The chain of succession is in place — the young quarterback, Kevin Kolb, is in the wings. McNabb is 31 years old going into this season and hasn’t really been Donovan McNabb for a full season since 2004. The only time the Eagles made the playoffs in the last three years, they got lugged there by Jeff Garcia, for God’s sake.
The drama unfolding in Wisconsin ... could it be happening here in Philly in the not too distant future?
“I think you’re too early on that because he’s going to prove you wrong,” says Eagles right tackle Jon Runyan, who has been in the NFL since 1996. “That’s the type of guy he is. People are always trying to write you off. Someday he’ll just walk away from it instead of being pushed out of it. That’s the kind of person he is and the kind of drive he has. He doesn’t want anybody telling him he’s done. He’ll tell you when he’s done.”
It’s the circle of NFL life. For most players, the stay at the top is fleeting. The buzzards are always circling, watching for signs of decline so that the “new era” can be ushered in and the process can restart.
And as much as any player in recent memory, McNabb’s dealt with an annual swirl of questions about his Philly future.
“He’s gone through more than anybody that I’ve ever coached,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. “More than anyone I’ve heard about. Some of it is the climate we live in nowadays. Some of it is the city we’re in. Some of it is the position he plays. And he’s handled it with class and character.”
If Mornhinweg is to be believed, this year McNabb may shut us up for a while. Even allowing for the rampant optimism every team has in July, there is concrete proof McNabb is poised to be Donovan McNabb again.
The quicks seem to be back. Coming off a torn ACL in 2006, McNabb was without his trademark mobility. And during a fairly stationary 2007, he was sacked 44 times in 14 games, including 12 times by the New York Giants in September.
He had a good season statistically — 19 touchdowns against seven interceptions and a quarterback rating of 89.9 — but the Eagles finished 8-8 and needed a three-game winning streak at the end to get to .500.
But Mornhinweg said that last year will help McNabb get to the next level.
“Donovan became a better quarterback last year,” he said. “Going into last year, he was certainly healthy enough to play. But he was not near healthy enough to be Donovan McNabb. And so he became a better quarterback. Because of the lack of mobility he learned many things throughout his playing time. And now he’s got it all back it appears. He’s 100 percent healthy and running and gunning again.”
Back where he was?
“He’s worked so hard that I believe he’s going to be really close to where he was,” said Mornhinweg. “Most guys don’t get close. I think he’s pretty close and you’ll see it on the field.”
“It's a big change as far as the way the body is responding after practice,” McNabb said Tuesday. “It’s also how I feel out there. I’m using my legs a lot, which is something I focused on throughout the offseason. And, you know, the release and ball placement is going really well so far.”
McNabb is also in a state of relative bliss this camp. There are no contract or injury issues to discuss. No playoff disappointment to revisit. No ex-teammate taking potshots at him.
“In 10 years, this may be the first time when I don't have to answer questions about myself, so if you guys can keep it that way, it would be excellent,” McNabb joked to the media.
As much scrutiny as McNabb has been under in his career in Philly, he doesn’t seem to have the fatigue factor that seemingly led to Brett Favre’s Hamlet act in Green Bay.
“The great players I’ve coached — and Donovan has a chance to be a first ballot Hall of Famer — but all the great players have the mentality that they never stop learning,” Mornhinweg said. “The game changes so fast. Week to week. Even day to day. And if they’ve got that mentality that they’ve got to continue to keep learning, then it stays fresh for them. Fatigue mentally (for McNabb)? I don’t think so. He’s a very strong mental person. I have not seen (fatigue).”
Runyan marveled at the fact that, even with the annual agitating that goes on around McNabb, he can be so fresh.
“There’s a point where you wonder why people can’t just leave him alone,” Runyan said. “He can walk away from it and not confront it and it would go away. But he kind of just (battles it). In a way he kind of thrives on it. You do wonder (how he deals with it).”
Twice on Tuesday, McNabb alluded to never wanting to leave Philadelphia. Once, it was when asked about a teammate who had come to the Eagles this season. McNabb said he doesn’t even want to play for another team. Later, asked about left tackle Tra Thomas’ long-term future, McNabb said, “I’ll be back. Tra will be back. Runyan will be back. All the guys over 30 will be back.”
Is he whistling past the graveyard? Or is Donovan McNabb 2.0, with retrospeed and improved pocket passing, about to be unveiled?
Questions. Us buzzards, always with the questions.
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
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