Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Dec 2008

Should The Eagles Clip McNabb?

This week for MNF: Should the Eagles replace Donovan McNabb this offseason?

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 15 Dec 2008

26 comments, Last at 16 Dec 2008, 9:43pm by Pat (filler)

Comments

1
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:47am

Ummm with whom?

2
by tally :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:32am

With Kolb. Did you read the article?

7
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 10:32am

I can tell you right now that is a stupid idea. QBs are way too valuable to throw one away because he is merely slightly above average. What are the chances Kolb pans out 50%? 70%? Either way that is way too large of a risk vis a vis throwing away a season or 5.

12
by tally :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 8:08pm

It's a risk, to be sure, but the Lewin projection system thinks that Kolb will be pretty good, and while McNabb is a good QB, it's a matter of weighing the how much salary his release would free versus how much of a dropoff from him to Kolb.

That's why the title is "Should the Eagles Clip McNabb?" not "The Eagles Should Clip McNabb!"

16
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:11am

And I maintain it is even stupid to ask the question. Or that the answer to the question after about 2 secs of reflection is NO.

The Lewin forecast if it could even tell you this, would probably tell you Kolb had what a 65%-70% chance of being an effective starter? Meanwhile you already have an effective starter who is not paid much by current league standards, is a fixture in the town and probably has at least 3 good years left in him.

Ditching McNabb is just the sort of move that bad organizations make, and thus I expect PHI will not do it. Perhaps if Kolb was just amazing in practice and when he sees the field you might want to talk about it, but as far as I have heard he is super average for his draft position.

22
by hans (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 3:27pm

what's the confidence level of the correlation in the Lewin projection system?

3
by Never Retreat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:43am

Sure. Please. By all means. Trade him to Minnesota where he can play with an elite back and a balanced system (and that's not to suggest that Westbrook isn't elite. I just mean an elite back AND a balanced system). Seriously, if the Eagles fail to make the playoffs, I'm looking square at the man I've been defending for some time, and that man is Andy Reid. I know that much of the Eagle's problems have come down to a prolonged streak of "bad luck" (see the recent "Any Given Sunday" Article) but when this seems to happen year after year, I start to notice a pattern. In this case, that pattern is a vanilla and seldom used run game that leaves its streaky QB in 3 & long situations. Do the Eagles actually use trap blocking or misdirection in their run game anymore. Maybe I just haven't seen enough of their offense at work, being in Giant's country without access to all the games, but I am dismayed when I see it. Perhaps someone who has seen all the games can point out the flaws in my argument, but it is a pattern I've noticed.

4
by Xeynon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:46am

Unless they can get a very good deal in return (say, a high first round pick, or a lower first rounder packaged with a number of mid-rounders or a proven starter at a position of need who fits their system), I say NO. McNabb is still a very good quarterback and with slightly better playcalling would be elite. He seems to have recovered from his injuries nicely and developed more of a willingness to dump the ball off or throw it away when there's nothing available, as he's been sacked at a career low rate this year despite playing in a pass happy offense. There's a reason top 10 quarterbacks who are still in the primes of their careers and do not have injury problems do not get traded very often.

Excepting the Baltimore game, which I don't think weighs heavily against him because he was thrust into a nearly impossible situation, on the road against an elite defense with almost no preparation time, I like what I've seen of Kolb. He's got an accurate arm, a nice pocket presence, and a lot of spunk. But until we see him start a game under actual live fire, there's no way to know for sure whether he'll be any good, and given that, no matter how good his Lewin forecast numbers are or how loudly the sports talk radio nitwits bray, they'd be crazy to replace the best quarterback in franchise history with him unless they had no choice.

5
by Harris :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 9:59am

This assumes that 1) they can get a high draft pick, 2) they need McNabb's cap space to re-sign Thomas and Runyan and 3) they want to re-sign Thomas and/or Runyan. I don't know that any of these things are true and it's entirely possible Runyan will retire.

"A little celery is always nice after a good pee."

6
by mawbrew :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 10:20am

After the Eagles drafted Kolb, I thought they would trade McNabb after 2 more years (+/- 1), assuming Kolb showed enough to convince them that he could do the job. If McNabb finishes this year healthy and productive the Eagles could trade him at peak value. His age limits his value somewhat but I think a first rounder is reasonable (McNabb's contract probably helps).

It's possible the Eagles could wait one more year, but unless they believe there is a big gap between Kolb and McNabb (and given they inserted Kolb at halftime of a close game vs. the Ravens, that's unlikely) I doubt they will.

8
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:11pm

I think he'd be a steal if swapped for a 2nd rounder, but isn't quite worth a 1st rounder. Whoever trades for him would need to cough up something extra, maybe a lower pick or a player.

