The NFC East, and indeed the whole NFC, is wide open this year. In fact, the whole NFL appears to be.
The Eagles, coming off an exciting home win over the Indianapolis Colts, can solidify their playoff and NFC East title hopes with a victory; a loss would keep them in contention, but make their job a whole lot tougher with the New York Giants (6-2) playing so well.
The Redskins, realistically, need this win to stay in playoff contention, even though they would still be in easy mathematical reach with a loss: 4-5, with seven games remaining. They also need to stop the bleeding after their controversial loss at lowly Detroit prior to their bye week.
Of course, all eyes will be on No. 5 of the Redskins...(it still feels weird to say that, after seven months of practice)...Donovan McNabb. All eyes would have been trained there anyway, but thanks to coach Mike Shanahan's decision to pull McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman with roughly two minutes left and his team down by only five points, and his futile (at best) explanations for it, the nation's capital now has a quarterback controversy. One that will have festered for 15 days until the much-awaited Monday night kickoff.
To which I ask: Weren't the Eagles supposed to be the team with the quarterback controversy this year?
McNabb had left after 11 highly successful, if not parade-full, seasons in Philly, and the keys were famously turned over to Kevin Kolb. A lot of Philly fans were celebrating someone new, if not someone better, at the helm. Not that many Philly fans had ever really moved on from all things Donovan.
And then there was Michael Vick, whose very name and previous heinous deeds made his very name controversial. Vick had spent a relatively innocuous, controversy-free season as McNabb's backup last year, and he played infrequently—and less than impressively—when given the opportunity to trade his Eagles baseball cap for a helmet.
Does it seem like five years ago that an offseason shooting incident at Vick's own birthday bash threatened to either end Vick's second-chance Eagles career or at least suspend him? Well, thanks to divine intervention in the human forms of guys like Roger Goodell, Andy Reid, Joe Banner and Jeff Lurie, Vick got less than a wrist slap and resumed his good citizenship act as the just-happy-to-be-here second-stringer.
Well, some twists, turns, rib injuries and concussions later, and Vick appears to be solidly entrenched as the Eagles starting quarterback. In fairness, he has played extremely well this year when healthy, and is in serious contention for a Pro Bowl berth, and MVP consideration is not totally out of the question.
As for Kolb, he has shown glimpses of greatness and periods of rather pedestrian play. He waits for Daddy Reid to entrust him with the car keys again, but for now, the QB controversy talk is quiet in Philly.
Now, back to DC, Shanahan and a guy named Rex. Things appeared to be going pretty well in Redskins land heading into that Lions game. The Skins were 4-3, and if their new franchise quarterback did not have gaudy personal stats, that record was a great improvement over the 4-12 mark accumulated by Zorn and Campbell last year.
With No. 5 under center, the Redskins have been in every game, and had even won the previous showdown in Philly, when McNabb returned to the Linc. But then, Detroit, Mike and Kyle Shanahan and Rex Grossman (poor guy) happened, and, now what?
Suffice it for me to say that I was more than surprised by Shanahan's decision to let Grossman lead a supposed comeback with the game well within reach, despite McNabb having an off game. Suffice it for me to also say that 99.9 percent of even good quarterbacks in the history of the NFL would be having off games with the collection of flotsam and jetsam that passes for the offensive line, receivers and running backs (even when healthy) in Redskins land.
And then, the new controversy raged even louder because of three other factors:
1. Shanahan's inane and somewhat inflammatory comments "explaining" his move
2. The fact that it preceded the 'Skins bye week
3. The coincidental fact that it preceded a Redskins-Eagles game
I'm not sure if Shanahan is plain crazy, crazy like a fox or a total jerk, but his handling of the move and explanation made LeBron James’ televised "Decision" to leave Cleveland look deft and classy by comparison.
So, onward we fans march to McNabb vs. The Eagles, Part Two, with enough subplots to rival a Grisham novel. Or would you believe Tolstoy?
McNabb, who by all indications lives his life and conducts himself in a classy, non-controversial way, is bathed in yet another controversy that is not of his making.
His friend Mike Vick, the insanely talented and ultra-controversial figure, seems to be rolling all 7's (hmmm) and will endear himself to a great majority of the Philly Phaithful if he wins this showdown and outshines his mentor in the process.
Of course, the Eagles and Redskins O-lines being what they are these days, is it that far-fetched that we may see Kevin Kolb (who relieved Vick in Revenge Bowl One) and/or Rex Grossman?
And if Grossman emerges from the bullpen once again for McNabb—and if McNabb is otherwise ready to go—brace yourselves for the nuclear fallout.
For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, other writings and appearances, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org