Real World Philadelphia
By Matt Mattare
PART II: THE BLUEPRINT
Alright, as promised earlier this week it’s time to lay out a strategy—a proposal if you will—on how to fix the Birds. It’s a little more complicated than one would think when you delve into the details…but Philly fans don’t care about complications, they want answers. You’ve come to the right place.
STEP #1: Fire Andy Reid
Andy Reid is the most successful coach in franchise history and he has the third best winning percentage of active coaches (.620 behind only Tony Dungy and Bill Belichick) and 16th of all-time. But sometimes numbers don’t tell the full story; those that follow and watch the team can attest to that. There have been mind-numbingly bad in-game decisions, ineffective and head-scratching gameplans, fruitless off-seasons—it’s all come to a head this season. Former Ravens head coach Brian Billick pointed out on the radio yesterday that you won’t get a better coach than Andy Reid, just a different one. A different coach is absolutely what is needed right now though. This isn’t Seattle, Philadelphia fans aren’t simply satisfied with playoff berths (which aren’t being delivered by Andy as of late by the way). CHAMPIONSHIPS—that’s the goal.
Firing Reid does two things: obviously it brings in a new coach but it also allows Tom Heckert (one of the hottest young GM’s in the game) to expand his responsibility and influence. The Birds inked him to a contract extension when the Falcons came calling last winter and it’s time to let him run the show before he takes off for a place that will let him.
Now it’s time to find a new coach. I’ve narrowed the candidates down to two guys, one who will be on a lot of people’s lists and one that I haven’t heard mentioned. The first of course is Steve Spagnuolo. He’s a red-hot commodity in New York and was mentored by Jim Johnson, but he’s also making the most money of any defensive coordinator after signing a beefy extension in the off-season. He’s an attractive candidate who would bring the same toughness to the defense as Johnson has, but luring him back to Philly might be tough. Something tells me that when teams come calling this off-season the Giants will try to arrange something like they’re doing in the college ranks (and essentially with the Cowboys) with naming him the eventual successor.
The other name I’ll throw out there is Steve Mariucci. This guy was successful in San Francisco and given no chance to be successful in Detroit. He’s a West Coast offense guru who employs (get this) a more BALANCED attack than the one Reid currently goes with. An example is in Mariucci’s 2001 season with the 49ers: 506 passes attempted and 509 rushing attempts. He’d bring exactly what the Birds need on offense and if Heckert is willing to be a little more aggressive with free agency and the draft this team can still sneak in another serious run before their window closes. Let’s be honest—for all the bitching and all that’s wrong with the Eagles this is still very much a top 10 team with potential to be much more. That’s why fans are frustrated and that’s why the organization should be frustrated. Doing everything and anything possible to retain Jim Johnson would be a must should Mariucci be the guy. It’s just a matter of whether Johnson’s allegiance to Reid will lead him to wherever Big Red lands.
THE CALL: Get Spagnuolo back in Philly. I think Mariucci would be a great second option but I’m all for looking new blood at the helm. Steve Spagnuolo, welcome home.
STEP #2: Figure out what to do with Donovan McNabb
Now I’m of the opinion that it’s time for Donovan to go, but he’s still a very capable quarterback in a league starved for them. Now looking at every team in the NFL there are five teams that may be in the market for quarterbacks—let’s break them down one by one.
Chiefs: Suddenly Tyler Thigpen seems like he could have potential, but their previously designated quarterback of the future (Brodie Croyle) is garbage. They’re so far away from being a contender that it just wouldn’t make sense to go after McNabb…Odds of it happening: Nope
Lions: The worst quarterback situation in the league. Dan Orlovsky wouldn’t start in the Arena League, Daunte Culpepper is the homeless man’s Donovan McNabb, and when Captain Kitna returns he isn’t exactly a long-term solution. This is something that needs to be addressed through the draft though—Sam Bradford, get ready for some lovely Detroit winters…Odds of it happening: Nope
Chicago Bears: Michael Wilbon has been clamoring to bring McNabb back to his hometown for years now but it seems the Bears may suddenly be comfortable with the thought of Kyle Orton leading their offense going forward (I’ll take this time to allow any Bears fans that aren’t delusional to gag now). This seems like a less and less likely destination unless Orton really stumbles down the stretch…Odds of it happening: Unlikely…but possible
Tampa Bay Bucs: They have a whole lot of old and aging quarterbacks in the land of old and aging people. Jeff Garcia has been effective but it seems Jon Gruden falls in and out of love with him and his contract is up after this season. Brian Griese is a very competent backup but you certainly don’t want to rely on him for anything more than that. There’s definitely a void but would the Bucs be willing to make the big move? They should because they aren’t that far away from being a legit contender in the NFC. Gruden has taken aging quarterbacks and made them renaissance men (Garcia, Rich Gannon), but McNabb is not the game manager that pair was and I just can’t see him falling in love with Donovan…Odds of it happening: Maybe
Vikings: Now here is a team that is VERY close to being a contender—one quarterback away to be exact. Anyone who still thinks Tarvaris Jackson will morph into a legitimate NFL quarterback is probably taking turns staring at a lava lamp and counting the colors in the carpet. Childress is fully aware of McNabb’s capabilities and had great success with Donovan at the helm of his offense from ’03-’05. The Vikings are tight on cap space after their spending sprees the past couple off-seasons (Steve Hutchinson, Bernard Berrian, Jared Allen) so accommodating McNabb’s $9.2 million cap hit will be tough, but they can’t waste a team like this with Gus Frerotte taking the lead. I think this destination makes the most sense…Odds of happening: Good
THE CALL: Let’s send Donovan to the Midwest where fans are easier on their players and all he’ll really have to do is hand the ball to Adrian Peterson. The Patriots netted a first-rounder for Drew Bledsoe…I think that’s totally reasonable for someone like McNabb and a team built like the Vikings will no doubt get more immediate value out of a top-ten quarterback than a mid-first rounder. Donovan McNabb to the Vikings for their 2009 1st round pick.
Part III: The Blueprint for Free Agency and 2009 Draft…coming soon