Donovan McNabb asked to be released from the Vikings and the team quickly obliged. Minnesota announced this afternoon they have waived the veteran signal caller. McNabb will now be placed on waivers, where the 31 other teams may claim if they so choose. If no one puts in a waiver claim by 3 p.m. tomorrow, he will become a free agent.
The Vikings traded two sixth round picks this past offseason to the Washington Redskins for McNabb, in the hopes he could serve as a short-term starter and mentor to Christian Ponder. Yet it only took six games before coach Leslie Frazer and company had seen enough and made the switch to the rookie. McNabb hasn't seen a snap on offense since midway through Week 6, which was the impetus for his trade request.
There are a number of NFL teams that, due to injury, could use a six-time Pro Bowl signal caller. One of those clubs is the Chicago Bears. Jay Cutler's thumb injury has left the team scrambling for answers. They tried last week to claim Kyle Orton off waivers but were beat out by the Kansas City Chiefs.
As a result, Caleb Hanie has been thrust into the starter's role. He threw three interceptions in his first career start this past Sunday, crippling the team's chances at a road victory over the Oakland Raiders. The team believes Cutler could come back before the end of the regular season, yet the quarterback didn't sound overly optimistic at yesterday's pres conference and admitted he could be done for the year.
QB Donovan McNabb
So with the chips falling as they have, should the Bears put in a claim for McNabb? The team signed Josh McCown a week ago, a journeyman who has spent most of his career as a backup. Chicago now has to decide if they would feel more comfortable inserting McCown or McNabb in a late-season game in the midst of a playoff push.
Which player gives them the best chance at victory if one has to start a playoff game?
McNabb has played in five NFC Championships and a Super Bowl. He was player of the year in 2004 and is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. McCown has never started a playoff game. On the surface, it would appear to be a no brainer.
Yet there are other factors at play here. First off, McCown played under coordinator Mike Martz in 2006 when the two were together in Detroit. He has a good grasp of Martz's complicated system. McNabb, on the other hand, would be opening a brand new playbook revolving around a system with which he's not even remotely familiar. Throughout his entire career, McNabb is played in a version of the West Coast offense, which is almost the polar opposite of Martz's downfield schemes.
There's also the factor that McNabb has stunk the past two years. He's lost the ability to throw the deep ball and seems scared to do so. He averaged just 180 yards passing per game this season and did nothing but dink and dunk. Check-down passes have become his best friend. His accuracy has also deteriorated measurably. Additionally, old age has sapped him of his legs and he's no longer a threat to run, a huge aspect of his game during his prime.
All that said, I still believe the Bears will put in a claim for McNabb. He's not an ideal option, or even a good option, but he's the best option available right now. He could come in and serve as the backup, learning Martz's system as he goes. And if Hanie falters, the team could fall back on McNabb's experience.
His numbers this season have been painfully mediocre, yet in six starts he threw just two interceptions. In essence, he's a pure game manager. At this point, that's all Chicago needs. If Hanie had managed Sunday's contest and not thrown three picks, the Bears would be sitting at 8-3 right now. The defense and special teams are playing very well, and Matt Forte is having an MVP season. All McNabb has to do is come in and not lose games for the team.
Even at age 35, I think that's something he can handle.
The Houston Texans are another team in desperate need of help at the quarterback position. Yet the Bears are higher up on the waiver wire list. If both teams put in a claim, McNabb will go to Chicago.
Don't sleep on the Dallas Cowboys during this waiver process. Last week the Cowboys, who have the same record as the Bears and will likely be battling with Chicago for a playoff spot, put in a claim on Kyle Orton just so he wouldn't come to the Windy City. Dallas is higher on the waiver order, so don't be surprised if they employ that tactic again with McNabb.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.