Rich Hofmann | Just appreciate Garcia for who he is

Discussion in 'NFL Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Dec 22, 2006.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl U.N.I.T.Y Staff Member

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    JEFF GARCIA is the best sports story in town right now and people want to spoil it. 'Tis the season, or something.

    With every game, Garcia's legion grows - the legion that wonders what it might be like if he, and not Donovan McNabb, were to carry the Eagles into the future. The e-mails come now and the people ask you about it on the street, transforming fun into controversy. It is as if we all are genetically incapable of simply enjoying.

    People tell you that they love the way Garcia runs the West Coast offense and that his skill-set is a much better mesh for the offense than McNabb's. (These are the same people who, in previous years, have told you that they hate the West Coast offense, but we'll ignore that in the spirit of charity that should be the hallmark of the season.)

    People also will tell you that Garcia throws a better ball than McNabb, and that he is fiery in the huddle in ways that McNabb is not, and that he is much better at the news-conference podium than McNabb ever was, and that Garcia is clearly the man who should lead the Eagles next season.

    All after four starts.

    It makes your head hurt and it is all so unfortunate, the mass onset of Athletic Alzheimer's.

    To so casually forget all of those playoff games that McNabb has won, to so easily brush aside the fact that McNabb was the best player in the NFL's first 5 weeks this season, really is a sad thing. It is beyond sad.

    But enough of that. To engage in this conversation is to sanction it, so we are done. This is not about anything other than here and now and a football team that has found a way to be fun again.

    When you set your expectations as high as the Eagles have, the push in December has often been accompanied by a kind of grim determination - you know, how it doesn't really matter until January. And then there was last year, when the bottom fell out. And then there was this year, when McNabb tore up his knee in the 10th game of the season, after several disappointing games, and all seemed lost.

    Tough, difficult times. And then this Garcia came along with all of his fiery excellence. And now, out of nowhere, it is fun again. The Eagles are playing the Cowboys on Christmas, playing for the NFC East lead, and it is fun again - and they are being led by a refugee from Cleveland and Detroit and several tough seasons.

    "It's great," Garcia said yesterday. "It's a great position to be in, to have this opportunity to really be challenging for something special at the end of the season having not experienced that in the last 3 years...

    "To be in this position right now, it's just a great feeling. It makes it fun to come to work every single day and to prepare every single week and to just get ready for that next big challenge."

    Watching him and watching this offense in the last few weeks has been fascinating. There has been much talk that coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg finally balanced things up, running more, and this is the result. There is much truth there, but the balancing started before Garcia took over for McNabb in Game 10. It started 2 weeks before that, during the Eagles' bye week.

    Remember: McNabb was struggling some after the super-hot start and the team was struggling overall. As has happened before, Reid reassessed without ever acknowledging the reassessment.

    The key numbers are the first half run/pass ratios - the time in the game when the coach generally calls what he wants to call, before the score and the clock intervene. Before the bye, Reid/Mornhinweg called 70.8 percent pass plays in the first half and 29.2 percent run plays.

    But, as McNabb came down to earth after his great start, and after the losses started happening, the shift came. Immediately, the 70/30 ratio dropped toward 60/40 in the first half - and, again, that was with McNabb still healthy. That's where it has stayed with Garcia - with him starting, 60.3 percent passes in the first half, 39.7 percent runs.

    "I don't know," Garcia said. "There has obviously probably been a change as far as percentages are concerned and maybe that stems from the fact that Donovan has been here for 8 years and there is so much confidence in Donovan, that he can handle anything and everything and he does. He does such a great job on the field in executing this offense and when that all of the sudden was lost, the perspective might have changed a little bit or the focus might have changed a little bit in order to get more people involved in order to have success on this field."

    They started leaning on running back Brian Westbrook to take some of the load off of McNabb. They continued with Garcia. They announced that Mornhinweg was calling the plays. They began to roll, each piece - the quarterbacks and Westbrook - benefiting from the balance.

    And here they are. Enjoy.


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