Real World Philadelphia
Part I: The Reality Check
By Matt Mattare
I have sat here for years and shaken my head -- half in amazement, half in disgust -- as Donovan McNabb was crucified by the Philly media and Philly fans. The first boos came before he even had a chance to walk to the stage at the NFL draft for a photo op with commissioner; the last ones came through the phone lines today as Birds fans voiced how the tie against the Bengals was the last straw. It has taken almost ten years, but I've finally shifted from shaking my head in disgust to nodding in agreement.
It’s time for all Philly fans to readjust their expectations for McNabb. Here is what he is:
* A mobile quarterback with a great arm…There’s no denying he still has mobility and a cannon—he just hasn’t used either very well lately.
* One of the top ten quarterbacks in the league today…For all his limitations, he’s still one of the most capable guys in the league—and at the very least, attractive trade bait. He’s a good quarterback with the ability to be a very good quarterback. He will never be a great quarterback (Why? See the second bullet point in the next list).
* A player capable of big numbers when given the proper weapons…In the one year of his career where he had a stud wide receiver, he had 31 TD’s and a 104.7 pass rating. The rotating door of No. 2 and No. 3 receivers posing as No. 1's (starting with Charles Johnson and Torrance Small, continuing with James Thrash and Todd Pinkston, and ending with Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown) do not qualify.
* Someone that has a knack for sticking his foot in his mouth with the same frequency as George W. Bush…Seriously Donovan, every time you open your mouth it becomes harder and harder to stick up for you—do your job, eat your Chunky soup, and shut up.
Here is what Donovan McNabb is not:
* A quarterback that the Eagles can rely on to win games by himself…He just can’t do it, there’s more evidence than can be listed here. If he could, then we wouldn’t be talking about how Philly needs to get an elite receiver before/during/at the end of every year. To be fair, this isn’t as much his fault as it is management’s for not realizing this after almost ten years.
* A quarterback who can lead an effective drive down the stretch in a close game…In games over the past four seasons where he’s taken the field with less than five minutes left and the game in the balance (tied or within a TD), the Birds are 2-10-1. There were 19 drives in that stretch, and he produced only THREE scoring drives (2 TD’s, 1 FG). Both of the touchdown drives were finished off by screen passes that Brian Westbrook took to the house from 50+ yards. Those are absolutely MIND-BLOWING statistics. Watching him in the two-minute drill is as painful and frustrating as hearing Emmitt Smith speak.
* He’s NOT a quarterback that can lead the Birds to the Super Bowl with the current personnel and offensive philosophy…Because that would require him to do both of the above on a consistent basis. Give him a stud wide receiver or readjust the gameplan and don’t ask him to carry the team.
It’s time that the fans and Andy Reid realize these things and adjust expectations accordingly. This leaves two options for the Eagles with a common theme: change. It’s time to either turn the page on the Donovan McNabb-Andy Reid era (the most successful in franchise history) or change their offensive and front office philosophies, which would consist of taking a combination of taking the burden off of McNabb and legitimately going out and acquiring the personnel necessary to make the offense effective.
I really don’t think it’s reasonable to think the impossibly stubborn Reid will change. Yes, he has been the best coach in franchise history (.620 win pct, five divisional titles, four trips to the NFC Championship, and the second Super Bowl appearance in Philly history), but it’s become painfully clear that he’s unwilling to adjust and push the team over the top. His weekly press conference offers no real answers—just company lines and heavy breathing. His off-season moves never seem to address the team’s most glaring needs and to say his in-game decision making has been questionable would be an understatement. If only he would look to his divisional rival and see how a change in coaching philosophy can lead to great things (read: Tom Coughlin).
Here is one vote to turn the page. Sometimes stats just don’t tell the story and anyone who has watched this team since 2005 realizes the team is at a crossroads. The underachieving and disappointments have become a perennial event and the reasons for it are identical each and every year. Give Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb their propers because they turned the Birds into a contender during their tenure and truly made Philadelphia an Eagles town—but contending just isn’t good enough anymore. The town was painted red in October and the new measuring stick for Philly teams is a championship. Patience has gotten thinner and thinner, and the window for this duo to deliver a parade of their own might close when the clock strikes zero in Week 17.
Now if there’s one thing you learn from listening to Mike Missanelli, it’s that you better not call for change without a plan of action. That’s why later this week I’ll reveal Part II: The Blueprint, which will lay out exactly what needs to happen to better position the Birds to hoist that Lombardi Trophy. In the meantime go grab a cheesesteak, pop in that 2008 World Series DVD, and enjoy the world f-ing champion honeymoon.