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To Boo or Not for McNabb’s Return by Lloyd Vance

NFL nation is waiting to see how former Eagles and current Redskins QB Donovan McNabb will be received by Philadelphia fans this Sunday

Ever since the 2010 NFL Schedule came out on April 20th, one game stood out more than any other of the National Football League’s 256 regular season games. The Washington Redskins traveling to play their NFC East division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, at 4:00 PM EST on Sunday October 3rd on FOX

The game will mark the first post-trade return of former franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb –- who I believe is the most overanalyzed and underappreciated player in Philadelphia Eagles’ history.  The trade sent the 11-year veteran from the Eagles to the Washington Redskins for a 2nd Rd (37) in 2010 and a 3rd or 4th on April 5, 2011.  But you know when the entire NFL universe was circling this game, they weren’t thinking about the trade’s details.  The one thing on everyone’s mind was, “What in the world are Philadelphia Fans going to do to welcome back McNabb?”

For over a decade in Philadelphia, the name “Donovan McNabb” was a lightning rod for both passion and scorn.  It all started that fateful April Saturday afternoon in 1999 when 30 knucklehead Eagles fans got lathered up and traveled to New York City to “boo” McNabb at the 1999 NFL Draft.  The group, that included 610 WIP’s morning host Angelo Cataldi, to this day still remains steadfast that the booing was in protest to their rebuilding team not taking Heisman Winner running back Ricky Williams rather than hating on McNabb.  But it doesn’t how the “Great Donovan McNabb” debate began, because it continues on to this day.  And you can bet that this Sunday that the Lincoln Financial Field sold-out crowd of 66,000+ will be bringing gasoline to the debate fire that has raged for over 11 years.

So far professionalism has been shown by both the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.  Players and Coaches on both sides have “Downplayed” any Donovan Talk by saying that they are just focusing on the game. 

Some quotes attributed to McNabb this week when talking about his return to Philadelphia include:

“Honestly, I think I will be more cheered.  No matter what the situation is, right now I’m with a different team and it’s a rival and it wasn’t my choice. We had a successful 11 years. We had a lot of exciting plays and obviously some down times, but there were more exciting things in 11 years.”

“I’ve always said that I look at it just like a normal game.  This is a game the Washington Redskins need. It wouldn’t matter if it were the Cowboys or the Giants. After the last two weeks, this is a must-win situation for us. We just look forward to the challenge.”

“We had a lot of success together.  Obviously, we’ve been through some ups and downs together. Things happen. It’s unfortunate. Was I upset at the time? Absolutely. But I’ve moved on. I learned to move on and focus on the job at hand.”

“But in reality you’ve got to remember this is a big rivalry and we see each other twice a year so there will be some realization there,” McNabb said. “Hopefully after the fact they recognize that I’m back. Just knowing that I’m with the Redskins, I’m sure (Eagles fans) won’t be happy about that aspect.”

“This is the business we’re in,” Eagles head coach Andy Reid recently said of McNabb returning.  He added, “Fortunately, [the trade] didn’t destroy our friendship. It’s part of the business. He understands. I understand. I’m sure neither one of us wanted it to come to that day. But that’s how it works. That’s how this thing works. It was a tough decision on my part.”

C’mon guys…give us a little something to work with here.  Where is the “R” word in all of this?  I am talking about “revenge”.  Luckily the people not participating in the game, the fans, are much more interesting to talk about.  Both sides of fans in what I like to call, the “Donovan Divide”, have arguments fueled by passion that only Philadelphia can bring to table.

Some pro-McNabb comments from I what would say is a quiet majority of supporters in the Eagles fanbase have included:  “McNabb is the best quarterback the Eagles have ever had”; “Andy Reid never surrounded McNabb with enough weapons”; “McNabb played on a broken leg and won against the Cardinals”; “McNabb would have been fine if the Eagles had kept T.O”. And there are probably much more supportive words from Pro-McNabb fans, but they tend to stay off talk radio and message boards.

However the very vocal minority of Birds’ fans that are ardent McNabb detractors are more than willing to express themselves.  You can expect these ‘Boo Birds’ to be ready on Sunday as they were more than giddy on Easter Sunday when Big 5 packed up his air guitar and left the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ for DC. Wonder if any of these comments sound familiar.  “McNabb throws worm balls”; “The National Media has no idea, just how bad McNabb really is”; “McNabb is inaccurate causing him to not hit receivers in stride”; “McNabb’s parents are too involved in his life”; “McNabb has lost 4 NFC Championship Games, two of which were at home and three  where the Eagles were favored”; “McNabb smiles after interceptions”; “McNabb never scrambles anymore because he doesn’t want to be labeled a running quarterback”; “McNabb cannot win big games”; “McNabb should change his name to McChoke”; “McNabb caused the Birds to lose the last game at the Vet”; “McNabb is too injury prone” and “McNabb blew-it in the Super Bowl against the Patriots”. 

