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McNabb mess validates Eagles' bold move

Michael Silver
Yahoo Sports

The last time we convened to partake in our consecrated Friday ritual, I presented 11 coaches who might soon be dispossessed of their headsets. In the days which followed, plenty of readers and NFL front-office executives alike suggested I should have made it a dirty dozen.

Specifically, they felt that Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid could lose his job if his team fades in the second half of the season. Though Philly (4-3) is just a game out of first place in the NFC East – and Reid has been entrenched as the Eagles' coach since 1999 – it's true that the altered organizational power dynamics make a Big Red departure more plausible than in the past.

That said, as his team prepares to host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Reid should be feeling pretty secure about his overall reputation in league circles. When it comes to evaluating and managing quarterbacks, the man is on a remarkable hot streak, especially after the way things have deteriorated in recent days between Donovan McNabb(notes) and Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan.

After last season, Reid made the hard decision to trade McNabb, his starting quarterback during an 11-year run that included five NFC championship game appearances and a Super Bowl berth. When the Eagles had the gall to deal McNabb to the division-rival Redskins on Easter, the coach was essentially announcing to the football world that he didn't think the six-time Pro Bowl selection could thrive without him – and that Reid had a better alternative on his roster.

It turns out he was right about the first part, and it's possible that he was doubly correct about the second part.

For four months after the trade, Reid placed his faith in fourth-year passer Kevin Kolb(notes). Then the season started, and Kolb had one of the more miserable debuts imaginable.

Yet as the Kolb experiment was seemingly blowing up, another Philadelphia story was unfolding in dramatic and stunning fashion: the thrilling resurgence of Michael Vick(notes) as a potential superstar.

During the first month of the season, Vick was the most compelling player in pro football – until McNabb and the Redskins returned to Philly and another twist ensued: Vick got hurt and, after McNabb left Lincoln Financial Field with a game ball and an upset victory, Kolb got a second chance to start and proceeded to flash the promise that validated Reid's faith in his abilities.

Now Reid has two quarterbacks who seem fully capable of leading the Eagles into contention – Vick, the one with the potential to be transcendent, will get the call against the Colts. Meanwhile, the passer on whom Reid passed last spring looks utterly lost without him, and it has become clear that McNabb's run as the Redskins' starter will almost certainly be a short-term arrangement.

For all of Shanahan's clumsy attempts to avoid saying that McNabb's performance has been poor, that's essentially what the coach has concluded – and it's why he inserted backup Rex Grossman(notes) into the final stages of last week's defeat to the Lions.

According to a Redskins source, in fact, Shanahan informed McNabb five days before the game that he intended to start Grossman, citing McNabb's sore hamstrings. The veteran quarterback pushed back forcefully enough to get Shanahan to change his mind, but things worked out so badly that a week later "cardiovascular endurance" had entered the NFL lexicon.

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It's been an awkward week for McNabb and the Redskins.
(Carlos Osorio/AP Photo)

This wouldn't be quite as big an issue if the 'Skins (4-4) hadn't overachieved to remain in theoretical contention. Further, it's possible that McNabb, after a bye week to rest his hamstrings, will upgrade his play next weekend, help keep his team in the playoff hunt and give the illusion of compatibility with his coach.

[Photos: See more images of Donovan McNabb]

The bottom line, however, is that this is a terrible fit. Shanahan's offense is based on precision, detail and meticulous preparation; McNabb is a breezy, seat-of-the-pants playmaker who believes he can overcame any obstacle by dropping back and making something happen. Neither approach is necessarily wrong, but Shanahan has decided that McNabb's way won't work in his system, and the franchise will almost certainly move on at season's end and find another quarterback.

Reid, meanwhile, may have another tough decision to make after the 2010 campaign, though he'll undoubtedly try to coax another year of coexistence out of Vick and Kolb before being forced to choose. In the meantime, he has the luxury of making it up on the fly as he attempts to pull off an unlikely conference title run.

Come to think of it, that's the same way McNabb operates. Perhaps that's why he and Reid had so much success together – and why I think McNabb has a much better chance of losing his job after 2010 than his ex-coach does.

TAKE IT TO THE ATM

The Chargers will continue their mini-revival by outscoring the Texans in Houston, fortifying general manager A.J. Smith's delusional belief that all is well. … Look for outside linebacker Mike Peterson(notes) to have his best game as a Falcon as Atlanta roughs up the Bucs. … Vick will remind people why he seized the starting job in Philly by leading the Eagles over the Colts, with a lot of help from LeSean McCoy(notes).

PLEASE, BOSS, SEND ME TO â¦

Oakland, where I'll be attending my first Raiders-Chiefs game in more than three years and thoroughly enjoying the fact that it once again has division-title implications.

