The Philadelphia Eagles, their fans and the local media will once again come into yet another offseason analyzing and over analyzing what the heck went wrong with a season that once again ended without a Lombardi Trophy and a parade down Broad Street.
The ending of the 2009 season could not have been anything spectacularly worse for Eagles fans. Two blowout losses at the hands of the hated Dallas Cowboys has sent the City of Brotherly Love into another winter of "Throw the bums out."
The sobering reality that Eagles fans don't want to hear other than the easy most convenient answer-- get rid of quarterback Donovan McNabb and head coach Andy Reid--is that quite frankly that the team in 2009 simply wasn't good enough to make a run to the Super Bowl, especially when they played some of the league's best teams.
Another thing folks don't want to hear is that it's not all on McNabb. In the face of all "McNabb must go" mania that grips this city every year they don't win the Super Bowl, here are a few facts to consider.
During his press conference as the newly hired head coach of the Washington Redskins, Mike Shanahan was asked about his assessment of oft-criticized starting quarterback Jason Campbell. Listening to his answer to that question seems to indicate that Campbell is going to be Shanahan's starting quarterback until further notice.
"I'm looking forward to working with him. I love the way Jason handles himself," Shanahan said. "I'm looking forward to sitting down and watching film and going through every play that he's had throughout his career and sitting down and talking to him. Hopefully, the best years are ahead of him."
Campbell, who threw a career- high 20 touchdown passes and a career-worst 15 interceptions this past season, has had seven different offensive coordinators from college to the pros and he has had his share of injuries. Shanahan's presence might bring the kind of stability and nurturing that Campbell needs as a quarterback.
When the Philadelphia Eagles venture back down to Dallas for Saturday's Wildcard Playoff game, maybe, just maybe they will remember to pack their running game as a part of their luggage.
In the last episode of Eagles-Cowboys, the Birds apparently forgot to bring it and got too pass happy in their shutout loss to their hated archrivals. In what was a 24-0 debacle of a shutout to Dallas, the Eagles only ran the ball 10 times for 37 yards while quarterback Donovan McNabb was constantly harrassed by the Cowboys defense and was sacked four times.
For the game, McNabb completed 20-of-36 passes for 223 yards and zero touchdowns. When he wasn't being harrased by Dallas defenders, he was missing wide open receivers including an overthrown pass to DeSean Jackson midway through the first quarter. Eagles didn't have any consistent rhythm on offense. That tends to happen when you abandon the running game.
At this time last year, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was inside the media room at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia trying to figure out how his team wound up on the wrong end of a devastating 44-6 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles that eliminated them from the playoffs.
"I've got to play better and the team's has to play better," Romo said at the time.
This year there would be no December swoons or the Cowboys having to explain why they're not in the postseason. Amidst all the naysayers and experts who were expecting another late season Dallas choke, the Cowboys (11-5) finished the regular season on a strong note, winning their last three games to win their second NFC Eastern Division title in three years.
The Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game will obviously be compelling because the NFC East crown is on the line. Both teams have already clinched playoff berths.
All that said, one of the underlying story lines of this game is that it represents a crossroads for a pair of quarterbacks who have received constant criticism from their respective fan bases for not being good enough to lead their teams.
At the end of this game, one of these quarterbacks will be roundly criticized by their home fans because once again they have failed to lead their team to a win in a big game.
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo are at the opposite ends of their career. In 11 years in Philadelphia, McNabb has been vilified by fans and the local media for not being good enough to lead his team to a Super Bowl title. Romo has been the whipping boy in Dallas for the last three years for not being able to get wins in December and January.
By Chris Murray
It would be a gross understatement to say that the race in the NFC East is getting interesting.
The Dallas Cowboys (8-4) and the Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) are tied for first-place and the New York Giants (7-5) are just one game back and have a good chance to jump back into the lead.
The G-Men managed to right what had been a sinking ship to their season by beating the Cowboys for the second time this season. In a game in which it looked like Dallas was winning statistically, the Giants got a couple of big plays in the second half to come away with a 31-24 win.
A 74-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to running back Brandon Jacobs, a man who has a profound hatred for Dallas, and a 79-yard punt yard return by Domenik Hixon broke the Cowboys back and put the Giants right back in the thick of the race for a division title.
For the last two weeks, Eagles
quarterback Donovan McNabb has been doing something that his most
ardent critics have said he is incapable of doing--leading his team
from behind in the fourth quarter.
In their win over what some will
argue is a bad Washington Redskins team, McNabb and the Eagles
offense weren't always great. In fact, there were times in that game
when they were downright awful, especially in the third quarter when
they failed to convert on third down.
But in the end, McNabb rallied the
Birds to 11 unanswered points in the game's final seven
minutes--including a 12-play 90-yard drive that tied the game.
McNabb completed 21-of-35 passes for 260 yards and one touchdown as
the Eagles improved to 7-4 and one game behind the first-place Dallas
The Dallas Cowboys are 8-3 and in
first place in the NFC East, but the most important and for the last
couple of years, the most troubling part of their season--the month
of December--is on the horizon.
Since 1996, the Cowboys have not
posted a winning record in December and January. They haven't won a
playoff game since that time as well. It is the reason why fans and
people who cover the team are looking Dallas's current record with a
degree of skepticism.
If there is any kind of silver lining
to Eagles running back Brian Westbrook recovering from the concussion
he sustained against the San Diego Chargers, rookie running back
LeSean McCoy is getting the opportunity to show what he can do in
the running game.
In the Eagles 24-20 win over the
Chicago Bears, McCoy scored the winning touchdown and gained 99
yards on 20 carries in a game where the Birds ran the ball almost as
much as they passed it. While McCoy is still young and needs to learn
how to be a blocker in the Eagles pass-first offense, he is proving
his worth as a solid running back.
One example of this was in last
Sunday's game against the Bears. Early in the fourth quarter, McCoy
fumbled the ball to the Bears after a 17-yard gain. On the Birds next
possession, McCoy got the ball on the first play of the possession and gained four yards. He capped the drive with the 10-yard touchdown run
after a potentially game-changing fumble. Eagles gave him the ball
again because they see the upside of his ability.
Every time it looks like somebody is
about to emerge as the dominate team in division, fans get a not so
subtle reminder that the teams in this division may not be as good as
all the hype.
During the first five weeks of the
season, some folks were presumptious enough to say the New York
Giants were on another run to win the Super Bowl. Then they ran into
buzz saw and wound losing their last four games.
At the rate things are going at this
point, don't be surprised if the 3-6 Washington Redskins, who are
fresh off an upset of the Denver Broncos, end up being a contender
for a division title or playoff berth. While that might be a stretch,
the way the top teams in the NFC East played this weekend, it could
be a bizarre possibility.