However love him or hate him…I believe McNabb deserves a warm welcome on Sunday befitting his hard-nose play and legacy in Philadelphia.  During the McNabb era there were the heights of 6 Pro Bowl selections, 5 NFC Title Games and a Super Bowl appearance in the 2004 season.  And there also were the depths of coming back from an ACL injury in 2006 and defending his play in four NFC Championship Game losses.  But fans should try and remember the good times more than the non-Championships.  McNabb holds almost every franchise passing record and Philly fans should ask themselves, “Would they boo Ron Jaworski, Curt Schilling, Ron Hextall, or Charles Barkley?”  All of these athletes, like McNabb, were all-star caliber players who shined but eventually passed through Philadelphia without attaining the city’s elusive championship.  Thankfully the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies ended the city’s 25-year drought by winning the World Series and hopefully softening Philadelphia fans a little.

We all know that a championship is the ultimate prize in sports.  But “Winning” is the first step, puts butts in the seats, and keeps fans coming back for more.  And that is what Donovan McNabb is, a “Winner”!  Yes…McNabb, head coach Andy Reid and the Eagles’ organization as a whole did not bring home a Super Bowl Championship in 11 years. Plus McNabb’s last game as an Eagles player in a 38-14 wildcard playoff round loss to the Cowboys is still fresh in some “Haters” minds — numbers of 19/37, 230 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT and 1 lost fumble. 

But you cannot forget McNabb’s value to the Eagles franchise both on the field and in the community — does all the rights things when other athletes are being toasted despite their past shortcomings off the field.  Big 5 put it on the line each and every game that he played for the Philadelphia Eagles.  He battled through injuries and criticism to put up the best quarterback resume in the Eagles’ over 75-year history.  And to me, his resume is moving toward Pro Football Hall of Fame status too. 

In eleven exciting years in Philadelphia, which is more than any fan can ask for, McNabb was a leader as he passed for numbers of  2801-4746, 59.0% completion rate, 32,873 yards, 216 TDs, and 100 INTs – NFL record for touchdown-to-interception ratio — with an additional 3249 yards and 28 touchdowns rushing.  But it is his Eagles’ starting records of 92-49-1 in the regular season and 9-7 in the playoffs that have to move fans to give the man, the respect that he deserves.

I am expecting a half-hearted welcome for McNabb on Sunday which definitely will include some boos.  If there is booing, unfortunately Philly will once again be painted with the over-used phrase, “The city that threw snowballs at Santa Claus”.  In the end no one has a right to tell money-paying fans how to react to any player as long as they don’t break any rules.  BTW: I am cautioning fans to enjoy themselves, but don’t do anything too crazy like burning McNabb jerseys or hanging Eagles No. 5 clad dummies in effigy.

As someone that has followed the fortunes of  the Philadelphia Eagles for over 30 years.  And in particular Donovan McNabb since his early days at Syracuse, I am not even going to lie and say that I won’t be quietly pulling for McNabb to play well in his return. 

Hopefully the excitement of McNabb’s return will dissipate quickly and everyone can move on to focusing on the Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) versus the Washington Redskins (1-2) in a crucial NFC East match-up. 

So as Andy Reid says in every press conference, “The time is yours” and this time I am directing it at Eagles fans as we see how they react to Donovan McNabb returning.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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McNabb Traded to the Redskins for Picks by Lloyd Vance

Quarterback Donovan McNabb will now be throwing passes for the Washington Redskins as the Philadelphia Eagles traded him for picks on Sunday

Well it finally happened… the Philadelphia Eagles decided that on Easter Sunday 2010, that the Kevin Kolb era should officially begin.  The Eagles shipped franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb (33) to the Washington Redskins for a 2010 second round pick (37) and a 2011 third or fourth round pick.

The trading of McNabb was not a surprise to me after weeks of very loud anti-Donovan rants within the team’s vocal fanbase and media.  The 11-year veteran – who I believe is the most overanalyzed and underappreciated player in Eagles’ history — holds almost every franchise passing record, but more than ever there have been constant cries for Big 5 to pack up his air guitar and leave the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ and now that is the case.

The surprising part of the McNabb trade is that the Birds decided that they did not have a problem shipping their franchise quarterback to an inter-division rival.  I guess the Eagles really didn’t care that they will now be facing McNabb twice next season – probably with both games in prime time.  And it will be real interesting to see the reception Big 5 receives in Philly and DC.

So now the biggest athlete in Philadelphia for the last 11 years will drive down I-95 to take his place with the hated Redskins. While in Philadelphia, Kolb (career numbers: 79-130,  60.8%, 885 yards, 4 TDs and 7 INTs) is now the Eagles starter and we will see if he is more Norm Van Brocklin than Bobby Hoying in the upcoming season. 

