BRENT CELEK had no idea that Donovan McNabb had said earlier, "I would say it's going well."
He had no idea that Andy Reid had said earlier than that, "I have a pretty good idea of our team's identity."
In short, he must have missed a memo. Maybe with a title like "Happy Spin," perhaps urging players to ignore Sunday's ugly loss to the Cowboys, the Raiders' loss of a few weeks ago, the four wins against teams with a combined 7-25 record, some erratic quarterbacking, some erratic coaching, some painful-looking football.
"[We're] 5-3," added McNabb.
Well, yes. But . . .
"Especially since we've played eight games, we shouldn't be making the same mistakes," said Celek, the Eagles' tight end. "Other teams aren't making the same mistakes."
They're not? That's not what the quarterback said . . .
"In this game, in the NFL, you have your highs and you have your lows," McNabb said. "There are only two teams right now that are undefeated. If you ask anybody on the other teams who felt like they should be having a better season or a couple of games where they've felt like they should have won, you see the miscues or mistakes, not being on the same page in certain situations or certain moments in the game."
I will never poke fun at a Charlie Manuel press conference again.
That said, I think McNabb was trying to say that every team not named New Orleans or Indianapolis is, in fact, making the same mistakes, or the same kinds of mistakes the Eagles have made through the bumpy first half of this 2009 season. More than a few questions yesterday offered an alibi of newness and youth for this - rookies, first year with the team, that sort of thing.
McNabb mentioned that the Colts and the Patriots - this Sunday night's prime-time combatants - are "throwing some younger guys in the other positions." The Colts won a Super Bowl 3 years ago, the Patriots have won three and went to one 2 years ago. The Colts have Peyton Manning, the Patriots have Tom Brady. You can cite the Eagles' overall won-loss record in relation to these teams all you want, but I guarantee there is no one seriously throwing the Eagles' name around with those teams outside of this municipality.
The two biggest reasons for that are Reid and McNabb, you pick the order. Both are good at what they do, but both have exhibited a stagnant learning curve in the 11 seasons they have been married together. No question there were youthful miscues in Sunday's loss, but McNabb's inaccuracy - throwing balls at toes, behind receivers - and Reid's stubbornness were again the vinegar on the wound.
Said Celek: "We're making big plays and having consistent drives and scoring. And then, as you could see Sunday night, we just couldn't get going. When we didn't start the game off so well this last game, we let that carry over instead of starting over and saying, 'OK, let's get this thing going right now. We just kept carrying it on until the game was over."
Just guessing, but that's not the identity Reid thinks he has a pretty good idea of.
At least I hope it isn't.
Here's the thing: Who is most responsible for the, "OK, let's get this thing going right now"? The third-year tight end? The second-year star receiver? The rookie running back?
Or the coach and the quarterback, both in their 11th seasons?
Would Andy Reid be a better coach with Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? They might make him look good even when his play was flawed.
Would Donovan McNabb be a better quarterback with Bill Belichick as his coach? The Patriots' coach might devise an offense more suited to his strengths and more forgiving of his weaknesses. More runs. Fewer of those short touch passes that he finds so difficult to execute.
More consistency maybe?
I would like to point out that the Giants won their Super Bowl after the 2007 season with eight rookies playing prominent roles, and with a slew of new faces as well.
"People talk about the young guys because they expect rookies to make mistakes," Celek said. "But we're at the point . . . when you play eight games, four preseason games - that's pretty much a year under your belt right there.
"There's no excuse. We all play in the NFL. We're all professionals."
"When I say it's everybody, it's everybody," Reid said. Statistically, he's right. Based on his past, he should think his team will play better at the end than it is playing now, even despite a tougher road the rest of the way.
And yet when he said yesterday that, "There are eight more big games and we're sitting here with a decent record and a good position," you wondered if that "pretty good idea" of his team's identity was as flawed as the first half has been.
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