Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 12: And So Ends Donovan McNabb's Career in Philly

Sorting the Sunday Pile looks back at the NFL weekend that was. It's also an unofficial Mittens blog.

Donovan McNabb after one more excuse

The Eagles traveled to Baltimore, went through the motions for 30 minutes, and when they took the field for the second half, McNabb was on the sidelines, benched for the first time in his professional career. His replacement -- for the day and, presumably, the future -- 2007 second-round pick Kevin Kolb, was just as forgettable, which puts head coach Andy Reid in a predicament.

Of course, Reid's detractors would point out that his troubles are self-inflicted; his loathsome disregard for the running game, and blind allegiance to McNabb, have everything to do with the Eagles' current situation.

That's not to say that McNabb, for most of his 10 years in Philly, has been anything other than a really good NFL quarterback. (The Eagles reeled off four straight NFC Championships earlier this decade, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2004. And that wasn't all because of Freddie Mitchell.) Just that, as we're often reminded, the NFL is a business. And when winning is the only thing that matters, loyalty and history don't mean much.

Also not helping McNabb's case: his numbers from the previous two games. He completed 47.3 percent of his passes, threw for 398 yards, one touchdown, five picks, and lost two fumbles for good measure. You can get that for a lot less than the nine million bucks he's scheduled to make next season. So now that we've established that McNabb has been unwatchable recently, there are still five games to go in the regular season. The Eagles are 5-5-1, virtually have no shot at the playoffs, and will face the Cardinals in three days' time. Now what?

The easy answer is that Reid, who could be sharing a U-Haul with McNabb come January, could stick with Kolb and see what he has in the second-year quarterback. Such a move would confirm what most of us already assume to be true: McNabb's career in Philly is done and the team is playing for the future.

It'll undoubtedly quiet the sports-talk set, but that's little consolation for a team with no credible excuse for their current plight. The other option is to give McNabb the Thanksgiving Day start (Reid will make an official announcement one way or the other later today) and pretend Sunday never happened. Making that decision easier? Kolb's abysmal performance against the Ravens. I don't think he could've played worse if he threw every pass left-handed.

It terms of playing the postseason, it doesn't matter what Reid decides; the 2008 Eagles died in Cincinnati last week. If Kolb is the next franchise quarterback, then he probably deserves to play out the year, if for no other reason than to see if he's the long-term answer. Yesterday's forgettable half of football would suggest he's a younger, less handsome A.J. Feeley, but that's all it was: 30 minutes. You don't spend a second-round pick on a player to give up on him before he gets a legit shot. Not unless you're talking about John Beck, anyway.

If there's a bright spot in all this, heading into Week 12, Football Outsiders had McNabb as the seventh-best quarterback in the league in terms of efficiency. (It's not much, but it'll have to do.) And while that may be an indication that things aren't nearly as bad as they seem, I'm pretty sure most Eagles fans would gladly take any of these players ranked below McNabb: Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and, obviously, Jeff Garcia.

The Brady Quinn Era Was a Short One

Sunday was a busy day for coaches benching their franchise quarterbacks for the good of the organization. McNabb was the big story, but Brady Quinn, who was making his third start after replacing '07 Pro Bowler Derek Anderson, lasted just three quarters before head coach Romeo Crennel decided that it was time to make a change.

It bears mentioning that Quinn came into the game with a small fracture on the index finger of his throwing hand, which, to my untrained eye, would seem like an impediment to matriculating the ball down the field through the air. Crennel felt differently. Quinn was 8-of-18 for 94 yards, threw nary a touchdown and gave up two huge interceptions before giving way to Anderson.

As usual, Quinn's teammates didn't help him out; between the dropped passes, silly penalties, and more dropped passes, the Browns were lucky to lose at home to the Texans by only 10 points.

Unsurprisingly to everybody not on the Browns' coaching staff, Anderson played just as poorly as did before he was benched three weeks ago. He completed 35 percent of his throws (five of 14) and tossed a late-game pick. After the game, Crennel mumbled something about inserting Anderson because the team needed "a spark," which is further proof that he has no business running an NFL team. During the post-game press conference, Crennel said Quinn will start next week, and let's all hope he's spark-alicious, if for no other reason than to spare us the pain of watching Anderson trying to complete a forward pass.

Baby Jesus Loves Brett Favre, Jets

Not every Week12 story was a sad one. In fact, the Jets' convincing win in Tennessee suddenly makes them the AFC's dark-horse candidate to get to Tampa. (If that seems a bit hasty, it's because it is.)

But as Peter King can attest, Brett Favre has that effect on people. I suggest you don't try to fight it. It's futile. It seems almost ludicrous to suggest as much after watching Favre bungle his way through the first half of the season. In recent weeks, however, Favre has been the ultimate game manager, and while that term is often viewed pejoratively, it shouldn't be; he's minimized mistakes -- particularly those of the game-changing-turnover variety -- and has been consistently efficient.

And, really, that's all a head coach can ask for, even from an 18-year, 39-year-old future Hall of Famer. I can't imagine many people are complaining now that the Jets are 8-3, currently atop the AFC East, and primed for a return to the playoffs.

More impressive than Favre and the Jets offense? Kris Jenkins and the Jets defense. This is the time of year -- three months in with just over a month to go -- that we're subjected to some form of "high-priced free agents seldom equate to success on the field," and the usual suspects -- the Redskins and Raiders -- are held up as proof. Well, New York is the exception. In addition to Favre and Alan Faneca on offense, Jenkins and Calvin Pace have played a big part in the defense's success.

Eric Mangenius is back, people.

