Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Can Anyone Play Quarterback?

I understand the Philadelphia Eagles went on the road this week and won a nice game over Dallas. In Paris for a four day weekend, I didn’t see the game. Consequently, I will refrain from specific commentary. But increasingly, this season simply isn’t like the 2005 six-win mess. That Eagles team was in shambles at the end of the season. Since their 0-2 start, they’ve been .500 for three months now- which feels about right.

Frankly, Philadelphia officially has a good defense- not top five, but top quartile. Plus, like last year, the defense moves up some late season because they are both pretty young (outside of Dawkins and Spikes) and their institutional success managing the cap manifests itself first and foremost in depth on defense. Mikell and Reed are emblematic of the Eagles second string NFL players- multi-year vets with some League level ability, not raw rookies and “hope”.

And well, they can run the ball; Westbrook is a superior player. The team always, always tries- and since the coach is definitely coming back- many marginal vets can’t coast. They’re playing for playing time, jobs- next year. In a capped league, where does a Todd Herremans go if he gets waived? Plus, when the ball went up, 8-8 might have got them in.

So yes, if you hand a .500 team three turnovers in the passing game- negating Dallas’ biggest advantages over the Eagles: quarterback and wide outs- the Eagles are in that game to win it. It was a nice win- proof the defense is moving forward with these young guys in the front seven anyway. Frankly winning always helps- that much less you gotta fix. For example, the Eagles playing .500 ball for three months means the defense is credible- not something you’d associate with a total, five-win style, tank job.

They’re actually a nice team outside of McNabb- put Garcia back there and they are in the play-offs at ten, maybe even eleven wins. But Jeff isn’t back there- and it is hard to be a good football team if you can’t pass. And the Eagles can’t. McNabb stinks.

Which means, although the team is better now than in 2005, an immediate rebound to “pretty good” feels less imaginable. No matter how bad 2005 was, there was a coherent quarterback story forthcoming: McNabb plus different, better, veteran insurance (and yes, it was the capable veteran back-up who prospered). This year- well, as I wrote last week, I am unconfident in McNabb, Feeley is an exercise in “surviving” for sixteen games and don’t think Kolb is credible yet. The last season-and-a-half have proven that the pieces assembled in Philadelphia are something like ten-win good- but the existing quarterback regime, minus Garcia, can’t elevate that sort of team to conference power status.

And that cast of characters ain’t likely to change. If they get this same, shambling quarterback play next year, why would they be any better? The last place schedule? Frankly, that schedule edge is all I can come up with.