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NFL Analysis: Donovan McNabb Perfect Fit for Carolina Panthers?

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Donovan McNabb is one of several veteran quarterbacks that are still uncertain about where they’ll be playing in 2011. In a normal year, free agency would have started months ago. The 2011 NFL year is anything but normal. We sit here less than a month away from the first scheduled preseason game and we’re still locked out. There will be several teams that will have to rush and overpay on veteran quarterbacks in hopes to have one learn the playbook and offense in time for the season.

These veteran quarterbacks will need to go to teams where they can not only learn the offense quick but be mentors for younger quarterbacks that are all ready in place in those cities. There are several teams that could show interest in McNabb but only one that seems to be the perfect fit. In Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Tennessee they drafted young arms for the future. After the Bengals get rid of Carson Palmer, none of these teams will have a veteran quarterback on the roster worth mentoring these rookies. McNabb could step in for a few years while letting the rookies take the time to develop.  I don’t see these teams as his best fit though.

McNabb tried taking on the mentoring role to Vince Young when he first came into the league. He warned him of the racial double standard of the NFL quarterback. Vince Young didn’t want any part of McNabb in a mentoring role. When Mike Vick got out of prison, McNabb was supportive of the Eagles signing him and helped get Vick back on track. He’s been beat down his whole career, yet he’s always stayed supportive and willing to help others. That’s what the Carolina Panthers need.

Carolina used the first overall pick on their new franchise quarterback, without having a veteran under contract. They’ll need to sign a vet instead of going into the season with Newton, and last season’s two draft choices, Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike. As talented as Newton is, he needs to develop in a NFL system for at least a year. Newton could become Ben Roethlisberger but unlike Big Ben, he doesn’t have the team behind him to make the playoffs as a rookie. Roethlisberger could depend on a great defense and a strong running game when he came into the league. He also had a veteran receiver that was dependable. That’s yet to be determined in Carolina.

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McNabb could come in and start one or two years. There’s potential that McNabb could persuade Steve Smith to hang around Carolina as well. Even if Smith doesn’t return, McNabb has done more with less talent at receiver than the three 2nd year guys that Carolina has (David Gettis, Brandon LaFell, and Armanti Edwards). McNabb’s presence can ease Newton’s pressure, as what happened with Vick. Even though Vick was heavily scrutinized in his return season, it was probably 1/100th the percent of what we would have seen if he was starting somewhere. Also, just as the Eagles worked Vick in on certain packages, the Panthers can do the same with Cam.

Like Donovan tried to do with Vince Young, he could prepare Cam Newton for the scrutiny and all the off the field situations he’ll face. Newton would be better prepared for live as a NFL quarterback, on and off the field. Let’s not pretend that black quarterbacks aren’t scrutinized more. It’s not the same era as when Warren Moon and Doug Williams were playing but there still is a double standard. Vince Young had to learn this the hard way and on his own. The Panthers would be smart to make sure Cam doesn’t.

If Donovan doesn’t pan out and the Panthers are out of contention at the half way point, then Carolina has the option to turn the team over to Newton. Newton will still get the valuable life lessons and time to learn the offense. He’ll also be accustomed to the speed of the NFL from 3 months of practices, preseason games, and live game action in certain packages. McNabb can extend his career by finishing out the year and two more seasons as a quality backup. If he wins, then Carolina will be ecstatic to go from the worst team to a competitor. They can then handle the quarterback competition in 2012. That would be a nice problem to have.

Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton, Matt Hasselbeck, Vince Young, and Kevin Kolb don’t fit the formula for long term success in Carolina for the Panthers and Cam Newton. All five of those guys either want to be the starter for years to come or haven’t been a mentor to develop another quarterback’s career. It’s just one man’s opinion but if I was sitting in the Panthers front office, the first free agent move would be a no brainer for me. I wouldn’t use the first overall pick on a franchise quarterback and set him up for failure.

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Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock