- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Terrell Owens debacle will be on the back burners in less than a week, and the focus in Philadelphia will turn to life after Owens in the era of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.

That is when the city will be forced to face an ugly reality: Reid and McNabb are not good enough to lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl sans Owens.


That will be a familiar sound as the Eagles — already in decline without Owens — fall further and further from the top of the NFC perch they have owned. The fall is going to be long and hard.

Reid and McNabb put together an impressive body of work over the years in the regular season. Owner Jeffrey Lurie proclaims the Eagles to be the NFL’s “gold standard” — what does that make the Patriots? — but both player and coach have a record of shriveling like dried prunes when the lights are brightest, the stage the grandest.

Owens, playing on his surgically repaired knee, was the best player on the field in February’s Super Bowl. McNabb, a player who had thrown only eight interceptions all season long, threw three against the Patriots to ensure the Eagles would continue their quest for the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.

The Eagles’ running game is so ineffectual that opposing defensive coordinators don’t even have to game plan for it. The defense is inconsistent at best.

By banishing Owens for the remainder of the season, the Eagles opted to kiss the season goodbye at the midway point. Their run could be over.

Now we have the take of McNabb’s father on this fiasco: The mess his son, this supposed leader, was incapable of ameliorating is tantamount to black-on-black crime.

The comparison trivializes a staggering problem substantially more palpable to the average person than the latest squabble between two black multimillionaire athletes who seem incapable of co-existing.

Beyond that, someone should inform daddy McNabb that most black Philadelphians — of which I am one — viewed his kid’s failure to react to Rush Limbaugh’s now infamous take on the black quarterback not as a show of class but rather a lack of backbone.

Limbaugh was pilloried for his comments, but anyone who has watched McNabb closely must admit the conservative commentator got at least one part right: McNabb is overrated.

Where was his guile at the end of the first half of the Eagles’ loss to the Redskins on Sunday? McNabb failed to spike the ball in the final seconds, an absolutely dunderheaded play that cost his team a chance to go into halftime tied on the road. He one-upped himself with a horrible fourth-down interception in the red zone that ended the game and again cost his team a chance to tie.

In a stretch of three consecutive NFC Championship games the Eagles lost, McNabb was abominable twice at Veterans Stadium. In the 2002 season against Tampa Bay, his second appearance, he was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation, completing 26 of 49 passes for 243 yards and posting a quarterback rating of 58.5.

He followed that with an even more horrid performance in a 14-3 loss to Carolina the next year, rolling out an inexcusably wretched 10-for-22, 100-yard outing with no touchdowns and three interceptions. His quarterback rating for that game? 19.3.

McNabb’s two bowl games at Syracuse? Routs at the hands of Kansas State and Florida.

In the crucible, without Owens, this is the best he can muster?

Perhaps the truest indicator that McNabb has taken the Eagles as far as he ever will is his refusal to run the football, taking away the most lethal asset of his game.

In essence, he has neutered himself. Surely he must know Lurie made him a $112 million QB because of his unique ability to scramble for yardage and pass.

He now refuses to run, saying he wants to destroy the stigma attached to black quarterbacks that they lack the smarts to be a pocket passer. Despite the probing of Michael Vick concerning the issue last week, how does McNabb fail to understand this myth has long since moved beyond the point of resuscitation?

There is no way to absolve Owens: He was out of line. He was putting up huge numbers despite talk the Eagles would cut him at the end of the season. How well would that have gone over with fans if he put up the numbers he was projected to reach and then given his walking papers?

The Eagles knew they were getting the ultimate prima donna in Owens. You have to tweak guys like this to keep them happy. In fact, had they not failed to acknowledge Owens’ 100th career touchdown, Owens probably wouldn’t have spouted off about the Eagles having a better record if they had Brett Favre instead of McNabb.

But they didn’t. In fact, they haven’t had control of this situation in a long time. And now the team that likes to fancy itself the gold standard is starting to look more like tin.

Without Owens, they’re going to look even worse.

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