Monday, December 31, 2007


The Mediocrity Party continued this weekend as Philadelphia cruised to a 17-9 win to close out their eight-win campaign. The outcome never felt in doubt all afternoon. Buffalo managed to hang around- but always outside the one score window. McNabb proffered two turnovers- but one got the feeling they could have played all afternoon and Buffalo wasn’t scoring a touchdown on offense. Westbrook only had six or so touches after the first quarter- part and parcel of the liberal benchings of key personnel from the second quarter on.

The season was ultimately a pretty formful result. I had the Eagles at nine wins- but I think they are actually better, here at the end, even with fewer wins, than I anticipated. Clearly, the coach and quarterback just weren’t ready to go from game one. Even with the first place schedule, I did not anticipate a whopping nine games versus play-off teams. And starting 1-3 made the whole season an up-hill climb. More years than not, this squad would have finished better. Last year they were lucky; this year notsomuch.

But to their credit, the climb was pretty upward from September on - albeit haltingly, that stretch of Patriots, Seahawks and Giants was not helpful. Trends are up. They won their last three games and seven of McNabb’s last ten starts. In the second half, they beat two play-off teams on the road: Washington and Dallas- and almost added New England to that number. Objectively, I think they are- just right now, not the whole body of work- one of the six best teams in the NFC. Further, they would be narrowly favored over all NFC teams but Dallas in a one game play-off at a neutral site.

Teams enter the off-season in the NFL in one of three modes: tear it down, rebuilding or take a shot. For the first time since the Super Bowl, the Eagles are in the latter mode. Fuse the healthy McNabb of the second half onto this defense and Westbrook- add the last place schedule, a zillion draft picks and a key skill position free agent- and the Eagles have a good feeling about them going into the off-season for the first time in three years.

I have never been an off-season pollyanna. The 6-10 debacle of 2005 was not happy here- and I never for a moment thought last year’s formula of Garcia’s miracle run was reproducible: offense and defense. Hence this season’s nine win forecast. But this feels sustainable with the one important caveat: if McNabb is back to good, the Eagles are back too. Their biggest off-season needs are guard and a kick returner (I’m 100% sold on young Celek)- which is a whole lot different than this 2005 list.