12.02.07

Sheridan: Eagles Players Passing The Buck Onto McNabb

Posted in Gridiron at 11:05 am by

The major topic of current discussion amongst Igglephans is the question of Donovan McNabb and his current and future role with the Birds. Should this be the last Eagles season with McNabb at the helm, Phil Sheridan certainly can not be accused of helping run #5 out of town. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

…If Donovan McNabb is one of the best NFL quarterbacks of this decade (and the fact-based belief here is that he is), why do the Eagles often look better with supposedly lesser QBs?…

…The question arises as A.J. Feeley likely makes his second start of the season today in a must-win game against the Seattle Seahawks. Feeley’s performance, and that of his teammates, will be fodder for debate all this week as McNabb returns to practice for the Giants game.

So this is the perfect time to try to figure this thing out….

…If you believe your eyes, you saw the Eagles play a more complete and more focused game against the New England Patriots last Sunday than they’ve played all season. That could be explained by a lot of things – a challenging and aggressive game plan that won the players’ hearts and minds, the historic and insulting Vegas line that made the Eagles 24-point underdogs – if it was an isolated incident…

It wasn’t. We saw this in 2002, when Feeley started five games after McNabb broke his ankle. We saw it last year, when Garcia took over for the injured McNabb. Just as they did in Foxborough, the Eagles played differently with different men at quarterback.

The assumption is that there is something lacking in McNabb, some magic spark provided by the feisty Garcia and Feeley. It isn’t something you can measure with numbers or prove with statistics. It’s just something you sense.

That brings us to the theory that just might explain all of this.

The problem here isn’t McNabb; it’s the rest of the team. The problem isn’t that McNabb isn’t a good enough leader; it’s that he’s on a team without enough good followers….

…The rest of the Eagles know that McNabb will absorb a disproportionate amount of criticism and blame when things go wrong. He is the lightning rod that keeps the rest of them from taking any direct hits from the fans and reporters. That’s true to an extent for most quarterbacks, but not to the absurd degree it is here, where McNabb gets ripped for his facial expressions, where and when he stands on the sideline, what his mother writes on a blog and so on, ad nauseam.

In his case, literally ad nauseam.

Take McNabb out, though, and the rest of them have no one to hide behind. The offensive linemen can’t count on McNabb being blamed for taking sacks. The receivers can’t rely on McNabb being blamed for their inability to get open, adjust to a ball, or hang on to one in their hands. The defense and special teams don’t slide by, failing to create decent field position or make any big plays of their own. The coaches can’t take shelter behind the veil of vague answers that encourages the knee-jerk scapegoating of the quarterback.

They play, and coach, better not for Garcia or Feeley, but to cover their own well-remunerated backsides.

The worst thing is that the easiest fix for this is the one proposed by McNabb’s most vocal critics. It means moving on, letting McNabb go somewhere else to take a fresh chance at winning it all while Feeley or Kevin Kolb take on the full weight of leading this bunch.

If that happens, my money is on No. 5

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