It was week 12 of the 2008 NFL season and the unthinkable happened: Donovan McNabb was benched for the second half. Kevin Kolb stepped in and promptly screwed the pooch some more. That poor pooch had a rough couple of weeks as he’d already been screwed repeatedly by McNabb in previous quarters. Every Eagles fan and reporter thought, “wow, this is the end of the McNabb era.”
Not so fast. While I sat around and wished for the Eagles to lose their remaining games to hasten a regime change (I even came up with a clever term for it: f’ing the kennel), the Cardinals came to town and promptly laid down for the Eagles, starting a run that will go down in Eagles history: finishing 4-1, knocking the Cowboys out to sneak into the playoffs as a 6 seed; beating the Giants twice, once in the NFC Divisional round to make the NFC Championship game.
Riding high on emotion and momentum, the Eagles were a 4 point favorites on the road against the Cardinals and did what they do best: choke.
So here’s the question folks: would you rather get really really close to the Super Bowl or would you rather take a step back in order to take a step forward?
I guess the answer depends on the team that you’re rooting for. If you’re an Atlanta Falcons fan, you would have been thrilled to make it to the NFCCG instead of being knocked out in the wildcard round. But that’s ok because you’ve got Matt Ryan and you’re a team on the uptick. Expectations will rise next year and you hope to keep taking steps forward. If you’re a Detroit Lions fan, you would offer up some small sacrifice to the gods just to make the playoffs.
But I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan and I’ve seen this movie too many times already. Four to be precise.
I know I’m spoiled by success but what is the point of standing on the precipice of a championship just to have the door slammed in your face over and over? But hey, we got to the NFCCG. Mission accomplished I guess. So now Andy Reid will be back and Donovan McNabb wants a new contract because he thinks he had a “great” year. Wonderful. I can’t wait for another season of slow starts, passing in every situation, wasted timeouts, wasted challenges, our uncanny ability to run the 2 minute drill in 8 minutes, and a quarterback that can never get it done when it matters most. Don’t forget that we’re ten years into a five year plan.
No one is quite sure whose fault it really is. Some think that if only Andy Reid surrounded Donovan McNabb with more weapons, there’d be a parade down Broad Street already. And some think it’s mostly Donovan’s fault for choking in the clutch and being especially inaccurate when the collar gets tight. And the two schools of thought are usually by the same person, depending on the day.
One thing that I do know, when the last of the lockers are cleaned out at the NovaCare complex, the combination of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb goes home empty handed. Defenders of AR/DM say that football is a team game and that luck has a lot of do with it. I say luck is a loser’s lament. Look at the tally: 1-4 in NFCCGs and 0-1 in the Super Bowl. The supporting cast might change but the core remains the same. Andy and Donovan have been here for all 6 of those big games and they’ve won one time.
Let’s say you own an automobile manufacturing plant and year after year, you fail to finish your product. Sure it runs for a little bit but eventually, something falls off and you can never get to the finish line. You keep changing the workers along the assembly line except the foreman and the guy who designs the cars. After 10 years of shifting people in and out, wouldn’t you stop and think “hmmmm, maybe it’s the foreman or the designer that’s the problem?”
Ahhhh but here’s the bright side: no matter how poorly you make the car, there are people who will pay good money to watch you build that car. And there are thousands more who are lined up for a chance to get tickets to watch you build that car. So as long as the masses are sitting outside your gates trying to get in, why would you change anything?
I’m not sure whether the solution is to get rid of McNabb or Reid. But I also know that Reid has two more years on his guaranteed contract that pays him about $4M per. Meanwhile Donovan McNabb is harping about a new contract as if he did something this year to deserve it. If a change must be made (oh and it must, it must) then the logical choice is to trade McNabb for some draft picks and start anew with Kevin Kolb. It’s going to be painful but hopefully there is light (gleaming off of the Lombardi trophy) at the end of the tunnel.
Here’s my prediction for 2009: the Eagles finish 10-6, make a deep run into the playoffs and lose in the NFCCG. Am I cynical or just realistic? They keep trotting out the same product year after year. Sure there are a couple of tweaks but the core is the same. You’d have to be crazy to expect a different result. I also predict that every home game will be a sellout even though the Eagles will be raising ticket prices for the privilege of watching another season of horseshoes and hand grenades.
For the record, I do realize that Andy Reid is the greatest coach in Eagles history. And Donovan McNabb is the greatest (and whiniest) quarterback in Eagles history. But the combination has not and never will bring home the Super Bowl ring. It’s time to mine some different territory. Because if the Eagles keep digging here, the only thing we’ll unearth is another run into the playoffs and a hollow empty feeling at the end of it. Yep, city slicker, that there’s fool’s gold.