But before McNabb leaves town, let’s take a look back. For over a decade in Philadelphia, the name “Donovan McNabb” has been both a lightning rod for both passion and scorn.  During this period McNabb has risen to the heights of 6 Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl appearance in the 2004 season.  While also facing the depths of boos at the 1999 NFL Draft, coming back from an ACL injury in 2006 and defending his play in four NFC Championship Game losses. 

Yes…McNabb, head coach Andy Reid and the Eagles’ organization as a whole have not brought home a Super Bowl Championship in 11 years. However there is no questioning McNabb’s value to the Eagles franchise – respectable career passing numbers: 2801-4746, 59.0% completion rate, 32,873 yards, 216 TDs, and 100 INTs with an additional 3249 yards and 28 touchdowns rushing.  Plus starting records of 92-45-1 in the regular season and 9-7 in the playoffs. 

So now it will be 4th year quarterback Kolb taking over, but I caution Eagles’ fans to be careful what they wish for.  In a past research article that I wrote, most teams after jettisoning their franchise quarterback struggle in their first season without their deposed passer.  The study showed, Season 1 can tend to get tough as 26 teams in their first season without their franchise passer had a combined regular season record of 170-221-5 (winning percentage of 43%) with 16 losing records, 6 playoff teams, and zero Conference Champions or Super Bowl Champions. 

Thankfully for the classy McNabb, his trade saga is over and he and the Eagles can start over.  The Birds are armed with 11 picks in the upcoming draft and the Redskins are eager to move-on with their new franchise passer. 

But I have a feeling that Eagles’ fans may soon be learning that the grass is not so much greener on the other side.  And a friendly reminder will be on their opponent’s sidelines when they play the Redskins twice in 2010.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Life after McNabb maybe tougher on the Eagles than expected by Lloyd Vance

If the Eagles do decide to move-on without Donovan McNabb, history has shown some interesting results once a franchise quarterback leaves a team, especially in Season 1

The Philadelphia Eagles are indeed shopping franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb hard, with a team senior official saying via ESPN “We continue to engage in conversations with multiple teams that initially contacted us”.  So for all intents and purposes the biggest athlete in Philadelphia for the last 11 years appears to be on his way out the door. 

The proverbial horse has left the barn, leaving only a slim chance that McNabb will not be traded and return for the 2010 season.  The news of an impending trade — possibly by Draft Day (April 22) or before when McNabb’s roster bonus of $6.2 million is due on May 5th — probably has put a smile on the growing list of Eagles’ fans and media that are ready to move on from the franchise’s most decorated passer.

For over a decade in Philadelphia, the name “Donovan McNabb” has been both a lightning rod for both passion and scorn.  During this period McNabb has risen to the heights of 5 Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl appearance in the 2004 season.  While also facing the depths of boos at the 1999 NFL Draft, coming back from an ACL injury in 2006 and defending his play in four NFC Championship Game losses.  McNabb – who I believe is the most overanalyzed and underappreciated player in Eagles’ history — holds almost every franchise passing record, but more than ever there have been cries for Big 5 to pack up his air guitar and leave the City of Brotherly Love.

Fans and media that want the 33-year old passer to leave, so that younger quarterback Kevin Kolb (career numbers: 79-130,  60.8%, 885 yards, 4 TDs and 7 INTs) can take over the reins seem to have reoccurring gripes about their soon to be former leader.  Recently radio stations and message boards have been flooded with “negative” McNabb talk. 

I wonder if some of these  comments sound familiar — “McNabb throws worm balls”; “The National Media has no idea, just how bad McNabb really is”; “McNabb is inaccurate causing him to not hit receivers in stride”; “McNabb has lost 4 NFC Championship Games, two of which were at home and three  where the Eagles were favored”; “McNabb smiles after interceptions”; “McNabb never scrambles anymore because he doesn’t want to be labeled a running quarterback”; “McNabb cannot win big games”; “McNabb should change his name to McChoke”; “McNabb caused the Birds to lose the last game at the Vet”; “McNabb is too injury prone” and “McNabb blew-it in the Super Bowl against the Patriots”.  These are just the tip of the iceberg as public sentiment in Philadelphia clearly seems to want the team to start the Kolb era immediately.

However as someone that has probably seen every snap of the McNabb era, I want to offer some caution on letting go a quarterback of No. 5’s ilk.  ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen recently said of the whole McNabb is on the trading block hysteria of the past few weeks, “Quarterbacks of (McNabb’s) caliber just aren’t traded in the NFL”. 

Yes…McNabb, head coach Andy Reid and the Eagles’ organization as a whole have not brought home a Super Bowl Championship in 11 years. And their 2009 end of season losses against the Cowboys were embarrassing.  With McNabb definitely deserving some of the blame for his team’s humiliating 38-14 loss to the Cowboys in the Wildcard Round — numbers of 19/37, 230 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT and 1 lost fumble. 

