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Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Writing's on the wall for McNabb

By Ashley Fox
ESPN.com

There is one franchise that would seem to be a perfect fit for Donovan McNabb, a place where he knows the system, the personnel, the expectations and the playbook, and he wouldn't have to mentor anybody. It is a place he could go where he would know, with about as much certainty as there is in an uncertain business, that he would have an opportunity at some point to start, at least a couple of games if not more.

It sounds crazy, but it does make sense. McNabb would fit in Philadelphia.

It won't happen, of course. Andy Reid, the man who knows McNabb's strengths and weaknesses better than anyone in the league, told the NFL Network on Monday that he would "highly recommend" McNabb. Just not, you know, to his team. Reid has Trent Edwards, who wasn't in the league last season, and Mike Kafka, who has 16 career pass attempts, to back up Michael Vick.

It has been nearly six months since Minnesota released McNabb and no one has picked up the veteran quarterback. McNabb has garnered no interest, not a sniff, and it is sad that it has come to this, but it is time for McNabb to retire. He says he doesn't want to, but he might have no choice.

There is no need for him to bounce around anymore, from Washington to Minnesota to who knows where. There is no dignity in that. He doesn't need the money. He has had a terrific career.

McNabb should walk away, head held high, knowing he impacted at least one franchise for the better. He is the Eagles' most accomplished quarterback of all time, with more attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdowns and games played than anyone else. In 11 years, McNabb played in 148 regular-season games and went to the playoffs seven times, including five NFC title games and one Super Bowl.

His legacy is set. He was an iconic player. He wasn't perfect, and there are indelible marks on his tenure -- he either did or didn't get sick in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, he didn't know the overtime rules in a 2008 game at Cincinnati, he either was or wasn't jealous of Terrell Owens, and on and on -- but McNabb is the best modern-day quarterback the franchise has had.

McNabb will be up for discussion for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the last two seasons haven't helped him. There is no reason to add meaningless years to the journey and prolong the inevitable. McNabb should start the next phase of his life. He will make an insightful television analyst, and he might even find peace in being the one to critique and criticize, rather than being the one who is critiqued and criticized.

There is no doubt that McNabb would be one of the best 64 quarterbacks in the league, but his age and the past two seasons are clearly working against him. He will turn 36 in November. Time takes its toll. And, he was supplanted in Washington by Rex Grossman and in Minnesota by rookie Christian Ponder.

At this point after the draft, teams have their plans set. Either they have established starters at quarterback or young players who are growing into the role. Backups are typically players who could fill in for the starter in a pinch or, again, are younger players the team wants to develop.

McNabb wants to be a starter and thus has virtually eliminated the only real path he has back into the league. He doesn't want to be a backup and doesn't want to mentor a young player. If he did, Minnesota would not have cut him last December after making the switch to Ponder in Week 7.
Donovan McNabb
Donovan McNabb played in 148 regular-season games and went to the playoffs seven times, including five NFC title games and one Super Bowl.
If the NFL lockout hadn't occurred, it is possible McNabb would not have had a job last year, either. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier wanted a quarterback who could bridge the gap while Ponder, without the benefit of an offseason, grew into the role. The gap lasted six games. McNabb was dreadful, and the Vikings weren't much better, sputtering to a 1-5 start that prompted Frazier to make a why-not change.

After the Vikings cut him on Dec. 1, McNabb sailed through waivers. Chicago determined Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown were better equipped to take over after Jay Cutler broke his thumb (they weren't). Houston decided third-stringer T.J. Yates was the best answer when Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart suffered season-ending injuries. The Texans even brought in Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia, while McNabb drew zero interest.

There still isn't a market for McNabb, so he must continue to work out and wait and hope a starter on a contending team without a reliable backup suffers a season-ending injury. Maybe then, McNabb's phone will ring.

As he waits for that day, McNabb has been spending time in San Diego with quarterback tutor George Whitfield. He told ESPN's Shelley Smith this week that he has dropped 15-20 pounds and is in "great shape." Asked where he would like to play, McNabb said: "I have a list. A full list, of 32."

Doing the math, a full list of 32 would include Philadelphia, the team that unceremoniously sent McNabb to a division rival two years ago in a move that screamed, "We know more than you." And the Eagles did.

Now, apparently, the rest of the league knows, too. Sadly, in most cases, the player is the last to know.