Chicago Bears: Donovan McNabb

McNabb was expecting Bears to call

January, 20, 2012
Donovan McNabb admitted Friday that he was expecting a call from the Chicago Bears after Jay Cutler went down with a fractured thumb on Nov. 20, but that call never came and the Bears lost five of their last six to miss the playoffs.

Read the entire story.

4 Downs: Could McNabb have won here?

December, 21, 2011
Donovan McNabb/Jerry Angelo/Sam HurdGetty Images/US PresswireLots of things to talk about with the Bears, unfortunately they're mostly negative.
The Chicago Bears' playoff hopes are on life support, their quarterback situation is a disaster and they travel to face a Green Bay Packers team angry after their first loss of the season. Other than that, it's shaping up as a Merry Christmas for the Bears.

Our Four Downs panel weighs in on the Bears' predicament:

First Down

Fact or Fiction: Donovan McNabb or Brett Favre would have won at least one or two of the last four

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Forget about Favre. He last played in an NFL game in 2010, so he was never an option, even though he privately expressed interest in speaking with the Bears after Jay Cutler got hurt. McNabb is another story. He started games for the Vikings this year, and I'm quite confident he could have won at least one of these last four games, especially the one versus Kansas City. Failing to take a chance and sign McNabb seems like a costly mistake in hindsight.

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Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesHe may have struggled in Minnesota, but there's little doubt Donovan McNabb could have won one of the last four games.

Michael C. Wright: Fact. Nobody wants to hear that, but it's absolutely true. Let's look at this realistically. Aside from the beatdown at the hands of Seattle, the Bears were in the position to win games against Oakland, Kansas City and Denver. You can't convince me that McNabb wouldn't have won at least two of those three games. Despite Favre's age, I think he could've won at least one of those outings. So say what you want about those guys being over the hill. But the Bears made the mistake of not seriously considering how much experience could have factored into all of this. The team got too hung up on Martz's complex offense. If it's so complicated it cuts off the talent pool, change it. The Bears chose the system over the players, and honestly, I haven't seen near as many "systems" win football games as I have players. It's the whole Jimmys and Joes vs. X's and O's argument. I think we now know which side wins.

Melissa Isaacson Fact. Considering that one victory in the last four Bears games is not that high a standard, yes, I think one of the two -- even out of shape and not exactly in their prime -- could have eked out a victory against the Chiefs or Seahawks, maybe even Denver or, given the momentum at the time, Oakland. Did I advocate for either of the two at the time? No. But in hindsight, one victory -- which probably would not have been good enough for a playoff berth anyway -- doesn't sound like a tall order for a professional or even formerly professional quarterback.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. I think you could take Brett Favre off his tractor, dress him in tight Wranglers, and he'd still be better than Caleb Hanie. Yeah, yeah, the offense is too difficult. Football is football and two veterans like those could've figured something out. As lousy as McNabb has been the last two years, he's still better than Hanie. I'm not saying the Bears erred by not signing McNabb or trying to lure Favre out of retirement, the timing wasn't good, but let's not pretend they couldn't be better than Hanie.

Second Down

Fact or Fiction: Jerry Angelo's legacy will list not having a good No. 2 quarterback as his biggest mistake.

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Angelo has won four division championships during his tenure as Bears general manager, so let's not make it sound as if there were no positives during his tenure. That's unfair. But if you're looking to pinpoint the biggest mistake; that would be evaluating college players leading up to the draft. There have been way too many misses over the years, particularly in the early rounds. However, I stand by Angelo's decision to begin the year with Hanie as the No. 2 quarterback. The problem was failing to sign an accomplished veteran (McNabb) later in the season.

[+] EnlargeJerry Angelo
AP Photo/M. Spencer GreenHe's made some good moves, but not having a reliable back-up quarterback was one of Jerry Angelo's biggest mistakes.

Michael C. Wright: Fact. Absolutely, it will, right next to the lack of receivers, refusal to budge in the Matt Forte negotiations, and his decisions to not address issues on the offensive line in a timely manner. Having covered the NFL for a long time, I've never seen a collapse this significant. All of it can be traced back to this team's personnel decisions. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that Angelo's free-agent acquisitions have helped this team. But it's been minimally. And get this: Angelo signed Sam Hurd to a deal -- counting the receiver's signing bonus -- that would pay $1.985 million in 2011. Meanwhile, Forte is making $600,000 and begging for a fair-market deal. Not to get too slang here, but where they do that at?

Melissa Isaacson: Fact. But only because he has done it on a number of occasions (though it was obviously most glaring this season). Angelo's biggest mistake, however, is not so easy to narrow down with the number of draft missteps (i.e., Cedric Benson, Marc Colombo, Michael Haynes, Dan Buzuin); offensive line, defensive secondary and wide receiver woes and general bungles. It might not even be his biggest mistake this acquisitions (see: Roy Williams and Brandon Meriweather) but ok, I'll go along with it.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. I think his failure to surround Jay Cutler with a better offensive line and one legit go-to receiver are far more egregious wrongs. I know we're provincial here, but there are plenty of lousy backups out there. That's not to say Angelo shouldn't be judged for this obvious mistake, but I think the dearth of pass-blocking linemen and game-breaking wideouts is worse. You have to plan for success as well as failure. Angelo did neither well.

