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Bill Conlin | End of the empire

The Ming Dynasty lasted from 1368 to 1644. Under the Ming Dynasty, the novel was developed as a literary form and the Great Wall of China was constructed to keep out invading Mongol hordes. All that survives of the Ming is this lousy little vase.

The Ming Dynasty lasted from 1368 to 1644. Under the Ming Dynasty, the novel was developed as a literary form and the Great Wall of China was constructed to keep out invading Mongol hordes. All that survives of the Ming is this lousy little vase.

The Reid Dynasty began in 1999 and is currently on life support. Under the Reid Dynasty, the Great Wall of Silence was constructed to keep the media unwashed away from the secrets of the West Coast offense. It appears all that will survive from the Reid Dynasty is this lousy little George Halas Trophy.

You get the Halas for winning the NFC title. The Eagles accomplished that in 2004 after three unsuccessful appearances in the gateway to the Super Bowl. It has been all downhill for the Reid Dynasty since the loss to New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.

An icy slope became just a little more slippery today.

One week after backup QB A.J. Feeley put most of the 52 points scored by the Eagles and Seattle Seahawks on the board - but only 24 of them for the Birds - Donovan McNabb returned to command Reid's offense against a Giants team that sacked him 12 times on The Night of the Living Umenyiora. This time the offensive line of Joe Banner's Teflon Don cut the sack total to three. However, McNabb could not avoid a loss that left the Eagles in the valley of the shadow of elimination, a slim and no chance 5-8 with the Cowboys waiting to put a round in the still-twitching body of a team once favored to win what appeared to be a winnable NFC East.

It was dramatically correct that the last gasp of this overvalued, undertalented team was a magnificent 57-yard effort by David Akers to send the game into overtime with 5 seconds left and the Giants clinging to a 16-13 lead. The kick was long enough. It was high enough. But the line-drive flight of Akers' prodigious boot was interrupted by the right upright. The Linc faithful echoed NHL announcer Don Earle, who famously made the Blooper Hall of Fame by saying, "He hit the post . . . He hit the bleeping post."

It usually takes a cataclysmic event to stop a dynasty in its tracks. The Romanovs ruled Russia from 1613 to 1917. Then the Bolsheviks overthrew the monarchy. The last photo of Czar Nicholas II, the Czarina and five children was snapped on the roof of a farmhouse in the Urals town of Ekaterinburg. They were executed shortly thereafter. The Hapsburg Dynasty ruled Austria from 1282 to 1918. The Treaty of Versailles that ended the Great War also ended the hapless Hapsburgs.

Wither the hapless Andy Reid?

The National Football League is structured to discourage dynasties. The Patriots apparently didn't get the parity message that uses a hard salary cap to spread the talent and keep a large number of teams in the running each year for 12 spots in the playoffs. Eagles president Joe Banner has played the cap the way Heifitz played a Stradivarius. That's why the Reid Dynasty has had the legs it takes to go 85-56 with him constantly striving to "do a better job of putting players in position to win." After yesterday's crunching loss to a Giants team that has held his offense to 16 points in eight quarters this season, Reid repeated the "better job" mantra that has become what passes for an act of contrition.

A cornerstone of making the cap work at max efficiency is winning big on draft day. You need your top-round picks to become stars or at least serviceable starters. And you need the middle-rounders to make the team, step up and at least play roles as backups and special teamers.

It becomes more obvious each week that there is simply not enough talent here for the Eagles to withstand the injuries all NFL teams must factor into a 16-game season and surmount the other slings and arrows that rain down on a roster from the first day of camp to the day they clear out their lockers.

The Eagles are 21-24 the past two-plus seasons, a stretch that historians most likely will record as the twilight of Reid's handpicked quarterback, Donovan McNabb. And maybe of Reid, too.

Back from his latest injury hiatus, this time caused by a sprained ankle and jammed right thumb, McNabb used the multiskills of superb ray of sunshine Brian Westbrook to take the Eagles 68 yards in just six scripted plays for their only touchdown of a gelid, drizzly afternoon. McNabb ran 34 plays in the Eagles' next eight possessions, a stretch of wretched, sputtering football that yielded just 75 yards and one field goal.

So the McNabb debate will intensify. If our electoral choice of presidential candidates produced half as much passion as our quarterback controversies, we might put better leaders in the White House.

If the Cowboys whip the Eagles next Sunday, there is sure to be a cry for QB-in-waiting Kevin Kolb to play out the string against New Orleans and Buffalo.

Knowing Andy Reid's commitment to his system and to the quarterback he handpicked to lead it, there is a better chance the leader of the Reid Dynasty will switch to the single wing than to Kevin Kolb.


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