IT IS THE quarterbacking, not the playcalling.
You know the argument, the one that flared again after the Eagles' loss on Sunday to Seattle, the one that states that the way and the truth and the light was the playcalling that Jeff Garcia received last season after he took over as quarterback when Donovan McNabb tore up his knee.
It entirely misses the point. The playcalling has not changed between Garcia and this season. It is the same, and it is the same as the NFL average these days. The Eagles are not pass-happy. Coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg are not harebrained. Their offense is not lopsided by NFL standards.
They are not throwing too much. They are not underusing the great Brian Westbrook. This year has been about McNabb being inconsistent all season. Sunday was about A.J. Feeley being, uh, less than inconsistent. That's it.
Because this is the Garcia offense.
What follows is a list of called passing plays in the first half of games, before the score begins to dictate strategy. The categories are pretty self-explanatory.
We begin with Garcia's starts last season, then move through McNabb's and Feeley's this year, followed by the NFL average playcalling in the last 2 weeks.
And, so, the passing percentage:
Garcia . . . 59.1 percent.
McNabb . . . 61.6 percent.
Feeley . . . 59.7 percent.
NFL Week 12 . . . 61.2 percent.
NFL Week 13 . . . 60.5 percent.
The numbers are plain. Reid has had some wacky playcalling seasons in the past, but this is not one of them.
The Eagles were historically unbalanced in the first half of 2005 and very unbalanced at the beginning of last year. But after a hot start in 2006, McNabb faded badly. At midseason, during the bye week, Reid fired himself as the playcaller and gave the job to Mornhinweg. Since then this has been a typical NFL
offense in the new millennium. McNabb got this typical NFL playcalling, and then Garcia got it after McNabb went down, and then McNabb got it again this season, and then Feeley got it.
Typical. Average. That is what the Eagles are. Why people cannot see it is baffling. The town seems stuck on its first impression of Reid's offense, and it just is not true anymore.
But it was a lousy day, and Westbrook is such a good player, and they're not using him enough, and . . .
If you want to question individual play calls here and there, knock yourself out. Everybody does it. It is what makes the game fun.
But this had nothing to do with weather. It was raining and windy in Pittsburgh on Sunday night and the Steelers - yes, the Steelers - called 73 percent passing plays in the first half against Cincinnati. The Chicago Bears, in tropical Soldier Field, called 72 percent passing plays in the first half against the Giants. The Eagles didn't come close to that.
And, no, the Eagles are not ignoring Westbrook. He leads the league in touches per game with 26. Repeat, underlined: leads the league. He had 29 touches on Sunday, and only two players in the NFL had more - Willis
McGahee from the Ravens and Justin Fargas from the Raiders (whose real claim to fame is that his father played Huggy Bear on "Starsky and Hutch").
If he stays healthy and stays on this pace - and, remember, Westbrook has missed one game because of injury and barely practices these days, such is the pounding he takes - he will finish the season with about 70 more touches than last season. They can lean on him a bit more, maybe, but only a bit.
He is hardly being ignored.
But back to this first-half stuff. Why fixate on that? The game is 60 minutes, and the Eagles ran more for Garcia in the second half than they're doing now, right?
Yes, right. But the reason has been the score, as it has been in the NFL forever. In case you
haven't noticed, the Eagles are perpetually behind this season.
Garcia started eight games. In the last six, the Eagles held the lead at halftime. In those six games, the Eagles held the second-half lead for an average of 26 out of 30 minutes. That's why they could run more at the end of those games.
This year? Forget it. In 12 games, the Eagles have held the halftime lead in only four - and not since the Minnesota game on Oct. 28. For the last 5 weeks, they have been behind at the half in every game. And when you are behind at the half, you throw more.
Look at every NFL team that was trailing at halftime last week, and how it called plays in the third quarter. It went like this:
Eagles . . . 71 percent passes.
NFL Week 13 . . . 68 percent passes.
Every trailing team throws more after halftime. And if the Eagles had turned one of their third-quarter passes into a run, they would have been below the league average for passes. One play. Does that really suggest playcallers who have lost their minds?
Why people cannot see this is inexplicable, but Mornhinweg acts just like the average offensive coordinator in the first half, and just like the average offensive coordinator when his team is behind.
And why are the Eagles always behind?
All together now: Because of the quarterbacking, not the playcalling. *
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