Reid: "He'll be fine."
Edwards: "Well, you know what you need to do. Just follow the plan. Hey, you know I love you. Good luck."
As Reid said on Sunday, "He always says, 'You know I love you,' before we get off the phone."
Now get ready for the special formula Reid whipped up over the bye week, the lineup magic he performed, the potion he fed McNabb when the beleaguered quarterback—too inaccurate, too stationary in the pocket—got back from a long weekend at his off-season home in Arizona: Reid did absolutely nothing.
When people are encouraged to think they're good and then bad things happen, they can shut out the booing and shut off the negativity more than most players, even in a sports hotbed like Philadelphia. Let's go back to the days leading up to the 1999 draft. All of Philadelphia, including then Mayor Ed Rendell, was screaming for the Eagles to take Texas running back Ricky Williams with the second pick in the draft. Reid, however, doesn't believe it's smart to take a running back with a high first-round pick because good ones can be found down the line; plus the strength of the draft that year was at quarterback. Club president Joe Banner remembers when Reid returned from a trip to Syracuse to scout McNabb. "He's got incredible character," Banner recalls Reid saying. "He can be serious and funny, almost at the same time. He's got great leadership potential. And he'll thrive in this market. Nothing will faze him."
Three days before the Eagles' third game this season, against the Bills in Buffalo, McNabb sounded so much like Reid. "Not comparing myself to him, but if Michael Jordan's 5 for 18 in the fourth quarter, is he going to stop shooting?" McNabb said. "I seriously think I can go out in practice today and complete every ball. That's what being a competitor is all about."
Understand this about McNabb: He's never going to be Joe Montana. He's too inaccurate (56.6% career passer) to be an alltime great. But his teammates love him, and not one of them was whispering that Reid should have turned to backups Koy Detmer or A.J. Feeley in September. McNabb, nagged by a sprained thumb on his passing hand, improved in fits and starts, running 15 times in the first two games after the bye, both wins. Then he played two horrendous games in a row, against Dallas and the New York Giants, handling pressure poorly and failing to take advantage of man coverage without safety help; the Cowboys, in particular, didn't respect McNabb's ability to hurt them deep and threw safety blitzes at him all day. But since Westbrook saved the Eagles against the Giants with an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown on Nov. 16, McNabb and the offense have been in high gear. In the five games since, McNabb has been uncharacteristically accurate (65.5%) and has thrown for 1,224 yards, with six touchdowns and one interception. After his clinical 16-of-25, 259-yard dissection of New Orleans, he said he was probably pressing a bit early in the season. Back in September it's unlikely he would have taken off as he did against the Saints, scrambling for 34 yards in the first quarter to set up Philly's first touchdown. "I'm just playing football, relaxed, and taking what the defense gives me," he says.
That's vintage Reid-speak, but McNabb truly believes in what his coach preaches—not just the importance of poised self-confidence, but also the egalitarianism among teammates. A week after nine players caught passes in a 28-10 rout of the Giants, all 10 skill-position players who played on offense had at least one reception against New Orleans.
"I love for everyone to have a chance," McNabb says. "If you concentrate on one guy, the other team knows who you're throwing to. I look at myself as a point guard, spreading the ball around to whoever's open. And we don't have ego guys on this team."
Every team in the playoff hunt has holes, and the Eagles are no exception. The defense gave up 466 yards to the Saints. In the last three weeks Ahman Green, Tiki Barber and Deuce McAllister have steamrollered Philadelphia's defense—playing without tackles Paul Grasmanis and Hollis Thomas, who are both out for the year with injuries—for 192, ill and 184 rushing yards, respectively. Reid kept deflecting questions about his rushing defense on Sunday evening, but that won't make the problem go away.