Tuesday, January 20, 2009
We knew. We knew, like Dante in Clerks, we weren't even supposed to be here. We knew we were on borrowed time, playing with house money, whichever metaphor appealed.
Yet, somehow, that didn't lessen the sting of Sunday's crushing loss. Somehow, the miracle of making the playoffs just three weeks earlier provided no consolation. When the clock struck zero in Phoenix, it was the Arizona Cardinals who had won the Battle of the Birds, and had earned the right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIII. And I don't know about you, but I felt like I got punched in the stomach.
There was so much talk leading up to this game about legacy. How would this NFC Championship game, the fifth in eight seasons, impact history's judgment of this Eagles era? Was Andy Reid, the winningest coach in Eagles history, worthy of the Hall of Fame? Was Donovan McNabb, statistically the greatest Eagles quarterback of all time, deserving of a plaque in Akron? In my heart I knew the answer, but I still hoped beyond hope that Sunday's game would prove me wrong.
What I saw on Sunday was a team that came to play a half too late. I saw a defense that expected another cakewalk like it had on Thanksgiving night, leaving the best receiver in the game right now single-covered. Repeatedly. I saw an undisciplined team, committing false start penalties and taking cheap shots at an unprotected quarterback nowhere near the ball. I saw a running back, obviously hurt beyond the possibility of contribution, continuously handed the ball, while his healthy backup--the star of the romp over Dallas, averaging 5.7 yards a carry in the playoffs coming in--mostly rode the pine. And yet again, I saw a team with no sense of urgency, oblivious to the notion of clock management, as time dwindled down in each half.
And that is why Andy Reid is not a Hall of Fame coach.
But oh, how I wanted more than anything for Donovan to succeed. How I hoped that this would be the day that number 5 proved them all wrong, played tough all four quarters, using his arm and his legs to scrap for first downs when sacks seemed imminent. How I prayed for this to be his coming-out party, a chance to show the world that, come Hell or high water, he was gonna find the end zone. But there was the badly underthrown pass to Hank Baskett at the end of the first half, where if he'd hit him in stride, he was off to the races untouched. And still I prayed.
And after an incredible half of football brought the Birds back into a game they were being blown out of, the stage was set. Down 7 with under three to play. Where the cream rises to the top. Where Montana, Young, Elway, and Favre made their bones. Where good becomes great. Where Donovan went 3-8, with two of the completions overthrown to open receivers, and one for five yards in the middle of the field that took up 24 seconds.
Yes, there were dropped passes as always. Yes, this team has no true number one receiver. Yes, there were two egregious pass interference penalties that weren't called. But when it really counted, when the team really needed him to step up and be the man, Donovan McNabb wasn't there.
And that is why he is not a Hall of Fame quarterback. Not yet, at least. But still I hope, still I pray, that Donovan will someday prove me wrong.
The magic has run out, the roller coaster of the 2008 season is over.
But, as they say, there's always next year.
Other Musings: The guy doing the lead-in for 30 Rock says, "Hey. What's 10 rock times 3 rock? Give up? It's 30 Rock." Actually, it's 30 Rock squared. Thanks for playing.
Even Budweiser couldn't resist trying to capitalize on Barack Obama, with their "inaugur-ale" ad. No -ability joke here. That's just gross.
You see they brought the Southwest commercial back with the guy who smashes his pal's TV by throwing the controller? It's funny, yet upsetting, cause I'm waiting for my wife to do the same thing with Wii Bowling. Worse is the fact that the whole tagline, "Wanna get away?" implies that you can just pick up and go. Problem is that those amazing rates are only with a 14-day advance purchase. Oops.