NFL Handicapping: What McNabb Injury Means for Eagles Bettors
by Trevor Whenham - 9/15/2009
With one ill-conceived and totally unnecessary scramble by Donovan McNabb the Eagles found themselves with a gigantic headache - one that could linger for weeks. Up 31-10 against a painfully inept Carolina team, McNabb left the pocket to scramble three yards for a touchdown. As he entered the endzone a clean hit left him writhing on the ground in pain, grabbing his back. He'd broken a rib, and created a world of questions. We don't know for sure if McNabb will miss any playing time, but we do know that he is in a lot of pain, and that if he does play next week he won't be at 100 percent. You have to really wonder why someone as important as McNabb was still in a game that was long since over, and why he was taking unnecessary risks like this even if he was, but that's a different issue.
Let's look at what this situation could mean to the Eagles:
If McNabb can play - At this point, an injured Donovan McNabb is still probably Philadelphia's best quarterback option. That doesn't mean that he's a good option, though. Lost in the overwhelming Philadelphia victory over the clearly struggling Panthers was one thing - McNabb wasn't good. He passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, but he only passed for 79 yards, and he averaged a troubling 4.4 yards per attempt. That's a frustrating effort, and that was when he was completely healthy.
If he can play then the rib will limit his ability to run, and it could limit his throwing motion as well. More concerning than that, you know that the Saints' pass rush will be charging hard at McNabb and will be doing everything they can to take another shot at his rib if they get to him. That will have one of two effects - either they will succeed and he will be further injured, or they won't get him but he'll still be affected by the possibility. Either way, McNabb is going to be at less than his best.
In the first week of the season we learned that the Saints can score almost at will. The Eagles were sound defensively in the first game of the season, but they struggled in the preseason and they are adjusting to a new coordinator, so nothing is certain. That almost certainly means that the Saints are going to be able to score again here, so the Eagles will have to be able to score as well if they want to keep it close. This injury isn't going to make that task any easier.
If McNabb can't play - As bleak as the worst-case scenario is if McNabb does play, it may be even worse if he doesn't. With Michael Vick still out of action with a suspension there are two options beyond McNabb and neither is ideal.
The first and most likely is Kevin Kolb, the supposed heir apparent in Philadelphia. He may be the future, but the future doesn't seem to be now. He's in his third year with the team but he hasn't seen much action and he hasn't looked good in the action he has seen. He has thrown just 45 career passes, and four of those have been intercepted. He completed seven of his 11 passes in relief of McNabb last Sunday, but that amounted to just 23 yards, or 2.2 yards per attempt - a long, long way from acceptable in the NFL and essentially meaningless since the game was totally over by the time he came in. Kolb would have to show something we have not previously seen from him if the Eagles hope to have any chance of keeping up with the Saints.
The other option is the newly-signed Jeff Garcia. Garcia was with the Eagles in 2006, and the offense hasn't changed substantially since then, so Garcia will be able to get comfortable quickly. He also enjoyed some success when called on to start when McNabb was injured back then. He only joined the team on Monday, though, and he hasn't played yet this year. That means that there will be a steep learning curve. As a veteran who is used to changing teams by now Garcia will be better suited than most players to succeed here. It would require incredible optimism, though, to assume he could step in and make an impact as soon as this week. I like the guy a lot and I don't even believe that.
Possibility of a QB controversy down the line - As concerning as the short-term future is, this injury could have opened the doors to more problems down the line. McNabb is far from the least sensitive person on the planet. He almost started World War III last year when he was benched during the worst outing of his career, so he won't take well to having a legitimate challenge come his way. That was already a concern with Vick around - not necessarily that Vick was ready to be a star, but that the fans would call for him to get a chance if McNabb struggles. Now Garcia, a guy who has succeeded with this team and who clearly can still play, is another source of potential pressure for McNabb. Garcia left Oakland reportedly in part because he knew he wasn't going to get a chance to play, so it is unfathomable that he would come to Philadelphia and then be totally content carrying a clipboard all year. This injury meant that the team felt that they had to make a move that could cause real problems down the line.
Then there is the question of Kolb. The youngster already had to have had his ego battered around by the signing of Vick. Now he's been further ostracized by the addition of Garcia. You have to believe that this is a sign that Kolb's future with the team is dim. It might not be easy for him to adapt to this.
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