Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Enigmatic Professionalism and Consistency

Perhaps the Eagles are prone to overanalysis. So first pricipals: for the umpteenth year in a row, they’ve ridden the enigmatic professionalism and consistency that permeates the organization to a nice finish. The same existing powers for the last decade will now commence an off-season of the same enigmatic professionalism and consistency that could very likely put them in the NFC mix and, just as certain, mean no Super Bowl Championship for Philadelphia.

Right now, say post-November, the Eagles are probably top five outfits in the League. They’re the best team in NFC East, whipped the Giants twice in their own building in big spots. They feature an outstanding defense and offense that can score. They were ousted from the tournament by an Arizona team that pretty conclusively proved they were no outright fraud.

Normally, you fix such teams on the peripherals- add to the core, make tactical rather than strategic changes- conceding that a lot is working so let’s not mess it up.

But not this group. Or, at least not this offense.

Look, it is impossible to believe in the McNabb-Westbrook axis anymore. For more than a half-a-decade, these two guys have absorbed cap space and touches at a rate commensurate of superior pro bowl style players- and now, it needs to end.

I’ve written before on why this “good mix” ultimately fails- say here in 2007. The quarterback is not a great player. Westbrook can’t consistently absorb the franchise back workload and, consequently, places weird salary pressures and high expectations on players down your roster. In retrospect, would the Eagles have been better off six years ago spending the Westbrook monies on a top wide-out and using subsequent first day draft picks to find an inexpensive, very serviceable running back? Watching the Cardinals wide outs, remembering the success TO enjoyed here, watching guys like Buckhalter and Brown having to pick up the slack, trading first day draft picks for characters like Lorenzo Booker, all to account for the lack of production from the perimeter players and Westbrook's limited, shifting workload....

So it has to change. The franchise mix has got to be stirred differently. Okay, you probably can’t get rid of McNabb- and frankly, what are you better options? Or Westbrook- too much dead money. But if Westbrook and McNabb are going to cede 15-20 touches per game, every game- then those missing 300 plays need to go to a productive, fair cost, asset. And that means first round selection, the most ready-to-play, potential be damned, running back on the board. Lord, the Eagles need Matt Forte—how did it come to this?

It isn’t so much the draft pick, it is the realization that the old comfort level in this offense, that the vast majority of production must come form these two existing assets, has to change. They are declining, they never got it done in the biggest of spots anyway. They need to an offensive skill asset to allow the two existing cornerstones to slip into more apt B-level roles. They can’t pay for one with tier current salary commitments, they need to draft one. And adding a top tackle or quality wide-out to this mix isn’t going to change the production mix enough- a mix that has failed for a decade now in big spots.