Third Down

Fact or Fiction: The fallout from the Sam Hurd arrest impacted the Bears on Sunday

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Sam Hurd was an excellent special teams contributor. Right now, you've got several rookies contributing on special teams who really have no business being on the field. Hurd was also the personal protect on punt, an important job in the grand scheme of things. So his loss hurt the Bears on the field versus Seattle. Plus, the whole idea that an accused drug dealer was your teammate for the last five months probably affected some of the players. The whole thing was a major distraction at a time when the Bears simply could not afford another distraction. Hurd didn't cause the loss, but he contributed to it.

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Rob Grabowski/US PresswireSam Hurd wasn't on the field Sunday, but his arrest may have played a role in the Bears' loss.

Michael C. Wright: Fact. Interestingly, a former Bears player called the day after the Hurd arrest and predicted this would happen. He said to watch the game closely to see if the Bears would make huge mistakes on what should be routine plays. That's exactly what this team did. Once the whistle blows and the players get in between the lines, off-the-field distractions aren't an issue. But where the Hurd arrest came into play in this is in the team's preparation. The fallout from the Hurd arrest hit Halas Hall on a Thursday, which is one of the heavy days of a team's preparation for an opponent. So Hurd affected the cerebral element of this team's preparation. On Thursday and Friday, the Hurd arrest was the talk of the locker room. Players were even asking reporters for details about the arrest. So don't think for a minute that this didn't impact the product on the field Sunday.

Melissa Isaacson: Fiction: Impossible to prove. I may still be persuaded to believe it, however, if not for the fact that the Bears, in their current form, were fully capable of losing to Seattle with the week running smoothly. That said, it was the last thing they needed.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. I'm sure it didn't help the team's focus during the week, but the writing was on the wall well before we found out Sam Hurd was trying to relive "The Wire." Hurd was the one who got caught up in the "trap game." The Bears just stink without Cutler.

Fourth Down

Fact or Fiction: Nathan Enderle should start at Lambeau.

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction: If Cutler can't go, start Josh McCown and bring in Enderle if things get out of hand. Enderle wasn't a first round pick. He's not the quarterback of the future. He's a fifth-rounder who's never taken a real NFL snap. Don't throw the guy to the wolves and ruin his confidence moving forward. I agree Enderle should play some this year, just not in the first half at Lambeau Field. And that's how it looks like it's going to play out judging from practice this week.

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Joe Nicholson/US PresswireNathan Enderle's last significant action was with the Idaho Vandals.

Michael C. Wright: Fiction. My belief is you're conceding the season if you go this route. Look, Enderle is a rookie and shouldn't be given his first action in an environment such as Lambeau Field. That could be overwhelming for a rookie who hasn't yet played in a regular-season game, and damaging for his psyche. The Bears are still in contention for a postseason berth, and until they're out of it, they should be doing everything they can to capture a victory. That means the team should go with the quarterback that gives them the best chance to win. If they truly believe Enderle is that guy, then go with him. But I don't think the Bears are thinking along those lines. Now, if the Bears lay an egg at Lambeau on Sunday, which would put them out of the playoff hunt, I think the team should then see about taking a look at Enderle.

Melissa Isaacson: Fiction: I'd rather see Josh McCown considering that there is little to no chance Enderle will be in the running for back-up duties next season. And throwing in the rookie on national TV Christmas night feels cruel and unusual. McCown was signed presumably to go in if Hanie couldn't do the job. The Bears obviously waited a little long on that one, but let's see him in action already and let Enderle get some time against Minnesota.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. Why not? We've all seen enough of Hanie to know he's not the answer. Starting Josh McCown isn't the answer either. The Bears drafted Enderle for a reason, I assume. You can always replace him with Hanie, if it doesn't work out, which I'm assuming it won't. Heck, I'd like to see Adam Podlesh at quarterback. Maybe he can provide a Hanukkah miracle.

Four Downs: Did Bears misjudge Hanie?

December, 7, 2011
Caleb HanieScott Boehm/Getty ImagesThe Bears' Caleb Hanie has been sacked 11 times in two starts this season.
The Caleb Hanie era has been long on turnovers (six interceptions) and short on points (23) and wins (zero). Now that we've seen him start two games, did the Bears overvalue what they had in Hanie?

Our Four Downs panel weighs in on that and more:

First Down

Fact or Fiction: The Bears misjudged what they had in Hanie.

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. The Bears knew exactly what they had in Hanie -- a quarterback light on experience who has the ability to make plays, but has also shown a tendency to turn the ball over. Obviously Hanie must perform better Sunday in Denver, but it would be nice if the rest of the offense helped him out. Don't forget that if a seven-year veteran running back (Marion Barber) knew how to line up properly or if an eight-year veteran wide receiver (Roy Williams) would have caught a perfectly thrown ball in front of the end zone, the Bears beat the Chiefs, despite pass protection issues up front. The Bears continue to believe they can win games with Hanie at quarterback, otherwise Lovie Smith would have made a switch this week.

