Reid and McNabb, One Last Dance....
Has there ever been a more tumultuous marriage of an NFL quarterback and his head coach, than what Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid have survived through this season?
When the Eagles fell in Week 12 to the Baltimore Ravens 36-7, this had to be considered rock bottom for quarterback Donovan McNabb. That loss dropped the Eagles to 5-5-1 and this was the game that head coach Andy Reid chose to bench his 10-year veteran quarterback; not a popular move and one that sparked much controversy
Many experts questioned the move, but also came to the conclusion that perhaps the marriage between McNabb and his only head coach as an NFL quarterback was over. The team have come up short in critical moments earlier in the season losing to the Cowboys and the Bears. But leave it to Andy Reid to keep everyone second guessing a day later, when he confirmed that McNabb, indeed was still his quarterback.
The Eagles since have won four of their last five and the play of McNabb has been one of the biggest reasons. The Eagles quarterback has nine touchdowns passes and only one interception in those four wins. McNabb also added a rushing touchdown last week in the team's big 44-6 win over Dallas.
This season heard the whispers of McNabb being finished in Philly, along with his head coach. With one last chance in the big dance, can one last dance to the big show cure all in the city of brotherly love?
Falcons on the Right Track...
There is no question that if you asked anyone within the Falcon organization, their arrival into the post season is not something being considered as "mission accomplished". If you look at this team, they have a good chance at winning on Saturday and they won't be content with "just being here."
Who would have thought that following a year that this organization went through, the Atlanta Falcons would finish the 2008 season at 11-5 and be playing this weekend in the NFL Playoffs?
Last season, from the distractions of quarterback Michael Vick's conviction to the sudden unexpected departure of head coach Bobby Petrino before the end of the 2007 regular season, many would have thought this team would be left for dread. The outlook to many looking in, had the Falcons enduring another long painstaking losing season, as part of their process of rebuilding.
The first step for Falcon's owner Arthur Blank were changes to his franchise. Following a disappointing 2007, the team's owner took bold steps and removed GM Rich McKay. His exhausting search for a replacement landed him, a then director of college scouting for the New England Patriots Thomas Dimitroff.
The second step was a new face on the sideline and together Dimitroff and Blank hired Mike Smith, who was Jacksonville's defensive coordinator since the 2003 season.
Although his passing numbers are not stellar, the Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan has had a magical season, leading his team to eleven wins and a post season bid. Something no one thought possible when this season began, well at least maybe no one outside the Falcon's locker-room.
This season's run by Atlanta has come as a surprise, but when you look at what this franchise did in the off-season with the signing of free-agents like running back Michael Turner, defensive back Erik Coleman, and defensive tackle Grady Jackson, it was apparent this team was serious about getting this franchise back on track.
There biggest and most successful move had to be the selection of Ryan in last year's NFL draft. Ryan has stepped into the role as the team leader and has shown tremendous ability. His 3,440-yards passing this season are the most by a Falcon quarterback since Jeff George threw for over 4,000-yards in 1995.
After everything that happened in 2007, advancing in this season's playoffs is probably something few of us ever thought could happen, but many in Atlanta believe will.
Warner's Last Hurrah...
Would you believe that when the Cardinal's opened training camp, they announced Matt Leinart as the team's starter? It was something that would not last and by the preseason's final contest would end.
The team would give Leinart every opportunity to start, but ultimately and in many ways fortunately for the franchise, it was veteran quarterback Kurt Warner who would prove to be the best option.
In 2007, Warner was a solid replacement for the injured Leinart as he started the team's final 11 games. In his last ten starts, Warner threw for 2,816-yards and tossed 23 touchdowns. This season Warner has picked up where he left off a year ago, throwing for 4,583-yards and tossing 30 touchdowns to lead the Cardinals.
The last time Warner entered the playoffs with a group as talented as this was back in 2001 with the St. Louis Rams, when he was the Ring Leader of the "Greatest Show on Turf." That same year, Warner passed for over 4,800-yards and threw 36 touchdowns to win his second league MVP.
Like his team (Rams) of 2001, the Cardinal's strength has been on the offensive side of the ball and particularly in the passing game.
At 37-years of age, Warner has played very well this season leading Arizona to a 9-7 record and their first division title in 33 years. Warner's rebirth has been a big reason why the Cardinals are in the playoffs and contending for a world championship. With Matt Leinart waiting in the wings though, his window of opportunity could be closing and he could be running out of chances.
Looking back to week four when Warner's teammate Anquan Boldin suffered a brutal hit that would sideline him for several weeks, Warner would question his own mortality. The Arizona quarterback considered the end of his career.
In his final year of a three year deal, Warner is slated to be a free-agent in 2009. As Wildcard Weekend kickoffs on today at 4:30pm EST, it will mark the beginning of the Road to the Superbowl for all, but it could also be Warner's last hurrah.
By David G. Ortega
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