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Abandon Ship?

I’m lucky to be alive. On Sunday evening, while sitting comfortably on the Eagles’ bandwagon, I was trampled by an exodus of millions of Eagle fans. Only Swoop (Birds’ mascot) and myself remain. The road’s now bumpy and the sky’s grown dark. Nonetheless, I am alive, and contrary to popular belief, so are the Eagles.

I know what you’re thinking … I’m a biased idiot who can’t come to grips with the failure of another season … you’re probably right. After all, I once rode the Eagles’ bandwagon alone as Richie Kotite drove it straight off a cliff, but that’s beside the point. The Eagles are in the playoffs. The conclusion to their 2009 season has yet to be written.  A win on Saturday won’t be easy. In fact, it will take a mammoth effort.  As Harvey Dent (yes, the Batman guy) once said, “The night is always darkest before the dawn.” Here’s my crusade to bring everyone back on board, or at the very least, my dad.

You’ll argue: Dallas beat Philadelphia twice already this year, handedly too.
Very, very true. The Eagles’ performances against the Cowboys have been two of their ugliest outings. This is the toughest case to argue, by far. I’m up to the challenge. Don’t worry, I promise not to berate you with the cliché, “it’s tough to beat a team three times in one season.” I don’t buy that garbage anyway. The Eagles fell to the Giants on three occasions in the 2000 season. Last year the Ravens lost to the Steelers thrice (not a real word, I know). Defeating the same team three times happens more often than not, so I’m avoiding that defense. Instead, I’ll build my case on the experience factor, the propensity of Andy Reid’s teams to bounce back after devastating losses, and most importantly, “Any Given Sunday.”

Tony Romo has … count ‘em … zero playoff victories. Donovan McNabb has nine. McNabb hasn’t been the most electrifying postseason quarterback, but winning is winning. McNabb understands what it takes to win in January. The same is true for Wade Phillips (0) and Reid (10). At the two most important positions on any football team, the Eagles hold an overwhelming 19-0 advantage.

I could spend an entire weekend detailing Reid’s horrible personnel decisions (early years), play calling, and the granddaddy of them all; game management. Why waste the time? There are two things every Eagle fan wants to change but can’t. 1. Reid’s game management. 2. Reid’s sideline style when the temperature is above 60 degrees. With that out of the way, Reid is exceptional at rallying his team. See Arizona on Thanksgiving in ‘08 after getting crushed by Baltimore, or the Eagles rebounding (12-2 run to close the season) after starting the ’03 season with humiliating losses to the Bucs and Patriots (to open the Linc nonetheless), OR overcoming McNabb’s injury and two consecutive blowouts to Tennessee and Indy in ’06 to finish 5-0 and win the NFC East with Jeff Garcia. Like the previous run-on sentence, the list goes on and on. The media perceives Reid’s short term memory and “we need to do a better job there” shtick as arrogance. In reality, his example to forget and move on requires his team to do the same.

Any Given Sunday. No, not the movie, the principle. The Giants winning Super Bowl XLII, the Cardinals’ extraordinary run in the 2008 playoffs, the Browns shocking the Steelers to ruin Pittsburgh’s season (Ok, that was a Thursday game). Any team, in any stadium, on any day, can win a football game. We see this more in the NFL than any other league. Let’s wait to hear the fat lady before we cry choke.

You’ll argue: The Eagles’ offense is too inconsistent
Agreed, 113% agreed. The Eagles’ offense is wildly inconsistent. They’re unstoppable for one quarter and floundering the next. You’re right, if only we had the offensive consistency of the Dallas Cowbo….. what’s this? Another volatile offense? Indeed. Dallas is one of the NFL’s hottest teams, but even Romo and company struggle to keep their collective foot on the gas. Take a look at their second half points over Dallas’ last eight games; 7*, 3, 7, 14*, 14*, 7, 3, 7. (The *’s represent garbage TDs that were scored in defeats with 38, 58, and 2 seconds remaining in decided games, respectively.) That’s an average of 5.13 second half points, or 7.75 if you include the garbage TDs. Not exactly lighting up the scoreboard. Don’t bother arguing that Dallas had already clinched victory either. In four of those eight games, they trailed in the second half (eventually lost three). Another game was against New Orleans, who nearly came back. Only in the remaining three games did Dallas lead by two or more scores (OAK, WASH, PHI).

You’ll argue: I hate it when Donovan McNabb smiles when he should be steaming
Me too. A little Tom Brady please, eh Don?

You’ll argue: Donovan McNabb stinks. He’ll never bring home a Super Bowl
My friends, my friends. Yes, his, “I am the victim” persona is annoying, and Peyton Manning he is not, but Donovan McNabb is a fine quarterback. McNabb’s inaccuracy is the rallying cry for the KKNC (Kevin Kolb Now Clan). Not so fast. Allow me to introduce to you a fella named John Elway. You see, Elway was never the most accurate quarterback. He, like McNabb, also experienced trouble winning Super Bowls for the first 14 years of his 16 year career. I know most of you just slammed your fist on the desk and thought (maybe shouted), “oh no he didn’t.” Well, I did. If McNabb plays another 5-6 seasons in the NFL, he’ll likely surpass Elway in nearly every statistical category except interceptions. I’ll now wait seven seconds for those of you who fell off your chair to get situated ……. We good? Let’s continue. Over the course of his 16 year career, Elway completed 60% or more of his passes in only three seasons, finishing with a career mark of 56.9%. McNabb is currently at 59% for his career. He’s surpassed the 60% plateau four times in his career, including the last three seasons. McNabb doesn’t have the Super Bowl wins that Elway has … yet. Old Johnny finally struck Super Bowl gold in years 15 and 16 of his illustrious career. While McNabb has won plenty of big games throughout his career (you don’t win 9 playoff games and 4 ½ division titles without winning big games; I can list them if you want), he has yet to summit the championship mountain. I believe in McNabb. I think he’s improving. I know he won’t lay a stinker come Saturday. If only he could play safety too…

5 Comments

  1. Rick

    In my mind, the Eagles had a good season. It is a reasonable result given how young they are. As far as Donovan goes, if he were learning and growing, I would be satisfied with him, too. But to be in the league this long and waste timeouts the way he does, fail to get his team to line in time for important plays, not knowing the rules of the game… well, it is hard for me to think of him as more than a good quarterback with tremendous athletic ability.

  2. Rick

    some years ago, we did some work at Lehigh on what distinguishes a champion from a regular athlete:
    The champion…

    1) is not afraid to lose
    2) wants responsibility when the game is on the line
    3) does his best work under the worst circumstances
    4) does not hold back and has no excuses even in the deepest parts of his mind.

  3. Ryan (Author)

    I apologize for not being clear about this. I don’t consider McNabb to be a “champion.” I think he’s a good enough quarterback to win a championship. That’s all (for now). In my opinion, there are four QBs in the league that fall under the “champion” tag; Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger (kills me to admit this), Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, and soon enough, Philip Rivers. I made the comparisons to John Elway for two reasons. 1. to prove there’s time for McNabb to change his legacy. And 2. to show that McNabb isn’t as bad as everyone likes to believe.

  4. danielle

    interesting. i’m interested to see if pop Coyle responds. =)

  5. Pops Coyle

    Big guy has considered very carefully the arguments put forth by his die-hard Eagle fan son. The most compelling of them is the track record that Andy Reid has for coming back from a stinker of a game and putting a brilliant game plan together and getting his team to execute. My hands are hanging on the sides of the bandwagon and my feet are being dragged behind. Go Eagles!

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