Friday, January 16, 2009

Reid, McNabb will shoot for history

Phil Sheridan is a very good local Eagles beat writer, who works for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Never shys away from calling things how they are or calling Reid on the carpet when he deserves it. I agree with almost everything the guy's ever wrote. Good article here...

Posted on Tue, Jan. 13, 2009

By Phil Sheridan
Inquirer Sports Columnist

The resumes have begun to speak for themselves.

Andy Reid has been head coach of the Eagles for 10 seasons. He and his staff - most notably defensive coordinator Jim Johnson - have taken the team to the NFL's final four a total of five times.

Donovan McNabb has been the Eagles' full-time starting quarterback for nine seasons. In all but one of the seasons that he remained healthy for 16 games, he led the team to the playoffs. And five of those six playoff excursions lasted at least until the NFC championship game.

Before Dec. 28 - when a stunning series of events qualified the Eagles for the playoffs - Reid and McNabb's resumes were starting to yellow a bit. The 2004 season, when the Eagles were the class of the NFC and advanced to the Super Bowl, was receding behind a mounting pile of injuries, slumps, mystifying coaching and personnel decisions. It really was fair and reasonable to wonder if this coach/quarterback tandem had seen its best days.

Things have changed, and playoff victories in Minneapolis and East Rutherford changed them.

Reid and McNabb can be judged now, not just for having put together a solid run from 2000 to 2004, but for picking up that thread after years of disappointment and adversity. They earned the right to be evaluated for their entire body of work, not just for a 9-6-1 season in which each man appeared to have lost his grip at times.

After Sunday's game at the Meadowlands, arguably the most impressive playoff win of Reid's tenure here, McNabb alluded to the "trust and the coaching that we have with Andy."

Yesterday, Reid returned the favor.

"Donovan keeps getting better and better with age here," Reid said. "He's really doing a nice job. . . . He's upped his game, which you normally don't see this late in a player's career."

It's tempting to say that Reid and McNabb have bounced back in spite of their troubles during the regular season. But the reality is that they seem to have found this new level of rapport because of those troubles. There is something to the idea that McNabb has reacted to his Nov. 23 benching by playing with a renewed sense that he has something to prove.

But it also looks and feels as if Reid was affected just as deeply. When the coach felt he had to yank the single player most responsible for his success here, it must have forced a little soul-searching on Reid's part, too. Since then, the Eagles' offensive approach has been more balanced, the protection of the quarterback more of a priority than ever in Reid's tenure.

This is what Reid means when he talks about "putting players in position" to succeed. He and McNabb had let each other down in some ways. Now they have picked each other up again.

Along with the development of Johnson's defense into a truly dominant unit, that explains how the Eagles find themselves back in the final four after their season teetered on the brink of disaster just over three weeks ago at Washington.

And now that they're here, their resumes are much more relevant than 9-6-1 in evaluating their chances of finally winning a Lombardi Trophy. Of the four remaining coach/quarterback tandems, Reid and McNabb have the most impressive credentials. Throw in the estimable Johnson, and the Eagles are clearly in good position to seize the moment this time.

Arizona has Kurt Warner, who won a Super Bowl eight years ago with St. Louis. Thanks to a group of receivers that must make McNabb's eyelids twitch, Warner has returned to the top. He is still susceptible to pressure, however. Ken Whisenhunt, a former Bill Cowher assistant, is in just his second year as a head coach.

Pittsburgh won a Super Bowl a few years ago with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Nobody confused the solid, unspectacular Roethlisberger with Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, however. Mike Tomlin is in his second season since replacing Cowher.

And then there is Baltimore, with rookies John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco in the two key jobs. Harbaugh is well-known and deservedly respected by Eagles fans. Flacco has been supernaturally cool in his first two playoff games.

The other three coaches, combined, have half as much NFL head coaching experience as Reid does. McNabb's combination of experience, skill and supporting cast give him every tool required to succeed in this unexpected trip to the brink of a title.

That's not a knock on the other coaches and quarterbacks in the final four. It's not the same as saying the Eagles are locks or even favorites. All it means is that the resumes of their head coach and quarterback speak for themselves. The resumes say the Eagles have every chance here.

Two more wins and those resumes will be complete.

1 comment:

pilgrim99 said...

Go Birds! Seriously. From a Browns fan.