As many of you may know, I've been staunch in my support for McNabb. Some have questioned my loyalty to the Eagles. Let's put emotions aside and look back at the season.
The Eagles won 11 games this year and made the playoffs, something 20 teams could not do. The offense set a franchise record for points, with Desean Jackson emerging as an elite receiver with well over 1,000 yards, Brent Celek emerging as a great receiving tight end with nearly 1000 yards, and Jeremy Maclin having a solid rookie campaign. THe offense was multi-dimensional and could score fast as well as build drives. The rushing attack was up and down, but the passing offense was the most prolific it has been since 2004. This was all with an offensive line that lost two stalwarts and was riddled with injuries all season long.
The defense was one of the worst Eagles outfits in recent memory (probably says more about the quality of defenses we've had than this one). Macho Harris did not look like an NFL-caliber safety. There was no answer at left defensive end, nad by the end of the season, we ahd constant problems at linebacker.
What does this all mean? The Eagles were, as Dennis Green would say, who we thought they were. Did you guys honestly think tying for the best record in the NFC East was a possibility during camp, when Stewart Bradley was out for the year, Jason Peters was still struggling to adjust to our schemes, we had no clue who was going to start at safety or kick returner. Yet we went 11-5.
Half our losses came against the Cowboys. And as much as it pains me to say it, they were the better team. THe Cowboys suffered no significant injuries this year. Their offense is really good, and our defense is not good enough to stop elite offenses. Their defense is really good, good enough to shut down New Orleans in the Superdome. They got constant pressure on our quarterback (thanks in part to an Offensive Line that was adjusting to a new center and guard) and beat up our receivers at the line. The team needs to improve to beat the Cowboys, who will be good again next year.
Looking back at 2009, one must realize that the Eagles were dealt some crappy hands in terms of luck. We had a ton of injuries. This was not a Super Bowl team. The fact that they made the playoffs is impressive in itself.
The offense was not the problem. One can make the argument that Kevin Kolb might be BETTER than McNabb, but you cannot argue that McNabb was ineffective. Desean Jackson and Brent Celek have become household names. We had no running game and the offensive line was constantly shuffled, and McNabb still put up great numbers and got us to the playoffs. If not the passing game, what was the main reason for the Eagles' success? Our 22nd-ranked run offense? Face it. This offense was very successful this moving the ball through the air and you don't do that without a good quarterback. 3500 yards 22 TD 10 INTS in 14 games while averaging 8 yards an attempt. Could Kolb have done better? That is a separate argument. But statements like "If McNabb gives us a better chance than Kolb then we have no chance" should be met with derision.
However, the fact remains that all three of our quarterbacks could start for a few teams. There is one school of though that says McNabb should be traded now, to maximize the return one receives.
But who is going to give up a lot for McNabb? Some people think a team like Cleveland would. My answer is no. Why would they want a quarterback that is 33? Cleveland is a few years away from being good. Likewise, we can rule out most of the cellar dwellar teams because McNabb is a win now player and these teams have too many other needs to waste draft picks on a player who may not be able to help them when they have the talent around him. Maybe Oakland would make a move, but I really hope Banner and Reid would not wish such a poor fate on McNabb.
That leaves teams with good supporting casts who are a qb away from being a serious contender. Hello San Francisco. That is intriguing, and McNabb would be a good fit for their offense. But again, they have other needs. Would they trade multiple draft picks?
Which brings up another point. Is McNabb's value really at its highest? Do we really want teams to judge him based on how he did without a consistent offensive line or rushing attack? If the team is healthy next year, he could do much better. Then, if the organization wanted to go with Kolb, they could franchise McNabb and trade him after 2010.
We know what we are going to get from McNabb. Good things and bad things. As much as others may get you to believe otherwise, we don't know if Kevin Kolb can win the big game (the same criticism people throw McNabb's way). Why not go into the season with both of them? Worst case scenario: McNabb flames out, Kolb takes over midseason, the Eagles miss the playoffs, and McNabb's trade value is diminished. But will McNabb play that poorly, that a team would not even give up a second round draft pick for him? I, for one, think the chances of that are very low.
But do we want the same result as this year? No. No matter who the quarterback is, we need to improve certain areas of the team. First and foremost, no one can stop the cowboys with the crap we have at left defensive end. Rookie lineman usually don't make an immediate impact (look at Mario Williams), so I think they should go after Julius Peppers or Aaron Kampman. In the draft, they should be able to get Earl Thomas (safety from Texas) or Taylor Mays, because I doubt three safeties go in the first 26 picks. Adding a little linebacker depth as well as depth along the lines can't hurt.
Get rid of Curtis, keep Brown as a 4th wr. Now imagine what we will have next year: Lesean McCoy in his second year and with a full year in an NFL weight program. Desean Jackson in his third year. Jeremy Maclin in his second. Avant. Celek. Weaver. ALl should be better next year. Add in a healthy offensive line and a better defense (which would be the case if they made the moves I recommended) and this team will be able to play with anyone. Again, we know what we would be getting out of McNabb. He has brought us to the doorstep numerous times. We haven't gotten over the threshold yet, but we will have EVERYTHING we need next year. If we still cannot get over the top? It's Kolb time. And perhaps, even if we do, we owe it to Kolb to give him a shot.
In the case that McNabb plays poorly early in the year, we keep Kolb and put him in. If the goal is to win a Super Bowl next year, I think we keep both those guys and unload Vick for a high draft pick. The defense will be awesome if we make the moves I prescribed, and like it or not, the offense was really good except against Dallas this year. And you know what? I think that will change too. A little continuity on the line and another year of experience/in the weight room for the wide receivers will go a long way.