Not enough Mannings to go around

Baltimore Sun

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- That pesky rumor has surfaced again that the Baltimore Ravens are trying to trade for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, though I'm guessing somebody just put two and two together after the hiring of former Eagles assistant coach John Harbaugh.

The Eagles have given no indication they want to replace McNabb, and the Ravens have given no indication they intend to go with anyone but the three quarterbacks who were on the roster at the end of this season.

This sounds like a lot of wishful thinking after another season in which the importance of the quarterback was magnified around the league and the Ravens' perennial lack of a franchise player there was magnified.

If it wasn't a rumor about McNabb, somebody was speculating about the possibility -- also quite remote -- of reacquiring Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, who had a pretty good year keeping a seat warm for top draft choice Brady Quinn.

And, of course, there's the Ravens' eighth pick in the coming draft, which could be used to add promising Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan or Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson, though the talk after the Senior Bowl is that Woodson may have dropped considerably in the estimation of pro scouts.

Maybe it's time to start thinking outside the tackle box. Maybe the Ravens could coax Cooper Manning, the eldest of Archie Manning's three sons, back to football. He had to give it up because of a spinal illness, but he couldn't be any more banged up than Steve McNair.

And he's a Manning, so you have to figure the Ravens would be in the Super Bowl next year, probably against the Dallas Cowboys or the Green Bay Packers.

You laugh (or maybe you don't), but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell even told Archie and Olivia Manning during Monday's media conference that they could help out the league by having one more child.

The one thing the Ravens and everybody else should have taken away from University of Phoenix Stadium -- and the rest of the NFL postseason -- is that the days when you could get to the Super Bowl with a good defense and Trent Dilfer at quarterback are probably over.

Manning had an erratic season, tying for league lead in interceptions and leading in total turnovers, but he pulled himself together at just the right time and played mistake-free football throughout the postseason. Even the costly interception he threw early in the Super Bowl popped out of the hands of receiver Steve Smith.

It's not a coincidence that the last eight teams standing in the postseason had quarterbacks named Brady, Manning (twice), Favre, Romo, Rivers, Hasselbeck and Garrard. Good quarterbacks make good teams.

The chances of the Ravens' getting deep into the playoffs next season with a mended McNair, much less Kyle Boller or Troy Smith, might be somewhere in the range of slim and none, but they don't appear to be in a position to do much about that right now.

They've basically painted themselves into a corner. They could draft Ryan if he's still available at No. 8, but then they would have to release Boller or give up too early on Smith.

Dropping Boller would leave a big experience gap if McNair went down, and replacing Smith with another first-year guy would leave the Ravens with the same dysfunctional dynamic of 2007.

Nobody is even sure McNair will be able to come back from the beating he took in his 13th season, but the Ravens probably have better things to do with their top draft pick than trading it (and more) for McNabb or using it to start over once again at quarterback.

Anderson probably makes more sense, because he played in a version of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's system at Cleveland, but the Browns seem committed to keeping both him and Quinn.

Which basically leaves Ravens officials to ponder the obvious: Wouldn't it be nice to have a young quarterback such as Eli Manning?

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