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Although the Eagles haven’t really made a huge splash in the news lately, plenty of things have gone on this offseason in the wake of two blowout losses to the Dallas Cowboys to end the year. I would call these things “subtle tweaks” in trying to close the gap between them and Dallas. No Julius Peppers or Aaron Kampman, no Chester Taylor or LaDainian Tomlinson, still it’s not all bad.
In the front office, they have a new GM in Howie Roseman, which isn’t really a huge deal because we all know that Andy Reid has final say in personnel decisions. Heck, that’s why Tom Heckert got out of here, but I don’t know that Mike Holmgren will let him have a whole lot of power with Cleveland either. It is interesting that the GM role will switch from more of a scouting type with a football background to more of a money or Joe Banner type.
As far as players go, the Eagles resigned valuable offensive pieces Leonard Weaver and Jason Avant. They also brought in free agent safety Marlin Jackson from the Colts in what they are selling as a “low risk/high reward” type move that their front office seems to be pretty good at making, especially if you ask them. Even Hank Baskett and Kendra are back. An era ended when they released hobbled franchise running back Brian Westbrook where a lot of people could see the writing on the wall. They also cut ties with Will Witherspoon and Reggie Brown, who many (including me) weren’t particularly attached too. They also hired a couple of coaches away from Buffalo, recently fired head coach Dick Jauron (who will work with the defensive backs) and special teams guru Bobby April.
In the end, a lot of these things do not really register very highly with Eagles fans because the big topic around town is the same as it has been the last few years, the quarterback situation. Although nothing has really happened in the offseason to give any clues into what the team is thinking for next year, Eagles fans digest every rumor for even a slight hint.
The Eagles, simply put, have a surplus at the position with three guys and three different skill sets. Even more intriguing, they are all at different points in their careers but have justifiable reasons to want to play. Quickly, let’s take a look at where each guy stands as far as his place in the Eagles’ offense and future plans.
- Donovan McNabb- McNabb is in the final year of his contract after getting a raise when it was restructured for the last two years last summer. Everyone knows about all the records McNabb holds and his place in team history, but there could be something said for moving on. There is a growing sense of frustration amongst the fans that seems to trickle down to the team when things go wrong, and McNabb is guilty of getting very frustrated at times. McNabb can still play at a very high-level, and his ability to throw the ball downfield blends very well with the speedy, young receiving corps. As always though, his accuracy wavers, as evidenced by him missing a few big intermediate throws in the Dallas games. The big question is, “Are the Eagles a true Super Bowl contender heading into the season?” If the answer is yes, number five’s experience should give the team the best chance to win.
- Kevin Kolb- When the Eagles traded out of the 1st Round and drafted Kolb in the 2nd Round in 2007, many were left scratching their heads. The Eagles still had McNabb for four years, and Kolb would have time to learn the ropes of the NFL game after excelling in the spread offense against relatively weak competition in college. After McNabb was benched in the infamous Ravens game two seasons ago, Kolb was terrible, looking overwhelmed. At that point, I personally felt that it was a waste of a valuable draft pick, but he really was thrown into the fire against an excellent defense. Then this season came around, and Kolb started for a couple games after McNabb got hurt. In those games, the kid proved he can play, with over 300 yards passing in both games. Nobody had ever done that in their first two starts. Now I know it was the Saints (who picked him off three times) and the lousy Chiefs, but the Birds need to find out if we have something here. Kolb has impressed almost every scout I have read online and appears to be a more valuable commodity than McNabb to teams looking to rebuild like the Seahawks. On the field, he seems to be a much more natural fit for the West Coast Offense than McNabb, who often holds the ball too long. Throw in that he’s a decent athlete, and Kolb could be a very good quarterback in this league.
- Michael Vick- Besides all of the off-the-field stuff that surrounds Vick, it was very interesting to see probably the most dynamic player in the NFL try to make a comeback after sitting out two years. As if the McNabb/Kolb controversy wasn’t enough, the Eagles picked up Vick’s $1.5 million roster bonus in the first step towards retaining him this year. The Eagles are probably in over their heads if they think they can get anything better than a 4th Round pick for Vick, but maybe they want to see what falls into their lap on draft day. When Reid got excited talking about using Vick as another weapon to spread the defense out, it sounded all good. In reality, it took McNabb out of his rhythm to run long developing gadget plays that never really came to fruition. Vick did show glimpses of brilliance in a few games, but they were very brief and they didn’t make the huge impact that some unfairly expected. The wrench thrown into his status with the team is that Vick desperately wants to be a starter again wherever it is, even (gulp) St. Louis. The guy realizes that he is 30 years old and his athleticism is already deteriorating, so he wants to play, and who can blame him? He really didn’t show any qualification of being able to run the Eagles’ offense full-time with most of his plays coming out of the Shotgun. His throws were also pass/run options which an NFL offense can’t run every play.