I'd like to see him go to a place where he would be appreciated.

9
by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:45pm

Admittedly, I'm a Syracuse fan and predisposed to liking McNabb, but getting rid of a 32-year-old QB as good as McNabb is insane. Maybe if he were 35 or so, but he's not.

--
My new CuseFanInSoCal blog

10
by mattman (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:53pm

I don't see the rush to deal McNabb and turn things over to Kolb. The recent track record of quarterbacks who waited several years to start - Romo, Rodgers, Rivers... suggests that keeping a QB prospect on ice for 3-4 years isn't so crazy.

11
by underthebus :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 7:05pm

Short answer: No, they shouldn't. What they should do is try and make a run for the Superbowl with their veterans making up the core of the team while still playing at a high level (McNabb, Westy, Dawkins). They should go after an elite receiver, period. Everyone can plainly see that McNabb had his best year with TO and that the Eagles have been missing that key component in all the years fore and aft.

13
by c_f (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 10:58pm

As Harris said, the question of rebuild-vs-run begins with the offensive tackles. Thomas and Runyan have been reliable bookends, but age is starting to show with both of them. Were I an Eagles fan, I'd be a little nervous about the prospect of starting both of them next season.

McNabb and Westbrook are still great, though Dawkins has definitely fallen off, which is sad to see.

14
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:44pm

Everyone can plainly see that McNabb had his best year with TO and that the Eagles have been missing that key component in all the years fore and aft.

Oh, of course. I mean, it had nothing to do with the Eagles being the sole elite team in a conference at its absolute worst combined with a league that experienced a peak in passing performance due to a recent rules change. It was all Owens.

Clearly they should go after an elite receiver. I mean, why not? There are always like 4 or 5 of them on the market, right? Just look at all the elite receivers that will hit the market next year, after all.

20
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:03pm

There is some legitimacy to this claim.
While you belittled the NFC's performance that year, and overstated the focus on passing, the fact remains that when McNabb has a good target, his figures are better. Stallworth was TO light, and McNabb was headed for a great season until his injury that year. His figures with Pinkston and Thrash were very good, but hardly TO worthy. His numbers last year with Curtis were very good as well.
This year, with reliable receivers in Jackson and recently returned Curtis, he's again having a good year.

But having a top tier WR would have made a significant difference. Imagine a Jackson/Fitzgerald combination. Or Jackson/Ocho Cinco, or Jackson/Edwards. Jackson/Curtis is OK...it's a good combination. But it's clearly a step down.

The Eagles showed they recognize this. They tried to get Moss and they tried to get Fitzgerald. You're right - top 5 receivers are not always available. They were lucky Jackson is as good as he is, and is likely to get better.

But they really have ignored this problem for a long time. Reggie Brown? Whatever happened to him? He's kind've on the team, right?
I just don't see Brown, Lewis or Avant stacking up against a TO or Edwards in any kind of meaningful comparison.

A question was once asked of me (and I asked FO to figure out how to quantify this) do good receivers make a QB better or does a good QB make his receivers better?
I basically said they both improve each other.

21
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:21pm

Stallworth was TO light, and McNabb was headed for a great season until his injury that year.

Stallworth was rarely healthy that year. In the games where Stallworth was out, Baskett had better numbers.

Describing Stallworth as TO light is borderline insane, as well. Stallworth is a small, fast receiver. Owens is a much larger, stronger receiver. They're really very different receiving types.

This year, with reliable receivers in Jackson and recently returned Curtis, he's again having a good year.

This is easy - you seem to be making my point. The marginal difference between an elite receiver and the current crop of Eagles receivers is small, and an additional elite receiver would just reduce the amount of time that Jackson and the other young receivers see. By DYAR, Baskett is actually the best receiver on the team this year. Avant's also performing about average (which is a good thing) with increased load, and Jackson's also performing above replacement level with a heavy load.

The Eagles showed they recognize this. They tried to get Moss and they tried to get Fitzgerald.

They also went and got Asante Samuel, and no one thought they needed a corner. When elite players are available, you try to get them, almost regardless of who's on the team. The only exception is at quarterback, and that's because you can only play one of them.

But they really have ignored this problem for a long time. Reggie Brown? Whatever happened to him?

You're not really helping your argument, you know? Brown was a high second round pick. Basically a first-round pick - it's hard to argue that they 'ignored' the problem when they spent such a high draft pick on Brown.

It's a heckuva lot more true to say that the Eagles have struggled finding a top-level receiver for a while. They've been fantastic at finding mid-level ones. It's definitely not true that they've "ignored" the position - not when they acquired Brown in 2005, traded for Stallworth in 2006, got Curtis in 2007, and drafted Jackson in 2008.