But you cannot forget McNabb’s value to the Eagles franchise in the  community (does the rights things) and on the field over 11 years –respectable career passing numbers: 2801-4746, 59.0% completion rate, 32,873 yards, 216 TDs, and 100 INTs – NFL record for touchdown-to-interception ratio — an additional 3249 yards and 28 touchdowns rushing.  Plus starting records of 92-45-1 in the regular season and 9-7 in the playoffs.  But with public sentiment leaning towards McNabb leaving, I put my “Ray Didinger” researcher’s hat on in hopes of looking at how teams fared after turning the page from their franchise quarterback of many years. 

I took a historical sample of 26 teams who had a franchise quarterback leave and how they fared afterwards (ex. SF 49ers Joe Montana, Tennessee Titans Steve McNair, Minnesota Vikings Fran Tarkenton, and others).  I went as far back as 1959 in looking at how the Detroit Lions picked up the pieces after starter Bobby Layne was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1958 season. The quarterbacks that I selected had been a consistent starter for their teams for over 5 years – except Sonny Jurgensen, who was a 3-year starter for the Eagles – then left their teams via retirement, trade, or release. 

The key categories of measurement were the former quarterback’s team record and playoff status in their last season before they were jettisoned and the team’s regular season records and playoff status in the next 3 seasons without their deposed franchise quarterback. The results varied, but there is one trend that the Eagles and their disgruntled fanbase should analyze and that is the first season after a franchise quarterback has left. 

The 26 quarterbacks’ teams had a combined regular season record of 199-192-5 in the last season before their franchise signal caller left with 11 losing records and a winning percentage of 50%.  Of those 26 teams in their franchise quarterback’s last season, ten were playoff teams and two were Super Champions. 

Season 1 after a franchise passer leaves shows that things can tend to gettougher.  The 26 teams in their first season without their franchise passer had a combined regular season record of 170-221-5 (winning percentage of 43%) with 16 losing records, 6 playoff teams, and zero Conference Champions or Super Bowl Champions. 

Season 2 after a franchise passer showed a more upward trend.  The 26 teams in their second season without their franchise passer had a combined regular season record of 227-170-1 (winning percentage of 57%) with 7 losing records, 16 playoff teams, 1 Conference Champion and two Super Bowl Champions. 

Season 3 after a franchise passer showed a slight downward trend, but a better winning percentage than the last season with the franchise quarterback.  The 26 teams in their third season without their franchise passer had a combined regular season record of 221-175-4 (winning percentage of 55%) with 11 losing records, 9 playoff teams, zero Conference Champions, and 2 Super Bowl Championships. 

We will see just how long the “McNabb Trade” saga takes to finally play out.  But these statistics show that sometimes the grass is not so much greener on the other side.  Remember the Eagles were an 11-5 playoff team and scored a franchise-record 429 points in 2009 with McNabb.

 

  

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Eagles Quarterback Poker and McNabb is rumored to be in play by Lloyd Vance

At the NFL Meetings this past week, rumors around trades for Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb were rampant

Around the NovaCare Complex whispers are pointing to one of their three quarterbacks under contract for one more season (Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Michael Vick) to be leaving via a trade before the 2010 NFL Draft on April 22nd.  In an offseason that has been like none other in Philadelphia, the Eagles organization is faced with some tough decisions around the quarterbacks on their roster, especially McNabb – career regular season starting record of 82-45-1.

For over a decade in Philadelphia, the name “Donovan McNabb” has been both a lightning rod for both passion and scorn.  During this period McNabb has risen to the heights of a respectable 9-7 playoff record, 5 Pro Bowl selections, and a Super Bowl appearance in the 2004 season.  While also facing the depths of boos at the 1999 NFL Draft, coming back from an ACL injury in 2006 and defending his play in four NFC Championship Game losses.  McNabb holds almost every Eagles’ passing record, but more than ever there is a canyon between the two sides of the “Donovan Debate”.

 Some fans and media firmly in McNabb’s camp want to bring him back in 2010.  These Stepford fans have continually covered the 11-year veteran’s back by saying things like “Big 5 is the best quarterback the Eagles have ever had”; “Other than Manning or Brady, name me a quarterback who is better” and “McNabb has done more with less talent around him than any quarterback in the NFL”.

While others have seen enough of the 33-year old passer and would gladly drive him to the airport, so Kolb can take over the reins of the Birds.  Common comments from this faction are “McNabb throws worm balls”, “McNabb is inaccurate causing him to not hit receivers in stride”; “McNabb lost 3 NFC Championship Game that the Eagles were favored in”; “McNabb should pack up his air guitar and leave” and “McNabb cannot win big games”.

