Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Article + Some Answers

***

New PE.com column is up. As usual, some material you've read but I added a couple of new nuggets just to keep you awake.

-- LINK --



READER QUESTIONS / COMMENTS

RE: LBs for this week

I've asked around to see if anyone has an idea what we'll do. No one is sure right now. Tuesday is a day off in the NFL. No practice. We won't see how the LBs are set up until tomorrow.

I'll be really surprised if Sean McDermott leaves the guys where they played on Sunday. Gocong was lost at MLB. Spoon had a quiet day. Here's what we should do:

SAM - Gocong
MLB - Spoon
WLB - Fokou or Tracy White

I think Fokou has played some WLB for us going back to mini-camps and even early TC. They moved him to SAM while at Lehigh if my memory serves correct. If Moise doesn't know the WLB spot then sit him and put White on the field. He can start for a week or two. I want Gocong, Spoon, and Fokou on the field, but I'd rather have a rookie out of place than two veterans.

Originally I had Fokou pegged as a WLB. He's got that kind of size and skill set. The coaches like him at SAM. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but they really think he's the future for us at that spot.


RE: McNabb

Understanding and talking about Donovan is difficult. He's had a really unusual career. Early in his career Donovan was forced to put the team on his back. He did a great job of making plays, limiting mistakes, and doing whatever the team needed. He started to change in 2002. I've always attributed that to his natural progression (year 4) as well as the arrival of Antonio Freeman. Donovan suddenly had a gifted receiver who could make difficult catches. We also opened up the playbook because we had 3 solid receivers. Thrash looked good back then and Pinky was a player on the rise. There was hope for our receiving corps. I digress.

Donovan was great in the final 10 games of 2003. The offense featured our Triple Headed Monster at RB. The WRs were adequate. We had a pair of good TEs. Donovan was efficient and led us up and down the field every game. Then Westy got hurt in the finale and we sputtered in the playoffs.

The conference title games of the 2003 season featured brutal press coverage by NE and CAR. That drove the NFL to enforce contact rules more stringently, thus opening up the passing game around the league. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Daunte Culpepper, McNabb, and Drew Brees all had career years. That wasn't by accident. The change in rules had a profound effect.

Two other things changed Donovan. One was the arrival of Terrell Owens. All of a sudden Donovan had an outright weapon to throw to. The two of them formed a deadly duo. That year the offense went from efficient to explosive. We'd never seen anything like that. It was great at the time, but has somewhat haunted us ever since. The other event was a famous play against Dallas on MNF. Donovan scrambled for 14 seconds before firing a pass to FredEx for a 49-yard gain. That play really instilled in Donovan the belief that if he could wait long enough someone would get open and a big play would be there for the taking. The next 2 weeks we played the Skins and G-men. Donovan was sacked in each game while running around and trying to keep the play alive. He also fumbled on those sacks and we lost the ball.

Donovan seemed to be at the top of his game coming off the great '04 season. However, circumstances changed. Todd Pinkston got hurt in TC and missed the year. That took away a starter and guy who could stretch the field. Correll Buckhalter got hurt. We had a talented rookie named Ryan Moats, but he was struggling to learn the playbook. Suddenly Westy was our only real RB. We added Lamar Gordon, but the coaches weren't fully comfortable with him. Things got bad when TO went all TO on us.

You had Donovan without Pinky and with a belligerent TO. Rookie Reggie Brown was learning on the fly. Chad Lewis was gone. L.J. was solid, but still inconsistent. Westy was the only RB we trusted. He was somewhat fragile so that meant we wanted to be careful about overworking him. The pressure was on Donovan and the passing game to carry the team, but there weren't the weapons to make it work the same way.

Donovan quit running in 2004. He only had 41 runs in 15 games. In a full season with him healthy that number had been in the mid-80s. Donovan thought of himself as a pocket passer in 2004 and moving forward.

