Donovan McNabb will quarterback the Eagles the rest of the season, Andy Reid said yesterday.
Asked about his plans down the stretch, the Eagles' coach said: "Donovan's the quarterback right now." Asked if that meant the remainder of the season, Reid said: "Yes."
Apparently, then, the Eagles will not try to get any kind of read on the progress of rookie quarterback Kevin Kolb, even if they lose to the 12-1 Cowboys this weekend and are officially elminated from wild-card contention. For one thing, the Saints, who host the Eagles the next week, presumably will still be striving for a playoff berth. For another, experimenting with a rookie quarterback might send the wrong message to veterans who will be expected to play the Saints and Bills games regardless of the team's record. And then there's team president Joe Banner's declaration last week that he can't envision a circumstance under which McNabb is not the team's quarterback next year - if the Eagles really do plan to bring McNabb back, why would they open the Kolb door now?
Reid was less definitive when trying to explain what has happened to his offense under McNabb. In Sunday's 16-13 loss to the Giants, for the sixth time this season, all with McNabb quarterbacking, the Eagles played four quarters and scored one touchdown or less, something that didn't occur during the 2 1/2 games A.J. Feeley quarterbacked, although, as you might recall, Feeley presented a different set of problems.
"It was a good defense, a blitzing defense, and that's the way it was," Reid said. "It's not all Donovan. Everybody has a little piece of the pie on this thing, I've said that before. Starting with me, we can all do a little bit better."
Yet, the Giants were playing a pair of backup safeties, and until they backed off the coverage on the final, desperation drive, they held McNabb and the Eagles to 129 passing yards. Reid was asked if McNabb seemed unduly cautious, checking down over and over, refusing to pull the trigger on downfield throws.
"I wouldn't say abnormally cautious. I look at it the other way, and say he's being smart with the football," Reid said. "Obviously, he's not throwing the interceptions that could have been devastating [Sunday]. He tried to get the ball to the quick throws as fast as he could get it to them, and go from there."
The Eagles won the turnover battle Sunday, 2-1, the first time that has happened since the Week 3 win over Detroit. Yet they also lost it - the only touchdown generated by a turnover came when the Giants drove for their only TD of the afternoon, after Brian Westbrook fumbled at the Eagles' 37. The Eagles managed only three points from two Giants fumbles, including one that gave them the ball on New York's 8.
Reid, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and McNabb have all blamed the offense's check-down personality under McNabb on opponents' widespread use of Cover 2 defenses, zone schemes in which safeties play deep. But McNabb has been facing Cover 2 pretty much his whole career, without being affected this radically. Asked about that yesterday, Reid avoided the larger issue, focusing on the specifics of Sunday's loss.
"It wasn't all Cover 2," he said. "They did a pretty good job of mixing things in there. They brought a lot of people, particularly on our third down, where we were very ineffective [2-for-13]. They did a pretty good job of mixing things up there."
Andy Reid said right guard Shawn Andrews has a sprained MCL, "so he should be OK." Andrews left the Giants game in the first quarter but came back in the second and played the rest of the way . . . Tight end L.J. Smith underwent MRI exams on rib and knee injuries, Reid said, showing a rib cartilage problem but no structural knee damage. Reid said Smith has a limited range of motion . . . Defensive tackle Mike Patterson suffered an ankle sprain, running back Correll Buckhalter a concussion, "I think a pretty significant one," Buckhalter said . . . Wide receiver Reggie Brown has knee swelling, Reid said . . . The Eagles gathered for yet another Monday team meeting, once a rare occurrence but not any more. *