23
by underthebus :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 3:56pm

"Oh, of course. I mean, it had nothing to do with the Eagles being the sole elite team in a conference at its absolute worst combined with a league that experienced a peak in passing performance due to a recent rules change. It was all Owens."

I didn't say it was all Owens, did I? And in 2002 and 2003 Philly was still an elite team and the rest of the division was just as bad. So the league's changes in passing rules and overall QB performance accounts for McNabb's jump from a DVOA of 1.4% to 28.9%? That had nothing to do with TO?

You seem to be saying that WR is also a fungible position. I mean can we just not do this? Not every freaking position besides QB is fungible.

Also, I don't know what the snark is all about but the article is asking if McNabb should be dealt due to some fall off in his production. Of course every franchise would love to have an elite receiver and thus they are in short supply, but there were many available through negotiations in the past years. (Roy Williams, Moss, TO, Boldin, Ocho Cinco to name some). My point was that McNabb's seeming fall off is only due to unfair Philly expectations given his receiving core for his whole career (sans TO year). 8 of the 9 QB's in front of McNabb all have at least one great WR. The Eagles have shown an unwillingness to pay for the value of having a great receiver (or even a above average one like Stallworth) and instead have opted to try and develop one through the draft. In many cases the value of an elite receiver is not worth it to a franchise that has plenty of other problems, but in Philly's case it makes sense.

25
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 9:38pm

I didn't say it was all Owens, did I? And in 2002 and 2003 Philly was still an elite team and the rest of the division was just as bad.

First: Westbrook. Plus, Pinkston, Thrash, and Mitchell are genuinely beyond awful. Pinkston and Mitchell are out of football, and Thrash is only around for special teams.

Second: While the rest of the division was bad, the rest of the conference wasn't. Tampa Bay in 2002 was a dominant defense. Carolina in 2003 surged in the playoffs, plus McNabb got injured during the game.

You seem to be saying that WR is also a fungible position.

No, I'm not. Far from it! I'm saying that Philly's current wide receivers are so much better than 2000-2003 that the argument that Philly needs an elite WR is just crazy. What Philly needs is health on the offensive line, a decent receiving tight end, and a quality backup RB. I would say that they need a fullback, too, but that seems to have been taken care of by now.

In fact, I would say that WR's very non-fungible. Which means that getting an elite WR in free agency is impossible - if you do get one, chances are he won't pan out, because the other team let him go for a reason. For every Randy Moss, there's a Deion Branch, Javon Walker, Darrell Jackson, and many more.

Of course every franchise would love to have an elite receiver and thus they are in short supply, but there were many available through negotiations in the past years. (Roy Williams, Moss, TO, Boldin, Ocho Cinco to name some).

Roy Williams: I'm sorry, the idea that Williams is an elite WR is crazy. He's had one 1000 yard receiving season in his career. He's only barely made the top 10 in DYAR once, and his DVOA has never been near the top of the league.

Randy Moss: No one in the league thought he'd be an elite WR again, with the possible exception of the Patriots.

Owens: The guy they did acquire, who ran himself out of town. I'm also not convinced that Owens isn't just as much a problem with the Cowboys as he was with the Eagles. I don't think he's actually worth it - he melts down frequently enough that it's debatable whether he provides a significant positive benefit.

Boldin: is still with the team that drafted him.

Johnson: still has many years left on his contract.

Besides, with regards to Fitzgerald and Moss, the Eagles tried to acquire them. They couldn't. With regards to Johnson, Boldin, and Williams, I'm not convinced that they're either available or even an improvement over the current group.

8 of the 9 QB's in front of McNabb all have at least one great WR.

And how were they obtained?

Brees: Draft.
Warner: Draft and draft.
Manning: Draft and draft.
Cutler: Draft.
Rivers: Draft.
Ryan: Draft.
Manning: Free agency of a non-elite WR.
Pennington: (none)

It certainly looks like the idea that a team can acquire an elite WR is just fantasy. In the top 25 WRs in DYAR this year, here are the WRs who were acquired by their team in free agency/trade:

Kevin Walter (no production before Houston)
Derrick Mason
Antonio Bryant (considered average before current team)
Bernard Berrian (considered average before current team)
Isaac Bruce (waaay old)
Wes Welker (considered average before current team)

It looks to me like the best ways to acquire an elite WR are:
1) Draft.
2) Get an average WR and get lucky.
3) Get an elite WR who hit free agency due to bizarre weirdness and hope it doesn't happen again.

Just about the worst thing the Eagles could do is go after the "best" receiver in free agency when that player's not actually a great receiver. That has a track record of absolute disaster.

