NFC East: Rich Hofmann
Faced with too much time on his hands, longtime Beast enthusiast Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News came up with 10 scenarios for how this situation could play out. And I agree with Hofmann that it's unlikely the Eagles will part with Kolb, although the former University of Houston star won't like that outcome.
The labor situation further complicates Kolb's prospects. He deserves an opportunity to become a starter for another team, but Reid needs insurance for Michael Vick because of his reckless approach. I suppose Kolb could be a bit more aggressive in demanding a trade, but that's simply not his nature.
Guys from Stephenville, Texas, rarely stage holdouts.
- Bob Ford of the Inquirer doesn't think Thursday's performance was a blueprint for success: "In the first half of Thursday's game -- a game the Eagles led from the outset and still led, 20-10, at halftime -- Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called 33 passes and 10 runs. Vick was hit a half-dozen times getting rid of the ball and another half-dozen times when he had to scramble away from pressure. By the end of the half, Vick was limping and sore, needing to loosen the bruises on a stationary bike between series."
- The Inquirer's Ashley Fox thought the Eagles needed to show DeSean Jackson more love: "This seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the birthday boy happy. Get him the ball. Pad his stats. Show him some love. Make DeSean Jackson feel appreciated, like the megastar he thinks he is. The Eagles did not do that. Not really. Even though the best Houston had to offer Thursday night was a second-year corner out of New Mexico named Glover Quin, who did not have the foot speed to match Jackson, it was as if the Eagles forgot Jackson existed for much of the game."
- Rich Hofmann of the Daily News thinks this Eagles defense lacks an identity -- especially without Asante Samuel: "Leading by 20-10 at the half, and having banged up Houston quarterback Matt Schaub on the second to last play of the half, it seemed as if the Eagles were in decent shape. But then the Texans put together two dominating, varied touchdown drives to open the third quarter and the Eagles were suddenly losing, 24-20. The turnaround was sudden and stunning. The drives featured an alarming lack of a four-man pass rush, and an inability really to get anybody covered for very long downfield. Oh, and because they couldn’t really load up the box with an extra safety to stop the run -- such were the coverage issues -- the Eagles weren’t very good at that, either."
- Phil Sheridan from the Inquirer thinks Michael Vick is taking way too much punishment: "The Eagles didn't seem to realize it, but this game was the last bit of kindness shown them by the NFL schedule-makers. With a grueling four-week home stretch ahead, they needed to check this one off the to-do list with as little strain as possible. Instead, they got caught in a firefight, and Vick absorbed most of the enemy fire. Even with a 17-3 first-half lead and Vick getting up more slowly after each big hit, the coaches declined to run the ball enough to take some heat off."
- Jeff McLane of the Inquirer offers a nice description of the Eagles win: "Vick completed 22 of 33 passes for 302 yards and threw two touchdowns and one interception. He also gained 48 yards on the ground and scored the go-ahead-for-good touchdown with 13 minutes, 4 seconds left in the game. Vick was a magician in the pocket and somehow survived hit after hit. 'It's not that bad. They look harder than what they seem,' Vick said. 'If I take one and lay down there, I took a good one and you know that. I'm a pretty tough guy, I feel, for the most part.'"
- Geoff Mosher of The News Journal led with Brent Celek's huge play in the fourth quarter: "It was symbolic of Thursday night for Celek and the Eagles, whose 34-24 victory at Lincoln Financial Field was closer than the score indicated and required some extra effort. But they're back in the win column four days after a deflating road loss to the Chicago Bears and preserved at least a share of the NFC East lead for another week and with just four games to go in this unpredictable season."
- Joe Theismann told John Gonzalez of the Inquirer before the game that Vick shouldn't be the MVP: "After the interview, Vick went out and, once more, proved someone wrong. Theismann is in good company on that front. At this point, if Vick isn't the MVP favorite, it has to be a surprise to the entire league. On their first possession, Vick took the Eagles the length of the field for a touchdown. The boos LeBron James heard during his re-introduction to Cleveland lingered longer than the Eagles on their opening drive. Then, in the fourth quarter, Vick took the Birds on a game-winning march. He finished with another silly statistical performance (302 passing yards, 48 rushing yards, three total touchdowns), and the Birds beat the Texans, 34-24."
"When you look at it, Reid and McNabb are the only coach and quarterback to survive such a long stretch together without winning a Super Bowl, in a big media city, and in the talk radio/Internet age," writes Hofmann. "It might never happen again."
