DIBIASE: Reid, not McNabb, must take blame

Justin Dibiase

Irony is a funny thing in sports. We have seen it in so many games and locker rooms through the years, but its presence was never more apparent than on Thanksgiving night as the Philadelphia Eagles put a hurting on the Arizona Cardinals. On a day when giving thanks is paramount, there stood thankless Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb behind center. With all the pressure of a national TV audience squarely on him, No. 5 delivered his best performance of the season.

With all the naysayers claiming that the McNabb era had run its course in Philadelphia, McNabb proved one thing above all else Thursday night; he can still play. The quarterback danced away from Cardinal defenders, threw lightning rods to receivers and made it look easy all night. Arizona’s defense may not the most formidable group in the league, but Donovan showed the nation what it needed to see.

Even after his four-touchdown performance, some critics still call for Kevin Kolb to replace McNabb behind center. It may be true that the Eagles’ playoff chances stand at slim-to-none, but why should Kolb be handed the job? What has the youngster done to prove that he truly is the future of the franchise?

McNabb, who just turned 32, may not be having one of his better seasons, but he is proving that he can stay healthy and be efficient. If the Eagles want to pull McNabb for playing poorly, go right ahead, but to assume that McNabb’s good playing days are completely behind him is absurd.

McNabb’s quarterback rating stands at 84.5 for the season, good for 18th in the league. Does this mean that he is the 18th best quarterback in the NFL? Absolutely not. After all, his career rating is only 85.7. Statistically, he is having a better season than Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Kerry Collins, Gus Frerotte and Jake Delhomme – all of whose teams appear to be closing in on a playoff berth. Four of the top seven rated quarterbacks in the league are older than McNabb. As long as he can stay healthy, which he has succeeded at doing this season, he still can bring a Super Bowl to Philadelphia. John Elway and Brad Johnson proved that quarterbacks can still win championships in the latter parts of their careers.

This five-time pro-bowler can take some of the blame for the team’s average season, but he can’t take all of the criticism. Besides McNabb’s other teammates, there is one man who has been taking the brunt of the complaints and rightfully so. Head Coach Andy Reid has had his time in the sun in the City of Brotherly Love, but 10 years as a head coach anywhere is a long time. There was a stretch of time when Reid was one of the best game planners in the league, but lately his team has seemed handcuffed by his methods and those of his coaching staff.

The Eagles have a lot of talent on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Reid and General Manager Tom Heckert have done an above-average job of putting the Eagles together, but as Reid mutters in his torturous press conferences, he needs to do a better job of putting his players in a position to make a play. The truth is that President Joe Banner needs to do a better job of putting coaches in a position to win. Maybe that vision does not include Reid and his staff. After watching his Birds stumble to an 0-3 record in the division this year, Banner’s decision is becoming easier. Reid needs to go.

Reid supposedly handed over the play-calling duties to Marty Mornhinweg, but the same ineffective, head-scratching plays seem to appear on a weekly basis. McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter and DeSean Jackson are certifiable threats, and they have proven that they can do things in open space that the average football player wishes they could do. So why does the Eagles’ offense consistently struggle? Execution is key to winning, of course, but when coaches are calling for fade patterns on third-and-inches, who really is to blame? When a team needs to call two-to-three gadget plays per game, what does that say about the competence of the coaches calling the plays?

As this disappointing season mercifully comes to an end, the questions will arise once again. There is one question whose answer is unequivocally clear: McNabb can still win in the NFL and is still the Eagles’ best option. Reid, meanwhile, remains the puzzle that has yet to be solved. Everyone knows that he has deep personal ties to Banner and Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie, but will that relationship be enough to save his job? Philadelphia sure hopes not.


Justin DiBiase is a senior civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].