For most of this offseason things have been surprisingly quiet on the Eagles quarterback front.  But yesterday at the NFL Meetings in Orlando, this pot started to simmer when Eagles head coach Andy Reid made some interesting comments regarding the Birds’ quarterback situation.  Reid confirmed that indeed the Eagles are entertaining offers for all three quarterbacks with a lot the talk appearing to be centered on McNabb – career passing numbers: 2801-4746, 59.0% completion rate, 32,873 yards, 216 TDs, and 100 INTs. 

As of yesterday there were rampant rumors of a McNabb to the Rams trade for the 33rd overall pick in the 2010 draft (first pick in 2nd round) and safety OJ Atogwe, though the St. Louis Rams are denying it.  Of course Reid later was coy about any trade talk by saying, “We’ll go back and look through (rumored trades) and think through them a little bit, away from this situation here. There’s nothing right now that I’d jump up and down about. But there has been some interest.”

All along it seemed like the no-brainer Eagles’ quarterback out the door this offseason was Vick.  His signing last summer caused a firestorm of activity and the fact still remains that many fans will never embrace him after his much-publicized dogfighting saga.  There also is no denying that the former Falcons star is basically a spare part on the Eagles roster – passing numbers: 6-13, 46.2%, 86 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs plus 24 rushes for 95 yards, and 2 TDs. 

But the Eagles being the Eagles, threw a monkey wrench into the situation by surprisingly picking up Vick’s $1.5 Million dollar roster bonus earlier in March, which has raised questions that he could very well be coming back in 2010.  To make matters tougher for any Vick trade talk, the market for him has all but dried up as teams know he may soon be released or retained as a high-priced backup by the Eagles – will make over 6 million if on the team in 2010.

That leaves Kolb, a former 2nd round draft pick in 2007 and perceived “quarterback of the future”, and McNabb left in the equation for quarterback needy teams like the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals (assuming Leinart is not the answer) and Minnesota Vikings (assuming Favre retires).  Though no one has come right out and said it within the Eagles organization, the feeling of a lot of people around the NFL is that Kolb is as close to an “untouchable” as possible.  The young quarterback, who set an NFL record in 2009 by throwing for over 300 yards in his first two starts, is rumored to be available for the kingly ransom of two first-round draft picks. 

Though it is a known secret that former Eagles GM and current Browns GM Tom Heckert has an affinity for Kolb. I don’t think that Cleveland, or any other team for that matter, is ready to mortgage its future on a quarterback that has thrown 130 passes in the NFL with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4 to 7.  So unless the Eagles really want to trade Kolb, by lowering their asking price, you can expect him back in 2010.

So that leads us right back to the most talked about player in Philadelphia since Allen Iverson left the first time.  Going into the 2009 offseason, all along I thought that even though McNabb was entering the last year of his contract, that surely he would be back in Midnight Green come training camp in July.  Eagles head coach Andy Reid also seemed to be in the McNabb camp as he said at his end-of-year press conference and anywhere else he had access to the media before yesterday that “McNabb was his quarterback”. 

Even after a “shaky” performance by McNabb against the Cowboys in the Wildcard Round — 19/37, 230 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT and 1 lost fumble — that cemented a three-game Dallas’ sweep in ‘09, Reid still was standing by his guy.  Asked after the awful playoff loss if he expected McNabb to be the Eagles quarterback in 2010, Reid gave the curt response, “Yeah, I do.”   Later asked if he envisioned a scenario in which he wouldn’t be with the Eagles in 2010, McNabb said after the embarrassing Dallas’ loss, “I don’t see that happening.”

However something is afoot around McNabb and there are rumors of two factions of the “Donovan Debate” not only in the fan base, but also within the team’s front office.  The rift may have come from 11 years worth of frustration of not winning a Super Bowl or the fact that McNabb did not pursue an extension a couple years ago, instead renegotiating for more money.  The former 1999 3rd overall selection is due to receive a $6.2 million roster bonus May 5, so decisions need to made very soon about his future. 

In reaction to all the trade talk, McNabb said via his blog, “My position hasn’t changed. I’ve said all along that I would like to win a Super Bowl and finish my career in Philadelphia.”  He added, “I understand the situation well and just hope whichever direction the Eagles decide to go in, they do it quickly. I think that would be best for me, Kevin, Michael, the Eagles, and any other teams involved. No matter what happens, I’ve already begun preparing to have an outstanding season in 2010.”

Some folks around the league are saying McNabb would be willing to be traded to the Rams, if he were to be given a contract extension – has an established relationship with Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.  But those same sources are saying he wants no parts of playing for Buffalo or Oakland. 

Of course Reid couched any McNabb trade talk by saying in an Philadelphia Inquirer article, “I think it’s a great situation (having 3 ‘quality’ QBs in demand) to be in, from a coach’s standpoint. There are coaches who dream to be in this situation.”  Reid added in the Ashley Fox piece, “I’m not in any hurry to get rid of any of them. Have people talked? Yeah, people have talked. Have we listened? Yeah, we’re in the process of listening. The bottom line is if I have all three of them, that’s great.”

