The McNabb Factor
With the miserable state of the Eagles these past two seasons, there’s been a thought that I can’t seem to ignore. What if the Eagles still had Donovan McNabb at quarterback?
At the time, trading McNabb was sensible. The Eagles had Kevin Kolb in the wings and Michael Vick as an unknown commodity. The birds knew that McNabb had value on the open market and they got a solid haul for him. Simple, reasonable, fair. However it’s interesting to consider how McNabb could have helped his team over the last two season.
McNabb had his flaws, to be sure. He threw balls in the dirt and had issues with the media, but overall he was a six-time Pro Bowler and one of the top ten quarterbacks in the league. In fact, the balls in the dirt are what make Donny Mac so valuable. He was rarely intercepted.
Over the course of his career, McNabb has the fourth best pass interception ratio of all time at 2.2%. With the Eagles the past two years, the main issue has been turnovers-especially at quarterback. Vick struggles reading defenses and frequently turns the ball over as a runner. He also has that problem sliding…None of these were big issues with McNabb.
One of the things that’s noticeably changed since the Eagles let go of McNabb is the absence of a screen game. With Mac 5 and Brian Westbrook, the Eagles were deadly in this area of the field. While the lineman have changed, they’re certainly not less talented (when healthy anyway) and Howard Mudd’s scheme calls for quicker, more attacking players-quality attributes for a screen game. It seems like one of the issues for the offense is that Vick’s size limits his ability to execute screens.
Consider it this way. The screen pass is a play that’s designed for the opposing lineman to break free to the quarterback. As a smaller guy, about 5’11”, Vick needed to be further away from those lineman in order to throw the ball over them than McNabb required at 6’2″-6’3″. So, with the more of a drop back the quarterback needs, the more time the opposing defenders have to react to the screen. This play was formerly the Eagles bread and butter. Now? Not so much. What I’m saying is that if McNabb and Westbrook were able to operate so well, would McNabb and McCoy really be any different?
Yes, McNabb struggled in Minnesota and Washington. However, those problems stemmed from his attitude and bad rosters rather than his ability. When McNabb left Philly, Mac 5 joined his new clubs with a sense of entitlement. Mike Shanahan hated him because he refused to wear a wristband with the plays on them on their way to 6-10 and Minnesota gave up on him in six weeks with a team that ultimately went 3-13.
If McNabb had stayed in Philly, he had a comfortable relationship with Reid, he knew the playbook, and would have had a much stronger supporting cast. During McNabb’s last season in 2009, the Eagles went to the NFC Championship game and Donny Mac put up 375 yards 3 TD’s 1 INT and another 30 yards on the ground. He was still a premiere player. Instead Andy Reid opted to risk trading McNabb to Washington in favor of Kevin Kolb. With Reid likely to be fired, it’s fun to wonder what could have been.