It's pretty clear to your Eagletarian, after the latest round of analysis of what Donovan McNabb and the Eagles would or would not have done in the Steelers' shoes in Super Bowl XLIII, that nobody out there is really listening anymore.
By this, I don't mean nobody cares. Everybody cares; I have the e-mail to prove it. But just about every response I've gotten either ignores the relevant facts to excuse McNabb and the Eagles of not being able to beat the Cards, and not being able to fashion late-game comebacks in general, OR it goes way off in the other direction, cherry picking stats that "prove" McNabb is the worst postseason quarterback ever, and stating that the Eagles delude themselves by keeping him employed.
Here's what's true, from where I sit:
1. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers did, indeed accomplish pretty much exactly what the Eagles couldn't accomplish in the NFC Championship Game. After their defense gave away a lead, they took the ball down and re-won the game. Maybe it was coaching, maybe it was quarterbacking, maybe it was Santonio Holmes, most likely it was some combination of the the three. Steelers had it, Eagles didn't.
2. The Eagles' defense still lost the NFC Championship Game, not so much the offense. You don't give up 32 points in a title game. (Edit: changed from 30, thanks to Venkman, below in the comments, who pointed out that I originally was subtracting a safety that actually occurred in the Giants game. It really was a long year.) You might have noticed, if the Steelers had given up 32 points Sunday, they would not have won. Just as McNabb's performance wasn't as clutch as Roethlisberger's, the Eagles had no James Harrison in their game with Arizona. Nothing even close.
I'm not sure Super Bowl XLIII "proves" anything about what is or isn't possible with McNabb. Remember, before Roethlisberger came up big Sunday, he authored what might have been the worst quarterbacking performance in the history of the game three years earlier in Detroit, and his team still won. A lot depends on the matchup, and your defense, and getting a lead, and so on.
Amid the din of people trotting out their hardened attitudes pro and con this week, I got a couple of pretty interesting e-mails. One, from a "basher," analyzes Donovan in late-game situations. The other notes that Roethlisberger, on the day, didn't really outperform McNabb statistically, and brings up some other salient points.
Here are the highlights.
First, from Mark Goetz: "Parameters: From 2005 season to present, with < 9 mins left in the 4th quarter where McNabb has an opportunity to tie or take the lead with either a TD or a FG of less than 54 yards (Akers range: season long in all but one year of his career is 53 yds). I gave McNabb credit in 2 games where he got the lead or tied, and the defense gave up the winning points as time expired (eg, 62 yd FG at Tampa that I still have nightmares about). Results: McNabb is 5 for 18 (27%) during the regular season in those situations since the 2005 season, including 0/5 this year. This is generous since I used < 9 mins instead of the crucial last 2-3 mins ... In his playoff career, he is 2 for 6, 0 for 1 since 2005."
To Mark, this data spurs the following conclusion about McNabb winning a Lombardi: "Maybe early in his career, but the failures since the Super Bowl have truly affected him. People talk about him being a Hall of Famer, that is a joke. Hall of Famers live for those moments, not choke."
David Mullin has a very different perspective:
"Les, I think you are being unfair here. I am as ticked off about the loss to the Cardinals as anyone on the planet, but when you campare McNabb to Big Ben in these two games, I don’t see how you say Big Ben played better than McNabb. Big Ben brought the Steelers back from a four-point deficit to take the lead late in the game. McNabb brought the Eagles back from an 18-point deficit to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter—the largest catch-up in NFC title game history. Big Ben and his offense put 20 on the board against the Cards at a neutral site. McNabb and his offense put 25 on the board against the Cards in their dome. Big Ben’s offense failed to get in and had to settle for field goals twice from the one. McNabb and his offense scored when they got inside the ten.
"If the Eagles' defense had done to the Cards what the Steelers' defense did to the Cards—get a pick 6 and stop them on the final drive—the Eagles would have been in the Super Bowl against a Steelers team they already had beaten. Charge Quintin Demps with 3 points and Akers with 4, and that is the margin of victory. They can’t be the goats because they are not larger than life like McNabb ... no team has given up more than 28 (points) and won the NFC championship game, ever."