We're still more than 3 months away from the 3-year anniversary of the trade that ended Donovan McNabb's reign in Philadelphia. Somehow, it seems longer ago than that.
I remember talking with someone back then who had worked closely with both McNabb and Andy Reid. He wondered which man would prosper without the other - whether we would conclude one day that it was McNabb who'd made Reid look good, or Reid who'd made McNabb look good.
Here at the end of 2012, with
Reid counting the days to dismissal and McNabb retired after flopping in Washington and Minnesota, I would have to say it's a tie. (Donovan pun intended. See footnotes section under "aftermath of 2008 Bengals game.")
Neither man has experienced any sustained success without the other. McNabb never got through a season as a starter after leaving here. Reid hasn't won a playoff game since the day Donovan picked up the phone on the Giants' sideline, 4 years ago next month.
McNabb bemoaned the trade that took him away from the bosom of Eagles Nation the other day on "Daily News Live" on Comcast SportsNet. Pointed out that the 2009 Eagles were 11-4 before losing their final regular-season game at Dallas, then losing there in the first round of the playoffs a week later. He seemed to be saying he was still doing the job, should not have been exiled. Didn't point out that the losses were 24-0 and 34-14, that with the Dallas defensive line dominating the Eagles' offensive line, McNabb was extremely, fatally ineffective.
McNabb is 36 now. The slightly goofy, spacey, aloof quality that kept him from crumbling under the pressure of having to save the franchise early in his career did not age well; later in his career, McNabb needed to settle down, engage, embrace the mantle of leadership, put in more hours off the field. Yet, his only leadership mode was "lighten the mood." (See footnotes section under "playing air guitar in tunnel before final game.") Sometimes, the mood needs something a little deeper than that. McNabb didn't have it.
Similarly, at the point when McNabb left, Reid enjoyed a sterling reputation as a developer of quarterbacks, having gotten credit for both the late-career success of Brett Favre in Green Bay and the development of McNabb into a guy who got the Eagles to five NFC Championship games. There was reason to think Kevin Kolb would be a worthy successor, mostly because Andy said so. And then, 5 months after the trade, when Reid abruptly switched over to Michael Vick, well, that seemed odd but it seemed to work so well for the next few months; at this point in the 2010 season, Andy was a genius again. Except the 2010 Eagles used up all their good fortune on that miraculous comeback at the Giants, Dec. 19, and didn't win another game.
If Andy is really such a great quarterback whisperer, why is Vick headed elsewhere in the coming weeks, needing to prove he's still a viable NFL starter? Why is Arizona, the team he talked into taking Kolb, lacking only the federal declaration of disaster area status?
Based on what's happened since the McNabb trade, can you argue the Eagles would be worse right now if they had never traded him? Well, no. They've missed the playoffs 2 years in a row and are 4-10 this season. They could have played Mike McMahon at quarterback and done that. But would they have won more with McNabb at QB these last 3 years? No to that, as well.
McNabb, who once had the lowest interception rate in NFL history among longtime starters, threw for 18 touchdowns and 17 INTs his final two seasons. The 2009 season was McNabb's equivalent to the last Eagles chance Reid has gotten this season. McNabb didn't get the job done. He didn't inspire confidence in anyone that he was going to get the job done. His trade to Washington on April 4, 2010, was one of the least controversial moves of a franchise player in Philadelphia sports history.
The only angst was over whether trading him within the NFC East was a serious error. It wasn't.
The fan base is extremely disillusioned, as is. Can you imagine where frustration levels would be if the last 3 years had been suffered with Donovan and Andy piloting the ship, if nothing had ever changed?
Only talk-radio hosts would want to live in that world.
Andy stands up
Andy Reid told reporters Friday that even though Jake Scott has taken 2011 first-round draft pick Danny Watkins' right guard spot for the remainder of the season, Watkins still has promise and can be an NFL starter in the future.
Reid said Watkins' slide started with his high-ankle sprain, which led to the signing of Scott, a 31-year-old, savvy veteran who seems to have helped inexperienced linemates such as center Dallas Reynolds and right tackle Dennis Kelly.
"You let another guy in and then you learn a lesson there," Reid said. "He'll have another opportunity to get in and get himself back in playing. He's a good football player."
Reid indicated the main reason Watkins remains on the bench is that he doesn't want to mess with the chemistry of a line that finally seems to be coming together.
"You want all five of 'em dancing the same dance," Reid said. "If somebody steps in and is doing a pretty good job with it and it works, then you go with that. But he'll have another shot at that."
With fullback Stan Havili sidelined this week by a hamstring injury, the plan was for Chris Polk to play fullback, so Emil Igwenagu could back up Brent Celek at tight end, in the wake of Clay Harbor's season-ending back injury. But Andy Reid said Friday Polk is "doubtful" with continuing turf-toe problems. Doubtful means you aren't playing, 99 times out of 100. So Igwenagu is the fullback Sunday against Washington, and just-signed Evan Moore is the No. 2 tight end, with two Eagles practices under his belt. Should be fun.
Reid said Michael Vick remains the No. 3 quarterback, but he still hasn't "put the numbers together" that will determine whether Vick is in uniform Sunday . . . One of the things new team president Don Smolenski has done right is the emphasis on honoring past stars this season. On Sunday, Brian Westbrook will be an honorary captain and will be recognized at halftime. BWest's 2,104 yards from scrimmage in 2007 is a franchise record that looks better and better as time goes by.