Cassel : Brady :: Brady : Bledsoe (Not Quite)

For the second consecutive week, Matt Cassel threw for at least 400 yards. Pretty impressive. So impressive, in fact, that people are seemingly losing their minds about just how good he is. There's no disputing that the former USC backup to Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart has played beyond expectations this season (especially since "expectations" was a euphemism for "stand over there out of the way" until Tom Brady went down with a season-ending knee injury 15 plays into '08).

But the hype surrounding his 12-week evolution now borders on the hysterical. Here's what I wrote just two days ago:

"Cassel currently ranks 18th in the league in yards per attempt (7.0), 26th in completions of more than 20 yards (18), and no quarterback has been sacked more often (32). Hardly hot.

Has Cassel been better than anybody expected? Yeah, sure. But all the talk about him evolving into a legitimate NFL quarterback after a half season of work is a tad short-sighted. And while I'm sure some team desperate for a little Pats fairy dust will pay him six or seven or eight million a year next offseason, he'll still be the same Matt Cassel who went nine years between starts."

Cassel has also benefited from his situation; the Patriots featured the NFL best offense last season, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has done a swell job of putting Cassel in situations where he can succeed. Still, the backup to the backup to the backup deserves some credit; coaches can come up with air-tight schemes, but unless there's someone capable of executing them, it doesn't much matter. Just ask Andy Reid.

So is Tom Brady in danger of getting "Drew Bledsoe-ed"? Um, no. The bigger question is what will the Patriots do if Brady isn't ready to start the 2009 season. Cassel will be a free agent this spring, and I can't imagine he'd return to New England for second-string money and no chance to win the starting gig once Brady is completely healthy. Even if that means taking his five-year, $30 million deal to play for the Lions and average two wins a season.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's action...

.... I'll admit to spending too much time bellyaching about absurd officiating or idiotic coaching decisions, but I'd like to take this opportunity to point out the deft coaching stylings of the Cardinals' Ken Whisenhunt. In retrospect, it seems obvious, but since I can't remember ever seeing another team try it, it merit's a mention. Consider this a public service announcement, along the lines of "yes, NFL games can end in a tie."

Anyway, with the Giants leading 37-26 and 2:00 to go in the game, the Cardinals took eight plays to drive 45 yards, down to the New York 26. On first down, Whisenhunt sent in Neil Rackers to attempt a 44-yard field goal. The thinking: it's a two score game and why not get the field goal first with some time left on the clock, try the onside kick and give the offense a half-minute to score a touchdown.

It proved to be moot; the Giants would recover the onside kick and Eli Manning would take a knee, ending the game. But even though it didn't work, I applaud the strategy. I just wonder why we don't see more of it. Instead, you have guys like Marvin Lewis settling for three even though his team was down 20 with just over six minutes to go. Make or miss, the Bengals still needed three scores. (I know, that helps explain why Cincy is 1-9-1 and Arizona is 7-4. Fair point.)

... Dear opposing coaches, PLEASE DON'T DISRESPECT RANDY MOSS. He hates it when you do that, and it makes him want to try hard ... except when it doesn't. Or something.

.... Hmm, it looks like Jack Del Rio's decision to ban music from the locker room had absolutely nothing to do with winning or losing. Weird. On the first play of the game against the Vikings, linebacker Napoleon Harris gobbled up a botched snap, he rumbled 27 yards, and that was the game. It might be time for Del Rio to bust out that Mike Nolan Memorial Reebok suit. That probably won't change the team's fortunes, either, but at least he'll look good losing.

... I know the reports are that Marc Bulger left Sunday's game against the Bears because of a concussion, but I wonder if he'd just had enough. I wouldn't blame him.

... Big win for the Ravens. Not only do they remain just one game back of the Steelers in the AFC North, they're also a wild card team. And the players were so excited about waxing the Eagles, John Harbaugh's former employer, that they doused their rookie head coach with not one, but two Gatorade showers. Two. In Week 12. This is still professional sports, right? Look, Baltimore has been a pleasant surprise this season, and they're coming off a five-win effort a year ago, but it's not like they're the Lions. Let's have some perspective here. Thanks in advance.

... The Denver Broncos are officially the worst team in the league. Mike Shanahan should be forced to coach the rest of the season wearing an Al Davis costume. By the way, this could only happen to the Raiders: with about a minute to go in the first half and the game tied 3-3, Johnnie Lee Higgins returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown, did a celebratory end zone backflip, and because he under-rotated and landed on his hands, he drew a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty. You see, according rules, players can't go to the ground to commemorate the occasion. Sounds about right. Whatever, it's worth 15 yards to not be the Broncos right now.

Post-Game Debaclings

Quotes that Emmitt Smith might like...

"No. But that's just the competitive nature that you have ... that you feel like something positive's going to turn things around and get things going in the right direction. But that's why I'm not the coach."
- Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, answering the question, "Should you be benched next week?"

"Ever since I left, this is what I wanted to do -- to come back to Invesco and show I've still got it ... Come back and kind of put it to the people who didn't think I was good enough."
- Raiders receiver Ashley Lelie, who began his career with the Broncos

"You would have to ask coach why I was pulled ... He was upset with a couple of decisions I made out there. I didn't have any idea that I was on such a short leash."
- Browns sometimes starting quarterback, Brady Quinn

"I found our performance today to be totally unacceptable."
- Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio, after his team ran its home record to one-for-2008

"I've failed so far, no doubt about it -- I've said that before -- and empty [Ford Field] seats, that's on me. The record is on me. I've been very upbeat with that, I've been very direct with that. I've never used an excuse or an explanation, I've just said, 'yes.' In terms of where we're at, no doubt about it. Now, how do I go on? I get up and I get this team ready to go and I'm looking forward to it and I got to bring some energy to these guys."
- Lions head coach Rod Marinelli, making less sense than Oswald Bates

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 12: And So Ends Donovan McNabb's Career in Philly originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Mon, 24 Nov 2008 08:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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