Right now nothing is imminent and this thing could continue to fester throughout the offseason. But at the same time, don’t rule out the odd scenario of McNabb returning as the starter, Kolb as his backup, and Vick the third-stringer. 

This is high stakes poker and the Eagles have to decide whether to keep playing or fold. 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Eagles expected to pay Vick’s bonus by Lloyd Vance

Looks like quarterback Michael Vick will be with the Philadelphia Eagles a little longer than originally anticipated

For years, disgruntled former Philadelphia Eagles have left the nest complaining about the front office’s low priority in paying veteran players.  From Troy Vincent to Corey Simon to Jeremiah Trotter to Lito Sheppard, there was animosity towards the team’s management as fans seethed on the radio and message boards about their “thrifty” nature. 

Even recently, “stand up guy” Brian Westbrook had some choice comments on his way out the door. Westbrook said via the Dan Patrick Radio Show, ” The players want to win, but with the management, I would hope winning is the priority – but I don’t know that.  The thing for (the Eagles’ front office), it’s always money. It’s always dollar signs. If they can find someone to do it a little bit cheaper, they’ll go with that guy.”

With the Eagles image of not “paying” veteran players being in the public’s forefront.  All along I thought there was no way that the team would pay spare part 3rd string quarterback Michael Vick’s upcoming bonus.  Vick is due a $1.5 million roster bonus payment on March 5th (start of NFL free agency and new calendar year).

But to everyone’s surprise, people around the Eagles that I have recently talked to definitely believe that the team is indeed strongly considering paying Vick his bonus.  To further solidify my findings, my colleague Geoff Mosher of The News Journal recently wrote, “Multiple league sources have told me that they anticipate the Eagles paying Vick’s 1.5 roster bonus and holding onto Vick for as long as possible to get the best available offer. Shelling out $1.5 million is hardly unreasonable if the team gets a third-or fourth-round pick in return.”

I know most Michael Vick followers will not understand the team paying for basically nothing.  However I have to agree with the team’s thinking in this case.  Everyone around the league already seem to be playing the waiting game with the Eagles at this point, to see if Vick will be let go to become an unrestricted free agent.  Obviously with Eagles quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Vick all entering the 2010 season on 1-year deals, clearly the under-utilized 3rd stringer has to be the odd man out. Especially at his total price of $6 to $7 Million in 2010. 

Vick’s last season playing time and numbers (passing: 6-13, 46.2%, 86 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs plus 24 rushes for 95 yards, and 2 TDs) also clearly show that McNabb and Kolb are the team’s future and not him.  But any trade leverage that the Eagles posses with rumored destination teams — Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, or Carolina Panthers – hinges mainly on making it look like there is a chance of Vick staying in Philly.  So paying him on March 5th seems very probable. 

However paying Vick’s bonus this week does present another problem.  If the Eagles can’t unload Vick via trade there are provisions in his contract that would make him the costliest 3rd stringer in the NFL.  His $1.5 million roster bonus can quickly grow into a minimum of $2.5 million dollars ($1M of his $3.75M salary for 2010 becomes guaranteed once his option is picked up).  And I won’t even go into the amount of $5.25 million dollars, if Vick is with the Eagles for the entire 2010 season.

Clearly the Eagles have to make a “tough” decision on Friday, March 5th.  But I do believe they will buck their perceived cap-conscious reputation by calling Vick’s agent Joel Segal to inform him that “yes” the check is in the mail. By paying Vick’s bonus, the Eagles will buy some much-needed time to ensure a trade before the 2010 NFL Draft on April 22 – probably a 3rd or 4th rounder in return. 

 Stay tuned as we will see if the Eagles make a dollar sign decision on March 5th.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Eagles release running back Brian Westbrook by Lloyd Vance


The Eagles are in the market for a new running back after making the tough decision to release Brian Westbrook

On Monday, the San Diego Chargers released former Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson and for the second day in a row another high profile runner is looking for work.   The end of era happened in Philly as the Philadelphia Eagles decided to cut running back Brian Westbrook.  Though the mercurial running back still had years remaining on the contract that he signed before the 2008 NFL Season, it was apparent that the Birds felt injuries (concussion, ankle, and knee problems all during the 2009 season) and age had caught up with their offense’s center piece since 2004.

Though Westbrook’s career numbers of 5995 rushing yards (71st All-time in the NFL), 3790 receiving yards on 426 receptions and 68 combined touchdowns probably will not get him a “sniff” from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  His legacy within the Eagles’ lockerroom and with fans will be everlasting.  Since arriving with the Eagles as a 3rd round draft pick in 2002, B-West showed that he was more than his listed size of 5’8, 200 pounds.  The former Villanova dual-threat running back, who many projected as “just” a kick returner and 3rd down back when he entered the NFL, showed that his quickness and “Want To” that made him the franchise’s 2nd all-time rusher behind Wilbert Montgomery.

