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Who is Schefter's Mystery Team?

Team X Out for McNabb
By Lance Epstein

Everyone loves to solve a mystery and act like a police detective, but not often do we get the chance to do so. Today is different as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that there is a "mystery" team that has been asking about Donovan McNabb's availability.

So who is the mystery team? Using logic and the powers of deduction one can solve the possible teams that could be team "X".

So far the usual suspects in the McNabb sitcom have been the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills. These three have been the most connected to the story, so they can be eliminated as the potential mystery.

Two possible teams that could be trade partners are the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers. However according to Schefter, neither are the mystery team.

With the exclusion of those five teams, we are left with only 26 teams that could be wheeling-and-dealing with the Eagles (Eagles are not involved in trading for McNabb since he is only the team so instead of 27 it is 26).

Yet another process of elimination is to eliminate the organizations that already have franchise quarterbacks or have too much money vested at the quarterback position to make a move. The most obvious teams that fall into this categories are the New England Patriots (Tom Brady), Indianapolis Colts (Peyton Manning), New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees), Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers), San Diego Chargers (Phillip Rivers), New York Jets (Mark Sanchez), Detroit Lions (Matt Stafford), Houston Texans (Matt Schaub), Baltimore Ravens (Joe Falcco), New York Giants (Eli Manning) and Atlanta Falcons (Matt Ryan). After taking out these 11 teams, there is only 15 possible teams left.

The next group are the teams with good starting quarterbacks but they have failed to win big playoff games or have questions surrounding their play. Nevertheless, these teams might have some interest in McNabb but are highly unlikely to make a trade to bring him onboard. Those teams would be the Cincinnati Bengal with Carson Palmer, Dallas Cowboys with Tony Romo and Chicago Bears with Jay Cutler. Each one of these teams have seen their "franchise quarterback" struggle in the post-season or with consistency. In spite of that, all of them are younger then McNabb and have more upside in the long run.

Now the "mystery" team is down to 13 possible destinations. A team that most would think that is absurd is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yet with Ben Roethlisberger's pending sexual assault case, coach Mike Tomlin and the Rooney Family could be washing their hands of the two-time Super Bowl champion.

A indication that they might be doing this is that the Steelers told him not to come to mini-camps due to being a distraction. Also, this is his second sexual assault case brought forward in the past year. The first time is one thing, but a second time you have to start questioning Roethlisberger's judgment or if he actually did what he is being accused of. On talent alone, Big Ben belongs with the 11 teams mentioned above with franchise quarterbacks.

Despite this, I do not think Pittsburgh is the mystery team, but it makes sense as one-year stop gap incase Roethlisberger cannot play this year (wouldn't need a extension with McNabb is Big Ben returns in 2011). Or if he is released then they could use McaNabb for a year and look to the draft to find his long-term replacement.

If you subtract the Steelers then there are only 12 possible teams. Dan Synder and the Washington Redskins are another team that can be eliminated. The Redskins play in the NFC East, which is the same division as the Eagles. As much as new head coach Mike Shanahan would love the six-time Pro Bowl quarterback, the Eagles will not trade him within the division unless they got two first rounders. Shanahan will not and should not do this, so they can be taken off the board.

One place that McNabb would certainly like to be traded to is Arizona (where he lives). While the Cardinals have Matt Leinart and recently signed veteran Derek Anderson, their quarterback situation is not set by any means.

Leinart has not shown improvement since has come into the league. If the last game of the regular season where Leinart started against the Packers was any indication, things are not looking too good for the Cardinals in 2010. As for Anderson, he has shown flashes of being a good quarterback, but in the past two seasons he has been awful.

Even with two quarterbacks with starter experience on the roster and one being a former high first round draft pick, do not expect them to be involved in trade discussions. Plus, if you believe the Cardinals' GM Rod Graves, they have absolutely "no interest".

Two teams that would've been potential "mystery" teams are the Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs. Before Seattle signed Charlie Whitehurst to a 2-year $10 million contract, they were looking at the aging Matt Hasselbeck as the starter with no backup on the roster (since they traded Seneca Wallace to Cleveland). Now, new head coach Pete Carroll has Whitehurst and Hasselbeck to compete for the starting job.

