The Philadelphia Eagles have a 2-3 record and are in last place in the tough NFC East, 2.5 games behind the 4-0 New York Giants. The Eagles blew out the horrible St. Louis Rams 38-3 in week one, defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 15-6 in week three and have lost three close games to the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins.
You may recall that Terrell Owens received a lot of criticism for questioning Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb's performance under pressure, specifically in Super Bowl XXXIX but also in general. The Cowboys have a 26-11 record since acquiring Owens, who has combined with quarterback Tony Romo to form arguably the deadliest QB-WR tandem in the league. Dallas made the playoffs in 2006 and 2007 and seems to be a lock to make the playoffs this season. Meanwhile, the Eagles went 10-6 in 2006 but they have been on a downward trend overall since getting rid of Owens: 8-8 last season and then this year's sub-.500 start. That adds up to a mediocre 20-17 record.
Philadelphia Daily News columnist Les Bowen, who admits to being a frequent defender of McNabb over the years, now believes that McNabb must "take ownership of this mess and fix it." Bowen declares:
Donovan McNabb's assertions about the Eagles being better than teams that keep beating them rang really hollow on Sunday. McNabb didn't come off as fiery or even defiantly optimistic--just clueless, especially when McNabb, challenged to support his view, could provide no real evidence.
It was a little like McNabb's forlorn cry last year, when he declared that the road to the NFC East title still ran through Philadelphia, at a point when the Birds were well on their way to finishing last in the division. Nobody got inspired.
Bowen singles out McNabb's lack of leadership and composure in a crucial goal line situation last Sunday versus the Redskins. The Eagles lost three yards on third and one from the 2 and had to settle for a field goal but Bowen says that McNabb should have taken charge before that play happened:
McNabb--whose postgame analysis of the play was absolute unintelligible gibberish--needed to call the timeout there, when he saw the misalignment. Or he needed to grab (tight end L. J.) Smith and send him over to the proper spot. Or maybe, before all that, he needed to make it clear to (Coach Andy) Reid that sore chest or no, he was ready and willing to run a quarterback sneak to pick up the first down. That would have been leadership, much more effective than asserting how good your team is after an embarrassing loss.
When the Eagles first got rid of Owens, most members of the media piled on against Owens, but Michael Irvin--then a commentator for ESPN--said that the Eagles were "losing their ass to save their face" (i.e., appeasing McNabb for public relations purposes but actually making the on field product worse). The won-loss records of the Cowboys and Eagles since that time, plus Owens' high level of production as a Cowboy (185 receptions, 2866 yards, 15.5 avg., 33 touchdowns) show that Irvin was right. One of the obvious things that the Eagles need is someone who can make big plays down the field and who can get the ball into the endzone. In other words, they need Owens, who led the NFL in receiving TDs in 2006, ranked third last year despite missing a game due to injury and is currently tied for the NFL lead in receiving TDs this season. Don't forget that McNabb had by far his best season in 2004, the one complete season that he played with Owens.