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The latest Donovan McNabb  controversy started Wednesday when Eagles Coach Andy Reid told the media  Bill Vargusat the NFL meetings in Orlando that he has received trade offers on all three of the team’s quarterbacks, and that he’s “keeping my ears open.”

McNabb responded with a blog post  in which he said he hopes “whichever direction the Eagles decide to go in, they do it quickly.”

Then, “quickly”, the rumor began circulating that McNabb would be traded to St. Louis for the Rams’ 2nd round pick (which is the first pick in the round) and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (nicknamed O.J. for short.)

Just as quickly, Rams’ management denied the rumors. And I believe them, because such a deal doesn’t make any sense for them. Why would the team with the worst record in the NFL trade for a 33-year old quarterback? And give up draft picks for a QB whose contract expires after next year? And why would McNabb sign an extension to play with a team that’s going to be bad for many years more? The Rams have the first overall pick, and they’re considering using it on a quarterback; they’ll be watching Sam Bradford  work out on Monday. And, oh, by the way, Atogwe is a restricted free agent who hasn’t signed his offer and can’t be traded until he does.

But if the Eagles can find a trading partner who will package a good safety and a decent draft pick, they should trade McNabb without a second thought.

I say that as someone who has resisted the idea of trading McNabb for a long time. But like most everyone else in Philly, I’ve grown tired of the errant passes, and of seeing him come up short so many times in really big games. If a guy isn’t good enough to win a Super Bowl, then it’s time to move onto the next guy. If, after a few years, that guy (Kevin Kolb) appears incapable of taking you to the Emerald City, move on again, until you finally find a Wizard who can grant your Super Bowl wish.

That’s all there is to it. I don’t care about him playing air guitar or doing Michael Jackson moves before a game. Don’t care about his facial Has Donovan McNabb's time run out in Philly?expressions or the other things that many people harp on. I find it amazing, actually, that after a game this year in which every single receiver dropped open passes, every radio talk show caller complained about McNabb’s look of frustration, while saying nothing about the actual drops. (DeSean Jackson, who let a couple slip through his hands, got away without so much as a word of complaint.) Everything McNabb does is magnified and criticized, sometimes unfairly. I’ve sat in many news conferences and listened to him answer questions honestly, then watched the newspaper headline writers blow it completely out of proportion. (If you read the actual article, it’s usually much more balanced, but the headline has already made a false impression, and besides, who actually reads an entire article? I’m surprised you’ve read this far.)

And, yes, even we TV guys are sometimes guilty of playing sound bites out of context in order to cash in on the hype.

When McNabb said that he gets criticized more because he’s black, whites responded with outrage, incorrectly believing that he was accusing all of them of being racist. In reality, he was saying that there are some biased reporters; that day, I counted 62 media folk at his news conference, and all but a few were white. And while whites would like to believe that racism no longer exists in America, the truth is, there’s still a lot of it around, as evidenced by the recent situation in which tea-party conservatives screamed the N-word at black congressman  during the health care vote.

It’s not outrageous to believe that out of 60 guys, some may have prejudices toward a black quarterback.

On the other side of the coin, there are some African-Americans who will always defend a black person, even when that person doesn’t deserve it. Somehow, though, McNabb has never received that protection. I’m still amazed that a group of African-Americans would stage a counter-demonstration at an Eagles game on behalf of dog-killer Michael Vick, but never speak up in support of McNabb, who has been an outstanding role model throughout his career.

But that’s not the case for Varnell Holloman, the 82-year old woman affectionately known in my household as “Granny Birt”, because she’s helped to raise my 12-year old daughter almost from birth. Granny is the sweetest person on earth--until she senses racism. Then steam comes out of her ears. She is old enough to remember the days when African-Americans weren’t allowed to play quarterback, because they were supposedly not intelligent enough, and she always roots for every black QB to succeed. When the Eagles decided Randall Cunningham was finished, she screamed “racism”, even though I reminded her that the coach who benched him was black (Ray Rhodes), as was the man who replaced Randall (Rodney Peete). She’s been equally strong in her support of McNabb; she hated it when Jeff Garcia replaced Donovan and became the darling of Philadelphia. “Those receivers catch the ball for that guy,” she said. “How come they don’t do it for Donovan?”

Maybe because McNabb throws the ball too hard. After eleven years, he’s still got the same weaknesses. A good part of it is Reid’s coaching, because his dink and dunk system has never fit the strong-armed McNabb, who has no touch and throws it into the dirt whenever he tries to adjust. And if Reid ever realized that his QB is not good enough to carry the team himself, and stopped calling 40 passes a game, maybe McNabb could win a Bowl. Even Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl  when the Ravens depended heavily on their running game and great defense and only asked him to manage the game.

But Reid will never do that. So it’s time for a quarterback change.

But I was wondering how to say that to Granny, to tell her that my first article would call for McNabb to go. Then, as I was making small talk, she said to me,” And what about the Eagles? It’s time for everyone to go!”

And I said, “Everyone? McNabb, too?” And Granny answered, “The coach, the quarterback, get rid of them all. Time to start over.”

I couldn’t agree more. But since the coach isn’t going anywhere, at least the quarterback has to change.


Bill Vargus is an Emmy Award Winner for Best Sports Anchor for 2008 and 2009. (Mid-Atlantic region, covering all of Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware.) Bill has been a TV sports anchor in the Philadelphia area for 18 years with the last 12 coming at Fox 29. He’s also had stops at Channel 10, Channel 12, plus at other television markets around the country. He has also served as the pre-game host for all Seventy-Sixers games in the past and also has acted in films, TV shows and commercials.

He can be contacted at billv@philly2philly.com