Could an NFL Lockout Keep McNabb in Philly?

Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith NFL Lockout

So there’s plenty of discussion about the impending collective bargaining between the NFL and the Players Union (maybe the most talked about story other than the Eagles Offseason QB Clusterf%$k™). Many, many league sources and reporters are suggesting that there’s a high likely of no football in 2011.

I have zero expertise on the complex labor issues at hand. All I know is what I read, and with every day that passes it seems more and more likely there could be a lockout after this season.

So what would that mean for the Eagles quarterback situation? Obviously it’s tough to say exactly, but let’s speculate. We’ll work from the premise that a lockout is likely for 2011, that we’ll miss one year of football — but no more. General thoughts:

  • McNabb cannot be counted on to come back after a year off. Entering a season in which he would turn 36, without any football the previous year? That sounds like a bad combination.
  • Kevin Kolb will be in the prime of his career. Could an off year stunt his development? Maybe. But he’s still probably a better option than McNabb in the 2012 return year.
  • Jettisoning players after and/or during the lockout season could potentially be much easier — and easier to defend/justify. Presumably there would be a great deal of turnover, as some players retire, and a whole host of new, rookie bodies (from two drafts) flood in.

This is actually one of the more interesting reasons why the Eagles might choose to keep McNabb as the starter in 2010. Why take the huge risk of trading McNabb now when you can do so with less rancor, fewer questions, and minor drama in a year? Andy Reid could say he tried his best with McNabb and wish him good luck elsewhere, without stabbing him in the back. Avoiding all that trouble could be worth it to the Eagle front office.

Secondly, if 2011 is a wasted year, what is the point of starting Kolb this season? We’ve established that Kolb is probably going to be worse than McNabb this year (the degree of that difference is the question, of course), but starting him now theoretically sets the Eagles up to play well for the next 5+ years as Kolb hits his prime. However, if there’s no future, or a scarred future, for the league after 2010, why play for that goal?

What I’m saying is it comes down to payoffs (again, assuming we have a league lockout in 2011):

  1. McNabb stays, and plays great this year. He leaves during transition — no hard feelings anywhere since McNabb is old and without contract. Kolb starts in 2012 at 28 years old.
  2. McNabb stays, and plays mediocre this year. He leaves during transition — no hard feelings anywhere since McNabb is old and not very good any more. Kolb starts in 2012 at 28 years old.
  3. McNabb stays, and gets hurt. Kolb steps in at 26 years old and takes over starting job permanently. McNabb leaves during transition — no hard feelings anywhere since he is old and hurt. Maybe he even retires.

If you knew there was going to be a lockout, keeping McNabb seems like a smart move without any massive deterrent. Trading McNabb now, on the other hand, causes all sorts of bad publicity, then sets you up with a potentially worse QB for the one make or break season — without actually helping the future all that much.

Obviously this is all speculation based on how likely a lockout is. If the Eagles are assuming there will be football (and the argument could be easily made that doing so is their responsibility), the best move is probably to get something for McNabb now and start the Kolb era. But, if they see empty locker rooms in 2011, then keeping Donovan for a year could prove more worthwhile.