attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and frustrations. He is the chef who collects the finest ingredients, makes the most wonderful dish, then trips as he finally brings it to the table. It wouldn't be so bad if he didn't look at the fallen feast and laugh his goofy laugh. But he does. If 11 years with Donovan McNabb have taught us nothing else, they have taught us that.
Someone asked McNabb this week whether he thought his future with the franchise would be affected by the outcome of tonight's game.
"No matter what happens, I will be here for a bunch of years," McNabb said. "Does that clean it up? Do I have to answer this question every year?"
Yes, and he shouldn't be surprised. Eleven years without getting it done is a serious melting of that snowdrift of statistics. He plays the position that takes the most blame, and, at least partially, that is because he mirrors the head coach in his willingness to accept it.
This season, McNabb would be within his rights to point out that the problems were not really his. For as long as the defense was molded in the making of Jim Johnson, the acceptable pass-fail line was to allow 17 points in a game. Anything more was unacceptable. The Eagles held opponents to fewer than 20 points just twice in the final nine games, but still went 6-3 in those games. That's the offense overcoming the defense, but McNabb would never dream of pointing that out.
I think Reid will have him back and will have the organization extend McNabb's contract to make that happen. Get used to that. Accept it even if McNabb has a terrible game tonight. Accept it if he has a great game tonight.
A great game would help, of course, but isn't really necessary. Because Donovan McNabb will be back next season. And here's the really funny thing. That should make you happy.
Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or firstname.lastname@example.org.