Hofmann's theory is that it's not in Philly's DNA to be able to endure so many near-misses over that period of time.
"If you didn't just win the whole thing, an accomplishment that offers everyone involved the protection of Kevlar, there are exactly two ways in the NFL to change the conversation: change the coach or change the quarterback," writes Hofmann. "And it is just simple human dynamics that you need to change the conversation every few years, for sanity's sake if for no other reason."
It's hard to predict where the Eagles will finish in the NFC East, but I think most folks agree that a change at quarterback was necessary. Now we'll see how long the honeymoon lasts with Kevin Kolb.
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireAt 33, Donovan McNabb appears to still have a number of productive seasons ahead of him.
"A playoff quarterback near his prime can be had for a premium price," writes King. "The fact that there's a real chance the Eagles could deal McNabb, and that McNabb is a half-year younger than Peyton Manning and apparently intends to play four or five more seasons, and also apparently has kicked the injury bug, leads me to this question: What in the world are all these quarterback-needy teams doing? Why aren't teams running to deal for McNabb?
"The prime object of this game in the personnel area is to get a quarterback who can win games and lead your team, and a good, proven one is out there. The Eagles aren't shopping him, but they surely are listening. I asked a coach with a quarterback need about McNabb, and the coach said because McNabb is on the last year of his contract and would probably need to be re-signed, and the fact that Philadelphia would want a high draft choice for him in a very good draft, and the fact that he doesn't have a lot of years left, all combine to make it a tough trade. Understood. Good factors all. But McNabb is 33.
"I have my own problems with McNabb. I don't consider him on the Manning-Brady-Brees plane. I think the Eagles should go with Kolb and make the best deal they can for McNabb this offseason, because, basically, it's Groundhog Day in Philadelphia. Every year's the same, and I don't see McNabb getting Philly over the hump and into another Super Bowl. So why would I want to pawn him off on another quarterback-needy team when I don't think he's a top-five quarterback? Simple. Because he's a top-10 or top-12 quarterback, and they're too hard to find to let one pass when he's just sitting there for the taking.
"McNabb would shore up any team's most important position for the next half-decade. Some team's going to take Jimmy Clausen between, say, the fourth and 20th pick in the first round, and whoever takes him is going to have no idea if he's the long-term solution at quarterback."
In the case of the Vikings, they can't make a play for McNabb until they hear from Brett Favre. But even if they're willing to offer a first-rounder for McNabb, the Eagles might not want to help out a team that competes in the same conference. But if teams such as the Bills or Rams (same conference but not a true threat) put a nice package together, surely the Eagles would be interested.
A scenario in which McNabb, Kolb and Michael Vick all return to the Eagles still seems unlikely despite what you're hearing on at least one network. Courage awards aside, Vick had no choice but to say all the right things in '09. But I could see him becoming extremely frustrated during another season of limited Wildcat reps. I don't think it makes any sense for the Eagles to bring him back. Do we think that Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will spend much of this offseason trying to develop an expanded Wildcat package?
Former Eagles general manager Tom Heckert is now with Cleveland, so I thought he might make a play for McNabb. But now the Browns have signed former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, a man coming off by far the worst season of his career. Perhaps a team will finally panic when we get closer to the draft and make a strong offer for McNabb.
But if not, it looks like the Eagles are prepared to go with a lame-duck quarterback in 2010. I think you're asking for problems with that approach, but maybe the Eagles are willing to take the risk. Meanwhile, Kolb continues to say all the right things publicly. Something tells me, though, that he won't be thrilled with yet another season on the sideline. Call it intuition after watching how much he enjoyed those two starts in '09.
One last note from King: Eagles quarterbacks coach James Urban and Mornhinweg were in the Bronx on Friday to watch Fordham quarterback John Skelton's pro day. Doesn't that seem like a little overkill for a late-round prospect from a school not known for being an NFL farm system? (apologies to Fordham grads Alex Wojciechowicz and Vince Lombardi of Seven Blocks of Granite fame).
- Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com thinks that Wade Phillips has earned the right to coach another season.
- It's a done deal that Phillips is coming back in 2010, according to The Dallas Morning News. A source also confirmed that nightfall will arrive at approximately 6:10 p.m. local time.
- The man who once spent countless hours explaining the salary cap to me, Todd Archer of the DMN, has a helpful guide to the offseason.
