Everyone wants to talk about the quarterback situation. What was Andy Reid thinking? Was it the right move? What will happen on Thursday and the rest of the year? Lots of questions and all of them are complicated.
I was on the phone with a friend at halftime during the Ravens game. He called up to gripe about the offense and the fact the team was losing. We talked about a couple of things and then got to the subject of potentially changing quarterbacks. Both of us were in favor of the move. My only hesitation was whether Reid would do it knowing the firestorm a move like that would unleash in Philadelphia and the national media.
The game started to come back on and what do you know. Kevin Kolb is the quarterback. Wow. Gutsy move.
Why did I want McNabb benched? I'm not anti-McNabb. I've been a fan of his since his first college start. He led Syracuse to a victory over North Carolina on a Saturday night game on ESPN back in September of 1995. McNabb has been on my radar since that night. I've enjoyed his tenure in Philly immensely. Eagles fans have gotten to see a lot of good football with him at the helm of the offense. He is still a very talented quarterback now in his 10th season in the league.
The problem is that the McNabb that was on the field Sunday wasn't playing like the Pro Bowl quarterback we've all seen over the years. He actually struggled the week before at Cincinnati. McNabb threw three interceptions and had a fumble in that game. His mistakes cost the Eagles points and gave them to the Bengals. Ten of their 13 points came off turnovers. Two of his interceptions came with us in or near field goal range. Those were costly and critical mistakes.
The worst part of the mistakes is that they weren't pressure-induced. They were a result of sloppy play, mentally and physically. McNabb is a veteran player. He's still a very gifted player. You let him have his bad days, though. He's human. Everyone has a game where they do things that make you scratch your head.
Unfortunately McNabb's bad day in Cincinnati followed him to Charm City, otherwise known as Baltimore (actual nickname, not me being facetious). McNabb threw a pair of interceptions and lost another fumble. His mistakes led to seven points for the Ravens.
Even worse than the mistakes is how they were made. McNabb underthrew DeSean Jackson along the right sideline. Jackson got behind the corner with good burst and a good move. There was a big play for the taking. All McNabb had to do was get the ball out in front of Jackson. Instead he underthrew the ball. Jackson slowed down and went up for it. He wasn't able to get his hands on the ball and Fabian Washington hauled it in. That was a big play or possible touchdown. Playing against the Ravens, you must take advantage of those situations.
McNabb's second interception came on a crossing route to Jackson. This was an awful pass. Jackson had a step on the corner. McNabb made the read and was simply hesitant in getting the ball out. He threw a pass with normal velocity and he threw it off-target. Those signs point to a quarterback who did not trust his eyes. McNabb had to see Jackson running open across the middle of the field. This wasn't a case of someone being along the far sideline and hidden.
A quarterback who isn't seeing the field, throwing the ball accurately or throwing with conviction is a guy in a serious funk. The Ravens are a terrible matchup for a quarterback in that state. That is why I thought the switch made sense. You cannot have a hesitant passer against an aggressive defense that plays the ball as well as Baltimore.
In McNabb's defense, the Eagles should have leaned more on the running game. They did that on the one successful drive that McNabb had. At one point on that drive, there were four runs in five plays. That helped the team get close to scoring range. Unfortunately the coaches went back to passing the ball and there was a play where Tra Thomas didn't sustain a block long enough and McNabb didn't get rid of the ball quick enough. Jarrett Johnson of the Ravens came away with it. Everyone should share in the blame.
One question a lot of fans have posed is this: in such a key game, with the score close (10-7), which quarterback gave you a better chance to win? The thinking from most is that McNabb is that guy. He has the track record. He prepared all week. Kevin Kolb might come in with a lot of energy, but this wasn't the place to use him. I understand that mindset. It is logical. I still think making the change was smart. What people are failing to see is that the argument wasn't Kolb versus McNabb. It was Kolb the unknown versus McNabb in a deep funk.
Kolb came in and played the whole second half. He was up and down, as you might expect. Some fans are going to rip him for not playing well. I've read comments about him lacking a decent arm, lacking athletic ability and struggling to make reads. I watched Kolb for four years at Houston (like McNabb, he stood out to me as far back as his freshman season) and two preseasons. I think Kevin has the mental and physical skills to be a good NFL quarterback. Sunday did nothing to change that.
The most impressive thing I saw was his style of play and the way he looked. Kolb stood in the pocket and focused on his receivers. He didn't pay attention to the rush. He kept his eyes downfield when he rolled out. Running was a last resort. Certainly Kolb has some things to work on. His throw to Reggie Brown in the end zone was way late and lacked zip. Ed Reed made him pay for that.
Kolb and McNabb had very similar games. Both were 1-of-6 on third down conversions. Both led drives into scoring territory that resulted in turnovers. The difference is that McNabb did this as a 10-year veteran who prepared all week. Kolb did it as a second-year guy coming off the bench with little to no game preparation in terms of practice reps.
So what should happen from here on out? Reid announced that McNabb will be the starter. That is the right move. You give the proud veteran a chance to get back on the field. Plus, this is a short week. The Cardinals do a lot of complex blitzing on defense. McNabb is better equipped to handle the situation. Some may wonder if this contradicts my point about McNabb being in a funk and needing to sit. No, it doesn't. The only way for a guy to get out of a funk is to put him back on the field. Also, while the Cardinals do blitz and get pressure on the passer, they aren't nearly the playmakers that the Ravens are. Arizona has 10 picks after 11 games. The Ravens had 15 interceptions going into Sunday's contest. Even if McNabb isn't in top form he stands a better chance against Arizona.
I would start McNabb until the team is officially eliminated from the playoffs. They're still technically alive right now and I think Reid owes it to guys like Tra Thomas, Brian Dawkins and Jon Runyan to play to win. Those guys are free agents at the end of the year and we don't know what their future will hold. You don't tell guys like that ""We appreciate you playing through intense pain all year, but we're going to now focus on the future.""
That would be wrong.
There is a chance that the final game or two will be meaningless in terms of the postseason. If so, I would absolutely play Kolb. The team does need to see what he can do as a starter. I think he's the future, but it would be nice to have a better feel for that situation.
I'm sure many people will want to know about the futures of Reid and McNabb. We have to let things play out at this point. Joe Banner and Jeff Lurie will decide at the end of the season what is best for the organization.
• The defense played pretty well. The 36 points is misleading. Joe Flacco was under pressure all game long. The Ravens ran for 110 yards, but it took 40 carries.
• Victor Abiamiri played his best game as an Eagle. He got his first NFL sack and finished with three tackles and a tackle-for-loss. He played well as the left defensive end in the base unit and left defensive tackle in the nickel defense.
• Darren Howard played another strong game. He had three tackles, including two for a loss. He got pressure up the middle when he was at defensive tackle.
• Akeem Jordan got the start in place of Omar Gaither. Jordan led the team with nine tackles. Two of them were behind the line of scrimmage. He looked fast and really flew around the field in pursuit of the ball.
• Guard Todd Herremans had some good moments. He had good blocks on Haloti Ngata and Ray Lewis on run plays.
• Quintin Demps used a great burst to run back a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. He had a seam and exploded through it. A good block by Nick Cole helped to give him the opening.
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