Complicating matters in 2005, McNabb took a huge shot to his chest in the season opener. He also was dealing with a sports hernia injury. He's not at 100%. He doesn't have a full array of weapons. He has little in the way of a running game. Donovan is convinced he's a pocket passer because of the success of 2004. Unfortunately the NFL relaxed on enforcing the pass defense rules. Receivers were back to fighting DBs to get off the ball.

Donovan hasn't been the same guy since the beginning of 2005. He's not the athletic QB we remember from the old days. He's not the elite pocket passer that he thinks he is from 2004. He had a chance to maybe develop into a top flight pocket passer, but the brutal circumstances of 2005 basically killed that idea. Also, physically gifted players like Donovan usually lack top fundamentals because they've been able to get the job done on sheer athleticism. His love of big plays from 2004 hurt him. He has the ability to be an efficient QB, but lacks the consistency to do it week to week, sometimes half to half or even drive to drive. Those old instincts kick in and he wants to go downfield.

Donovan used to be a great QB late in games. He would run if needed. He would make things happen. He came alive when the pressure was on. That stopped after 2004.

2005

* beat OAK late, but game was tied at 20 when he led us on a FG drive
* beat KC in a comeback, but game was tied entering the 4th Qtr and we got the lead
* lost at ATL 14-10
* lost at WAS 17-10
* beat SD 20-17, but it was on the return of a blocked FG by Matt Ware
* lost to Dallas 21-20...we had the lead when McNabb threw pick-six to Roy Williams

2006

* lost to NYG 30-24 in OT ... we had 24-7 lead ... no points in 4th Qtr
* beat DAL 38-24 ... McNabb hit Reggie on flea flicker for 40-yd TD to give us lead
* lost at NO 27-24 ... had 4th Qtr lead
* lost at TB 23-21 ... Westy had long TD off screen pass to give us late lead
* lost to JAX 13-6
* team proceeded to win several close games down the stretch with Garcia at QB


I won't go into all the struggles in close games of 2007 and 2008. We know them pretty well.

The point in all of this is that Donovan seems to have lost his mojo. He is still athletic enough to run, but won't do it. He has enough talent to be a solid game manager type QB, but prefers the long ball. Notice that in a couple of the '06 games he did connect for long plays to give us the lead. He just can't seem to lead us on a long drive to do that.

The long ball is great when it works. The problem is that you're going to have off days. That's when you must be able to move the chains and play down-to-down football. McNabb has trouble doing that.

He's not helped by the offense as run by Andy and Marty. As I've noted before, that trio seems to bring out the worst in each other.

I think one of the keys to judging McNabb is what your standard is. He used to be compared to Brady and Manning (rightfully so). Those guys continue to play at an elite level. Manning is better now than ever. Donovan is a descending player. If you compare him to Romo, Eli, and Campbell...McNabb is still a good player. He was an elite QB. He was an elite player. That is no longer the case. I don't have full confidence that he can win a Super Bowl, unless we get lucky enough to build a huge lead because of big plays and oddball TDs. Donovan just doesn't seem to have the ability to go toe-to-toe with a good QB. Rivers made clutch throw after clutch throw for SD on Sunday. Romo did that in the 4th the week before. Donovan hasn't shown that ability since the playoffs last year, but even then we always had the lead. Can he handle the pressure of playing from behind?


RE: Reid

Andy Reid is a terrific head coach, but he's still a flawed guy. No doubt about that. I won't even get into the running game discussion. We just talk in circles because the normal world sees things one way and Andy sees it another.

I do think AR can win the SB, but I have serious doubts as to whether he and McNabb can get that done together. I think a more efficient QB would make a huge difference. I'd love to have seen the 2006 offense (Garcia at the helm) with the 2008 defense. That might have won the SB going away.

Andy is also guilty of relying on Donovan's ability too much. He lets that get him in the mindset that going for big plays is okay. We then face DAL or NYG and he plays small ball. The offense clicks a little better. The next week we're back to chucking it around the yard and playing inconsistently. I'm not sure why Andy can't see that correlation.

He is changing a bit each year. Andy used to coddle McNabb. That no longer happens. He really went after Donovan following the TB loss in '06 when Mcnabb threw the ball to LJ prior to the half and he was tackled. The clock ran out and we missed an easy chance to attempt a FG. Andy benched Donnie last year. That was unheard of a few years back.

