When an injury takes a team down to its third quarterback, typically it’s over in terms of aspirations for further advancement.
Given McNabb’s background in the West Coast offense, and his lack of familiarity with the system utilized by offensive coordinator Mike Martz, such a suggestion might seem somewhat ridiculous. But ultimately, it’s about players, not just the schemes (that's why fans can expect to see Kyle Orton replace Tyler Palko at some point Sunday when the Bears host the Kansas City Chiefs). That realistically makes McNabb a more attractive option for the club -- in the event that current starter Caleb Hanie goes down with an injury -- than recently-acquired backup Josh McCown.
No knock on McCown, but there’s a reason Chicago put in a claim last week for Orton, the former Bears quarterback, along with the Dallas Cowboys when he was released by the Denver Broncos. While a couple of days of practice aren’t a fair barometer to pass judgment, multiple sources have said McCown has shown definite signs of rust this week during workouts. That’s to be expected from a quarterback that hasn’t played in the NFL since 2009.
McNabb, meanwhile, played six games this season for the Minnesota Vikings, throwing for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 82.9 before giving way as the starter in October to rookie Christian Ponder.
Whether he’s familiar with Martz’s system seems relative when compared to the alternative. McNabb, 35, would give the Bears a much better chance to win than McCown if Hanie falters. First off, playing in front of his hometown fans might serve as a major motivating factor for McNabb. Besides that, it’s important to note McNabb’s extensive experience in big games. In Philadelphia, McNabb led the Eagles to five division crowns, and played in six NFC title games, not to mention a Super Bowl.
Compare that to McCown’s body of work, which involves 31 starts, 6,587 passing yards and more interceptions (40) than touchdowns (35).
McNabb is owed approximately $1.5 million on his contract. But that figure shouldn’t pose much of a problem for the Bears, considering they were willing to pay Orton close to $2.6 million over the last six weeks of the season.
Sitting at 24th in waiver-claim priority, the Bears would almost assuredly encounter competition for McNabb’s services from the quarterback-challenged Houston Texans (26th) and the Cowboys (21), which are searching for a capable backup due to concerns that Jon Kitna’s back issues could knock him out for the season.
So landing McNabb through waivers won’t be an automatic.
But not putting in the claim at all, almost automatically ends this team’s season if injury takes down Hanie and starter Jay Cutler isn’t sufficiently healed to pick up the slack.