Donovan McNabb: In a No-Win Situation This Offseason?

Bryan FlynnAnalyst IJanuary 28, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 9:  Quarterback Donovan McNabb #5 of the Philadelphia Eagles walks off the field after not converting on fourth down in the second half during the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on January 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away, 30 of the 32 NFL teams have begun to get ready for the 2010 season. Every team in the league but the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints is starting to decide what changes they want to make for next season.

For two of those teams, the Arizona Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings, a new era could be under way at quarterback. These two teams are at the whims of Kurt Warner and Brett Favre as they both contemplate retirement.

A third team could find itself in the fall out of a Warner/Favre duel retirement. And that team is the Philadelphia Eagles and their quarterback Donovan McNabb.

There is interest in McNabb from both teams if their respective quarterbacks both decide to ride off into the sunset, although the Cardinals might decide to stick with their backup, Matt Leinart, and become a more run-oriented team.

The Vikings would like to trade for McNabb if Favre decides to retire for a third time. Minnesota would like to get McNabb for a second-round draft choice, but it is unlikely the Eagles would let him go for anything less than a first-round draft choice.

Even if the Vikings or the Cardinals make a move for McNabb, at 33 years of age, both teams have to wonder how much gas is left in the tank. Since 2001, McNabb has suffered various injuries ranging from broken bones to a torn ACL.

Minnesota and Arizona will have to bear in mind that McNabb has missed 22 games since 2000 with the Eagles. To compare, Favre has not missed a start in 286 games, and Warner has only missed four games as a starter for the Cardinals.

Taking a chance on McNabb could be risky given his injury history and the fact that he only has one year left on his contract. If he is traded, an injury to McNabb could derail a possible playoff spot.

The biggest question for both the Cardinals and the Vikings would be what to do with their backup quarterbacks. Arizona drafted Matt Leinart as the future in 2006, and the time has to come to find out if Leinart can be an NFL starter.

Minnesota already has a backup who helped lead them to the playoffs the year before Favre showed up. Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels are both ready to battle for the starting position.

The Vikings traded a fourth-round pick for Rosenfels before the 2009 season and drafted Jackson in 2006. Minnesota went out and got Favre this season in a Super-Bowl-or bust-mentality.

If Favre does decide to retire, Minnesota is in the same boat with the Cardinals. It is time to see if Jackson or Rosenfels can be starters in the NFL. The question facing both Arizona and Minnesota is do they put their eggs all in one basket or take a step back in 2010 and hope that 2011 is their year?

This story has even more moving parts because in Philadelphia, both Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick are looking for a chance to start. The Eagles have an option on Vick for the 2010 season, and Kolb’s contract runs out this year as well.

The Eagles have to make some tough choices this offseason. While it is highly unlikely that they will lose all three quarterbacks after next season, keeping two of the three will be hard.

Vick has already stated that his goal is to be a starter again in the NFL. One has to think that Kolb wants to be a starter as well. So do the Eagles hope that McNabb can get them to the Super Bowl or do they try with Kolb?

McNabb is under pressure, no matter what he happens to him. The Cardinals have made the playoffs the last two seasons and appeared in a Super Bowl just a year ago.

The Vikings have also made the playoffs the last two years and were just a game away from the Super Bowl this year. No matter where McNabb ends up, the expectations will be high and could end up defining his career.

One reason both Minnesota and Arizona might want to think twice about trading for McNabb was this season. The whole time McNabb has been in Philadelphia, he has never had the weapons he had this year.

One could argue that the 2004 season, when the Eagles went to the Super Bowl, was the year he had the most weapons. With players like Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, he could still only lead the Eagles to an 11-5 season and a wild card loss.

Both the Vikings and Cardinals have plenty of playmakers on offense, as well. If either team make a trade for McNabb, can he lead them to a Super Bowl?

Looking at the divisions, the NFC West would be a much better home for McNabb. The weather is not bad late in the season at home and it's one of the weakest divisions in the NFL.

With the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks rebuilding and the San Francisco 49ers still trying to build what could be a winner for a long time, Arizona would still be the class of this division. The NFC North could be just as hard to win as the NFC East.

Sure, the Detroit Lions are in their 20th year of rebuilding, but the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears both have the talent to win this division. Playing in a dome could have the same effect for McNabb as it did for Favre this season, as well.

The NFC East looks to be one of best divisions in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants should challenge for the division title and the Washington Redskins could improve greatly under Mike Shanahan.

Philadelphia also faces another question if a team will pay its asking price for McNabb. Do the Eagles want to have McNabb still in the NFC?

The possibility of facing McNabb in the playoffs or the regular season might prompt the Eagles to only trade him to AFC teams.  This would be much like the same strategy the Packers used with Favre.

If the only two teams really interested in McNabb are Minnesota and Arizona, it puts McNabb in a no-win situation. All three teams will come into the 2010 season with a Super-Bowl-or-bust mentality.

Donovan McNabb will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame when his career is done. The 2010 season could define his legacy after he retires.

A fresh start could help McNabb, who has not been a popular choice in the City of Brotherly Love. Even when he was drafted, he was famously booed by Eagles fans.

Three coaches could be putting their jobs on the line going with McNabb. Andy Reid has always stood by McNabb and another early exit in the playoffs could doom Reid, too.

In Minnesota, Brad Childress put his job on the line once luring Favre to the Twin Cities. A second try with McNabb and no Super Bowl could send Childress to the unemployment line.

Arizona might have the only coach that would be safe by picking up McNabb. After years of losing, the Cardinals management might give Ken Whisenhunt a little rope. Still, if the Cardinals get McNabb and miss the playoffs, Whisenhunt might hang himself with that rope.

The new start could rejuvenate McNabb, but if he ends up in Arizona or Minnesota, the pressure will be just as high. This season will dictate his market value after this season, no matter where he is.

Whichever of the three teams that does end up starting McNabb next season, it will be all about the playoffs and the Super Bowl. If McNabb does not deliver a championship, he will be a bust no matter where he goes.

This season could be a no-win situation for McNabb. Unless he can bring home a Super Bowl victory, he will be known as a second-tier quarterback, much like the way we remember Dan Marino.


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