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.
The Eagles offense put up a club-record 429 points with a patchwork offensive line that suffered from injuries including its starting center late in the season. McNabb played in 14 games and threw 22 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 92.9. He passed for 3,553 yards passing, the third best in his career.
McNabb finally had some weapons in the passing game like wide receiver DeSean Jackson (63 passes, nine touchdowns, 1,167 yards) and tight end Brent Celek, who led the Birds in receiving with 76 receptions for 971 yards and eight touchdowns. Wideouts Jason Avant and rookie Jeremy Maclin were also key contributors in the passing game.
Coming into the final week of the season, the Eagles had reeled off a six-game winnng game after losing two straight to Dallas and San Diego. Some observers thought the Eagles were a favorite to run the table in the NFC. The common denominator in the Eagles success was that they ran the football.
In fact, they ran it more than 20 times in each of those six games and in five of those games, they ran it for over 100 yards. That kind of balance made it easier for McNabb in the pocket and kept opposing pass rushers at bay.
The Eagles three running backs, fullback Leonard Weaver, LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook, before he was injured, was averaging over four yards per carry. When the Eagles ran the ball, they ran it well enough to keep teams honest.
In their final two games against Dallas, the Eagles ran it 10 times for 37 yards and 15 times for 56 yards. You can't win in the NFL playoffs and not have a running game. As the Cowboys demonstrated with eight sacks of McNabb in a space of six days, you cannot be one dimensional and expect to win. Hasn't a 1-4 record in the NFC Championship game, a Super Bowl loss and the last two years convinced Reid that he has to have balance?
This past weekend's playoff winners ran for more than 100 yards as a team, the Cowboys the Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, and even the pass-happy Arizona Cardinals ran for 156 yards as a team on 23 carries while averaging 6.8 yards per rush.
What should bother Eagles fans is that Reid and offensive coorndinator Marty should know better. Remember last year? After a bizarre tie against Cincinnati and a devastating loss to Baltimore, the Eagles started running the football. They went 4-1 down the stretch of that season.
In the games the Eagles won they averaged 149 yards per game and ran it more than 20 times. In the game the Birds lost, a horrific 10-3 loss to the Washington Redskins, they ran the ball just 16 times for 62 yards.
To be honest, getting rid of McNabb is not the solution to the Eagles woes on offense. Revamping the offensive line, maturity on the part of the Birds young receivers, and showing some balance on offense will help McNabb and the offense.
Meanwhile, the Eagles defense while remarkably adequate was a patchwork group that was affected by injuries. Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley's season-ending injury definitely hurt the defense and no one, not even long-time veteran Jeremiah Trotter, could fill that void in the middle of the Eagles defense
The play of the rest of the linebacker corps was mediocre at best. You needed a scorecard to figure out who was playing at the position, especially after the season-ending injury to outside linebacker Omar Gaither.
In the secondary, the Eagles were average and missed the presence of Brian Dawkins at the free safety position. Will Demps and rookie Victor "Macho" Harris are still young and have a lot of growing to do to even come close to being the enforcer on the same level as Dawkins. The best player in the Eagles secondary was Asante Samuel, who had nine interceptions. At strong safety, Quintin Mikell was average.
Statistically, the Eagles had the 12th best defense in the league-9th against the run and a mediocre 17th against the pass. The defense was good enough to knock off non-playoff teams like the New York Giants, the San Francisco 49ers or the Washington Redskins.
But in their losses to the Saints (463), Chargers (331) Cowboys (game one- 358), (game two-474), (game three-426), the Eagles defense couldn't stop anybody, giving up an average of 410 yards and 31 points per game.