[+] EnlargeHanie/Cutler
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesFilling in for Jay Cutler hasn't gone that smoothly for Caleb Hanie.

Michael C. Wright: Fiction. The Bears used the only measuring they could in judging Hanie’s potential to fill in for Jay Cutler, and that was his practice performances over the years and how he played last season in the NFC title game. Going off those criteria, the Bears didn’t expect Hanie to be the team’s savior. But they certainly expected to him to get the club a few victories with Cutler out. I haven’t yet given up on Hanie because I believe he’s got it in him physically to lead this team where it needs to go. Now it’s just a matter of doing it. Hanie has put together two horrid performances so far. After three it’s no longer aberration. It becomes your body of work. So hopefully, Hanie makes me look smart this week.

Melissa Isaacson Fiction. According to Smith, the Bears knew exactly what they have in Hanie, and they are satisfied that he is a better alternative than anyone else on the market. Although I thought Hanie would look better than he did in the loss to the Chiefs, I don’t necessarily disagree. And while last year’s NFC Championship game is probably not a fair gauge of Hanie’s true ability, it obviously showed enough, along with his work with the scout team, to tell them he is an adequate No. 2. This is a tough test for any backup, and while Hanie has not been impressive, I believe the Bears thought that with support, he would be enough to get them to 10 wins.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. I think Mike Martz was pretty sure what he had in Hanie. He’s an undrafted free agent playing behind a pretty durable quarterback (these last two injuries notwithstanding). There aren’t a lot of really good backup quarterbacks out there, and Hanie benefited from, well, already being here. It’s not for nothing the Bears have drafted quarterbacks the last two drafts.

Second Down

Fact or Fiction: Josh McCown is still a better fit as a backup for the Bears at this point than Brett Favre or Donovan McNabb.

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Forget about Brett Favre. Even though the future Hall of Famer had been sniffing around the Bears quarterback situation the past two weeks, he was never seriously considered. However, I can make a strong argument the Bears depth chart against the Broncos should read: 1. Hanie 2. McNabb 3. McCown. I hope Nathan Enderle turns out to be an excellent NFL quarterback, but after dropping two straight, the Bears simply can't afford to turn the offense over to a rookie. McCown has value because of the experience factor and familiarity with the Martz system. But if Hanie ever got hurt, McNabb would be the best choice to step in and finish out a game, regardless of the fact he spent his career in a West Coast offense. He's Donovan McNabb. He can run 10-15 plays in an emergency appearance in his sleep.

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Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesDonovan McNabb's experience, including playing in some big games, trumps Josh McCown's knowledge of Mike Martz's offense.

Michael C. Wright: Fiction. This comes off like we’re bashing McCown, but that’s really not the case here. Ultimately at some point it comes down to the players more than systems or their familiarity in those systems. Much is made of McCown’s experience in Martz’s system. But how much experience did McCown actually gain? McCown worked just one year under Martz (2006), and actually caught more passes (2) as the third receiver than he threw (0) as a quarterback. So in my estimation, that doesn’t give McCown much of a leg up on Favre or McNabb in Martz’s scheme, which moves us to the next tie breaker: big-game experience. Favre has seen it all and done it, but may be washed up at 42 years old. McNabb, meanwhile, has also participated in several big games. Regardless of McNabb and Favre’s lack of familiarity in Martz’s system, I’d rather go down with them than McCown if my playoff life is on the line.

Melissa Isaacson: Fiction. The fact that Smith still considers Enderle to be the Bears’ No. 2 quarterback, ahead of McCown, is not exactly a ringing endorsement for McCown, even after just two weeks on the roster. An emergency signing is just that and should be able to come in with minimal preparation and manage the team well enough to win. That is not to say McNabb (Favre is a flier in every sense of the word) would march the Bears to the Super Bowl, but his experience and professionalism alone makes him worthy of at least the No. 2 role.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. I know both quarterbacks would be a major PR hassle for the team, and possibly one of those dreaded “distractions,” but either of those guys, even at their current stages of decay, could fake their way through Martz’s offense better than McCown. I know I’m in the minority here, but I’d like to see this ship really hit a iceberg, rather than sink quietly in the sea.

Third Down

Fact or Fiction: Matt Forte will play again this season.

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. This type of MCL sprain usually takes four weeks to heal. However, the Bears don't have that kind of time, so I expect Forte to return to action well before the knee is 100 percent. Extension or no extension, Forte wants to keep playing and will do whatever rehab is necessary to be active in a few weeks. I can't guarantee Forte is going to play well with a sprained knee, but I'd be surprised if he didn't at least give it a try against Green Bay or Minnesota.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
AP Photo/Matt SlocumMatt Forte's return could depend on how they fare against the Broncos and Seahawks the next two weeks.

Michael C. Wright: Fact. But I think that’s contingent upon the Bears winning their next two games against the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. If the Bears fall out of the playoff hunt, then you have to question what incentive Forte has to return. Forte suffered a similar injury in 2009 and played through it, only to undergo arthroscopic surgery -- according to the Chicago Tribune -- at the conclusion of the season. Forte certainly won’t let his contract situation affect his decision making about returning from the injury. But if the team is out of contention, why lay it on the line for the team when in the offseason it could turn around and use the knee injury to devalue you?

