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McCaffery: Owens may be gone, but problems remain

Discussion in 'NFL Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Nov 14, 2005.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Shut up and play! Staff Member

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    PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles were woozy, just 4-and-3 at the time and squirming near the bottom of the NFC East. So they were in need of relief, and quickly. That’s when they grabbed the most convenient salve on the shelf and made Terrell Owens go away.


    He was this, he was that. He said things, but never apologized. He was disruptive, greedy and-or unwilling to conform. He thought Brett Favre was a good quarterback. He gave an assistant coach some lip. His agent was loud.

    He -- that’s him, right there, the one in the Michael Irvin throwback -- was causing all the distress, and the sooner he was gone, the sooner healing would begin, or so seemed the way the Eagles’ interpreted the prescription.

    Owens, yes, was a disruption in the one place where that is prohibited: The locker room. While the details of his behavior remain fuzzy, the reaction of the other players said plenty. Remember when Latrell Sprewell attacked P.J. Carlesimo? Afterward, his teammates backed him, standing beside the so-called Choke Artist, even, at a press conference. Why? Because that was a coach-player dispute. By contrast, Owens -- it has been reported -- was intent on making his issues player-vs.-player and carried them into the clubhouse. And the result was that nary an Eagles teammate rushed to his side.

    So Owens was trouble in the room, as they call it in hockey. On that, there was little dispute. Were there better ways to handle that problem than to take a Hall of Fame wide receiver to the dumpster? Yes. The quarterback -- "the captain of the ship," he has called himself -- should have exhibited better command of the locker room. Other players could have helped, too.

    But Owens was a problem. That’s stipulated. Yet he was not the only Eagles problem, and he was not even the most troubling football problem.

    Owens was not the reason the Eagles do not have a successful running attack. He was not on the offensive line as it crumbled. He was not in the secondary, allowing touchdown passes. He was not stumbling in special-teams coverage. He was not the Drew Rosenhaus client too infrequently sacking the quarterback.

    And Donovan McNabb’s sports hernia was not the result of the quarterback having to lug the T.O. hassle around all the time. Was it?

    The Eagles are a last-place football team. No one player -- not even Terrell Owens -- can take all the credit for that.

    "We need to do a better job of finishing fast and a little bit stronger," Andy Reid said. "We need to improve on third downs on both sides of the football. We need to pick our numbers up on the offensive side."

    That is the immediate issue, then, as the Eagles prepare to play the Dallas Cowboys tonight at the Linc: They must execute better, with or without an All-Pro wide receiver.

    "This is not a ‘Let’s dump all on Terrell’ bashing session," said Brian Dawkins, still the Eagles’ best player, still the Eagles’ true leader. "A lot of this stuff we can do better. We can make more plays defensively. We have to get off the field and that has nothing to do with what is going on there. We have to make plays and tackle better. That is something that we control and will control. We have to play better and we have to do the things we need to do as a team in order to get us back to where we need to be and making this push."

    Ah ..but can they?

    That’s the haunting issue that must not be buried beneath the Owens dismissal: Are the post-Owens Eagles still talented enough to compete for that elusive Super Bowl championship?

    For now, there is one piece of evidence. That would be the 17-10 loss in Washington, where the Eagles did not score a touchdown after the first quarter. One game, though, does not reveal all. The Eagles had chances to win at FedEx Field, but didn’t, and that happens. Nor would a victory tonight immediately re-boot the Eagles’ situation, not considering that Dallas will be playing a rivalry game, on the road, on a Monday night, in a revenge situation, in the second meeting of division teams in the same season.

    No, the Eagles and their true problems -- or their true glory --will be revealed where they always are in pro sports: In their final record. Right now, they are a .500 team for a reason, and that reason is not because Terrell Owens was a miserable employee.

    They are a .500 team because they have wasted too many No. 1 draft choices. They are a .500 team because their quarterback is sore. They are a .500 team because they never invest in running backs, or even in a quality fullback. They are a .500 team because they passively allowed their defensive line to sink, permitting both Derrick Burgess and Corey Simon to leave despite their important contributions as starters for a Super Bowl team.

    Will all of that be trucked away in the back of the luxury sports vehicle that Owens was reported to have parked in some inconvenient locations at the NovaCare Complex?

    "I think you’ll definitely see a different team, and like I said after the Washington game, you’ve definitely seen a different team," McNabb said. "It’s unfortunate that we lost the game, but it’s a learning experience. Everything that we do in life is a learning experience and hopefully we can use that to boost our energy, to boost ourselves this week and be prepared to come out Monday Night and have a great showing."

    Now, still, the Eagles need that kind of relief.

    To contact Jack McCaffery, e-mail sports@delcotimes.com.
    http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=15572644&BRD=1675&PAG=461&dept_id=18170&rfi=6

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