- Jacques Taylor says it's high time the Cowboys made Felix Jones the starter.
- A man who covered the Cowboys of the early '90s, Tim Cowlishaw, says this current group won't be able to pull off any miracles this offseason.
- Did you hear that Brett Favre performed "Pants on the Ground" following Sunday's win? Good thing Keith Brooking wasn't around.
- Jen Engel of the Star-Telegram pays tribute to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
- A radio icon in Philly has reported that Brian Westbrook's career is in jeopardy because of a left knee injury.
- Bob Ford says Eagles fans should hold off on saying their goodbyes to Donovan McNabb. Bob also digs up some numbers that illustrate how tough it is for a first-year starter to lead a team to the Super Bowl. Ford's research staff is second to none.
- Rich Hofmann, the esteemed columnist for the Daily News, says the Eagles need to start at the back end of their defense while making changes.
- Philly native and Inquirer columnist John Gonzalez has a funny column on Eagles fans.
- Is there any way for a Giants fan to root for the Jets?
- In case you missed it, Gary Myers of the Daily News said that Tom Coughlin is one more bad season away from getting canned.
- Left tackle David Diehl and right guard Chris Snee will join Shaun O'Hara at the Pro Bowl, according to Ralph Vacchiano.
- Perry Fewell's former players are saying some nice things about him, writes the Post's Paul Schwartz.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson had never taken a pain-killing injection before a game -- until Sunday. Without the injection, he probably wouldn't have been much of a factor against the Kansas City Chiefs. But after seeking advice from teammates, Jackson took the shot to help ease the pain in his injured groin.
He responded with perhaps the best day of his career. Jackson was the best player on the field in leading the Eagles to a 34-14 win. And I think that overrides the fact that he did a somersault followed by an awkward split in the end zone to celebrate his touchdown. Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann attempts to analyze the two sides of Jackson this morning.
"But there is this thing about Jackson," writes Hofmann. "He is a great player, and he has some great qualities, but he risks trivializing his image with the rest of this stuff. We all know what happened last year, when a premature celebration in Dallas cost him a touchdown. He already has been penalized and fined this season for a touchdown celebration that went too far. Now, this."
I see where Rich is coming from, but I think it's pretty much impossible for a somersault or an extended celebration to trivialize a 149-yard receiving day. As long as Jackson continues to put up big numbers, I'm sure coach Andy Reid will live with some of his antics.
What do you think? Do Jackson's end zone celebrations bother Eagles fans at all?
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
- Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports! paid tribute to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in his Trippin' Tuesday column.
- Jacques Taylor of DallasNews.com says the Cowboys have to play to their salaries.
- Tim MacMahon of the Cowboys Blog talks about five position battles heading into training camp. Tim, you've got to learn to pace yourself.
- Bob Ford has way too much time on his hands today. He's telling fishing stories that involve Andy Reid and Brad Childress.
- Have you guys been reading up on the Juan Castillo "controversy." Truly one of the nicest guys in football. I hate that a celebration for him has some folks riled up.
- Our blog continues to inspire Philly's most beloved columnist, Rich Hofmann. Rich can't figure out why our pals from Football Outsiders left Brian Westbrook off their irreplaceables list.
- Before he left for vacation, Newark Star-Ledger stalwart Mike Garafolo looked back at the Giants' "offseason."
- Toni Monkovic has a really interesting item on how the Giants and Jets are being covered in the media.
- Mike Wise, who's doing a really nice job on "Rome is Burning," reports that Jim Zorn and Joe Gibbs spent some time together at the races.
- If you're interested in Daniel Snyder's business woes, check this out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
|Don Wright/US Presswire|
|Rookie LeSean McCoy should be a solid addition to the run game.|
We're going to catch you up on what took place at the Eagles' and Redskins' minicamps over the weekend. As many of you know, we've focused our efforts on the tragic situation at Valley Ranch since Saturday afternoon. But I did manage to catch up with Brian Orakpo on Sunday and Jeremy Maclin is set to check in with the Beast later this week.
For now I'm sort of interested in this Rich Hofmann column on the Eagles' running game. Philly certainly appeared to strengthen its running game with the additions of rookie tailback LeSean McCoy, fullback Leonard Weaver and left tackle Jason Peters.
But for whatever reason, Andy Reid is squeamish about admitting the emphasis on the ground. As Hofmann points out, it's not like the Eagles are suddenly going to become a 50-50 run/pass team. The hope is that the 40 percent devoted to the run will become more efficient.