Melissa Isaacson: Fact. Tough one to guess unless you are actually inside Forte’s head (and knee). But if he recovers quickly from a Grade 2 sprain and the Bears can still use his help, the latter of which is likely, I think he could return for the last game against Minnesota, if not sooner. If he is not risking serious injury -- which does not seem to be the case -- he’ll be back.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. I believe Forte will rejoin the team in Green Bay on Christmas Day. If he was the recalcitrant sort, he would have held out in training camp. Forte is a gamer, and he wouldn’t let down his teammates. He will do two weeks of rehab for his sprained MCL and then try to give the Bears a little help for their final two games.

Fourth Down

Fact or Fiction: Martz will not be back next season.

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Why else would Martz's name begin to surface for job openings at UCLA, Arizona State or the Jacksonville Jaguars? It's not like he's done a smashing job calling plays for the Bears the last two years. By allowing his name to be floated out there, Martz is likely preparing himself for the next stage of his career. Make no mistake about it, Smith is loyal to his friends and has control over the coaching staff. But this scenario is a tad different because Martz's contract expires following the season. That makes parting with the veteran coach much easier.

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesMike Martz's future in Chicago remains uncertain at this point.

Michael C. Wright: Fiction. Martz’s name has been linked to seemingly every coaching vacancy out there, but something about it all seems manufactured, which is something that often takes place at this time of year. Martz’s offenses with the Bears haven’t ranked in the top half of the league in two years. So what makes him such a hot coaching commodity that someone would want to bring him in as a head coach? Smith called the rumors “made up” on Monday, and has intimated that he’ll look to bring back his entire coaching staff -- if they’re not poached by other NFL teams or colleges -- for 2012. The Bears don’t want to put Cutler in a situation where he’d be forced to learn his third offense in four years, and the quarterback even expressed reservations about being thrust again in such a scenario. So although Martz’s contract expires at the end of the season, I see the Bears making an effort to bring him back. Besides that, there might not be many options out there for Martz, regardless of what’s being said.

Melissa Isaacson: Fact. It seems an odd fit to picture Martz as a head coach of a major college program at this stage of the game. But it would be even odder for the Bears to make a strong contract offer to have Martz back after two years of tension and uneven results on offense. Even Cutler made it sound like he’d be OK with Martz moving on and if Mike Tice steps up, which would be more in line with Smith’s vision, it wouldn’t have to be a difficult transition.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. Martz’s contract is up and the offense has never really coalesced, has it? In fact, the Bears’ offensive troubles are even more frustrating, given the presence of Cutler and Forte, before now anyway. Sure he’s only had two years to instill his byzantine system, and the so-called mad scientist has been given a second-hand laboratory, but the fit isn’t quite there. Where do you think all those college coaching interest leaks are coming from? I think everyone is pretty aware this is Martz’s last stand. I’m on the Norv Turner bandwagon, once he gets fired from San Diego. It’ll be Norvember four to five months a year!

Should Bears sign Donovan McNabb? 

December, 5, 2011
In Week 12 against the Oakland Raiders, we saw what the Chicago Bears' offense looked like without Jay Cutler, and the results weren't pretty. Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, we saw what they looked like without Cutler and without Matt Forte, and the results were unwatchable. Quarterback Caleb Hanie's performance was so hopeless that the Bears are reportedly looking to pick up Donovan McNabb off the scrap heap to try to save their season. It's obviously a desperate move, but could it be a wise one?

After the offense sputtered in a 10-3 loss to the Chiefs, the Chicago Bears are reportedly going to discuss the possibility of adding free-agent quarterback Donovan McNabb.

But Bears wide receiver and returner Devin Hester thinks that's "a waste of time."

Read the entire story.

Bears need to reconsider acquiring McNabb

December, 4, 2011
Donovan McNabbAP Photo/Andy KingThe Bears should reconsider their decision about not trying to acquire Donovan McNabb.
CHICAGO -- Caleb Hanie lowered his voice and answered with a soft "no," when asked whether it's time the Bears revisited the idea of bringing in former Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb.

The truth is Chicago's situation screams for it to at least explore the option after Hanie -- filling in for the injured Jay Cutler -- put together yet another three-interception dud in a 10-7 loss Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs that further deteriorated the club's seemingly fading playoff prospects.

"Right now, we're just taking this loss in," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "I'm not going to come in here and tell you we're going to start making changes. I think you know me better than that. We're going to evaluate our situation and see where we need to go from here."

With very few options available on the street and Josh McCown -- signed last week -- as Hanie's primary backup, the club might be reconsidering its decision last week to forego putting in a waiver claim for McNabb, who was released by the Minnesota Vikings.

McNabb was owed approximately $1.6 million on his contract for the remainder of the season, but the Bears could land him at a reduced rate now that he's a free agent. On the team's inactive list for Sunday's game, McCown said he won't "speculate on those things," regarding the team possibly nabbing McNabb.

