The six-game winning streak, apparently, meant nothing. Within those six games, Donovan McNabb engineered three drives to win games in the fourth quarter and none of that meant squat when McNabb met the media on Tuesday, a couple of days after the Eagles' 24-0 loss to Dallas that closed the regular season.
McNabb was asked about his comments after the game about the team "showing its youth" and about missing DeSean Jackson on a deep route and about, and this was the kicker, about whether he thinks, in the "back of his mind" his performance and "how this game goes down" against Dallas on Saturday night will impact his future with the Eagles.
"No matter what happens," said McNabb, "I'll be here for a bunch of years. Does that clean it up?
And then, a half-smile on his face ...
"Do I have to answer this, like, every year?"
Apparently, yes. And apparently everything McNabb did to lead the Eagles to an 11-4 record (OK, 10-3, because he missed the loss to New Orleans and the win over Kansas City) means squat. If it's the playoffs, it's Go After Donovan time around here. That's just the way it is. When the Eagles win, well, McNabb is a great leader, a "different" quarterback as the media b.s. went during the six-game winning streak. After a loss, it's back to the "Will you be here next year?" questions.
Perhaps that is how it goes in every NFL corner. When you win you're a hero, and when you lose a quarterback is a step closer to the train ride out of town. This is a tired act, though, in Philadelphia. The media guys spent the last month writing about what a great leader McNabb is, about his comeback abilities, about his "new" demeanor as a franchise quarterback.
After that yucky loss in Dallas, McNabb is again one loss closer to his final game as an Eagle. That's the drumbeat around town now. There is no in-between for McNabb, who has been dealing with the extreme reaction for, well, how many years now?
All of the future talk is completely irrelevant now, to be honest. I'm sure we're going to read all week that McNabb is in a win-or-else-situation. Already, his future is the subject of sport-talk radio and the TV talking heads. It's giving me a Back To The Future feeling, because I swear we've been down this road before.
Honestly, though, the Eagles are all about today. The future is now for McNabb and for the Eagles and for every team in the NFL playoffs. You win or you go home and face the inevitable nasty questions and annual roster revamping. It happens all over the league.
For 10 minutes on Tuesday, McNabb was subject to the questioning. For the other 23 hours and 50 minutes of the day and night, he was thinking about the chore of beating the Cowboys, a team that blanked McNabb's offense two days earlier. The only thing that matters for McNabb and for every member of the Eagles is how to stay alive in the post-season, how to beat Dallas and reverse the tables on a team that has won twice this season over the Eagles.
McNabb didn't play particularly well on Sunday. This is not a piece to defend his performance. The Eagles got very little going offensively in the defeat, and every player shared in the poor outing. McNabb, the most visible player on the field, had his throws and decisions that he would love to have back. Can't do it, though.
There is absolutely no question that McNabb is the key player for the Eagles this week, as Tony Romo is the key player for the Cowboys. Dallas has contained the Eagles' offense very well in two games, and McNabb's numbers aren't strong at all. He has to be pin-point precise and 100 percent on top of his game mentally on Saturday night for the Eagles to have a chance to win.
As much as the Eagles would like to establish a running game, they have to throw the football to score some points. They have to do what they do best, what they have done all season, and that is to register explosive plays down the field.
That's what this week of preparation is for. McNabb and the Eagles have two days and a walk-through practice on Friday to prepare for the tough Cowboys defense. Thinking of the future is foolhardy when a team has something so important immediately in the present.
McNabb is the man here. Nobody doubts that. For the Eagles to win, he has to play outstanding football. That's the story with the Eagles, not what is going to happen in the future.