November 17, 2008

Would you like to tie me up with some of your ties, Ty?

I'm only 23 years old, but I have to imagine that was the most deserved tie in the history of the National Football League.

As the clock ticked down in overtime, I was openly rooting for the score to stay deadlocked. Not because it was more beneficial to the Eagles' record than a loss would be, but because I wanted the embarrassment that is associated with five quarters of 13-13 football to be bestowed upon the Philadelphia Eagles.

A tie seems like it's always one of the NFL's greatest black-eyes. They can't allow a regular season game to go on indefinitely, but they can't sully the "integrity" of the game with an NHL-esque shootout solution. So, there's that spot always available at the back-end of a team's record, a little space for a second hyphen. Rarely do they use it, but when they do, it's never good.

And in my opinion, this had to be one of the worst. Not for the Cincinnati Bengals, though. The Eagles' defense swarmed them all game, shutting down uber-failure Cedric Benson and keeping the Bengals off the scoreboard, for the most part. Tying a supposed "Super Bowl contender" like the Eagles has to be at least a minor notch in the belt of the soon-to-be-departed Marvin Lewis.

But the Eagles' offense was a disgrace. Donovan McNabb had one of his worst games in recent memory. Brian Westbrook can't be anywhere near 100%, because a) he's barely touching the ball and b) he's not doing anything when he is. The wideouts just keep on dropping passes. The opposing defensive line keeps getting a hand in McNabb's face, batting down balls and hurrying his passes. A week after putting up 30 points on the New York Giants, how can they score only 13 on the lowly Bengals?

A lot of factors, but coaching is a major one. Andy Reid is damned if he does (a season-long breakdown every time they run in a short yardage situation) and damned if he doesn't (13 points with 58 pass attempts on Sunday), and his playcalling doesn't help. Opposing teams have started to sniff out DeSean Jackson. A half-dozen inventive or interesting decisions a game are overshadowed by two dozen inexcusable ones. And his willingness to play for a tie late in overtime shows a coach with no backbone, a coach who is clinging to invisible hopes and the belief that, had a few bounces gone their way earlier in the year, this team would be among the cream of the league.

In a parallel universe, I suppose, that might be true, and it's a sad commentary on the state of the league. In reality, though, this team is the cream of the mediocre, plain and simple. They keep it close with good teams and they used to blow out bad teams, but now they apparently have problems doing that. It's been four years since they were legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and the last time they made any noise in the postseason hunt seems like it had a great deal to do with Jeff Garcia.

I keep coming back to the fact that the roster looks good on paper. They have a lot of talented players lining up every Sunday, and they still can't get the job done. It could end up being a fatal error, but if I was Jeffrey Lurie, I would blame the coaches. Andy Reid has done a lot for this city, but almost every aspect of his act has become tiresome. His offensive system isn't working, his interactions with the media are increasingly grating and dishonest and his team is stagnant, boring and playing without any passion. In a year when Charlie Manuel and his Philadelphia Phillies played with a never-say-die attitude and rose up against the odds to win a world championship, patience with the Philadelphia Eagles is wearing thin.

Before we jettison Donovan McNabb as well, is it that much of a crime to install him in a new system with a new head coach and see how he responds? He doesn't look great, but are we certain that Kevin Kolb will look better? If we're not, then I don't see the point in throwing McNabb out with the rest of the trash. Once he's gone, he's not coming back, and while I don't think anyone will regret saying goodbye to Reid, I don't necessarily feel the same about McNabb.

At the same time, change is needed, and I doubt anyone will argue with it when it comes. No one wants to see another 8-8 year, and absolutely no one wants to hear about how close we were to being 10-6, 11-5. And heads might start exploding if, at the end of year, management tries to call 8-7-1 a "winning season." In the mind of myself, and many other fans, this tie has already defined the 2008 Philadelphia Eagles.