Sure, the QB is in the crosshairs, but last night's armageddon in Dallas resulted from the Cowboys' better preparation and better play in the trenches. Put differently, when you control the line of scrimmage (translated -- when you push the other team around at will), you win the game. And sometimes it isn't even close.
And, last night, it wasn't.
Oh, sure, Donovan McNabb isn't as precise a passer as Kurt Warner or Tom Brady, but even those guys would have wilted at the thrust that the Dallas line had all night. And those guys also would have been skittish playing behind an offensive line, 3/5 of whom weren't starters when the year began. The defensive line play was more of a mystery, because those guys are generally pretty good. But the play at linebacker was awful, and the play in the secondary not much better. For those who lament the loss of Brian Dawkins, let's lament the loss of his leadership. But, truth be told, he was a step behind the plays for most of last season, so having him on board last night would not have been a cure-all. Remember, if you're one of the ones who waxes nostalgic, bringing back Jeremiah Trotter only demonstrated to the fans how woefully unprepared Andy Reid was at the season's outset, when apparently the Eagles' front office knew that starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley was entering the season on an iffy knee.
So, what should the Eagles' fans be mad at? Here are a few points:
1. The front office and Andy Reid. When Reid re-upped, he talked about the organization's being the "best in class." C'mon, show some humility. How many Super Bowls has the organization won? Until you win one, you're not best in class. Period. That was ridiculous and because it was a silly claim, it was insulting.
2. Andy Reid for having what seems to be an annual blind spot at a position. Sure, B-Dawk was a step slow, but you don't can a legend unless you have a better solution, and no one back there proved to be an equal, let alone an improvement. Macho Harris was anything but at the free safety position. A few years back there was a blind spot at punt returner, and, at times, there have been blind spots at wide receiver and, yes, linebacker. This year, there were blind spots at linebacker and safety, but the Birds were too self-congratulatory regarding their upgrades at wide receiver and running back to notice. Once again, those blind spots left them vulnerable, and good teams took advantage.
3. The trenches. Is the defensive line good enough to push other offensive lines around? Apparently not in big games. Is the offensive line good enough to offer a chance at a balanced offense that keeps opponents guessing? Apparently not, period. The Stacy Andrews' signing is a big bust, and Jason Peters is overrated, even if he made the Pro Bowl. He didn't show much yesterday -- and that's not Donovan McNabb's fault.
So, there are many problems that the team needs to address before it gets to quarterback. Donovan McNabb had a good year, and he should return next season. Yes, he's the symbol of the franchise, and fans are quick to forget all the good that he has done when he gets sacked or throws behind a receiver. He isn't the most precise passer, but he can win football games. Last night, though, he didn't have a chance to.
And the debacle that was the 34-14 loss to the Cowboys was by no means Donovan McNabb's fault.
Not even close.
If you were to give Andy Reid a shopping list for next season, here are a few thoughts:
1. a leader on defense.
2. a few linebackers who are better than free-agent pick-ups or 7th-round picks who we're supposed to hope become all-pros.
3. a few playmakers on defense (outside Asante Samuel and Trent Cole, where are they?).
4. a huge run-stuffing defensive tackle.
5. two offensive linemen who have Jon Runyan's mean streak.
You need all of those components before
you start a conversation about the quarterback position.
And you need a head coach to take stock of his approach and realize that he needs to be aggressive on all 53 roster spots and at all positions and not take an annual flyer on one or two of them.
Achilles had his heel. Andy Reid has two positions every year that come back to haunt him. He's been at the helm for eleven seasons, so he should have learned by now that you can't leave yourself this vulnerable.
If he doesn't learn soon, he'll be regarded as a very good head coach.
But not a great one.