Phil Sheridan: An odd situation at QB

Donovan McNabb is one of three valuable chips the Eagles are holding this off-season.
Donovan McNabb is one of three valuable chips the Eagles are holding this off-season.
Posted: January 31, 2010

Of the two news conferences held Friday afternoon, it's impossible to know which will have the biggest impact on the future of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Certainly the promotion of Howie Roseman to general manager will have consequences. Roseman will have his hand in personnel decisions big and small for as long as he holds the job. Nevertheless, with Andy Reid's maintaining final say on personnel, Roseman's taking over Tom Heckert's office doesn't necessarily represent a sea change.

A few hours later, in Arizona, Kurt Warner held a news conference to announce his retirement from the NFL. Warner, 38, thus started the clock on his five-year wait for induction into the Hall of Fame (and yes, he belongs in Canton), and, more pertinent here, started a line of dominos that could reach all the way to Philadelphia.

Let's just say young Mr. Roseman has become GM at an interesting time in Eagles history.

Sometime this week, Roseman, Reid, Joe Banner, and the rest of the Eagles' inner circle will take seats around a conference table and start discussing their options - at quarterback as well as a handful of other positions. Those options may have changed when Warner retired, and they will continue to change as other NFL teams assess their own rosters.

That is one reason the Eagles haven't formally discussed their very strange quarterback situation: three players - two Pro Bowl vets and a well-groomed apprentice - all going into the final year of their contracts. Roseman pointed out another reason to wait a couple of weeks before making personnel decisions.

"The risk of doing it too soon after the season is that emotion plays a part in it," Roseman said. "You take a step back and you analyze what you have and what you need, and then you sit down as a group and you construct a plan and try to execute it."

In Arizona, the Cardinals will sit down and decide whether to entrust their Super Bowl-caliber team to Matt Leinart. In Minneapolis, the Vikings will decide whether to play the Brett Favre waiting game and whether they are prepared to wind up with Tarvaris Jackson starting at QB next season. In Cleveland, Mike Holmgren and Heckert will decide whether to make a bold move for a new QB or build around what they have.

Any of these conversations - and similar ones in St. Louis and Oakland and San Francisco - could lead to Roseman's phone ringing. The Eagles have three quarterbacks and an awful lot of teams have none.

"In the National Football League, the most important position is having quarterbacks," Roseman said. "We have three really good football players at that position."

Chances are, some team is going to offer enough to persuade the Eagles to give up one or two of those quarterbacks.

So Reid's immediate postseason endorsement of Donovan McNabb has to be seen through this filter. Saying "Donovan is the quarterback" was nearly as empty as all the fevered speculation of the last couple weeks. Reid was still smarting from the beating his team took in Dallas, still reeling from the reality check delivered by those back-to-back blowout losses to the rival Cowboys.

But mostly he didn't really know at that moment what his options would be. Soon he will.

Speaking after Friday's news conference, Banner deflected the inevitable questions about the QB situation.

"It probably sounds evasive but isn't," Banner said. "We really have not had the meeting to start to figure this stuff out. Obviously, we have to figure out what we want to do. I think it's possible any or all three quarterbacks could be here with one year on their deal. It's possible one guy could get an extension."

Translation: Let's see whether a market develops for McNabb or Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick (the Eagles would have to exercise their option on Vick) before we commit to anything. Put another way: You like your house, you plan to live in your house, but if someone offered you twice its market value, your next call would be to U-Haul.

My feeling all along has been that the Eagles are better off focusing on their defense and giving McNabb another shot with the young talent that blossomed the last couple years. Two things could change that opinion: a head-turning trade offer and McNabb himself.

Maybe the better way to reward him is to give him a fresh start elsewhere. He might really enjoy a chance to play in his adopted home, throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and handing off 25 times a game to Beanie Wells.

The point is, the Eagles can't solve this problem until they're sure what is on the other side of the equal sign. Subtract Warner or Favre here, add a new coach or GM there, and the equation keeps changing.


Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

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