Still, Carroll has stated he wanted a big splash in his first year. However, Whitehurst is an up and coming quarterback that needs the repetitions and playing time to develop. Or at least seeing if he is capablity of being a starting NFL quarterback. So bring McNabb to the Pacific Northwest, when Carroll already has Hasselbeck impinging on Whitehurst's playing time, does not makes a whole lot of sense.

As for the Chiefs, they just traded a high draft pick last year for Matt Cassel. Furthermore, they have invested too much money to give up on him after one year. Plus he was not the sole problem with the Chiefs offense. They need to improve the line so that he has a chance to replicate the success he had with the Patriots. Needless to say, Cassel still might turn out to be a bust for the Chiefs, but it is too early in the process to throw in the towel.

Another team that could be removed is the Tennessee Titans. Before the Titans finished the season on a roll (started 0-6), head coach Jeff Fisher was probably in-line for McNabb's services. Although with the way the team caught fire and just kept winning games with Vince Young under center (went 8-2) it doesn't look likely McNabb will be playing in Tennessee. Young demonstrated that can flourish as a starter and seems to be rededicated to the game. This makes it very hard to imagine that Young won't be the starter next year or that they are willing to giving up a high draft choice for McNabb.

When you trim down those teams mentioned above, you are left with six possible franchises. Those teams are the Dolphins, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Vikings, Broncos and Browns.

The one team in that group that makes a ton of sense as a "mystery" team is Minnesota. While the Vikings say they will give Brett Favre all the time to make his decision of whether to retire or not, they might feel like McNabb gives the franchise more stability over the next three-to-five seasons (Favre is 38 years old and McNabb is only 33). Also, the Vikings could be looking for insurance incase Favre decides to retire.

Even so, do not be surprised if the Vikings are looking into McNabb's services since Favre is too mistake prone. Favre had one of his best years of his career, but he still managed to make a critical turnover in the game's biggest moment. The memory of Favre's late interception in the the NFC Championship game might be giving the Vikings second thoughts on bringing him back.

On the other hand, every expert seems to think Favre will comeback for another season. Additionally, Favre will not costs head coach Brad Childress any draft picks, whereas McNabb does. So do not expect the Vikings to be that "mystery" team.

Finally, we're down to the five prime suspects. The least likely of the teams in this scenario would be the Miami Dolphins. Last season, Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano handed the keys over to Chad Henne. Henne was very impressive for a first-time starter.

In the last five games of the season, Henne threw for 300 yards or more in three of those five games. In addition, he threw for 2,878 yards in only 13 starts. Personally, he looks like the real deal at QB and could finally be the guy that replaces Dan Marino. Besides Henne, the Dolphins resigned Chad Pennington and have Tyler Thigpen along with Pat White as backups, so there does not seem to be much room at the QB position.

Yet, Parcells has said before that McNabb is a special player that he admires and thinks very highly of. While they do have their potential quarterback of the future, McNabb allows them to compete with the upstart Jets and the powerhouse Patriots next season. Although, Henne's performance down the stretch is a big reason that the Dolphins are more likely to stay the course with Henne.

The final team that can be crossed off-the-list is the Tampa Buccaneers. Last year, first-year head coach Raheem Morris drafted quarterback Josh Freeman out of Kansas State. He was and is supposed to be the quarterback that bring the franchise back to glory. Of course McNabb makes some sense since there have been rumors that Morris could be on his way out of town if the team struggles again this upcoming season.

Nonetheless, the fans want to see if Freeman was worth the investment. Also, Tampa Bay has too many other positions to fill to give up a high second round pick for McNabb.

At last, it is down to the three teams that make the most amount of sense as a "mystery" team. First, the Denver Broncos could use a premiere starting quarterback. Granted they traded for Brady Quinn and have Kyle Orton. But neither have the talent or pedigree like McNabb. Orton needs ball control in order to win games, whereas McNabb can still win games for a team by himself and in a shootout.