Andy is now more vocal on the sidelines. He doesn't call plays anymore and you see him interacting with all our players. He is supportive, but also will get in a player's face. Coaches too. He was really on Ted Daisher a few weeks back for a mistake.

Andy changes a bit each year, save for the running game. That gives me hope that he could lead us to a title.

Donovan has been more of the same each of the last few years. I'd love for him to prove me wrong and start winning some close games. I would gladly eat crow. I'm just Doubting Thomas at this point.

Quick final note...I do love McNabb for what he's done for us Eagles fans. Don't ever think I'm anti-Donovan or anything like that. He has been a godsend for our franchise. I'm just trying to give you an honest opinion about what the situation is with him and the future. Guys don't tend to get back their mojo after they lose it.
_

12 comments:

Mdaub06 said...

DUDE GREAT READ

Cliff said...

Reid's lack of commitment to the run is maddening. I can't ever fault McNabb for a loss when the opposing defense can basically ignore any threat of a rush.

cavortingEagle said...

Tommy,
Brilliant. I've been having the same - mixed feelings? - this year.

I have no problem with Reid whipping the ball around, thing is somebody needs to recognize that there is a wide open check down out there. On the TD to Celek, I was getting nervous and yelled "check down" at the TV when it turned out to be a good read by Mac.
That was a nice nice design/play call, but the point is that the WCO is predicated on getting the ball out to your open dudes wherever they are. I think (a youthful) Mac is the perfect QB for Mike Martz, he can extend a play and eventually somebody deep will get open...
Mac is not a perfect WCO QB - his accruacy and decision making are questionable. Jeff Garcia and '08's D would absolutely have won the SB going away.

Shelley said...

I think there is a Marty aspect too. He took over in 2006, and we have been screaming about the balance when Donny is QB ever since.

Edward said...

Now i'm depressed.

I've been thinking the same sort of thing this season but it sucks when someone who really knows football says it so explicitly. Now it seems much more real.

Kolb time is coming.

Christian said...

Fascinating read, Tommy. So my next question to you, with all of this in mind is: would you rather cut bait on McNabb immediately and give Kolb the rest of the season? In your opinion, have we already reached the point where Kolb gives us a better chance to win? Very interested to read your opinion on this. Thanks!

Sunset Shazz said...

Nice read, one comment:

What about last year's NFC Championship game? People don't seem to remember that Donovan brought us back from a big hole, and it was the defense that lost that game for us (I believe that was a few days after poor JJ was given his diagnosis). I don't think you can pin the loss to the Cards on Donovan or the offense.

Tommy Lawlor said...

RE: McNabb

I don't see the need for any changes right now. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We're 5-4. We're in 2nd place in the division and we're in line for a playoff berth. This isn't desperate times for us. Frustrating? Yes. Heck yes.

After the season...I think we have to keep an open mind. Everything I've written is based on what we know at this point. The NFL has really become a week by week league.

Let's see how Donnie does down the stretch. Does he lead us on an extended playoff run? Does he struggle? How does the team respond?

Donovan played really well late on Sunday. I'm hoping the groove he got into carries over to this week. That kind of thing has happened before. It isn't like he's been awful to this point. McNabb has a winning record as a starter and a rating above 90. I guess the problem is that he's too feast or famine right now. In baseball you can live with Ryan Howard hitting 45 home runs and striking out 175 times. That formula isn't ideal, but can work. In football you can't have a QB who's on and off. The offense must be able to consistently score points.

Now if Donovan struggles mightily on Sunday and we lose...that changes things a bit. He has a right to keep his job as long as he plays well and/or the team is successful. If Donovan and/or the team start to bottom out then we do need to keep an open mind about a change. The goal is to win games and compete for a championship. Past accomplishments buy you a certain amount of fudge room, but this is the NFL. Everyone is held accountable.

As of right now I lean to making Kolb the QB in 2010. I hope Donovan does something to make me change my mind. A 10 or 11 game winning streak would certainly affect my thinking...

