Why, then, would McNabb, in his own words, "lobby" for Vick to become an Eagle?
I think it says plenty about McNabb's mindset.
You play all 10 years of your NFL career in one place, in one city, for one franchise and the hate and love, the angst and joy swirl ubiquitously. It is no secret that the relationship between McNabb and coach Andy Reid, the Eagles franchise and the fans has been peppered with lively accord mixed with cruel strain.
How Vick fits in Philly
This is what McNabb recently told me after an Eagles training camp practice about his 2008 benching: "A lot of stuff went down with that deal. It worked out well, but it could have ended very differently. I had my say about it. They had their say. We'll leave it at that. I still have questions why. But we have all moved on."
The sentiment in Eagles camp during my visit was that McNabb's two-year extension with the club was basically a two-year adieu. That McNabb had a two-year window to win a championship before both he and the Eagles permanently move on. And that would be revisited based on the results. What if McNabb wins the next two Super Bowls? Well, that could change the thinking all around. In this league, championships have a way of doing that.
McNabb feels a connection, a link with Vick. McNabb knows better than most the harsh and specific road of African-American NFL quarterbacks.
I believe he is feeling as secure about his Eagles standing as ever. I think he can handle this with an eye on the present and future.
He knows that today's NFL offensive game is all about being multiple. Michael Vick in the mix makes the Eagles offense much more multiple. And since the Eagles have already surrounded McNabb with more potentially potent offensive weapons than he has ever enjoyed, McNabb is confident. He is appreciative that his voice, his desire for more weapons, has finally been heard. McNabb believes that Vick is another weapon in this offense that can bring the Eagles closer to a championship. And he has enough fondness for the organization and for Vick that if a championship or two does not pan out over the next two seasons, his potential successor at quarterback leaves the Eagles and the player in good hands.
You have to smile when you hear Reid say about Vick: "I'll think of something for him."
No doubt, Reid will. His teaching of and understanding of offense and particularly the passing game is elite. Reid excels at matchups -- creating them, exploiting them. Versatility and varied offensive tools are this coach's dream.
Reid knows that McNabb, in his 10 seasons with the Eagles, has only four times played an entire 16-game schedule. Few Super Bowl champions have won it all without a distinct backup quarterback. Reid knows that running back Brian Westbrook, in his seven NFL seasons, has never started 16 games. This coach believes in weapons, competition, depth, answers to injury. Vick fits that.
It was Tony Dungy who helped Reid reach this conclusion on Vick. It says plenty that in his introductory Eagles news conference Friday morning, Vick sat between Dungy and Reid.
Dungy was steering Vick toward the Pittsburgh Steelers. Reid entered and listened to Dungy's assurance that Vick had, foremost, grown as a person. The football stuff, Dungy was assuring there, too. But Reid needed no reminder that this quarterback -- the first player selected in the 2001 draft, only 29 years old, the owner of an impressive 71-52 touchdown/interception tally and producer of 21 rushing touchdowns -- is beyond your basic NFL talent.
Here is a key element that both McNabb and Reid realize about Vick: This Eagles locker room will not only embrace the player, but it will be energized. Football players respect other football players who can do things on the field that they cannot do. Their excitement in his ability, in watching it, in daily exposure to it, will help others maximize their abilities. It helps raise the bar of performance all around for the Eagles. For McNabb, for Reid, that is a good thing.
Finally, McNabb says he is not threatened by Vick's arrival. I think that is credible because McNabb has come to his best peace with his Eagles tenure and realizes the end is closer than most realize. I believe he is more confident about what he can do this season with this bunch than with any Eagles team that has surrounded him.
I think McNabb is certain that this is a season where he can take care of business.
And that he is prepared to tackle the pressures that come with making that a reality.