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In what is probably a huge non-story in the NFL, given the New England Patriots hoopla and the phenomenon that is Eli Manning, the Philadelphia Eagles are just an afterthought in the sports spectrum. They finished the season 8-8, albeit with the toughest schedule in the NFL (by winning percentage against), missed the playoffs by one game and hobbled to a 3-0 finish prior to seeing fallen son, Donovan McNabb ride off to Illinois or Arizona or wherever he decides to rest (and probably deservedly so).
But then, Donovan spoke. The company man, who’s supported Andy Reid like the man that gave him the plan, spoke out, against the company and for the people. It’s going to be a few years before we ever know who the alpha and omega were. Was it McNabb, the electrifying QB, who could run with the likes of Michael Vick (without the dogs) and throw with the likes of Peyton Manning (with the soup) or was it Andy Reid, the cautious optimist who delicately laid a foundation, constructed and offense and created game plans so intricate that he had to acquire and draft players smart enough to understand it (please see Freddie Mitchell, Matt McCoy, Matt Ware and so on).
Donovan and Andy.
Andy and Donovan.
Arguably, a match made in heaven (Eagles Heaven), where playoff runs are made and Super Bowl trophies are, at the very least, considered
But of all people to rile up McNabb, it was the 16-0 Patriots, the pro-bowl offense (literally) of Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker (not to mention fallen Eagle Jabar Gaffney and often forgotten, but still pretty damn good Kelly Washington) and Montanaesque Tom Brady. McNabb, usually quiet (and working hard) in the offseason suggested that the Eagles should "secure some playmakers in all three phases of the game."
Better yet, he knows he needs to be the guy:
"Maybe some of those playmakers are already on the roster but have struggled with injuries, myself included, that have held us back a little.”
Andy Reid wasn’t happy about it. His response was one of almost shocking anger, if not some distaste in his franchise Quarterback. Reid responded in a comment by saying;
"I know, as players, you have to be careful about saying that because those are your teammates that are being replaced. Most players don't get into that who really care about their teammates on the other side."
Perhaps a scathing comment to reveal the falling of the franchise QB, but McNabb seemed unphased and defended himself. McNabb noted the teams mediocrity and is seeking improvement; Donovan just wants the best product on the field.
"We didn't disrespect anyone when we traded for Takeo Spikes or signed Kevin Curtis last year. I don't think the Patriots were being disrespectful to Troy Brown or Reche Caldwell when they brought in Moss, Stallworth and Welker. Over the past few years, when the 49ers added Nate Clements, the Seahawks added Julian Peterson, the Giants added Plaxico Burress, the Colts added Adam Vinatieri, it was in an effort to add playmakers. In each case, the team identified a way to improve and they took action. I don't think that's being disrespectful to any of my teammates. It's certainly not my intention. I bet that anyone who wants to see the Eagles win - from Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie to the entire locker room to every Eagles fan who bleeds green - would agree."
Just to release from the diatribe for a moment, that’s when McNabb finally clicked in Philadelphia, at least to me. The much maligned QB, in the City of Brotherly Love, went for it and he took it. Donovan McNabb dove at every Eagles fans heart strings, where they want it most, in the trophy case.
Eagles defensive back Sheldon Brown would disagree. Brown was on an edition of Comcast Sportsnet in Philadelphia disagreeing with McNabb. Brown believes that, much like Reid, McNabb’s comments were disrespectful and that the team in the lockerroom now is capable of getting the Eagles to the promised land.
Sheldon Brown, a former pro-bowler, also backed Terrell Owens in 2005. The same Terrell Owens who, while whimpering, defended Tony Romo in perhaps, the highlight of the Eagles offseason (and its only January). Truth be told, Eagles beatwriter Phil Sheridan believes that the birds still have a shot. Citing the meltdown and apparent Phoenix like rise of Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants or the shocking (or not so shocking, for Eagles faithful) collapse of the Dallas Cowboys, Sheridan believes the field is wide open in 2008. Sheridan furthers his point by mentioning that the Eagles (agreeing with McNabb) and only a few moves away from being an elite team again. Moreover, he believes that something that Tom Brady is often praised for, checking down and dumping off, is something that McNabb is often criticized for.
Then, like a great Green hope, out of the Queen city came a shout. A cry. A match for Donovan. Chad Johnson was on the ESPNRadio morning show, Mike and Mike in the Morning (with Mike Greenberg and former Eagle Mike Golic) and was asked about his status with respect to the Cincinnati Bengals. Johnson replied by stating:
"I was labeled selfish and a cancer, and it hurt," he said. "Fingers were pointed at me this year. If the team and the organization wants to further itself (make the playoffs), I think you need to get rid of the problem. "It hurt me. To do me that way and not to have my back. Things were said, and nobody came to my defense."
Maybe this seems like another TO fiasco or a problem waiting to happen or maybe the timing and the player are perfect. Chad Johnson in Eagles Green is a match made for the blue collar city. Johnson, already used to playing in an icy football loving town, would be adored by the fans and probably respected by McNabb. He has shown a willingness to work with an organization, as he and Carson Palmer raised each other to such a high level and Johnson’s talent, matched with that of fellow receivers Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis would make the Eagles Corps among the best in the NFL. Add another playmaker on defense, perhaps an end, tackle or defensive back, and this team is primed to cut through the giant question mark that is the NFC. This sentiment has been echoed by other eagles fans, such as this website: www.bringchad2philly.com
And if it doesn’t work? Well, assuming the TO paradigm, McNabb will be on the final year of his contract.
And the Bears don’t seem to be finding the QB of the future anytime soon.