It's mutual: Vikings, McNabb agree to part ways
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP)
Donovan McNabb is available again.
The Minnesota Vikings waived the 13-year veteran quarterback on Thursday, giving him the opportunity to sign with another team for the stretch run in a parting coach Leslie Frazier described as mutual.
Frazier pushed for the Vikings to trade a sixth-round draft pick this summer to the Washington Redskins in exchange for McNabb. He wanted stability he believed McNabb would bring to the offense after the NFL lockout kept rookie Christian Ponder from practicing with the team or working with his coaches until training camp.
Frazier and McNabb met in 1999, when the defensive backs coach and the first-round draft pick spent their first year with the Philadelphia Eagles. Friendly to the end, Frazier wished McNabb well and said part of the reason for the move was for the player's sake.
''This was the best decision for both parties,'' Frazier said. ''He was a great player and has been a great player for our league for a long, long time. Have a lot of affection and love for Donovan.''
McNabb went 1-5 as a starter, threw for only four touchdowns and completed just five passes of 25-plus yards. Frazier said he didn't regret the trade given the situation the Vikings were in this summer, and said he believes McNabb can still play in the NFL but stopped short of saying he can be an effective starter.
''I'm not certain about that. ... A lot depends on the team he goes to, if he goes to another team,'' Frazier said.
McNabb was benched in favor of Ponder in the fourth quarter of Minnesota's game at Chicago on Oct. 16 and hasn't played since. Frazier said he was a help to Ponder and Joe Webb in their learning process and described as ''awesome'' his attitude over the last few weeks.
''He's been a true pro in every sense of the word,'' Frazier said. ''He's a class guy. Always has been, and he's done a good job in spite of the fact he wasn't our starting quarterback.''
Improving the teacher-student ratio at the game's most complex position is what Frazier pointed to when asked how the move benefited the Vikings. It essentially means offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks Craig Johnson will have more opportunity to work with Ponder and Webb, who is in his second year. Frazier said he wasn't sure how the open roster spot would be filled, whether with another quarterback or a player at another position.
McNabb was in the locker room, seen rather innocuously asking running back Adrian Peterson to autograph a jersey. But he was gone by the time practice began and unavailable for comment.
The question now is whether he'll catch on elsewhere or call it quits with six Pro Bowl selections and currently the third-best interception percentage of all time. Injuries have felled several quarterbacks around the league over the last month, and the Bears - McNabb's hometown team - are one team with an opening as Jay Cutler recovers from a broken thumb.
''When you have a guy who has been this successful in this league, he has an idea how he wants his career to continue or not to continue. That played a role in making that decision,'' Frazier said.
The two spoke Wednesday about the situation, but Frazier declined to characterize the discussion as McNabb requesting his release. He said McNabb didn't mention retirement or signing with another team when they talked.
''We both agreed that this was probably going to be the best thing to do,'' Frazier said.
McNabb enjoyed an 11-year run as the starter in Philadelphia, going to the Super Bowl with the Eagles after the 2004 season and becoming a regular fixture in the playoffs. Only Aaron Rodgers and Neil O'Donnell have a better career ratio of interceptions to pass attempts. But after he was traded by his long-time team, McNabb had a rough year with the Redskins. He got benched there, too.
The ability to avoid turnovers turned out to be part of the problem with the Vikings. He was reluctant to throw deep, and the offense lacked life and rhythm while he was in there. Playing it safe didn't wind up helping them.
''You guys watched our games that he started,'' Frazier said. ''There were a lot of factors contributing to our not winning ballgames. As I mentioned when I 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.''
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.