Philadephia Eagles: Bring Back Donovan McNabb and Other Ways to Fix the Team
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Oh, Dream Team, what has become of you?
The team that was stacked with free-agent mercenaries that proclaimed themselves the Super Bowl favorite has crashed and burned in the most spectacular way.
The coaching has been bad; the naming of Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator may be one of the most boneheaded decisions of Andy Reid's coaching career.
As bad as the Eagles have been—and they have been awful this season—Andy Reid's job is secure. Much to the consternation of the Angelo Cataldis, Rhea Hughes and the, ugh, "Angry" Greg Ryans of the world, Andy Reid will be manning the sidelines for the Eagles in 2012.
As they play out the string of meaningless games, it's time to take stock and figure out where to go from here.
1. Fire Juan Castillo
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He may be one of the nicest humans ever. He may be a hard worker. He may be a loyal employee. But, he is also a terrible defensive coordinator who is, and has been from day one, in way over his head.
You can't blame Castillo for taking the job. It was offered to him, and he, like most hard working Americans, had a desire to move up in his chosen profession.
The experiment of moving an offensive line coach to defensive coordinator has been a spectacular failure. It didn't help that the Eagles hired pretty much every other defensive coach before putting Castillo in the defensive coordinator position.
Castillo has been out-coached consistently and constantly, and he must go. There's no moving him around within the organization. His time here is over.
2. Hire Steve Spagnuolo as Defensive Coordinator
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Some would call Steve Spagnuolo Judas. He learned Jim Johnson's defense and then took it and the money and went to the Eagles' hated rival, the New York Giants, and implemented it. It's like an American nuclear scientist defecting to the Soviet Union in 1963. You know, metaphorically speaking.
He also won a Super Bowl in New York—something Jim Johnson, for all of his greatness, could not do in Philadelphia. (Granted, as Arlen Specter would tell you, Jim Johnson and his defense were kind of at a major disadvantage in their Super Bowl appearance against New England, but that's neither here nor there.)
Spagnuolo used that Super Bowl win to land himself a job as a head coach of the St. Louis Rams. So far, it has not worked out and looks very much like he will be fired this offseason.
Hey, no shame in that. Buddy Ryan was a phenomenal defensive coordinator and—despite what a lot of locals believe—a pretty mediocre head coach.
Spagnuolo is a living example of the "Peter Principle," which states in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. Spagnuolo, like Ryan, has found his level.
Unlike Ryan, who found his level far too late in his career, Spagnuolo can still settle in as the Eagles defensive coordinator and carry on Jim Johnson's legacy—something Sean McDermott and Juan Castillo failed at miserably.
If he can whip the Eagles' D into shape the way he did the Giants, he'll be as beloved here as Johnson, despite being a key factor in the hated Giants' Super Bowl victory.
3. Draft Matt Barkley
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Barkley has been a phenom at USC. Granted, USC hasn't had a streak of great NFL quarterbacks. Then again, neither has Notre Dame, but at one time, the school produced Joe Theismann and Joe Montana.
Barkley can run an offense, seems to have a head on his shoulders and doesn't seem to be a problem as far as ego or work ethic.
He's in a system that utilizes the running game, and the Eagles just so happen to have one of the best running backs in the NFL in Shady McCoy.
The Eagles may have to trade up to get in a position to get Barkley—especially if they keep winning these meaningless games—but they have the resources to do so, and it would definitely be worth it.
He'd be the first bona fide star QB the Eagles drafted since Donovan McNabb.
4. Trade Michael Vick
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Andy Reid had some personal reasons for wanting to give Michael Vick a second chance, and he should be lauded for doing so.
However, the Michael Vick as a starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles experiment must end, and it must end soon.
The Eagles are only on the hook with Vick for next year, after which they can cut him. Keeping him around another season may prove to be detrimental.
He's already shown flashes of his old, petulant self. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has already spoken publicly about his frustrations with Vick following instructions.
Should the Eagles face a 2012 similar to 2011, things may only get worse. Especially if they draft a future franchise QB. Vick doesn't seem to be the kind of guy to quietly give it his all as his heir apparent stands on the sidelines next to the head coach.
Jettison Mike Vick in the offseason. He's worth a second-round pick to some teams.
An honest assessment of Vick's tenure with the Eagles is as follows:
He stunk in limited role in 2009. The Eagles tried unsuccessfully to trade him that offseason.
Kevin Kolb stunk even worse than Vick in 2010. Vick caught the NFL off-guard that season and played well for the Eagles.
