Monday, December 10, 2007

Standing Athwart History, Yelling Stop

So I’m leaving the Linc yesterday, with a spring in my step, cheerful in the knowledge that the Eagles’ performance has secured two more years, at a minimum, for Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning in New York.

Okay, that is not true. It was the third absolutely brutal loss in a row. The papers in Philadelphia are agog with deconstruction of simple questions: how do you lose a home game where the defense allows one touchdown, the offense rushes the football effectively, and you win the turnover battle? There is a flurry of analysis- but as always with difficult questions, I rely on Ockham’s Razor. And here, the simplest explanation is the quarterback, Donovan McNabb stinks.

Yesterday featured all the terrible ennui in a mere sixty minutes that McNabb has offered for the past three years. There was a fifty-five minute stretch where he threw for maybe ninety yards- and with Reid calling the plays, it wasn’t exactly through a lack of opportunities. People want to rip the receiving corps.... well, there always seems to be twenty-four catches to go around when AJ or Jeff Garcia are back there pitching- in short, anyone playing other than McNabb. Why is that?

For three years, I have weathered the storm here- backing the franchsie quarterback to the hilt. But now, I have had enough. I'm tired inside. I am not sure McNabb is done as a viable player in this League. But he is done here in Philadelphia. As long as Reid’s vision for this offense, and for this second (post-injury, increasingly semi-immobile) version of McNabb, involve this rhythm passing offense, this quarterback is going to fail.

Candidly, Philadelphia has not waited three years for him to get it either. We’ve waited for the last decade. This west coast offense- possess the ball via the pass- simply isn’t Donovan. Even at his best, he’s never been accurate and routine. The Eagles prospered regardless because that missing ten-fifteen percent completion percentage was more than made up during an incandescent six year period where Donovan’s risk-reward ratio- call it something like “passing TDs plus 25+ yard plays divided by interceptions”- was off the charts good. But he isn’t a big play machine anymore- and his spraying the ball around trying to complete passes in bunches isn’t going to work as a second act. Donovan is not a failure per se, but he is unequivocally a failure at this style of play. Reid isn’t changing the offense- so the quarterback has got to go.

Honestly, despite Banner’s protestations this week, I think Donovan is gone. This isn’t like the six win disaster of 2005. That team was old and bad. Here, you simply can’t ignore the fact the offense is darn good for two years, a dozen or so games now, when McNabb isn’t in there. The defense is pretty good too (one TD yesterday). The Eagles can run the ball, the o-line is a very solid group. They played solid, winnable, well-coached games- outside of the quarterback position- against New England and Seattle. If Garcia was the quarterback, they’d win ten games, be in the play-offs, again.

Instead, we have this terrible, no-fun, tedium. Admittedly, with Garcia and AJ the play-offs are the ceiling; there is no credible championship run around those guys. But looking squarely at six wins this year, facing a further season of consternation next year whether it is either McNabb or Kolb spraying the ball aimlessly, well, I’d rather see the Feeley-Kolb developmental mix.

With Feeley, there is some sort of credible play-off story (like 2002) if the defense continues to play well and Westbrook doesn’t hit the wall. If it doesn’t work, at least 2008 gets the Kolb internship out of the way. Point is- it almost can’t then be a lost year franchise-wise.

With McNabb around, we now know for a fact they can’t make the play-offs even with a good defense/Westbrook mix. Kolb won’t play because the Eagles, like this year, could never pull the plug until it was too late. It almost guarantees a year where the franchise again stays on this treadmill it has been trapped on for the past three years. Enough. I’ve seen the status quo for three years. It doesn’t work. It can’t work. Blow the quarterback situation up. I don’t know if the new status quo will work- but at least it isn’t an almost guaranteed disappointment.

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