But "obviously, you expect them to evaluate everything all the time," McCown said. "As a worker in the organization, you just kind of trust their leadership and go with it."

Despite Bears general manager Jerry Angelo telling the team's official website last week that McCown would be the No. 2 quarterback for the matchup with the Chiefs, he was inactive, leaving rookie Nate Enderle as the only signal caller on the active game day roster other than Hanie.

Surely McNabb's background in the West Coast offense isn't appealing to the Bears, nor is his diminishing downfield arm strength or lack of familiarity with the offense. But the team can't deny McNabb's pedigree as a winner or his experience in major games.

McNabb played six games with the Vikings and passed for more touchdowns (4) and fewer interceptions (2) than Hanie (six interceptions) over his last two starts.

"Let's not attack one guy," Smith said in defending Hanie. "Don't blame one guy for this loss. We all have a big say in what happened today."

The front office especially has a voice in what transpires over these last four weeks which feature three road contests, including road games at Green Bay and Minnesota to close the season.

That's not to say McNabb is the answer for the Bears, because realistically he's not.

But the club should at least have the option to bring in an experienced quarterback such as McNabb to potentially provide a spark when Hanie struggles.

"As a quarterback, you hate people that [are] kind of Monday morning quarterbacks," McCown explained. "There's no way I'm gonna sit here and say, ‘Oh yeah, I could have easily done [better than Hanie].' I'd never do that. Caleb did some good things, and that was close to being a different ballgame for him."

Perhaps, but it's difficult to overlook the team's 0-of-11 performance on third-down conversions, Hanie's three turnovers, his 23.8 passer rating, or the fact he was either sacked or intercepted on four of his last seven throws.

Hanie's primary backup on Sunday was a rookie, and the expected No. 2 for next week's game at Denver hasn't played in the NFL since 2009.

So McNabb shouldn't be viewed as a worse backup option than Enderle or McCown.

But it's definitely worth pondering whether he could possibly provide a spark -- maybe even an upgrade over the current starter -- if needed in a pinch.
Donovan McNabb went unclaimed on waivers, meaning the former Minnesota Vikings quarterback is free to sign with any team, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The Vikings waived the 13-year veteran quarterback on Thursday, giving him the opportunity to sign with another team for the stretch run in a parting coach Leslie Frazier described as mutual.

Read the entire story.

Waive goodbye? Lovie likes his 3 QBs

December, 2, 2011
Caleb HanieAP Photo/Ben MargotLovie Smith said he's happy with Caleb Hanie and his two backups.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith offered a vote of confidence for his three quarterbacks on Friday, tempering speculation that the team would pick up Donovan McNabb off waivers.

But a source familiar with the situation said it could go either way.

"I like our quarterbacks we have here right now," Smith said, referring to starter Caleb Hanie and backups Josh McCown and Nathan Enderle. "I'm not gonna start talking about guys from the outside. That should be enough for you. We have three quarterbacks here we like.

The Vikings benched McNabb in October in favor of rookie Christian Ponder, leading to the veteran quarterback to request his release.

The Dallas Cowboys pulled out of contention for McNabb earlier Friday when coach Jason Garrett said they're going to stand pat at the quarterback position.

The Bears and the Cowboys put in waiver claims last week to acquire Kyle Orton, who eventually landed with the Kansas City Chiefs. With Orton unavailable, the Bears signed McCown as the primary backup quarterback.

McNabb, 35, played six games with the Vikings this season, posting a passer rating of 82.9 in addition to throwing for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns.

McNabb, a Chicago native, also lost his starting job with the Redskins in 2010 after performing ineffectively through the first 14 games. McNabb finished the season with a career-worst 77.1 passer rating, and threw 15 interceptions, which facilitated his trade to the Minnesota Vikings.

A 13-year veteran, McNabb, 35, has thrown for 37,276 yards and 234 touchdowns and a career passer rating of 85.6. He also helped the Philadelphia Eagles win five NFC East titles, played in five NFC title games, and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl to their first Super Bowl berth in 24 years back in 2005.

Approximately $1.6 million remains on McNabb's contract and any team awarded the quarterback would assume that salary over the last five weeks of the season.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have no interest in putting in a claim for quarterback Donovan McNabb, a source said Friday.

The Cowboys backup quarterback, Jon Kitna, has back issues and isn't expected to play this week at Arizona. Currently, Stephen McGee is the backup to quarterback Tony Romo.

Read the entire story.

McNabb would be an upgrade over McCown

December, 1, 2011

When an injury takes a team down to its third quarterback, typically it’s over in terms of aspirations for further advancement.

That’s part of the reason why the Chicago Bears might be wise to put in a waiver claim for recently-released former Vikings quarterback and Chicago native Donovan McNabb.

[+] EnlargeDonovan McNabb
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesDonovan McNabb would be a much better insurance policy for Caleb Hanie than Josh McCown.
Given McNabb’s background in the West Coast offense, and his lack of familiarity with the system utilized by offensive coordinator Mike Martz, such a suggestion might seem somewhat ridiculous. But ultimately, it’s about players, not just the schemes (that's why fans can expect to see Kyle Orton replace Tyler Palko at some point Sunday when the Bears host the Kansas City Chiefs). That realistically makes McNabb a more attractive option for the club -- in the event that current starter Caleb Hanie goes down with an injury -- than recently-acquired backup Josh McCown.