"There are a handful of things," Reid said. "We talked about the red zone, short yardage and goal line. Those are things we need to do a better job at. That's not the reason why we brought in the personnel that we brought in. We needed to change some things on the offense, maybe in some spots where we were getting a little older and we needed to get a little bit younger, and we did that."
The good news for the Eagles is that McCoy should be ready to contribute immediately. He doesn't remind me of washouts from the past such as Ryan Moats and Tony Hunt. In fact, McCoy is the type of back who could adequately fill in if Brian Westbrook gets banged up, which happens from time to time. He's an instinctive runner who will hopefully adjust quickly to the speed at the NFL level. If McCoy is in the Chicago game last season, I think the Eagles win. Despite Correll Buckhalter's fearless attitude, Reid never completely trusted him. And don't bring up the blocking thing. If a guy's talented enough in the backfield, you should find a way to cover up some of his deficiencies. Especially if he's a backup.
The Eagles have to become more proficient running the ball in short-yardage situations. Perhaps McCoy and Peters can make a big impact there. Donovan McNabb's season was almost derailed last season, in part, because he didn't have a running game to lean on. Reid would never admit that publicly, but the Eagles' moves suggest they agree with that theory.
It's not like Reid's Eagles are about to become three yards and a cloud of dust, but he'd settle for 4 1/2 about 40 percent of the time. The Eagles had become too dependent on Westbrook breaking a big play. Now, they have the opportunity to be more balanced.
Will that happen? I'm not betting on it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Before we take you around the nation to see what everyone's saying about the NFC Championship Game, let me say one thing: For the people trying to somehow pin Sunday's loss on Donovan McNabb, give me a break. I thought he performed superbly in the second half -- and he put his team in position to win after the defense played horribly in the first half. OK, let's start out with the locals and then hit some of the nationals:
- Rich Hofmann says this is an all-too-familiar feeling for Eagles fans. He writes, "Two time zones and nearly 2,000 miles away, though, are the loyal green millions. You wonder where they will find the strength to wake up this morning. Because this football team tortured the paying customers for the better part of 6 months this season and then it water-boarded them again yesterday for 60 minutes."
- Inquirer columnist Ashley Fox focused on Donovan McNabb's performance Sunday and his future.
- Bob Ford of the Inquirer thinks the Eagles' destiny is to lose in huge playoff games. Or maybe the Eagles simply came out flat and were beaten by a better team. Maybe it doesn't have to be all this painful talk about destinies. You either put pressure on Kurt Warner in the first half or you don't. The Eagles didn't -- and they're headed home now.
- Andy Reid talks about the impact of this loss.
- David Akers says we shouldn't try to pin this thing on him either.
- Here's some speculation on Donovan McNabb's future.
- Phil Sheridan talks about how Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb's legacy could've been rewritten Sunday.
- Another entertaining column from Philly Inquirer columnist John Gonzalez.
- John Smallwood of the Daily News thinks Andy Reid should have some of his power stripped away.
- Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback is always a must-read for the Beast.
- Mike Freeman of CBSsports.com calls it another choke job.
- Reuben Frank of Phillyburbs.com says all this looks pretty familiar. Now Reuben can focus on his upcoming book about the top 50 plays in Eagles history.
- Vinnie Iyer thinks the Cards have a shot of beating the Steelers.
- Here's one of the two columns Sam Farmer of the LA Times wrote on deadline last night.
In writing a column for this afternoon, I tried to identify the exact moment when the Eagles knew they had a shot at going all the way. But the truth is, I'm not sure they were ever looking that far down the road.
Philly Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann writes this team didn't splinter at 5-5-1 because it's not in their make-up. While other teams had players whining to coaches and teammates about their lack of catches, the Eagles stayed together and kept believing that something good could happen.
"It seems simple enough," writes Hofmann. "But there are so many teams at so many levels of athletics -- in every sport -- that cannot police themselves that way. Sportswriters are experts at cultivating malcontents, but it is a grim, unrewarding task in the Eagles' locker room. They have some emotional players, and some who get more disappointed than others, and some who display their feelings more readily than others, and some whose analysis of situations is sharper than others'. But you don't find people bent on divisiveness -- and it does matter."
And by the way, is there one particular player in this league who comes to mind every time you hear the word "divisive?"