ESPN.com senior writer Jeffri Chadiha explains what is going on with Donovan McNabb and what the Eagles need to do to get back on track ...
I think Donovan McNabb's the kind of guy that's always trying to get better. He's gone through so much in his career that it's hard to think this slump is going to last forever. He got booed before he even threw a pass, and since then he's answered so many questions and more. I don't think he's the kind of guy who is going to fade out now. It's hard to watch him struggle, but you also have to think there are other factors that are contributing to his struggles. It's not just him.
When the Eagles beat Pittsburgh in Week 3, I thought they'd be so strong this year. But when Brian Westbrook got hurt the first time, I think that really took a lot out of this offense. To me, he's their most indispensable player, and defenses can play them differently when he's not on the field. And to bring up the wide receiver issue again, the Eagles have solid players there. But I don't think it's a coincidence that McNabb had his best year statistically and got over the hump and into the Super Bowl in 2004 when he had Terrell Owens. It really helps a quarterback when he can throw a five-yard pass to a guy that can take it to the house. When you're in a slump as a quarterback, you need those kinds of players. Maybe DeSean Jackson can be that guy, but he's still a rookie.
In terms of McNabb's slow starts, that's something that can also be attributed to his supporting cast. It's like Kobe Bryant with the Lakers – his team is at its best when the guys around him are rallied to do their jobs. Kobe can't go out there and score 80 points a game all the time, and he shouldn't feel like he has to do that to win. I think McNabb's always felt that he's had to do more to win than the average quarterback. Now, he's getting older. He's not as nimble. I certainly think he's pressing, but because he wants to do well and he wants the team to do well.
At this point, I just think the NFC East is so strong, and I think the Eagles need to find a way to get to 10 wins to make the playoffs. At 5-4-1, that's going to be very difficult to do, especially with three games in the division. You have to think here that the Giants, Cardinals and Panthers are all going to get in. Then, you have the 5-5 jumbled teams in the NFC North. A couple of those teams can get hot. Tampa Bay is 7-3, and they're in a great spot to get in. Then, you have Atlanta with a better record, too. That doesn't even count both Dallas and Washington in the division. But the major problem is that all of these teams are playing better football than Philadelphia. The Eagles, clearly, have a major uphill climb and a lot of work to do to get into the playoffs. That's ninth place for six playoff spots.
To turn things around, they need to somehow find a way to start faster on offense. They need to find a rhythm for McNabb, and I think part of that needs to come through balance. They need to establish the run. And one thing they're missing, in my opinion, are the explosive big plays that are so typical of the Eagles of the recent past. I'm just not even seeing the highlights at this point.