No knock on McCown, but there’s a reason Chicago put in a claim last week for Orton, the former Bears quarterback, along with the Dallas Cowboys when he was released by the Denver Broncos. While a couple of days of practice aren’t a fair barometer to pass judgment, multiple sources have said McCown has shown definite signs of rust this week during workouts. That’s to be expected from a quarterback that hasn’t played in the NFL since 2009.

McNabb, meanwhile, played six games this season for the Minnesota Vikings, throwing for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 82.9 before giving way as the starter in October to rookie Christian Ponder.

Whether he’s familiar with Martz’s system seems relative when compared to the alternative. McNabb, 35, would give the Bears a much better chance to win than McCown if Hanie falters. First off, playing in front of his hometown fans might serve as a major motivating factor for McNabb. Besides that, it’s important to note McNabb’s extensive experience in big games. In Philadelphia, McNabb led the Eagles to five division crowns, and played in six NFC title games, not to mention a Super Bowl.

Compare that to McCown’s body of work, which involves 31 starts, 6,587 passing yards and more interceptions (40) than touchdowns (35).

McNabb is owed approximately $1.5 million on his contract. But that figure shouldn’t pose much of a problem for the Bears, considering they were willing to pay Orton close to $2.6 million over the last six weeks of the season.

Sitting at 24th in waiver-claim priority, the Bears would almost assuredly encounter competition for McNabb’s services from the quarterback-challenged Houston Texans (26th) and the Cowboys (21), which are searching for a capable backup due to concerns that Jon Kitna’s back issues could knock him out for the season.

So landing McNabb through waivers won’t be an automatic.

But not putting in the claim at all, almost automatically ends this team’s season if injury takes down Hanie and starter Jay Cutler isn’t sufficiently healed to pick up the slack.

Struggling McNabb 'all about winning'

October, 12, 2011
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Donovan McNabb's inaccuracy has been a hindrance to Minnesota this season.

Read the entire story.

Have at It: Greg Olsen's impact

October, 8, 2011
Your conversation on the NFC North's most significant player departure centered mostly around three players: Defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, receiver Sidney Rice and tight end Greg Olsen.

A few other names surfaced, including linebacker Nick Barnett and center Olin Kreutz. But Barnett in essence departed midway through last season, replaced more than capably by Desmond Bishop, and it's hard to argue that the Chicago Bears offensive line is in worse shape without Kreutz than it was when it contributed to 56 sacks with him last season.

Jenkins is an interesting case. He was not a full-time player last season, starting eight games, but none of you have forgotten his seven sacks and the apparent impact it had on the Green Bay Packers' No. 1 pass defense (based on opponents' passer rating). This season, the Packers' pass rush has been limited and opponents have the NFL's 15th-best passer rating against Green Bay's defense.

Mavajo wrote Jenkins is "the only key difference between this year and last year. … You gotta put 2+2 together and figure that's why." Added tearloch:

"I will say that last year the Packer D was noticeably better with Jenkins in the lineup as opposed to without him, especially on run D. This year, with the big leads they have had for most of the games, the run D, IMO, has been artificial inflated by minimum attempts against, much like the end of last year (playoff run). It will be interesting to see how the GB run D holds up when truly tested. I think Jenkins is sorely missed in GB. His replacements are doing an OK job, but Jenkins was a really good player, but his age and injury history, as well as contract demands, made him expendable."

Jenkins has four sacks in four games this season for the Philadelphia Eagles. Rice, on the other hand, has piled up 188 receiving yards in two games with the Seattle Seahawks. Biglamb7474 thinks Rice is "the obvious choice" and added that the Minnesota Vikings have been forced to make Percy Harvin their No. 1 receiver "even though his talents are much more emphasized in the two spot."

Biglamb7474 added: "The loss of Rice also gave an already declining [quarterback Donovan] McNabb even that much less to work with. ... I mean, did the Vikings even once pay attention to what happened in Washington last year when McNabb was inserted into an offense with a mediocre receiving corps at best? Rice is a big and fast sure-handed receiver in a league that has transformed into one in which defense is becoming less important and elite offenses (particularly the air attack) are essential."

Wrote severs28: "They have no one to stretch the field right now, and when healthy, Sidney Rice is a premier wide receiver. I mean, he has better stats in two games than any Vikings receiver through four? And it's not like he went to New England or Green Bay. Seattle has a terrible o-line, and Tarvaris [Jackson] as a QB. He would have at least those numbers for Minnesota."

[+] EnlargeGreg Olsen
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireGreg Olsen has re-established himself as a downfield threat with Carolina.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears' decision to trade Olsen to the Carolina Panthers generated more debate than I thought it would. Tearloch wrote: "Olsen's trade was not a good move, IMO. However, I don't think it is fair to compare his production in Carolina to what the current Bears are doing. Even if Olsen was still a Bear, I don't think his production would be any better than what the current Bears players are doing. It is still [offensive coordinator Mike] Martz running the show, and he does not care for TEs, regardless of their talent. "

Added DaBearz84: " Olsen is not as missed as Kevin would like us to believe. The reason that no one on the Bears team has more then 12 receptions is because [quarterback Jay ]Cutler can't get enough time to throw the damn ball."