Two-time Pro Bowl player and 1-time All Pro did indeed prove that his skills from 1-AA football did equate to the NFL as he was the main cog in Andy Reid’s West Coast offense.  Westbrook was the lynchpin of Eagles’ squads that made NFC Championship Games (five altogether under Reid, four with B-West) and one Super Bowl in 2004.  During his time in Philly, others around the NFL talked about backs like Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, Marshall Faulk, and Willie Parker but to Eagles’ fans Westbrook was had to be placed in any conversation with the NFL’s elite.  You name it; B-West did for the Eagles.  Blocking, catching, running inside and outside, picking up the blitz, returning punts when needed, running out of the Wildcat formation and even throwing a pass or two.

“You know what, he had no weaknesses,” Reid said at yesterday’s press conference announcing Westbrook’s release.  “There wasn’t any one thing that you could pick out that he was not good at. He was brilliant. There are just certain guys that are just football smart and he was one of those guys. You never had to tell him anything more than one time and it was done, and you had confidence that it was going to be done.”

Despite never playing in all 16 games during his 8-year career –- due to a myriad of injuries —  which some used to make a case for saying he was injury-prone… make no bones about it Westbrook was as “tough” as a $4.00 steak at the Vegas buffet.  I often marveled when standing next to B-West how his play belied his size.  B-West despite having to play probably the most demanding position in the NFL, was the Eagles’ best blitz protector, cat-quick in space and also went over the middle on passes making him one of the NFL’s best slot receivers.  To underscore his toughness, despite being Reid’s main engine, which entailed 1796 touches in his career, Westbrook only lost 9 fumbles in his career.

Westbrook’s incredible value to the team was probably shown most in his incredible ‘07 season where he set an Eagles’ record for combine receiving and rushing yards with 2104 yards including over 1,200 yards rushing, and 90 catches. Also in that magical season, Westbrook showed his unselfishness against the hated Dallas Cowboys as he laid down right before crossing the goal line thus forgoing a touchdown in order to cement a road win for the Birds. For his efforts Westbrook finally was paid amongst the league’s best backs signing a deal with the terms three years, $21 Million with $13 Million guaranteed in ‘08 and ’09.

Westbrook maybe done as an Eagle, but his fans will always have his highlight reel moments including his miraculous game-winning 84-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Giants in 2003. And his incredible 71-yard darting catch and run touchdown to break open the Eagles 2008 wildcard playoff win over the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome.

The 2009 NFL Season was another tough one on Westbrook as he missed 8 games and only ran for only 274 yards and 1 TD.  After a solid performance against the Panthers in Week 1 – produced numbers of 13 rushes for 64 yards and 3 receptions for 8 yards, 1 TD — Westbrook hurt his ankle against the Saints in Week 2, and then he suffered a debilitating concussion against the Washington Redskins in Week 7.  So at age 30, the Birds made the tough decision to let him go.

The move was not a shocker given Westbrook’s 7 Million Dollar price tag for the 2010 season and the emergence of 2009 rookie LeSean McCoy.  Though the Eagles took a cap hit of $1.5 million by not waiting for the start of free agency on March 5th (start of the 2010 NFL Calendar and Free Agency), the move will allow both sides to move-on.

With the growing NFL trend of having at least two quality running backs splitting carries to keep defensive coordinators guessing and backs fresher.  Westbrook will be battling it out with other veteran running backs Tomlinson, Parker, Edgerrin James and others to find a home in a league that likes their backs age 27 and under.  Expect all of these veteran running backs to play the waiting game for injuries in training camp or during the season – just ask career 10,000-yard running back Shaun Alexander, who briefly was with the Redskins in 2008 and is still looking for a job.

Some teams rumored to be looking for a running back are the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots.  Unfortunately the NFL is a cruel, “What have you done lately” league.  However Westbrook and the other veterans can hope to duplicate the end of career success of veteran running backs Joe Washington, Otis Anderson, and John Riggins – all backs who found homes late in their careers and thrived.

As for the Eagles, I don’t expect them to go after free agents Chester Taylor, Ronnie Brown, L.T. or Parker. Expect them to draft a running back in the 2nd or 3rd round, who can catch the ball out to the backfield. McCoy badly needs a partner other than Eldra Buckley and fullback Leonard Weaver, but  Birds’ fans better not be hoping for a between the tackles runner as that is not their scheme.  Some backs the Eagles may have interest in this April’s NFL Draft are Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss), Jonathan Dwyer (GA Tech), and Joe McKnight (USC).

