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Is Andy Reid to Blame for Donovan McNabb's Shortcomings?

Judge Sonny Jurgensen presiding.
Judge Sonny Jurgensen presiding.

JimmyK has been a writer over at BGN I've come to enjoy. Despite being an Eagles fan, he knows his stuff and his vigilant research shows in the quality of his posts. Ken and I agreed to "go on trial" with him having to defend ourselves as Redskins fans. (That defense coming shortly). Well, we decided to counter-sue JimmyK in return. As Eagles fans, they've taken the easy route out blaming McNabb for their lack of Super Bowls, when clearly, Andy Reid's play-calling has been a huge factor (pun intended), and I have loads of damning facts to prove it.

Please rise for the honorable, Sonny Jurgensen. JimmyK, you stand trial for the charges of aiding and abetting embedding a criminal play-caller, Andy Reid. How do you plead?

JimmyK: Not guilty, and I'd like to request a new judge.

Hogs Haven: Your honor, JimmyK is not an attractive guy. Don't hold that against him. What you do need to hold against him is his cover-up for Andy Reid, who's play-calling has single-handedly buried the reputation of my client, Donovan McNabb and is the SOLE reason for the Eagles repetitive failures. Donovan McNabb led the Eagles to 5 NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl, and all the blame falls square on him. Why should it? My client is the ALL TIME leading Quarterback with the lowest interception %. And this comes from a play-caller who throws the ball nearly 60% of the time. 
For my first witness, I'd like to read a statement from one of the most respected experts in the field today, the 2010 Football Outsiders' Almanac:

"McNabb and Kolb's down-by-down performances closely mirrored each other, which suggests that the problem was schematic rather than simply poor execution by the quarterback...Last season, Philadelphia only ran the ball 301 times, easily the lowest total in the NFL. Between 2006 and 2008, the Eagles generally ran the ball around 355 times a season, give or take a carry."

It's much easier to defend a passing play when you know it's coming. So, when did Reid run the ball? Let's go to last year's LOSS vs Oakland (a team that the Jim Zorn Redskins destroyed). In 60 total play calls, the Eagles ran the ball a measly 14 times....against the 28th ranked defense in the league. That's borderline mental retardation.


Then there's the 2008, 36-31 loss versus the Giants. The Giants had shut down Westbrook all game, yet Reid decides to run Westbrook two consecutive times, one of which is the last play of the game. Horrible.
In 2006, the season was saved by giving Morningwheg play calling duties and with Jeff Garcia turned around the season. Why did they turn it around? Jeff Garcia is not a Tom Brady. The Eagles instead ran the ball more, which resulted in a more balanced offense.

As my closing argument, here's a poll posted by JimmyK's own Bleeding Green Nation, and 82% of fans disapproved of Reid and that the Eagles were headed in the wrong direction. The truth of the matter is, Eagles fans detest Reid's play-calling but they defend it only because they're stuck with it.

The prosecution seeks the death penalty.

JimmyK's rebuttal:
Reid certainly isn't without his faults, and I'll even pile on a few gripes of my own...
-          He's horrible with clock management.

-          As you noted, he has been known to completely abandon the running game if the Eagles are behind (your Raiders example being perhaps the most glaring piece of evidence, along with the infamous Bengals game in '08 in which McNabb didn't know the NFL had overtime).

