Donovan McNabb: Trading Him Is the Answer, But Not For the Reason You Think

Anthony WilliamsonCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2010

Every time I think of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, I think of the Odd Couple theme.

Not because I envision Reid eating a PB & J and getting jam all over McNabb's playbook (although that image alone is hilarious to me...), but because these are two talented guys who are mismatched.

Andy Reid is a very good coach. He's a great talent evaluator, and despite the fans' issues with his play-calling, he is an offensive guru.

Donovan McNabb is a very good quarterback. He's got excellent pocket awareness, can extend plays, and throws the ball downfield very well.

The problem in this marriage is not what they can do well, but where they are weak.

Reid cannot fathom running the ball more than 39 percent of the time, which is baffling considering he was an offensive lineman at BYU. He is not particularly adept at making in-game or halftime adjustments (although he's not as bad as people in Philadelphia would have you believe). After his first 15, the set of scripted plays that he has prepared each week, he seems to be indecisive with his play calling.

Whether that falls on Marty Mornhinweg or him is anyone's guess, but it does lead to wasted timeouts and disruption to offensive rhythm.

McNabb's arm strength works against him at times, causing him to throw 90 mph fastballs to targets five yards away or to overcompensate by floating balls. He can lose his mechanics and point the ball in the dirt (a particular gripe of Eagle "fans"). He can at times hold the ball too long waiting for something to develop.

Despite these flaws, this has been a winning combination for years, but if the Cowboys' three wins (although the first game was actually a very winnable one) have taught me anything, it's this:

Scheme is everything to quarterback success.

"So you're admitting you didn't already know this very elementary nugget of truth?"  

Not exactly.

It just became even more glaringly obvious to me. Like when you go to a tropical island and see just how blue the ocean really is. You always knew it was blue, but wading up to your hips in it leaves no doubt.

Saturday night I was up to my neck in truth.

The truth is no one (outside of Dallas fans) truly believes that Tony Romo is that much better than McNabb, and no one (again excluding Dallas fans) believes the Eagle defense is that bad.

Romo is a great quarterback (says the Eagles fan through his gritted teeth), but a large part of the credit for the sweep goes to his coach.

No, not Wade Phillips, you idiot! Jason Garrett.

You see, Garrett understands the single greatest truth about all quarterbacks that coaches who have not played the position don't seem to get: A solid running game slows the game down for the quarterback. I'm not referring to the obvious effect on the game clock, but to the mental well-being of the quarterback himself.

A quarterback has to go through hundreds of calculations in the five seconds that occur from the snap of the ball to the point a pass is released. He's trying to read the defense, making a note of potential pressure, making sure his line is set, and going over what his first read is on the particular play. All of that is just what happens in between "huts."

Then the ball is snapped.

When your running game is getting four to six yards a pop (league average is 3.8), the opposing team tends to play more "read and react" defense, which makes them a full second or two slower in getting to the quarterback.

Which translates into Tony Romo doing his best Joe Montana impersonation...

The reason why I now believe that it is time for the most successful NFC head coach/QB combo this decade to part ways is equally as simple:

McNabb can no longer bail out Reid's pass-happy play calling with his legs.

The athleticism, the speed—those things are a fraction of what they were. Some would say they're all but gone. Reid, however, has not adjusted his game plan. In fact, he passes more now than he did when McNabb could actually take the beating Reid lines him up for every week.

People always talk about the Arizona game where McNabb essentially played on a broken leg and threw three touchdowns. No one ever talks about how stupid it was for him to be in a position to throw three touchdowns in the first place.

In that game, Reid still called more pass plays than runs.

Same is true in the NFC Championship game against Carolina; same is true in the recent wild card matchup and a slew of other losses too painful to bring up. 

If McNabb does play in Philadelphia another year, he may very well be out of football before the end of the season. You think the rest of the league wasn't taking note of how the Cowboys just teed off on McNabb and totally disregarded the run? Or the fact that Reid didn't make them pay for that?

Combine that with the fact that six of next year's games will be against three of the NFC's best could get really ugly.

McNabb may be Reid's "guy," but he certainly doesn't treat him the way a top QB playing in a tough division should be treated. If you disagree, look around the rest of the NFC Beast:

Eli Manning has Brandon Jacobs, Romo has Marion Barber and Kevin Kol—I mean Felix Jones. Even Jason Campbell has Clinton Portis.

Who does Donovan have? Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy... in pass protection.

Or running routes.

Bottom line is, McNabb deserves better.

The Philadelphia Eagles were a joke before he arrived. He made them not only relevant but winners. He made below average receivers look like NFL players. He made defenses cringe at the thought of facing him—yet all this is forgotten the second he makes a mistake, throws an incompletion, or misses a wide-open receiver.

Every year since 2005, the talk of the offseason has been, "Is this McNabb's last year?" Why not do him a huge favor and move him out of Philadelphia? Nothing he does will ever be good enough there.

In fact, I can guarantee you if he did manage to win a Super Bowl, the media would point to the defense playing better or some receiver catching a badly thrown ball. They would find some way to eliminate any responsibility on McNabb's part for a win as much as every effort is expended to blame him for each loss.

Let's face it; Reid and McNabb are just no longer right for each other. One of them has to go, and since Reid drafted Kevin Kolb, let him try to win with him. Kolb is not as awful as McNabb's supporters say, nor is he as great as Kolb's supporters think, but we'll never know one way or the other as long as this stalemate continues.

I'll still cheer the Eagles until my throat bleeds, but just like when AI left for Colorado, I'll cheer for McNabb wherever he goes. Hopefully he goes somewhere that respects his skills and builds an offense to suit him. After all, that's what Hall of Fame coaches do for their franchise QBs.

They "put their players in a position to be successful." Right?

Okay, that was a little on the cheap side, but you get the point.

Trade McNabb to an up-and-coming team. The 49ers are in a good position, especially in a ridiculously weak division. Ditto Minnesota, although tougher sledding there. Buffalo, Miami (no, neither "Chad" is the answer right now), anywhere is better than another year of ungrateful scrutiny and unreasonable criticism.

Listening to the radio, you would have thought McNabb was behind the 9/11 attacks, the recession, and the movie Pluto Nash !

Recently on one of my favorite shows, How I Met Your Mother, two characters (Barney and Robin) couldn't stand being together any longer. In fact, it was essentially killing them, but neither wanted to pull the trigger and end things. It wasn't until they could see how miserable they were making each other that they had the courage to call it quits. On their own both flourished again, coming out the other side better than before.

Take a lesson from this, Reid: It's not always a bad thing to part ways respectfully. If you could let Brian Dawkins go six states away, surely trading McNabb for a defensive end or a free safety isn't totally out of the question, is it?

It's my hope that Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner give McNabb the only thing that will allow his career to continue and to be judged fairly:

A much-needed change of venue.


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