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10-14-2003, 08:34 PM
Stephen A. Smith | Birds' blues: Team must admit it's time for changes
By Stephen A. Smith
Inquirer Columnist

Andy Reid at his news conference. Donovan McNabb’s injury opened the door for Reid to sit him, but the coach won’t do it.

Donovan McNabb has been horrible.

Andy Reid has been pathetic.

The latest collection of wide receivers has been sorry, and the Eagles' offensive line has not been the brightest candle on the cake.

Week 6 of the NFL season has come and gone, and the Eagles still resemble ballet dancers at a hip-hop concert: spinning on their toes in spandex with happy feet, devoid of any moves with rhythm, any schemes with substance, any intangibles that would prompt a collective thrust of our hands in the air.

In victory. Not misery.

"It's all on me," Reid said, providing his weekly chorus of meaningless words one day after his Eagles fell, 23-21, to the despised Dallas Cowboys. "I take full responsibility."

He keeps saying that, but what has changed?

Maybe he could use a few suggestions:

Bench McNabb for a game or two, and let him rest that thumb that's hindering his grip.

Get on the phone and get a receiver with some heart, because it's clear a few wideouts are suffering from the Tin Man's syndrome.

In the interest of keeping playmakers on defense, play nice with Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent.

And get rid of whoever is calling these offensive plays.

Whether that's you, Andy, offensive coordinator Brad Childress, or the tooth fairy, do something! Because no opposing defense has been buying what the Eagles have been selling.

The Eagles rank 15th in the 16-team NFC in total offense; only Chicago is worse. They rank 14th in passing offense, recording an embarrassing 140.2 yards per game.

Only Chicago and Carolina are worse.

The Eagles run, but can't pass. The offensive line creates holes for the run, but can't protect its prized quarterback, giving up 19 bruising sacks. Their coach, once capable enough to visit two consecutive NFC championship games, suddenly shrinks like the Wicked Witch touched by water.

First, at the sight of Jon Gruden. Then, Bill Belichick. And now, Bill Parcells. Super Bowl winners all.

To further sully the mood, Reid showed up at a news conference yesterday, following a 2-3 start to a season filled with Super Bowl expectations, and said:

"All in all, it was a tough football game. It was a good football game to watch. There's some things we can learn from it, and we must learn from it, and move on. We need to play better as a football team. I need to do a better job of coaching. Our coaches need to do a better job."

What in the world of Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner is going on here? This is what we hear after three of the Eagles' receivers - Freddie Mitchell, James Thrash and Todd Pinkston - combined for four catches? This is what we hear when tight end Chad Lewis has one catch in two weeks?

Where are the suitable replacements for Hugh Douglas and Brian Mitchell, which is to say players with an attitude? Where is the leadership Banner swore this team had in abundance once both athletes departed for what appeared to be greener pastures?

Why has McNabb been seen walking out of meetings with the Eagles' offensive brain trust with his head bowed? Beat up physically and seemingly beat up emotionally. Wondering from day to day whether he's allowed to go get a drink of water, let alone call an audible.

We know better than to wait for an answer from Reid.

The Eagles, who led the league in points scored last season, suddenly are forced to endure treacherous winds for points. Running backs Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter have proven their effectiveness, helping the offense average 5.0 yards per rush, tied for first in the NFL.

And still, McNabb can't find an open man, isn't given the time, or appears incapable of delivering the ball to its proper location.

If that isn't enough, the defense has sprung a leak despite all of the hoopla. That stellar crop of young players may rank No. 1 in the league against the rush, but their rank against the pass is an abysmal 28th. (Note: I can't wait to see how the Eagles will treat Taylor and Vincent once free agency rolls around this spring.)

A botched play on special teams on the opening kickoff, accentuated by a long return allowing the Cowboys to set up a game-winning field goal at game's end, only serves to magnify the deplorable circumstances surrounding this team.

Questions concerning the quarterback's productivity and whether he should play are appropriate.

But what about Reid's productivity? His offensive staff? And Mr. Banner, if necessary.

The people are talking to you, Mr. Lurie! Answers need to come from someone.