Tommy Lawlor said...

@ Sunset Shazz...

Great point. Donovan did have a great 2nd half and led us on an inspired comeback.

2 concerns, though. First, we should have played better in the first half. He missed some easy chances. The play where Hank was wide open in the middle of the field and Donovan threw at his feet will be a haunting image until I die. Or longer.

Second...the comeback was great but featured some big plays. We've established that he can move us when there are 30, 40, and 50 yard plays involved. The problem is when a defense forces us to go 80 yards on 10 plays. That's when Donovan struggles.

T_S_O_P said...

There is also all the off field stuff for Donny too, QB in Philly for 10years, the Rush Limbaugh (I think that was his name) stuff, the TO McNabb stuff, Kolb being drafted.

I know Tommy that with your scouts head on that you believe certain players are not the best fit for Philly e.g. Bernard Scott, but any QB here is going to have to be tremendously resolute with regards eveness of mentality.

Going off memory rather than stats, in the early days I remember the Eagles used to win and lose as a team, they had to, they just weren't talented enough to do so otherwise. There were times when the O looked awful but the D would score on a critical drive. Special teams too, most obviously Miracle II. In fact, to win required a team effort, otherwise why start a game in an onsides.

We seem to be more unbalanced, and as well as Donny losing his mojo, it seems the team has lost it too to some degree. I wonder if a rookie AJ could lead this team to 3 victories to close the season?

My real concerns are the partnership of AR and Marty and I don't believe a QB change will alter this teams present Modus Operandi. I looked the other day at the 2000 49ers (Because of the apparent comparisons made between Garcia and Kolb in TATE) to find that the only RB of note averaged 15 carries a game while at the same time Garcia set a career high for attempts per game (Something Marty has managed with every QB in San Fran, Detroit and Philly bar Steve Young).

If that kind of offense misfires, it puts tremendous pressure on the D just in terms of number of snaps it is on the field. Even when it is firing, it can suddenly clonk out as it did against the Giants the time you mentioned. Also, when the D is having an off day, it doesn't keep them off the field, a la NO this year, the NFCCG last year, any game against Indy.

I like Reid, I like the success we have enjoyed. He has never been given credit for the defense, that was Jim's, but he hired and trusted Jim. Same goes for ST, particularly early on with JH. But he has always been closely associated with the O. I really think he needs a ying to his yang and I was very hopeful when they bought in Whipple last year, because even a ying yang yang is better than a yang yang.

Stephen said...

Mcnabb also has the disadvantage of not being able to generate the YAC that the WCO tries to provide you because he frequently makes players contort their bodies or fall down to catch his passes, rather than catching them in stride. Think about the pass to Desean Jackson on the slant against KC that he took to the house. The reason he was able to do that was because Kolb put the ball right in his bread basket, in stride. If that had been a Mcnabb at the knees pass that he would have had to fall down to catch, thats just a nice first down rather than a highlight reel touchdown catch and run. I have to wonder how many of those plays are left on the field week in and week out.

I can't stand Freddie Mitchell, I think he's willing to blame everything but his own lack of talent for not having a successful NFL career and his paranoid delusions about Reid and Mcnabb blackballing him are the thing of tinfoil hats but he did say one funny thing on a radio interview last week, "you have to curl up into the fetal position to catch Mcnabb's passes" and sometimes thats true.

maxramchand said...

Great read..very insightful...what I'd like to know is - did anything change after Brad Childress left? I have always held the notion Mcnabb with a different offense and with a different HC would have won a SB by now - Mcnabb is really not suited for the West coast offense (he is not an accurate passer)...I think AR will have better luck with Kolb (again I maybe wrong - have hardly seen games with Kolb at the helm)..what really pisses me of is that when Kolb or Garcia was at QB Andy and Marty became more balances run vs pass...Mcnabb is always asked to shoulder the bulk of the offense when he is in..Hypothetical situation - if Brett Farve packs it in this year and Mcnabb somehow lands in MIN, I would be curious to look at that combination...