On the other hand, Jveyron19 thinks Olsen was "the biggest loss from a 'team' aspect" because the Packers "have enough playmakers to fill in the gap that Jenkins pass rush."

My take? I agree that Olsen wouldn't have the same numbers with the Bears that he does with the Panthers. But to me, that's a big problem.

I don't think pass protection alone is to blame for the Bears' anemic pass offense thus far. Let's just say that Cutler doesn't always have a bevy of open receivers to choose from. Olsen has re-established himself as a downfield threat, as well as a sure-handed check-down receiver, and if used properly would absolutely help alleviate some of the Bears' issues.

The Bears traded Olsen rather than require Martz to find a way to incorporate him into his offense. Given what he could have offered them, and the mess he's left behind to this point, I think that makes his departure the most significant thus far in the NFC North.

Final Word: NFC North

September, 30, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Speed rushers: Two weeks ago, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali put four hits on Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Last week, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen sacked him three times while fellow defensive end Brian Robison brought him down twice. Hali and Allen are two of the NFL's best pass rushers. Sunday, the Lions will face the best. No NFL player has more sacks this season (5.0) or over the past three seasons (51.5) than the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware. Stafford has had success getting the ball downfield despite facing those elite rushers. But the Lions probably don't want to find out how much damage Ware can do. They would be well-advised to devote more attention to him than Hali and Allen saw. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is one of the NFL's top blockers at his position. The Lions might need to utilize him in that regard Sunday.

"Statement game:" I personally hate that phrase and think it's mostly irrelevant in the world of the NFL. With that said, I think the Lions have their best opportunity yet to demonstrate how far they've come and to set their fan base into a frenzy heading into their Oct. 10 prime-time game against the Chicago Bears. The Cowboys are 2-1 and have designs on the NFC East title. The Lions, meanwhile, have won in Dallas only twice in their history. Last season, the Bears began walking with a little extra pep in their step after winning at Cowboys Stadium. The Lions could do the same. A win would give the Lions their eighth consecutive regular-season victory, dating to last season. That would be their longest winning streak since taking nine consecutive games from 1953-54.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Rob Grabowski/US PresswirePackers QB Aaron Rodgers could make Denver pay if the Broncos continues to blitz as often as they have in their first three games.
Faint hopes: The Denver Broncos have never won in the state of Wisconsin. They've lost seven consecutive road games and are one of three teams in the NFL whose pass defense has netted them zero interceptions this season. That's a bad combination for a 1-2 team traveling to Lambeau Field. Want some more? The Broncos have felt compelled to blitz on 41.9 percent of opponents' dropbacks this season, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is completing an NFL-high 74.4 percent of his passes against the blitz. It's unlikely to work Sunday for the Broncos. On his weekly radio show, Rodgers noted that the Packers have seemed an afterthought from national observers. "Let everybody talk about Philly and Dallas and Washington and Detroit and Buffalo and we’ll keep on doing what we’re doing," he said. It's hard to imagine the Packers doing anything other than continuing to plug along Sunday.

Run to daylight: The Carolina Panthers are giving up an average of 117 yards rushing per game this season, the seventh-worst mark in the NFL. As we've discussed a few times, the Bears haven't paid enough attention to their running game this season. That has to stop Sunday. We can spend all the time we want discussing the return of Panthers coach Ron Rivera and tight end Greg Olsen. I'm sure they’re both pumped for this game. But the Bears can control it if offensive coordinator Mike Martz can find a way get the running game going. The Panthers should be vulnerable in that area.

Someone will win: The 0-3 Minnesota Vikings will play at the 0-3 Kansas City Chiefs. Something has got to give, right? A matchup of two winless teams after at least three weeks is relatively rare; it's happened six times in the past 10 years of NFL play. The Vikings haven't given up on their playoff hopes quite yet. After all, three teams have advanced to the postseason over the past 21 seasons after starting 0-3. But if the Vikings fall to 0-4 on Sunday, the most interesting question remaining in their season will be when rookie quarterback Christian Ponder will get on the field. When they acquired starter Donovan McNabb this summer, I don't think the Vikings believed they would be facing a Ponder Watch so early in the season.

Rapid Reaction: Redskins 17, Bears 14

October, 24, 2010

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears entered Sunday’s game tied for third in the NFL with 14 takeaways.

Yet the tables seemed to turn on the turnover-happy Bears, who suffered through six second-half giveaways -- including four Jay Cutler interceptions to DeAngelo Hall -- on the way to their second consecutive loss, a bumbling 17-14 effort against the Washington Redskins.

The defense did its part in forcing three Redskins turnovers, but the offense -- plagued by protection issues, a lack of production on the goal line and problems converting third downs -- proved too generous in giving away three interceptions and two fumbles.

Luckily for Chicago, it enters its bye before meeting Buffalo on Nov. 7 in Toronto. The club will need some time to bounce back from this one.

