Monday, November 23, 2009

One Year Ago: McNabb Benched

One year ago today, Andy Reid did something unthinkable. He benched Donovan McNabb.

A week after struggling mightly on the road in Cincinnati, in a game where he turned the ball over four times, McNabb had an awful first half against the Ravens. At halftime, McNabb was only 8-18 for 59 yards and had turned the ball over another three times (two INTs and one fumble). Andy had seen enough and sent out Kevin Kolb to start the second half.

Now Kolb, who had barely seen the field in his young career, was terrible too and the Eagles were blown out 36-7. But that wasn't the point, the point was that Andy Reid for the first time removed McNabb from a game not because of injury or a rout but because of performance.

What the move set off was a wild (short) week of questions. The Eagles were set to play the Cardinals on Thanksgiving night just four days later and Andy Reid had to explain himself quickly. Why the benching in such a big game? Is Kolb the new starter? Did you ever think maybe you should have told him yourself? What is your favorite condiment? (Andy's answers in order: I tried to give the team a spark, McNabb will start against the Cardinals, that's QB coach Pat Shurmur's job, cheese).

McNabb wasn't happy about the benching but played the good soldier role as he always does. And, of course, McNabb played his best game of the year against the Cardinals throwing four touchdown passes. He then got hot and lead the Eagles to a wild card birth and their fifth NFC Championship Game in eight years.

In the end we learned very little from the situation. Reid and McNabb didn't talk about it much after it happened (until the offseason) and many observers pointed to the benching as the turning point in the Eagles season. Trade rumors, rampant immediately following the benching, died when McNabb and the Eagles played so well down the stretch. And poor Kevin Kolb was back to holding a clipboard. Life returned to normal.

But the question still remains, was benching Donovan the right move?

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