15
by Xeynon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:21am

Thomas and Runyan have been reliable bookends, but age is starting to show with both of them. Were I an Eagles fan, I'd be a little nervous about the prospect of starting both of them next season.

Where's the evidence they're declining significantly? I've watched every game this season and I don't see it, and the statistics don't back up that contention either. The team has given up only 20 sacks this season and it's not as if they haven't played against plenty of elite pass rushers (Justin Tuck twice, DeMarcus Ware, James Harrison, John Abraham, etc.) They have kept Smith in to block a bit more this year, but since their pass protection numbers have improved significantly rather than remained level (McNabb was routinely sacked around 40 times a season earlier in his career), I don't think that necessarily indicates a decline. When healthy and actually given the ball, Westbrook and Buckhalter have been running as well as ever, so I don't see any evidence that their run-blocking has gotten worse either.

Granted, they'll need to be replaced eventually (Andrews is likely to replace one of them, provided he stays healthy and maintains his interest in playing football), but I don't see any problem with bringing them both back on short term contracts to take another shot next year. This is what the team did last time their contracts expired simultaneously after the 2006 season, and it worked out fine.

24
by c_f (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 4:02pm

They're not declining significantly, but they just seem "good" as opposed to the "very good" we normally expect of them. But I'll defer to your viewing experience.

I think the deal is that as a Bears fan, I saw Fred Miller fall off a cliff and John Tait lose a step surprisingly quickly. So I see a pair of aging tackles and think about the Bears' 2006 bookends and the 2007 season.

17
by SOBL (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:12pm

I'm surprised no one mentioned his $12 mil salary and how the bonus has been deferred completely now so if they cut him the Iggles would have over 10 mil in cap space to use at other positions. On top fo that fact that this is his first eyar injury free in what feels like ages. If McNabb is above average and Reid thinks he can coach up Kolb next year to average or slightly above average, and the iggles can save $12 mil in cap space in the process, why not trade him and use that pick & money on needs. This website talks about stats in a Moneyball era. Wouldnt a Moneyball frame fo mind think about teh money saved. The McNabb-Reid Iggles remind me of a bad marriage that stays together through the holidays but then has a horrible 6 month patch and repeats this process every year until one day you're at a 20th anniversary party full of awkward smiles and phony toasts.

18
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 1:46pm

Kolb needs one more year. Frankly I think he could use 1 more year in which the "Buddy Ryan Training System (3rd and long insertions)" was in effect. Learning in difficult situations is the best way - and Kolb didn't look terribly bad against the Ravens relative to McNabb. But he HAS looked terribly bad against Pittsburgh and Cleveland. He had picks against both of these teams.

There is no reason to get rid of McNabb, his problems are not endemic to how he plays, but to the system he plays in. That is, Andy Reid's system (whatever you want to call it). I LOVE Andy. He's a great coach, and he's one coach you know is able to put together a good team even after injuries. He's had 2 losing seasons out of 10. Pretty good numbers.
But when the game is on the line, the guy just isn't good at clock management or play calling. Witness 4 losses this year (and how many last year) due to lousy play calls and poor clock management.

I'd be happier to see Andy Reid replaced with Spagnuola and keep McNabb for one more season. Spagnuola would be a terrific replacement - the players know him, he would keep the general West Coast system intact, improve a strong defense, and likely pass play calling off to someone who knows how to do the job.

Sorry Andy, unless you win the Super Bowl this year (I hope you do, but doubt you will), I have to say it's time for you to get sent packing. I'll miss you. You've been great. But you've improved a team tremendously and just haven't gotten it to that next level. You coulda been a contender, Andy.

26
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 9:43pm

Substitute "Tony Dungy" (or Bill Cowher) for "Andy Reid," transplant your rant back in time 3 or 4 years, and you'll see how much sense that argument makes.

You'd have to coach something like a hundred years before you can say clearly whether or not you're above average based on number of Super Bowl wins. Patience, young fan. Patience.

19
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 1:52pm

BTW, McNabb is better than above average. Please note the article says this year he is ABOVE HIS CAREER AVERAGE. That's a top 10 QB throughout his career. Which is to say he is in the top 30% of all NFL QBs throughout his career! That's not a meaningless thing.
Indeed, that is above average - it's way above. If he were just above NFL average, he'd not have lasted this long. Fact is, he's been a top tier QB most of his career.
He's on pace to hit 4,000 yards this year with 6.9 y/a. 6.8 y/a is close to HOF average (generally 7.0).

His TD/int ratio is amazing.
He was the first QB to have 30 TDs and under 10 INTs.
The guy is a stud and any team that wouldn't want him would have to have another HOF caliber player on board.