Dump McNabb!

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I'm not in Philadelphia, and I'm willing to be enlightened, but this just makes no sense to me:

The Eagles' leading men have been the same two guys for a shockingly long time. The head coach isn't going anywhere. Andy Reid will be here to guide the young 'uns and try to figure out a way not to end up as a poor man's Marv Levy. I'm not crazy about that, but there's nothing to be done. The only variable of any significance that can really be changed is McNabb.

For the record, I've never been a Five hater. Quite the contrary. He's the best quarterback in the franchise's history, and if he doesn't return next season he'll be missed. But at what point is enough finally enough? It's been 11 seasons of Reid and McNabb and wait till next year, of close but not close enough, of final, implacable disappointment.

This is a milder (and I guess more defensible) variant of something that we see every year: The notion that Donovan McNabb is the reason the Eagles haven't won a Super Bowl. Let's start by saying that McNabb didn't play well yesterday. He ended the game 19/37 for 230 yards. One TD. One pick. A lot of those yards were accumulated after the game was decided, as was the touchdown. He was, of course, aided in his futility by an anemic rushing attack (56 yards total) and a defense that gave up 426 yards.

That said, the notion that a discussion of a team's problems should begin with a quarterback who posted a 92.9 regular season rating, strikes me as an overestimation of the rest of the team. It's certainly worth asking what the team could have done better had McNabb played better. But it's also worth asking what the team could have done had he not played at all.

I think the "Dump McNabb" notion comes from the Eagles enjoying three decades of good to great quarterbacking but no Super Bowls. Jaworski was solid in the 80s. Cunningham was one of the most exciting players of the 90s. And McNabb has been one the best QBs of the aughts. Still, none of them brought home a championship.

But it's worth thinking about how bad quarterbacking can really get in the NFL, and consequently, how bad a team can get. I don't think McNabb is Brady or Manning. But the notion that Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick (those were the options) would have beat the Cowboys and led the team deap into the playoffs, elides the difficult truth--the Eagles weren't good enough.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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