EAGLES FANS have seen this movie so many times now.
It was possible to think that maybe, with all the new weapons, it wouldn't happen this year, that whatever the Eagles' 2009 shortcomings, fans wouldn't have to watch the offense descend into a morass of harried, off-target throws, the running game discarded in a panic, the quarterback out of rhythm and indecisive.
You can have all the weapons in the world, but without a reliable offensive line plus solid decision-making from the quarterback and the sideline, you aren't going to win. That was where the Eagles were Sunday. The o-line blew up. From there, Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb settled into familiar, frustrating roles.
Quick, longtime Eagle watchers, what happens when you throw Reid a curve, do something that wasn't on film, start blitzing from everywhere, confusing a sub-laden line? Does he adjust, with slants and screens and a hurry-up approach, three-step drops, the odd draw play here and there, or does Reid just keep dialing up the plays he practiced all week, with the 47 progressions for McNabb to sort through?
We all know the answer there. As noted football expert David Byrne intoned, "Same as it ever was."
McNabb's reaction was every bit as unsatisfactory. He looked more mobile his first week back from the rib injury than he looked in Oakland. Is there something they haven't bothered to tell us about this? There were a few times when McNabb had all day to throw, against a secondary that was missing All-Pro corner Nnamdi Asomugha most of the game, after Asomugha got poked in the eye by fellow Cal alum DeSean Jackson. McNabb didn't find a receiver late on an improvisation, didn't take off to see if his feet could change the equation. He just threw the ball away. How very Matt Cassel of him.
This kind of game has come to represent a kind of Reid/McNabb offensive vortex, and it seems it will be with us as long as they are. It is impossible to overstate how sick of it the fan base is, which is why the angry e-mails poured in yesterday, insisting that the winningest coach in Eagles history and the franchise's all-time leading passer are chumps, frauds, chokers and charlatans.
Is this really the case? Of course not. But they aren't Super Bowl winners, either, and, obviously, games like this one make it seem extremely unlikely they ever will be, 11 long years into their joint tenure.
In a huge surprise, Reid concluded at his day-after news conference that he tried to throw the ball almost five times as much as he ran it Sunday because he thought he saw something, because he thought the same pass plays that hadn't worked all day were just about to click if he stuck with them. Stubbornness is his greatest strength, and his greatest weakness.
McNabb said all the right things after the game, but got nothing done in the fourth quarter, when it mattered. Again. And again. And again ...
Developing story lines
* Doesn't matter who's calling the plays for the Redskins this week. Game plan should be simple: Hand the ball to Clinton Portis. Throw the ball to Chris Cooley. Repeat as often as necessary. For variety, you could throw it to Portis and hand it to Cooley here and there.
* The most inconsolable figure in the Eagles' locker room Sunday might have been Juan Castillo, slumped in a folding chair, running a hand through his hair, play chart still tucked into the front of his pants. The offensive-line coach prides himself on the extra time he spends with subs, getting them ready to play when needed. But when training camp began, nobody knew Castillo was going to need to fashion a game-ready unit out of center Jamaal Jackson and four backups, as was the case after Jason Peters went down on the third series. It wasn't as if they were all bad, every play, but the Raiders' pressure exposed the unit's inexperience and the physical limitations that made these guys backups instead of starters in the first place. Coaching only goes so far.
* Looked like a wonky snap on at least one of those missed field goals. Would have been nice if David Akers had spoken with the media after the game. He said yesterday on WIP (610-AM) that he was at his locker initially when reporters arrived, then left. Of his misses, he said: "I let down my teammates, the fans and the organization." Remember when you just assumed the Birds had the kicking edge, every week?
* While we're strolling down memory lane, remember Jason Avant, the clutch slot receiver? Maybe he should e-mail Donovan McNabb and cc Andy Reid, to make sure they know he's still here. But then, if the Birds had been throwing quick slants to Avant on Sunday, they wouldn't have had time for all those pressured, 60-yard, third-down incompletions to Jeremy Maclin.
The Raiders held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time in 48 games.
That if you played enough bad teams, it would start to rub off on you?
You know how Charlie Manuel makes a personnel change that looks goofy at the time, but turns out to be smart? Andy Reid is not Charlie Manuel.
Two eyebrow-raising Eagles personnel moves this season: bringing in Michael Vick and signing Jeremiah Trotter. So far, net gain is nada.
With Trot, we're just going to have to hope that this is more about jumping into the NFL in the middle of a season after nearly 2 years away, than it is about not being able to play anymore. If Trotter really just can't do it in 2009, that's going to embarrass one of the franchise's all-time warriors, but it ought to embarrass Reid even more, for putting the man out there.
The Vick thing gets more inexplicable every week. Originally, it seemed the Eagles had some interesting ideas on how to use him that might really help in the red zone, once the kinks were ironed out. But since Donovan McNabb came back two games ago, Vick has been an afterthought. Against the Raiders, a half-baked afterthought, judging from the two times he was on the field - a 4-yard loss on an end-around, then a crucial timeout burned when nobody seemed clear on what the plan was, with Vick lined up next to McNabb. For this, the Eagles needed to make themselves targets of animal-rights picketers everywhere they go?
Maybe 2 months from now, Big Red will have the last laugh, as Charlie often does. Not seeing that right now, though.