LIES, LIES, LIES

1. Despite the unspoken solidarity between food-service workers everywhere, there's very little chance that someone will spit in Randy Moss'(notes) food the next few times he goes out to eat.

2. After Kenny Wilkerson of New Orleans radio station WIST insisted his report about Drew Brees'(notes) knee fracture and torn meniscus was "100-thousand-trillion-million percent" accurate, he started laughing like Dr. Evil.

3. There will be a more remarkable athlete competing this weekend than Edison Pena.

WORLD'S SIMPLEST POOL

For the second consecutive week, I had to sweat out an overtime road game involving the winless Buffalo Bills to survive, this time a 13-10 Chiefs victory on the final play of OT. (Would I have been allowed to advance had the game ended in a tie? I actually don't know the answer to that question, but since I'm the one making the rules around here, my sense is … probably.) Heeding the three-strikes-and-you're-out axiom – and as well as the Bears-can't-pass-block truism – I won't dare go with Chicago to win over Buffalo in Toronto. With the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, Colts, Saints, Patriots, Falcons and Titans off-limits, I'm taking the Packers over the Cowboys in the Sunday night game, largely because I think the visitors will shut it down at the first sign of adversity.

FANTASY ANNOYANCE OF THE WEEK

On Wednesday, during the most eventful night in fantasy annoyance history, I was extolling the accomplishments of UCSB women's basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb, a rising star in her profession, when a tall man in a black T-shirt interrupted with a pointed interrogation. "If you're such a great coach," he said to Gottlieb, "then why is your fantasy team so terrible?"

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Jennings has been wrapped tight for much of '10.
(Anthony Gruppuso/US Presswire)

It was a good question, given that The VIP Room (2-6), after a sizzling start, is in the midst of a six-week losing streak. Better yet, the man who asked it was none other than my buddy Malibu, who was meeting his fellow fantasy adventurer for the first time. Best of all, joining us for our long dinner at a bustling restaurant in (where else?) Malibu was an esteemed touch football wide receiver who is also one hell of a racer.

Suffice it to say that we didn't spend a lot of time talking about whether to play Ryan Longwell(notes) or Nick Folk(notes), or if Steve Breaston(notes), Greg Jennings(notes) or Beanie Wells(notes) should be benched for the week. Gottlieb and I saved that discussion for Thursday night – I told her to pick up the Falcons' defense (Mike Peterson and friends are all lathered up about Bucs coach Raheem Morris' declaration that his team is the best in the NFC), sit Wells (he has been limited in practice because of an allergic reaction to medication injected into his right knee) and to choose a kicker via eeny-meeny-miney-mo. Pardon my cynicism, but things are kind of bleak for The VIP Room – except, curiously, when it comes to hanging with actual VIPs.

LET'S DO SOME DON JULIO SHOTS FOR â¦

Andy Irons, who died Wednesday at the age of 32. Irons, one of the best surfers of his generation and a hero on his native Kauai, will be missed – most glaringly by his pregnant wife and unborn son. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones.

LYRIC-ALTERED SONG DEDICATION OF THE WEEK

As you are probably well aware, Moss is a foodie with 'tude whose former coach couldn't stomach the receiver's impromptu restaurant reviews. As a result, Moss now plays in the shadow of the Grand Ole Opry – but I picture him in grunge mode. Here's Moss getting his Eddie Vedder on – with ex-teammate Percy Harvin(notes) supplying the Chris Cornell falsetto – to the tune of Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike."

I don't mind stealing bread
From the hand of Belichick
But I can't feed off of Brad Childress
When they're serving up such nasty ribs
Food was on the table
The dude was carving
Coulda boxed it up cause
My dog was starving
But I wouldn't take it
Yo, you must be joking
But I'm growing hungry, yeah

I was a big chowderhead
In the Land of Belichick
But Chilly was so damn powerless
That I talked some mess – you know the rest
Then I was on waivers
Zygi was steaming
Fisher was my savior
And Vince Young(notes) he was beaming
But he'd better serve me
Or I'll start screaming
Cause I'm growing hungry
(I'm goin' hungry-ay)
I'm goin' hungry
(I'm goin' hungry-ay)
I'm goin' hungry
(I'm goin' hungry-ay)
I'm goin' hungry
(I'm goin' hungry-ay)

And I'm goin' hungry
(I'm goin' hungry-ay)
I'm goin' hungry
(I'm goin' hungry-ay)

Yeah, I don't mind stealing bread
(Oh … I don't mind)
Yeah, spoke my mind, made my bed

I'm goin' hungry
(I'm goin' hungry-ay)
I'm goin' hungry
(I'm goin' hungry, yeah)