I am swirling with emotion right now.
You see, I have religiously followed my beloved Philadelphia Eagles since that magical 1980-81 Super Bowl season.
Since that time, I would say there have been seven people who've defined football in Philly: Dick Vermeil, Buddy Ryan, Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Randall Cunningham, Brian Dawkins, and Donovan McNabb.
Ironically, one person who I believe most Philly football junkies would leave off this list is Andy Reid. He's always been cool, unemotional, and a shade bit robotic—VERY unlike the fans in Philly. But he wins a lot (heck, he's the winningest coach in the history of the team), he and the front office have always drafted well, put together great coaching staffs, and he's always had a very good system for his players to thrive in.
But one thing I'm sure most Eagle fans have noticed in recent years is their predictability. Since the Reid/McNabb era began in 1999, they've always been a pass-first-run-later-even-if-it's-third-and-inches team.
All football fans know that as far as offense is concerned, balance is key. You cannot have a quarterback throw up to 50 times a game and expect to win. We all know this is why the great Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl—he never had a running game.
In recent years, I believe that baseball has become overly concerned with the theory of the pitch count. If your ace is throwing a shutout going into the ninth, but the manager determines his pitch count is too high, chances are, he just might pull him, send in the reliever, and boom—he blows a save, and the manager justifies his move by saying his starter was "way beyond his pitch count." But the bottom line is, you lose the game when maybe you didn't have to.
Football has seen a similar wave which I believe Andy Reid has fallen for harder than any other NFL coach. Many NFL coaches today voice their desire not to "overrun" or "wear out" their feature back. It seems as if 20 carries for any one running back in a game is unheard of these days.
The days of grinding it out with a Larry Csonka or a Franco Harris or an Earl Campbell is long gone. These days, teams are using two feature backs. The Eagles, especially over the last five years, have had very good running backs; the unstoppable Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter, LeSean McCoy, and now Leonard Weaver. But that's never mattered to Andy Reid. Just take a look at the number of rushing attempts between the Eagles and the Super Bowl winners of the last five years.
2009 Eagles: 384 rushing attempts / 2009 Saints: 468 rushing attempts
2008 Eagles: 427 rushing attempts / 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers: 460 rushing attempts
2007 Eagles: 421 rushing attempts / 2007 New York Giants: 469 rushing attempts
2006 Eagles: 416 rushing attempts / 2006 Indianapolis Colts: 439 rushing attempts
2005 Eagles: 365 rushing attempts / 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers: 549 rushing attempts
And just to rub it in, how about this...
In a 14-game season, the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins ran the ball an astounding 613 times!
The most Andy Reid has ever called the run in any season is 489. That was in the 2002-03 season when the favored Eagles lost the most painfully heartbreaking NFC Championship game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—the last game the Eagles ever played at Veterans Stadium.
When you look at that game, only one thing is obvious, the Buccaneers were very prepared. The Eagles were not. It was eerily similar to the way the Cowboys dominated the Eagles this past season in the regular season finale and in the subsequent wild-card game.
Preparation is the coach's responsibility.
Now, let's talk about Donovan McNabb. Seriously, is he the real reason the Eagles haven't won a Super Bowl ring? Come on, really?
Was it his fault in the 2003-04 NFC title game when the Carolina Panthers made mince meat of the Eagles offensive line?
Was it his fault in the 2008-09 NFC title game when the Arizona Cardinals scored the winning touchdown after meticulously and methodically marching down the field eating precious minutes off the clock after McNabb heroically gave the Eagles the lead?
Was it his fault in the 2002-03 title game when Brad Johnson made Joe Jurevicius look like Jerry Rice?
Wasn't McNabb the one who went to bat for Terrell Owens when nobody else in the league wanted him in 2004?
Sadly, the measuring stick by which McNabb will always be judged by only his harshest critics will be his (supposed) stomach cramps during the 4th quarter comeback drive of Super Bowl XXXIX. Okay, but even still, his final numbers in that game weren't too shabby: 30-51, 357 yds, 3 TD, 3 INT.
In just this past season, after missing two games, he finished with 22 TD passes against only 10 INTS and his sixth trip to the Pro Bowl. You're going to tell me that McNabb doesn't have it anymore? Seriously?
Keep in mind, statistically, Donovan McNabb is the greatest quarterback in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles. He leads the team in virtually every major category.
Did you know McNabb has the third-lowest interception rate in NFL history? Yes, he may misfire occasionally, but we all know he's never thrown careless interceptions.
When you look at some of the names of the quarterbacks who have won titles during McNabb's career, are you going to tell me Eagle fans, you would have rather had Brad Johnson? You would have been cool with a trade to the Giants for Eli Manning? And SURELY you're not telling me you would have rather had Trent Dilfer.
How about that "elite" quarterback in Dallas, Tony Romo? WAY better than McNabb, right? Just look at how many titles the Cowboys have won. Frankly, I don't think Eagle fans would have wanted Ben Roethlisberger. He wins, but uh....
The combination of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb has been a very successful one. No one can dispute that this last decade has unquestionably been the most glorious era of Philadelphia Eagles football. But alas, all eras must end. We know that. Most football fans expected the Eagles reign of power in the NFC to end long before now, but the Eagles have remained amazingly consistent. Consistent to some, predictable to others.
Regarding their playoff drubbing of the Eagles earlier this year, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking said, "the way we dominated them, obviously [Donovan] McNabb didn’t play his best, but they were very predictable. We knew exactly what was coming on every play. A lot of that didn’t have to do with Donovan McNabb."
As much as it pains my soul to agree with a Dallas Cowboy, I have to agree with him. Hey, he's right. I was shocked that the Eagles didn't change their game plan one week after getting whupped by the Cowboys in the season finale. It didn't make sense. Who's in charge of the game plan? It's not McNabb...
We've seen the departure of key members of the Eagles empire within the last two years—Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook, Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, Sheldon Brown, Jim Johnson, GM Tom Heckert, Correll Buckhalter, and now, the face of the franchise, Donovan McNabb.
Why isn't Andy Reid on that list? Is it because he's really a genius and his players just don't get it? Will Andy Reid's predictable game planning work on a whole new crop of young players?
Did Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner really think that this team had a better chance at rebuilding with Reid and without McNabb?
Is Kevin Kolb really going to run the west coast offense any different than McNabb? Is Kevin Kolb going to make the offense run the ball more? Will Andy Reid actually change the playbook?
If the Eagles are in rebuilding mode, why not really rebuild and change the coach? I mean, it has been 11 years.
Time will tell.
I see similarities between McNabb and John Elway. For over a decade, the city of Denver came down hard on the Elway/Dan Reeves-led Broncos for always contending, but never winning the big one. All football fans knew that sooner or later, something was going to have to give. As much as Bronco fans raked Elway over the coals, they knew what they had. Reeves was fired. Mike Shanahan became the coach. The Elway/Shanahan-led Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls. Elway retired and rode into the sunset like the hero he was. It should have happened that way in Philly.
Oh, by the way, remind me of who's the new head coach of the Redskins again?