There’s quite a bit to get to from this game. So let’s not waste time.

What it means: It’s no secret the Bears’ schedule significantly stiffens after the bye week with matchups against Miami, Philadelphia, New England and the Jets over four of the next eight weeks. So after dropping back to back games against the Seahawks and Redskins, it’s safe to say the Bears squandered a golden opportunity to maintain their lead over the Packers in the NFC North, and made their potential road to the playoffs much more difficult.

Third-down disaster: Heading into the contest, Cutler led the Bears to 0 for 22 on third-down conversions over his last eight quarters, and the struggles only continued against the Redskins.

The Bears went 0 for 6 on third-down conversions in the first half Sunday, before finally converting their first one with 4:32 left in the third quarter.

[+] EnlargeHall
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastDeAngelo Hall's four interceptions against the Bears on Sunday tied an NFL record.
OL settles after rough start: Playing for the second consecutive week with a starting line comprised of Olin Kreutz, Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale, Edwin Williams and J’Marcus Webb, the Bears gave up three sacks in the first half -- two to Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo -- before finally settling down in the second half to give Cutler solid protection.

The Bears allowed only one more sack after the three-sack onslaught in the first half. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz played a role in club reducing sack numbers by shortening Cutler’s drops.

Briggs leaves: Linebacker Lance Briggs left the Sunday’s contest on Chicago’s third series, and the club announced he was questionable to return. At halftime, however, the team declared Briggs out for the game.

Still hobbled by a sprained ankle suffered Oct. 10 against the Panthers, Briggs missed last week’s loss to Seattle and alternated with backup Brian Iwuh early on in Sunday’s game. The decision to pull Briggs in the first quarter may have been the smart move for the Bears, who enter their bye before meeting Buffalo in Toronto on Nov. 7. The week off should do some good for Briggs, who is considered one of the leaders on defense.

Moore robbed by delay of game: Bears nickel corner D.J. Moore watched a Redskins’ delay-of-game penalty wipe out what would have been his second touchdown of the day.

Having already returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown off Israel Idonije’s tipped pass in the first half, Moore picked off Donovan McNabb in the third quarter and skipped into the end zone for an 8-yard return. Prior to the snap on that play, however, officials flagged the Redskins for delay of game. The call wiped out what would have been Moore’s second career TD.

Goal-line struggles continue: The Bears entered the game 0 for 9 from an opponent’s 1-yard line. Make that 0 for 10, thanks to a Cutler fumble.

Trying to leap over the top on a sneak, Cutler jumped into the arms of Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, who halted the quarterback’s progress. As Cutler reached to put the ball across the plane, a Redskins defender knocked it out and London Fletcher recovered for the Redskins.

Turf a problem: Judging from some of the conversations in the team’s locker room on Friday, the Bears anticipated problems with the turf at Soldier Field. In fact, several players made it a point to tell equipment managers to make sure they packed plenty of pairs of seven-stud cleats for the matchup with the Washington Redskins.

From the look of things, the Bears needed them. Several offensive and defensive players slipped on the turf that had been pelted by rain earlier in the day. As the game wore on, the turf dried up somewhat and footing improved. The Bears should expect more footing issues as the weather worsens over the next several weeks.

Shorter drops pay off: Martz called for a seven-step drop on a third-and-3 with 5:23 left in the first half. After Cutler threw incomplete to Greg Olsen on the play, Martz shortened up the quarterback’s drops, which helped tremendously.

After the failed conversion attempt, Martz called several three- and five-step drops on the club’s next series, which contributed to Cutler finishing the quarter 7 for 7, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Knox with 31 seconds left that gave the Bears a 14-10 halftime lead.

Manning answers challenge: Bears coach Lovie Smith praised the play of Danieal Manning earlier in the week, but said he wanted the safety to make more plays in the passing game. Manning delivered in the third quarter on arguably the club’s most athletic interception of the season.

What’s next: Thankfully for the Bears, nothing. The club enters its bye week, which serves as a good opportunity for players such as offensive lineman Roberto Garza (knee), safety Major Wright (hamstring), and linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle) to regain their health prior to the team’s matchup with Buffalo on Nov. 7. The bye also comes at a good time for all the players dealing with nagging injuries.

First-quarter wrap: Redskins 7, Bears 7

October, 24, 2010
Bears/RedskinsAP Photo/Kiichiro SatoBears cornerback D.J. Moore races to the end zone after intercepting a pass against the Redskins in the first quarter.
CHICAGO -- Ineptitude continued on offense for the Chicago Bears, but the defense picked up the slack in helping the club to a 7-7 tie with the Washington Redskins.

Quarterback Jay Cutler moved to 0 for 25 on third-down conversions over his last nine quarters, and suffered two sacks. Luckily for Chicago, the defense scored its first touchdown since November of last season when nickel corner D.J. Moore picked off a Donovan McNabb pass tipped by Israel Idonije, and raced 54 yards for a score with 6:03 left in the quarter to put the Bears ahead early.

Washington evened the score on a 24-yard strike from McNabb to Santana Moss with 1:08 left in the quarter.