PHILADELPHIA -- "I am not a savior."
And with those cautionary words, the National Football League's flashiest backup quarterback, the one with the ponytail, wraparound shades and bulky armor on both knees, acknowledged yesterday that the plan is for him to start again Sunday for the Philadelphia Eagles against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Eagles, 3-4 for the season, have lost three straight games since McMahon limped off the field with an injured knee in a game against the Washington Redskins in the closing hours of September.
"I feel good," the veteran quarterback said in a rare midweek interview to mark the occasion of his return. "I've been working hard these last three weeks. I felt I might have been able to play last week" against New Orleans "but that probably would have been foolish. My main concern now is whether it's going to stay in one piece for the rest of the season."
His concern and everyone else's associated with this team. If McMahon is not the answer, the Eagles are in trouble. Without Randall Cunningham and McMahon, the Eagles have plummeted the stone bottom of the National Football Conference in offense, and have failed to score a touchdown in three games. With McMahon filling in after Cunningham went down with a knee injury in the season opener, the team won three of its first four games. McMahon is the fourth-ranked quarterback in the NFC this season.
After resurrecting former New York Jets quarterback Pat Ryan from retirement and sending him back, and boosting third-string rookie Brad Goebel and dropping him back, the foundering football team now clings to this battle-scarred old pro as its last best hope.
McMahon, who at least in late career has stubbornly insisted he is not a motor, just a cog, is having none of it.
"I'm not a savior for anybody; I think if the guys do their job, then I can do mine," he said. "I don't have the running ability that Randall has to get out of certain situations. Especially now, I'll be very limited. It's up to the people up front, and to the backs and the receivers. They've got to run the right routes, at the right depths, and I've got to get rid of the ball.
There's not much room for error anymore. McMahon said he thinks the Eagles need to win eight of their remaining nine games to make the playoffs.
"As of this point right now, I think he's going to play," coach Rich Kotite said. "We have to see how he reacts to practice today and tomorrow, but obviously, I plan to start him unless something happens. I hope it won't."