Thursday, April 1, 2010

Philadelphia Eagles: Donovan McNabb Trade Will Be Andy Reid's Demise

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles offseason circus continues with the ongoing rumors and speculation regarding the trade of their franchise quarterback. The new year has not been kind to the team or to a couple of its all-time great players— which has largely been self-inflicted by Andy Reid and the Eagles front office.

No wonder that former GM Tom Heckert saw an equivalent job as more attractive in Cleveland of all places. At the time, questions arose as to why he would abandon ship, but every day it becomes more apparent that the vessel is seriously leaking water.

The new year kicked off in dismal fashion when an unsuspecting Eagles team closed out a highly meaningful season finale with a total meltdown against the arch rival Dallas Cowboys. For their efforts, the team traded the NFC's number two playoff seeding for the final wild-card slot and earned a return trip to the "Palace in Dallas."

As all Eagles fans painfully recall, the encore performance was pretty much "déjà vu all over again" as the Cowboys once again manhandled them and unceremoniously ended their season. Since then, Reid, Joe Banner and rookie GM Howie Roseman have seemed intent on adding insult to injury.

After Heckert's escape to Cleveland, the Eagles have been in the news ad nauseam at a "Brett Favre-ian" frequency. The organization has been a headliner on "Sports Center" for its cold release of Brian Westbrook, substantial winter roster purge, lack of meaningful activity in the free agent market, and marathon game of musical quarterbacks.

Throughout the entire period, Reid has continued to bumble his way through disingenuous sound bites, frustrating fans and the media as he has throughout his Philly stay. And as "Big Red" consistently reminds everyone, he is the decision-maker both on the field and in regard to player personnel—so its all his call.

Conversely, McNabb has been a consummate professional, continuing to say all the right things and handle a very uncomfortable situation with abundant class. Considering the teams shoddy treatment starting with Reid's tepid vote of confidence and the sudden reversal signaling the team's willingness to trade him to the highest bidder, a show of disdain or frustration would certainly be understandable.

Considering the huge role No. 5 has played in Reid's success as a head coach, he surely deserves better. And, if the player's destination turns out to be NFL Siberian cities such as Oakland or Buffalo— add a few exclamation points!

In fact, any success that he has had is intricately intertwined with the quarterback the team selected with the NFL's number two pick in Reid's first season after leaving his post as the Green Bay Packers' Quarterback Coach. Arguably, Reid might have been long gone if not for the exploits of the franchise's all-time greatest signal caller.

Upon closer examination, Reid went from a last place rookie head coach to "Sporting News NFL Coach of the Year" exactly the same time that McNabb emerged as a top-flight quarterback. The formerly unknown position coach suddenly became the latest Mike Holmgren inspired coaching whiz and has largely retained that stature with McNabb by his side.

With the coach/personnel director now turning his back on the player who has done great things for his career, is it only a matter of time before Reid crashes and burns?

The numbers and review of Reid's tenure in Philly suggests that this very well may occur. In 1999, with McNabb primarily toting a clipboard as an apprentice to starter Doug Peterson until the latter part of the season, the rookie coach led the team to an NFC East worst 5-11 record.

A deeper dive into the data paints an even more compelling picture that turning his back on McNabb might be the beginning of the end for Reid. In the regular season, the coach has enjoyed a 92-48 mark with McNabb, but a 16-19 record without him.

Doing the math, that is exactly a 200 point separation in winning percentage. Moreover, it is the difference between being held in high esteem throughout the league and collecting a pink slip.

Ten of his eleven playoff wins, all five of his NFC championship game appearances, and his 2004 Super Bowl appearance all share one thing in common— Donovan McNabb.

The only seeming exception was in 2006 when Jeff Garcia took over for an injured McNabb and Reid shifted his approach to rely heavily on Westbrook running the ball. Of course, using the same measuring stick for both quarterbacks, Garcia was a failure as he could not lead the Eagles past the second round of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia public opinion poll has tipped towards favoring trading McNabb and installing the unproven Kevin Kolb as the new starter. This has certainly been largely influenced by the Philadelphia media negativity that literally began before he was even drafted by the team.

Public sentiment has also been fueled by exactly one good performance by Kolb against a poor Kansas City defense that did not get within two car lengths of him as he leisurely surveyed the field. The remainder of his body of work has been littered with turnovers and pedestrian results.

Unlike Aaron Rodgers, to whom he is so often compared, Kolb was not considered to be a top talent by personnel directors or scouts coming out of college. Instead, he was largely considered to be a reach when Reid pushed to choose him in the second round in 2007.

Additionally, Kolb seems to fit the more traditional West Coast offense mold, but is not well suited for the current personnel of the club. Over the past two seasons, the Eagles went the route of drafting fast, but smallish wide receivers. While McNabb possesses the strong arm necessary to hit on deep passes, the biggest knock on Kolb is his limitations in the vertical passing game.

This is not to suggest that I am anti-Kolb, but as Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan once famously declared, there seems to be a little "irrational exuberance"—and we all know the crash that ensued.

Outside fans and the national media would have different poll results and are transparent in their belief that Philadelphia does not appreciate the player for what he has done or could still do for the team.

When Reid finally does pull the trigger to trade McNabb, it is likely that his coaching flaws will no longer be covered up by his quarterback's ability to overcome them.

Pick your favorite beef. It could be the stubborn failure to address glaring personnel needs such as undersized defenders. Or the dearth of viable receivers that he bestowed upon McNabb except for a couple seasons.

Perhaps its Reid's poor game management or the pass/run ratio imbalance? Or maybe its the inability to convert on 3rd or 4th and inches?

Shake them up, throw in a bunch of interceptions—and you have a losing football team. Goodbye Super Bowl talk. Hello playing out the string.

Somehow, the team found a way to overcome those coaching transgressions and win with McNabb at the helm. With Reid no longer showing McNabb the love, that is probably about to all change.

The trade of Donovan McNabb is likely the beginning of the end for Andy Reid— at least in the "City of Brotherly Love."

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