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

The 2009 Philadelphia Eagles season ends by Lloyd Vance

With the Eagles’ disappointing lopsided playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys, many questions surround the team going into the offseason including will QB Donovan McNabb be back

The Philadelphia Eagles once promising 2009 NFL season came to a sudden and disappointing end as the Dallas Cowboys sent the Birds home with a dominating 34-14 victory in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.  I will not go into the gruesome game details, because in every phase the Cowboys dominated. 

The Cowboys removed their playoff monkey from their back – first playoff win since 1996 — by running the ball with effectiveness, some timely passing, and by smacking the Eagles offense — 3rd in the NFL in scoring coming into the game — in the mouth again and again.

Eagles’ receivers were unable to get off the line of the scrimmage and their rebuilt offensive line looked like they had not played together at all.  I could go on and on, but I know in the end, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb will receive the brunt of the playoff loss.  McNabb was not at his best, which is being kind.  He was harassed in the pocket and when he did throw the ball he was often times inaccurate.  The 33-year old quarterback finished with numbers 19 of 37 for 230 yards, with a touchdown and an interception plus a fumble lost.

In watching McNabb, I had the same feeling that I had watching former Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham struggle in his final game with the team, also a playoff loss to the Cowboys.  The much maligned quarterback was already on a very hot seat entering the season and his playoff performance will only add fuel to the fire of his doubters.

McNabb has said, “I want to be here and don’t want to be anywhere else”.  We will see after a season where the Eagles set a scoring record of 429 points if they believe that indeed that McNabb is the leader to take youngsters DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, LeSean McCoy, and others to the next level.  My feeling is that the Eagles have already made their bed by conceivably letting McNabb enter the 2010 season in the last year of his contract.

Of course McNabb is the focal figure on the hot seat after the Cowboys’ playoff bludgeoning, but he is not alone.  Eagles head coach and VP of everything Andy Reid is right next to his struggling quarterback.  After the game, Reid tried to over and over tip his cap to the Cowboys.  But the real story was the Eagles inability to keep up with a Cowboys team that has now passed them – outscored 78-30 in three losses to Dallas.  Yes the Eagles won over 100 games last decade, but past success doesn’t mean anything to loyal fans that have not seen a Super Bowl trophy during Reid’s tenure that started in 1999.

Some fans and evaluators may point to the team’s woes against Dallas of being McNabb, turnovers, non in-game adjustments, failing to run the football, poor coverage by the safeties and linebackers plus other excuses. But I believe that personnel is the largest problem for the Eagles.  Defenders of the team will point to overcoming injuries and an 11-win regular season, but in the end the Birds only beat one winning team in 2009 – Atlanta Falcons (9-7) – and were 0-5 against 2009 playoff teams. 

Over and over in his press conference, Reid said the Cowboys kicked his team’s butt and he was right.  Though the Eagles have some young studs, there are some glaring holes and Reid – makes all of the personnel calls – has to take a hard look in the mirror to move this team back to the NFL’s elite. 

Throughout the 2000’s no one ever thought that the Eagles could match-up with any opponent, but Dallas had a game plan (run the ball, look for turnovers, harass McNabb, and attack the Eagles’ smallish defense) and executed it to perfection based on positive personnel battles. 

Will year twelve of the Andy Reid regime bring a championship? We will have to wait and see, now it is on to the 2010 draft in trying to catch the Cowboys and the rest of the teams that will be playing next week.

The Eagles’ 2010 Draft List should include:

  1. LB – The season-ending injury to MLB Stewart Bradley (knee) in the pre-season hurt, but this unit had too many coverage lapses and missed tackles.  Sure veteran Jeremiah Trotter came out of retirement, but this group needed so much more.  The entire linebacking unit only had 4.5 sacks and 4 interceptions.  The NFL is now built on hybrid players and schemes at the LB area – see Cowboys LB’s Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware.  4-3 teams often incorporate 3-4 schemes and pass rushing based on the talent at LB.  The Eagles biggest problem is the aforementioned game-changing plays, but coverage is also a concern as teams like to run play action and screens on them.
  2. Safety — Sean Jones and Macho Harris were not the answer to replace Brian Dawkins (35-year old made the Pro Bowl for the Broncos).  Too many missed tackles and blown coverage assignments.  Also SS Quinton Mikell struggled without Dawkins.
  3. O-line – The guys upfront were influx all year and it looked like they never got on the same page.  From the Andrews brothers fiasco to Jason Peters struggling to center Jamal Jackson’s season-ending knee injury.  The Eagles could not run in some key short yardage situations and McNabb was sacked too often.
  4. DE – The Eagles got heat from a variety of players (44 sacks), but other than Pro Bowl player Trent Cole (12.5) no one had double digits.  Another young two way DE that can rush the passer is needed.
  5. RB – Brian Westbrook after missing 8 games and at age 30, just doesn’t look like he has much left in the tank.  LeSean McCoy is a good young back, but a partner better than Eldra Buckley is needed.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)