-          And far too often I find myself screaming "No Andy! It's not worth it!" anytime I see him with his hand near the challenge flag with a puzzled look on his face after a questionable call that really only cost the Eagles 3 or 4 yards.
However, Reid's an outstanding game-planner.  Reid and Sean Payton are the 2 offensive-minded NFL coaches that really excel in game preparation, as both coaches have an uncanny ability to create mismatches for the defense.  Furthermore, Reid really is an innovative play-caller 95% of the time (when they're not completely abandoning the run), and his reign as essentially the unofficial GM of the Eagles has been spectacular.  His record kind of speaks for itself - He's 108-67-1 (.617).
As for McNabb, your point that he often gets all the blame for those playoff losses is well taken, and that's totally unfair to McNabb.  However, I'll argue that he absolutely laid more than his share of eggs in big spots.  A quick rundown of the Eagles' playoff losses of the past decade...
-          2009 - Loss to Dallas 34-14.  A big round bowl of blame for everybody - McNabb was bad, Reid was outcoached, and the defense stunk. McNabb adds insult to injury with his false confidence pre-game air guitar...
-          2008 - Loss to Arizona 32-25.  The biggest offender in this one was the defense in the first half.  Credit to McNabb for bringing the team back in this one - He played well.  However, the one image that really stands out in my mind from this game was on the final Eagles drive, McNabb threw a ball about 2 yards behind a wiiiide open Hank Baskett who was streaking, er, running as hard as Hank Baskett can, across the middle.  It would have gone for big yardage, and McNabb just flat-out missed him... badly. Solid game overall for Donny in this one, but he failed to make an easy play on the potential game-tying drive, and they meekly went 4-and-out to end it.
-          2004 - The Super Bowl - Loss to New England 24-21 - Big yardage, but 2 really bad, game-changing interceptions (I'll forgive his 3rd pick, which occurred in desperation time).  Here's my problem with this game - The Eagles were down 10, had the ball and were starting a drive with a little less than 6 minutes left from their own 21, and McNabb is conducting a 2-minute drill with the urgency of a DMV employee.  This is of course the drive Terrell Owens referred to when he said "I wasn't the one that got tired in the Super Bowl."
-          2003 - Loss to the Panthers 14-3 - McNabb was flat-out terrible in this one - 10-22, 100 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT.
-          2002 - Loss to the Bucs 27-10 - McNabb was bad in this one, too. 26-49, 243 yards (4.96 yards per attempt), 0 TD, and an atrocious pick 6 to Ronde Barber.
-          2001 and 2000 - Losses to the Rams 29-24 and Giants 20-10 - The Eagles (at this point a team on the rise) lose to a couple teams (the Rams and Giants) that were far better. McNabb doesn't play well in either of them.
That's 7 playoff losses, and only one where McNabb had a good game.
A few other notes...
-          Regarding McNabb's lowest INT % of all time, I think Aaron Rodgers, David Garrard, and Neil O'Donnell might have something to say about that...  If you'll also note, 2 guys that are tied for 5th on that list - Jason Campbell and Mark Brunell.  I think you guys might be a little bit familiar with them.
-          In 2006, I'm not sure I'd say "Marty Mornhinweg saved the season," and that aside, I find it curious that you would even dare bring up the 2006 season, when the Eagles became a better team after McNabb got injured, which kind of makes your client look bad.  I know you're a Bill Simmons fan - A little Ewing Theory action going on there?
-          Nice find on that poll from Nov. 11, 2008.  I thought for sure that was going to be after the infamous Cincinnati tie, which again, was the game that revealed that McNabb didn't know the NFL had overtime.  But when I checked, it was after the 36-31 Giants game you referenced, and the Eagles had actually won the prior 3 games before that.  Maybe we Eagles fans are a little more fickle than I think.
-          Good job by you not taking a hackneyed shot Andy Reid's kids.
Anyway, I'll sum it up like this - Lots of blame to go around for those crushing playoff losses... Give some to McNabb, give some to Reid, give some to the defense, etc.  Nobody is immune.  I'm a huge McNabb fan and always will be, but if I were to single out the one guy that perhaps came up smaller than the rest, it's McNabb.

As a counter, I told Jimmy:

You actually did a better job agreeing with me than defending yourself: "The Eagles had actually won the prior 3 games before that poll.  Maybe we Eagles fans are a little more fickle than I think."

So, a good fact correction by Jimmy. McNabb was the least intercepted QB of all-time following the 2008 season. As for his statement, "I find it curious that you would even dare bring up the 2006 season, when the Eagles became a better team after McNabb got injured, which kind of makes your client look bad." I clearly stated that the Eagles rushed the ball a lot more with Garcia under center, which of course opens up the passing game and makes things much easier for the QB. Garcia had the luxury of a balanced attack, which McNabb did not.

Also, most of his defense hinges on the early 2000s. I don't see how the Eagles won't have the same problem as they did last year where you're a 9-6ish team and lose a couple bad games because of Reid. When you do post that, you KNOW I'll be all over it with a big ole grin.

JimmyK's response: Since I had an opportunity to look at the pass/run call percentage in the 8 games Jeff Garcia played in 2006, and as I kind of suspected...(Drumroll)...59.3% pass - ie, not really any different.

Interesting. I based a lot of my arguments from the comments on that BGN poll, so it appears Iggles fans know as much about the Eagles as I do. That stat should be enough to avoid JimmyK a life sentence. Win!

What do all the HH readers think? Guily or innoncent?