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1/07/2007 11:11:00 PM

Unlikely Hero

Philadelphia has a new, and unlikely, hero.
Doug Benc/SI

PHILADELPHIA - When Jeff Garcia won his first game for the Eagles, the talk-show debate began: if Garcia leads the Eagles deep into the playoffs, who is the starting quarterback next season? For a city that has never completely embraced Donovan McNabb, Garcia's workmanlike style has been a big hit.

Now that the Eagles have advanced to the NFC divisional round by beating the Giants 23-20 on Sunday, the pro-Garcia faction should become even louder in Philly.

Eight weeks ago, that debate would have been ludicrous on multiple levels. Philly wasn't going anywhere and Garcia was fresh off the garbage heap of NFL QBs. Now, it's still far-fetched, but with Garcia under center, the Eagles are playing a style of football better suited to playoff success than they were with McNabb.

The last few Super Bowl champs have relied on strong defenses, strong running games and quarterbacks who rarely turned the ball over. Since McNabb injured his knee in Week 11, the Eagles have shifted their offensive balance more to the run and asked Garcia to avoid mistakes and keep the defenses honest.

It's almost a cliché with Andy Reid's Eagles, but they have never been able to help themselves from relying too heavily on the passing game. You know Reid and his coaching staff was salivating when they watched the Giants' porous pass defense on film. But they still gave the ball to Brian Westbrook 20 times on Sunday and let their star running back carry them on a final drive that resulted in a game-winning field goal.

The last few weeks should get the coaching staff thinking. The Eagles have a big, physical line and they were able to wear down the Giants with the run and short-passing game. If Philly hopes to beat New Orleans next week, Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have to once again keep their game plan conservative and Garcia has to keep Drew Brees and the Saints' offense off the field.

As Reid put it, Garcia was a "hair off" on Sunday. He completed 17 of 31 passes for 153 yards. But even in a mediocre game, he never really came close to throwing a pick. And there's a reason Eagles fans like him. He gets right up every time he's hit.

"He battles," Reid said. "He doesn't really care what happens on a play, he's just on to the next one."

Garcia's attitude has been infectious in Philadelphia. They won't be intimidated by a Saints team that also finished 10-6 and no one else in the NFC is that scary. Who knows, maybe the QB controversy has legs?
posted by sidotcom | View comments |  


Posted: 12:59 AM   by Anonymous
What a moron. Philadelphia never embraced Donovan? That's a stupid statement because Philly never really fully embraces anybody. But as much as this city can embrace an athlete, they embraced Donovan McNabb. Not to mention, when the game started and the Eagles were down, I took a look on the sidelines and saw Donovan standing there with Jevon Kearse. I thought to myself, Man, I'd feel a whole lot better if he were behind center tonight. And you know what? I wasn't alone. Not even close. Jeff Garcia's done well, great even, but he's not exactly a play maker. The Eagles have benfitted from his coming in, not through his play, but because, with Donovan out, they had to even out their play calling and run more, giving Brian Westbrook more touches. That's the real reason they've done so well. Garcia's solid and I'll be rooting for him all through the playoffs, but even if they won the Super Bowl with him at QB, there shouldn't be any controversy next season. McNabb's the man.
Posted: 1:16 AM   by Anonymous
Donovan McNabb is the leader and he will be the league MVP when he comes back. Even if Garcia leads the eagles to the super bowl and win it, McNabb is the franchise QB. The offense will be unstoppable with McNabb, its effective with Garcia, thats it.
Posted: 1:39 AM   by Anonymous
The notion that Garcia is better than McNabb is an absurd one. This type of hyperbolic anointment of time-management QB's is really getting on my nerves. The same opnion is heaped on Tom Brady and that's why Brady, who is a rich man's version of Trent Dilfer, is being exalted as the next great QB. Furtheremore, the ability and willingness of the media to have such a short memory is apparent. McNabb only took the eagles to 4 straight NFC championship games, 1 super bowl where he single-handedly kept them in the game, went to 5 pro bowls, and was runnner-up for MVP in 2000. Garcia has a few pretty good games where he doesn't exactly win the games for us, as McNabb has done, and the media is so quick to dismiss the virtusoity that is Donovan McNabb. Garcia has been good and doesn't make critical errors, but McNabb has done exaclty that and so much more. Other than Neil O'Donnell, McNabb has the lowest interception percentage in history. But, let us forget the merits of an all-time QB because of a playoff run fully on the shoulders of one Brian Westbrook. The media and the fickle fans of Philadelphia refuse to appreciate a unique talent as McNabb.
Posted: 1:39 AM   by Anonymous
I understand that this is a juicy topic to discuss in the media, but the reality of the situation is that even if the Eagles win the superbowl with Garcia at the helm (and they won't, and this is coming from an Eagles fan), Reid wouldn't consider for a second choosing Garcia over McNabb. The latter is without a doubt the better quarterback. He has better mobility, a stronger arm, is considerably younger, and the franchise has committed itself financially and otherwise to Donovan. The problem when McNabb was QB, if anything, was the playcalling, not the quarterback himself. I'd for one not like to see this topic discussed. It's a copout by the media, something easy to talk about. Kind of like TO-mania. And we all know how that worked out in Philly.
Posted: 1:59 AM   by Edward G
Let me start by saying I'm a Panthers fan, so I've got no bias here.

