Donovan McNabb remains a big name. That's why the Vikings' decision this afternoon to cut him loose is registering as major news around the NFL. But truthfully, as far as the Vkings' future goes, McNabb's exit has so little significance.
The team had decided to move in another direction six weeks ago when coach Leslie Frazier benched McNabb in favor of Christian Ponder. Frazier said at the time the move was permanent. So for the past six weeks, McNabb has operated as a back-up and as somewhat of a tutor to Ponder and Joe Webb.
Now, he's moving on just a few weeks before he inevitably would have anyway.
Where to? That's anyone's guess. The fascinating ripple effect to Thursday's development will be to monitor whether any other NFL team has interest in signing McNabb or whether the Vikings' farewell wave Thursday ultimately signifies the end of a 13-year career that was at time brilliant yet has fizzled the past few seasons in Philadelphia, Washington and Minnesota.
Following this afternoon's practice at Winter Park, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier spoke to reporters about McNabb's departure, which he called a mutual decision that was best for both parties.
"He was a great player and has been a great player for our league for a long, long time. I have a lot of affection and love for Donovan. Tremendous person. Tremendous competitor and we really wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors."
Here's more of what Frazier had to say in his exchange with the media:
Q: Did Donovan approach you for the release?
Frazier: We sat down and talked and just as we communicated to one another about what we thought was best for our team and best for our team going forward, just a mutual decision. We both agreed this was probably going to be the best thing to do.
Q: How long has this been under discussion?
Frazier: We discussed it yesterday, not so much the release but just what’s best for him, what’s best for us and mutually agreed that this was best for both parties.
Q: Do you have any sense as to whether Donovan believes there will be other opportunities out there for him?
Frazier: I’m not certain about that. I know there are some teams out there that are looking for quarterbacks. But he didn’t mention that to me.
Q: If you had the chance to go back and rethink the move and could have brought in a different veteran-type guy or started Ponder from Day One, is there anything you would have done differently, looking back at how this worked out?
Frazier: Looking back and just knowing Donovan and knowing his history, I don’t think I would have done anything different. Knowing the circumstances and the situation we were in coming into the season with the offseason being what it was, that familiarity went a long ways toward making that decision so I don’t think I would have done it any differently.
Q: How has Donovan been in recent weeks in the locker room and out at practice?
Frazier: He’s been awesome. He’s been great with our players. He’s been a true pro in every sense of the word. And he’s a class guy. Always has been. He’s done a good job in spite of the fact that he wasn’t our starting quarterback.
Q: What is the benefit for you guys as a team not having him around anymore?
Frazier: I don't know if it ... One thing that it does with the structure or the way we work with our quarterbacks, Bill [Musgrave] and Craig [Johnson] will devote more time to both Christian along with Joe in their development. That’s purely what it does. We’ve got two guys we’re working with now as opposed to three guys. And their attention will be occupied by those two.
Q: Will you stick with just two quarterbacks on the roster for the rest of the season?
Frazier: I’m not sure about that. We’re going to talk some more the rest of the day and just determine what we’ll do at that spot or even some other spots.
Q: Given the decision to waive Donovan, to release Bernard [Berrian in October] and some of the breakdowns that have led to you being where you're at at 2-9, does that indicate that you maybe overestimated the talent this roster had going into the season?
Frazier: Well, when you’re 2-9 there are a lot of factors that go into it. I don’t think there’s one or two things you can point to. I know we’ll have to address some things when the offseason comes. But in the meantime the guys that are on our roster are fighting every week and they’re going to fight again this week against Denver to try and give us a chance to win the game. But you’re always assessing your roster, you’re always assessing your team and trying to determine where you are and where you want to be. But I don’t know if there is one of two things that puts us where we are right now.
Q: You mentioned Donovan didn't offer an indication that he might sign with another team. Has he mentioned retirement to you?
Frazier: No, did not mention retirement to me. So I’m not certain. I’m sure when he talks to his family he’ll determine what direction he wants to go, but he didn’t mention the word retirement.
Q: Based on what you saw from him on the field, do you think he still has a future in this league?
Frazier: I do. I think he can still play. In the right situation, I think he can still play if he chooses. If he wants to play again. I’m not sure that’s what he wants to do, but I think he could.
Q: As a starter?
Frazier: I’m not certain about that. It depends on, every team is so different and what their needs are. So a lot depends on the team he goes to; if he goes to another team.
Q: That said, what didn't work here?
Frazier: You guys watched our games that he started. There were a lot of factors contributing to our not winning ballgames. As I mentioned when we made the change, it wasn't all about Donovan. That's been proven along the way. There are a lot of other areas on our team that need to be going in the right direction in order for us to have success. It's not just the quarterback position. So that's it in a nutshell. There's a lot of other things we need to get taken care of.
Q: Why release him now versus six weeks ago when Ponder became the starter?
Frazier: Just sitting down and discussing things with him and coming to the conclusion for both parties that this was the time, if it was going to happen, for it to happen.
Q: Was yesterday the first time he approached you about this possibility? There had been talk that he might request a trade before the trade deadline.
Frazier: He didn't approach me. This is a discussion that he and I had yesterday discussing his situation and our situation. And as I mentioned, we both mutually agreed that it was time to part ways. That was our first conversation regarding that.
Q: What was his explanation for wanting to be released?
Frazier: When you have a guy who has been as successful as he has been in this league, he has an idea of how he wants his career to continue or not to continue. That played a role in that in making that decision.