The real question is what to do with this situation. I think that you can go one of two ways here. To me, the key guy is Kolb, because he is the best answer to be the long-term solution at the quarterback position. Regardless of what happens, he probably needs to stay here, because his quick release and three years of studying the offense shouldn’t be wasted with another team. It seems to me that the Eagles will be more willing to give up McNabb rather than Kolb. I can’t see the Eagles, who highly value their draft picks, trading a 2nd Round Pick who they haven’t given a chance. Now obviously if someone were to offer a big time defensive player (Shaun Rogers maybe?) or something like a Top 10 pick for Kolb, the Eagles would certainly have to listen. I’m operating under the assumption here that something like that won’t happen and the best offer for Kolb would be around a 2nd and 3rd. Here are their 2 options as I see them:
Option 1- Trade Vick, Keep McNabb and Kolb. The one thing that I’m sure about is that Vick can’t run this offense full-time. Even when they were calling it the West Coast Offense in his Atlanta days, Vick was leaning on a heavy running game, which he was a major part of. The Eagles don’t have the running game nor does Vick have the athleticism from those days anymore, at least not yet. So trade him for the best possible offer and be done with it. The rub with this scenario is that Kolb has to be itching to get on the field at some point, and this doesn’t help. When he sees guys like Trent Edwards and Chad Henne get chances to play (and he was drafted before them in their drafts), it has to be frustrating. If he would be willing to sit out one more year and let McNabb finish out his contract with the team, I’d be fine with this. McNabb is a proven quarterback who is the most likely guy to lead the team to Super Bowl if the Eagles truly prove to be that caliber of a team. Kolb’s contract expires after 2010, and although he says that he wants to play in this system, he might jump at the chance to play somewhere else if they promised him the starting job. He also shot down rumors that they have been in negotiations for an extension. That worries me.
I can think of two recent precedents here where there was a backup who had shown a lot of potential and flashed the ability to be a starter. The first was in Green Bay in 2008, when the Packers basically kicked out Brett Favre to get Aaron Rodgers a chance to play. OK, Favre didn’t help matters by retiring, but it was obvious that the Pack wanted him to give up the reins. Rodgers, who the Packers got late in the 1st Round, had sat on the bench for three years. The Packers ultimately made the right decision, even though it infuriated some members of their fan base to part with their hero Favre. McNabb is not nearly as beloved by the fans in Philly as Favre was in Green Bay, but he certainly has more productive years in him than Favre did at the time. It is certainly a difficult call. Ironically, Vick was a part of the other deal when Matt Schaub became a hot commodity as his backup. The Falcons were able to trade him for two 2nd Round picks and the ability to move up two spots in the 1st Round. That offer is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but the Falcons thought Vick was going to be there much longer than McNabb will be here. Schaub has been up and down in Houston, but he was terrific this year, and if he plays at a Pro Bowl level for years to come, the Texans won’t regret their decision to deal for him. Kolb could be that next hot commodity at the backup position.
Option 2- Trade McNabb, Keep Kolb and Vick. I think McNabb is perfect for a team like the Minnesota Vikings, who are ready to win now. If Brett Favre doesn’t come back (which he probably will because he’s Brett Favre), can you imagine how efficiently McNabb could run their offense? He could lean on the running game, and the offense won’t have to be as scaled back as it was for Favre. There certainly should be a market for him because he still is a very good, experienced quarterback. The problem here is that this is unlikely to happen because Andy Reid has been most adamant about keeping McNabb in town. This is important because when it comes to the Eagles’ front office, Andy Reid is the law. Again, there can be an argument that the Eagles are in need of a change of culture, and that would mean getting rid of McNabb rather than Reid, who isn’t going anywhere. Also, if the current team isn’t a Super Bowl contender, then why waste valuable time for Kolb to develop?
If the team were to determine that Vick could take on a greater role as the Wildcat quarterback, it might not affect Kolb as much as McNabb. I’m not sure how happy Vick will be in Philadelphia in any backup capacity, but if he were to have his snaps increased, he might have a better chance at landing a starting job after next year. McNabb did look out of sync at times after Vick entered the game. A young guy like Kolb may handle it better like Chad Henne in Miami, who has to sit out or line up wide more than anyone in the game.
I would be alright with either of these scenarios, but the Eagles look more and more likely to stand pat and keep all three quarterbacks. That seems like too much to me. If you make Kolb the 3rd string quarterback and he watches Vick be able to run around and play ahead of him, doubt might start to creep into his mind. He might start second guessing what the Eagles really think of him and might be swayed to go to another team that promises a starting job when his contract expires. I’m pretty sure that he knows that he is basically the true backup quarterback, but the Eagles wouldn’t be showing very much faith in him.
The other problem is with Vick. If McNabb gets hurt and the team goes to Kolb, Vick might be a little more ready to voice his displeasure with that situation. The Eagles certainly know what locker room drama can do to a team, so they wouldn’t want that to happen. The same thing could happen if Vick sees his playing time decrease because of McNabb wanting to keep a rhythm by playing every snap. Basically, too many things could go wrong.
I think that the answer boils down to one question: Do the Eagles have a realistic shot of making it to the Super Bowl? If the answer is yes, stay with McNabb, or if the answer is no, let’s start the Kevin Kolb Era.
About the Author: Rich is a Sophomore at Fordham University. His Dad and Uncle both work for the Philadelphia Daily News, and his family is crazy about Philadelphia sports. He is a die-hard Eagles, Phillies and Sixers fan.