This is completely ludicrous. There is no way the Eagles are a better team with Jeff Garcia at QB than they are with McNabb. Does no one remember that McNabb was by FAR the best player in the league over the first 8 weeks of the season? Nobody else was even close.

And I'm not sure how they've lacked playoff success with McNabb.....he's been to a Super Bowl and several NFC title games. The only way Garcia can do better is if the Eagles win it all, and that's not happening.

The only valid point is the one regarding Andy Reid and the running game -- but that's not McNabb's fault. He doesn't call the plays; that all falls on Reid's shoulders.

Jeff Garcia is a good QB; he's better than people give him credit for. But to suddenly suggest that the Eagles are better off with him at QB than with a player who's led them deep in the playoffs almost every season, and who was the best player in the NFL this year before injury, is asinine.
Posted: 2:04 AM   by Anonymous
No doubt Jeff Garcia is playing great, but the main reason the Eagles are playing so well is the change of play calling. It only took Andy Reid 9 years to realize that you need balance in this league to be truly sucessful. I hope that when Mcnabb comes back next season that Reid keeps the balance
Posted: 2:05 AM   by Anonymous
As much as it seems that Jeff Garcia has led the fight back, the real heroes for the Eagles are Brian Westbrook, O-Line, Run Defense, play calling and Jeff in that order.

I believe McNabb is one of the best QBs in the league. On his best days he is in the Manning, Brady, Palmer league and has been pretty consistent QB for a long time in a team with no-name WRs (except the 1.5 yrs of TO!).

If Garcia believes that he can lead teams to victory, he only needs to fall back on his experience in cleveland and Detriot to understand and appreciate that his days as a starting QB are over. It makes more sense for him being the best backup QB than one of the worse starting QBs.

Another reason for the 'turnaround' is that the Eagles were very unlucky in the early part of the season to see the giants have a lucky bounce, the bucs winning on a freak 62 yd FG and bad time mgmt handing the Saints a victory thru FG. Stats site (Footballoutsiders.com) has consistenly ranked the Eagles in the Top 10 throughout the year.

There is no QB questions here. When McNabb heals, he starts and Jeff goes back to be a backup.
Posted: 10:12 AM   by Anonymous
One more thing to note is that the success the Eagles had for the last few years stems from the fact that they do not pander to individuals. Management plugs in the best player suited for the job and hopefully, they continue to do just that.
Posted: 4:18 PM   by phan52
If Garcia has made the Eagles better it is because the Eagles coaching staff have drastically changed their play calling because of Garcia's limitations, not because he is a better player.
As a result, they finally have noticed the strengths of their offensive line and come to the conclusion that running the ball creates success, not only for the offense but for the defense too by keeping them off the field for longer periods of time.

Garcia is a great backup QB and I hope the Eagles keep him. As a backup.
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