Jeff Garcia’s late season heroics with the Philadelphia Eagles last season may wind up landing him a big contract with another team in 2007. However, the Eagles’ decision to sign quarterback A. J. Feeley to a 3-year deal and let Garcia leave via free agency will prove to be the better move.
Garcia went 6-2 during the second half of the regular season and two playoff games filling in for the injured Donovan McNabb. His success in 2006 prompted a short-lived quarterback controversy in Philadelphia and created gossip about the number of NFL teams that might be interested in signing Garcia to a lucrative deal as their starter. The Eagles were reportedly interested in resigning Garcia but, even though most teams have said they are no longer interested in him as a starter several still seem to be willing to pay him big money to be a veteran backup. After he indicated he wanted to give free agency a try, the Eagles opted to sign Feeley instead.
I believe that signing will be one that will benefit the team long term. While he doesn’t have Garcia’s experience, he does bring some benefits that Garcia doesn’t have.
First, he’s 7 years younger than Garcia. In addition to being able to be with the team longer, he has less wear and tear on his body. And, while Garcia has more overall experience as a quarterback, Feeley has more experience in Andy Reid’s system.
The Eagles also have some assurance Feeley can handle the job. Even though he didn’t do well in his one season as a full-time starter (he posted a 61.7 passer rating with the Miami Dolphins in 2004), he has had some success as a back up quarterback. In 2002, during his first stint with the Eagles, Feeley started 5 games in place of McNabb. He won four of those games and, like Garcia, guided the team to the playoffs. Last season, in the finale against the Atlanta Falcons, Feeley passed for 321 yards and three touchdowns.
In fact, if the Eagles would have let Feeley start last season in favor of Garcia, there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t have had the same success Garcia did. In keeping Feeley, they are keeping the guy with much more upside and, if the persistent rumors about Donovan McNabb being unhappy with the organization ever turn out to be true and he leaves, they have someone who could fill in as a starter for a season or two.
In other words, Garcia is going to get his big pay day with another team but the Eagles are going to wind up keeping the better quarterback.