Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Thank God That is Over

The papers greet us this morning with the announcement that Brunell does not think he “can return to Washington as a back-up.” Heaven help us all. The guy stunk this year. He counts an obscene $10 million next year against the Redskins’ cap. Seriously… what kind of money gets you silence from a guy, who simply cannot play, nowadays? When I am feeling blue about TO, I like to remember back to when the genius Gibbs endlessly boasted about “my guy” Brunell’s veteran leadership and intangibles. In Philadelphia, we call it intangible stinking.

Still, I know a team who will be in the off-season market for a back-up quarterback. Even a casual observer has to admit Koy Detmer is pretty much done as a pro player. True, Detmer was never exactly a strong-armed guy, but he threw touch passes and slants and fades as well as anyone- and he completely knew the offense. But he has no velocity left anymore- and I would be surprised if he was even in camp next year. Blake is Blake, an obviously gifted physical specimen who has no idea of what it takes to play quarterback in the NFL. It just doesn’t appear hanging around true pros like McNabb and Detmer has rubbed off much. I think you could argue another off-season under Reid’s personal supervision might help him- as the Eagles system is very demanding of the quarterback position- but don’t you just get a bad vibe looking at him? Much like the Sixers' offense, everything seems just so hard with Blake- like he is straining just to dump the ball off.

The only substantive plus I took from the two regular season exhibitions was the play of Freddie Mitchell. Mitchell, despite the quarterbacking incompetence, caught a pair of touchdowns and a slew of balls over two games, in his first sustained action of the season. Unlike a lot of people, I have never been that down on Freddie. If you can divorce your thinking from his draft position, he is a pretty good third wide out/slot-style receiver. Mitchell can beat the third corner on most teams- and he catches the ball everywhere and can take a hit. I was always thought his numbers were “down” because a lot of those possession-style 3rd down routes, where slot receivers make a living, in Philadelphia go to Westbrook and our solid tight ends- rather than Mitchell being a poor player.

With a healthy TO, Pinkston has to be the #2 guy, as he brings that vertical speed that Mitchell lacks to that position (although admittedly absolutely nothing else)- and this offense requires a runner at one of the top two wideout spots. But you watch, Freddie is going to be a “nice” surprise of this post-season if the eagles can win a game or two- and he’ll catch a touchdown or two- and he’ll carve out a nice eight year career for himself.

The answer as to whether Coach Reid should have played his starters during the pointless last two exercises in “football” is pretty simple. It is merely a question of balancing the equation: any key Eagles’ starters that had gotten hurt in the last two games versus the advantage of maintaining competitive sharpness. Since you cannot know the answer to that question beforehand, I was equally okay with either approach: play the guys and stay sharp or rest the guys and start the play-offs healthy and fresh. Regardless, as long as it was a consistent approach- and not playing some guys for some of the time- which I don’t think would have either promoted health or continuity of purpose. Reid obviously went with the former- rest people. That is fine. The coach had to take some sort of approach to these meaningless games, and this one made sense- and you cannot possibly conclusively argue one way over another.

I suppose the bottom line in all this is fairly simple. The Eagles are about as ready as they can be. The loss of TO is a huge blow. Nevertheless, the defense is the best version since the 2001 outfit in the first NFC championship game. Plus, last year’s offense, when Westbrook was healthy, was competent: capable of 24 to 28 points consistently. I imagine they’ll threaten that number in the play-offs. For the first time since the 2003 season, Philadelphia really ought to win the NFC.