As for Quinn, the acquisition of McNabb would allow head coach Josh McDaniels to groom and bring him along slowly. Even though Quinn has failed to impress anyone in his first couple of seasons in the league, he is only 25. McNabb could be the quarterback for two or three seasons and give them Super Bowl aspirations until Quinn is ready to take over (very similar situation with him and Kevin Kolb).

Ultimately, McDaniels knows that the division is up for grabs with the Chargers taking a couple steps backwards this off-season. If the Broncos keep Brandon Marshall (I think they do...no one wants a headache for a first rounder), they have the weapons to be a contender with McNabb on board.

The second "mystery" team that could be in the fold is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, there have been some small rumblings about the Jaguars making a push for McNabb's services, but nothing like the Rams, Bills and Raiders.

McNabb to Jacksonville makes sense for a variety of reasons. One reason is that the Jaguars need to bring fans to the games. Jacksonville has one of the poorest attendance in the league. If they could somehow workout a deal for McNabb, they could bring some of the casual fans to the games.

Moreover, with Maurice-Jones Drew in the backfield and McNabb under center, the Jaguars could be very dynamic. Also, the Jags own the 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft. They could possibly select another weapon for McNabb in Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant. Drew, McNabb and Bryant would provided the Jaguars with an explosive offense and a formula to be successful in the post-season.

Besides those two reasons, head coach Jack Del Rio is on the hot seat. Ownership expected the team to be competitive over the last two seasons and they have failed to even be at .500. McNabb could be the player that saves Del Rio's job and prevents the Jaguars from moving to Los Angeles.

Finally, the team that makes the most sense as the "mystery" team is...The Cleveland Browns. You are probably thinking they just signed Jake Delhomme and traded for Seneca Wallace, so they have no real need for a quarterback. Take it a step further, they could take Jimmy Clausen at seven because he could possibly fall to them.

Regardless, new president Mike Holmgren and new GM Tom Heckert have publicly stated that they have not been blown away by any of the first round quarterback prospects (Clausen and Sam Bradford) in this year's draft. Furthermore, if history tells us anything, Holmgren likes to draft quarterbacks later in the draft that are underrated and turn them into starting caliber QBs in the NFL (i.e. Hasselbeck, Wallace, Brunell and Aaron Brooks). This means the Browns could be in need of a quarterback that changes the culture of losing until their quarterback of the future fully develops.

The Browns have Delhomme and Wallace to do this but McNabb is a better teacher to any young quarterback and has a proven track record of success. McNabb has won throughout his career, knows the rigors of bouncing back through hard times and knows how to deal with the media.

Furthermore, Heckert used to be the Eagles general manager. Now he is the GM for the Browns and might want to bring McNabb aboard since he has had a ton of success with him.

However, the main reason that the Browns are the ultimate "mystery" team is because of Holmgren. A couple of days ago, Holmgren stated that he did not understand why the Eagles would be trading a quarterback of McNabb's stature.

"I'm astounded by that," Holmgren said. "I'm like most of the folks around the league. With all that he's done for that team over the long haul...I guess part of it's that he hasn't been able to get over the hump [and win a Super Bowl]."

When a coach puts that type of statement out in the open, he must think pretty highly of the guy. For Holmgren, getting a upper echelon quarterback for only a top 40 pick and perhaps only his second round pick, he would consider it a steal.

McNabb gives the young team a chance to be competitive and change the bad vibe that carries throughout the team's fan base. The Browns fan base would be estatic in acquiring McNabb. They would fall head-over-heels for him since they have been desperately for a quarterback since the team rejoined the NFL in 1998.

The irony with the Browns is (if they turn out to be the "mystery" team) then they would finally be getting the quarterback that they should've taken instead first overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

Update: Adam Schefter has confirmed that the Raiders are the leading candidate for McNabb's services. He said they are not hesitant about Mcnabb playing on only a one-year contract and not wanting to be in Oakland.


  1. You need someone to proofread your work.

  2. Just noticed that I posted my rough draft and not my final draft from my computer.