The NFL caught up with Vick and the Eagles. Michael Vick has lost eight out of his last twelve games as a starting QB.
He's reverted to his old ways of turning the ball over almost as consistently as he creates scores for his team. He's 32. He's injury-prone. Time to move on.
5. Bring Back Donovan McNabb
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Fletcher Smith, Donovan McNabb's agent, has pretty much conceded that when McNabb looks for a team next season, he'll most likely be a backup quarterback.
Whether the Eagles keep Michael Vick (which they shouldn't) or draft a QB of the future (which they should), they'll need another veteran quarterback on the roster. If they give one second of serious consideration to bringing back Vince Young in any quarterbacking capacity, the NFL should probably revoke the team's charter.
The Eagles should cut ties with Vick. They should draft a stud quarterback, and they should bring in McNabb to serve in the role Doug Pederson served McNabb's rookie year.
It will drive the reactionary, rating-obsessed sports-talk-radio morons into a lather that would consume the entire sports-talk-listening portion of the town.
It will stir the angry, vocal minority of the fan base, who have nothing better to do with their morning than sit on hold for 90 minutes so they can sycophantically rant and agree with their faux-angry, millionaire talk-show host/vessels.
He worked wonders with garbage before Terrell Owens arrived. After that, he came back from a horrific knee injury and still led the Eagles to regular-season and post-season victories, including beating the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the Meadowlands in the 2009 playoffs.
Michael Vick has the best receiving corps the Eagles ever had under Andy Reid, the best running back the team ever had under Andy Reid and a tight end almost as good as McNabb's. Yet, Vick's Eagles are a dismal 5-8.
The argument can be made that McNabb played with Jim Johnson's defenses. Okay, but as Johnson, himself, and Johnson fans will readily admit, those defenses were not dominant until the opposition got to the red zone.
The saying was they let opposition "play great between the 20s," and then they would shut them down. "Bend, but don't break."
That's fine, but that also means the opposition either scored a touchdown, kicked a field goal or committed a turnover within the Eagles' 20-yard-line. That also meant most possessions, McNabb's offense started with lousy field position.
Yet, McNabb racked up records in almost every offensive stat there is. Obviously, he was doing some pretty great things, and he was doing them with the Nae Browns, Todd Pinkstons, Freddie Mitchells and James Thrashes of the world.
The one season they gave him the stud wide receiver, he was arguably the best quarterback in the game. Even when Terrell Owens went down with injury, McNabb still pushed the Eagles over the hump and into the Super Bowl.
And about that Super Bowl where everyone claims McNabb played horribly, the numbers don't lie.
McNabb—in a losing effort against the mighty New England Patriots and God's gifts to coaching and quarterbacking, respectively, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady—put up better (or comparable) numbers than the next four Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, two of whom won Super Bowl MVP.
Donovan McNabb threw 30 for 51 for 357 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions (the last of which was a desperation toss as the Eagles had four seconds, no timeouts and about 80 percent of the field to go to win).
Ben Roethlisberger threw 9 for 21 for 123 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Peyton Manning was 25 for 38 for 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Eli Manning completed 19 for 34 for 255 yards two touchdowns and one interception...and one remarkable against-the-helmet catch.
Ben Roethlisberger finished 21 for 30 (pretty good) for 256 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Roethlisberger, of course, came through in the clutch that last Super Bowl, but the thing McNabb critics refuse to admit is the last time Donovan had the ball in his hands with any legitimate chance of doing anything, he threw a dart to Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone.
The lack of urgency on the part of the Eagles that last drive has been attributed to McNabb, but since McNabb left the team and Kolb, Vick and Young have been behind center for the Eagles, their urgency in those situations does not seem to be much better.
I mean, that 15-minute 80-plus-yard touchdown-drive against Seattle when the team was down 17 in the second half was great and all, but...
Anyway, this defense of Donovan is basically due to the fact that no matter what the agenda-driven media in this town—who either raised a mob to go boo him on draft day and then had to spend 10 years trying to prove they were right in doing so, or the media members who kissed up to the people who raised a mob to boo him on draft day just so they'd get air-time on the radio—say, McNabb deserved better than he got.
He deserves to finish his career playing for the team and city he loved.
He never once bad-mouthed the fans nor asked to be traded. He knows the offense, he knows the coaches, he's a decent guy, and he could serve as a great example of what to do and what not to do as a starting quarterback in Philadelphia for the next franchise quarterback.
Bring back McNabb.