Well, that was a fun NFL football season. Now that it's over, I can move on to other important things, like crying softly and removing a tattoo of a green helmet from my buttocks.
Who knows if three years from now Eagles fans won't regard this lost season as a necessary decompression for a team that could no longer handle the pressure of Super Bowl or bust. Now, the Eagles play out the season, maybe finish 8-8 if they're lucky, get a good draft pick, an easier schedule, and build towards another post-season with an already solid foundation.
High on the list of off-season needs are a cornerback (Lito Sheppard is certainly not a lost cause, but he needs to get his head back together after a year in which his confidence was dynamited, so some insurance in the form of a second- or third-round pick would be a wise idea), a defensive end (Jevon Kearse is starting to play well and rookie Trent Cole looks very promising, but another athlete is needed at the position, because N.D. Kalu is mediocre and there's no counting on Jerome McDougle), a wide receiver (Reggie Brown is going to be very good, but an upgrade is needed somehow and someway, either through free agency -- i.e. Reggie Wayne -- or the draft) and a linebacker (the Birds drafted Matt McCoy this year, so he may be ready to push for PT in '06, but someone has to come in and push starting outside linebackers Keith Adams and Dhani Jones, neither of whom is overwhelming athletically).
The most important thing for Andy Reid to do with the remainder of this year is regain control of the Eagles' locker room, which has been split by the Terrell Owens drama and, perhaps, by McNabb's faltering and injury-plagued season. Players like Jeremiah Trotter can ask for Reid to bring back Owens this year, but it'll never happen and they're insane to request it.
First of all, Owens by himself could not have rescued the Eagles, nor could he now, especially given how poorly the defense has played. Second, what kind of a message would that send to Donovan McNabb, who justifiably remains the Eagles' franchise player, for Reid to bring in Owens and solidify the identity of the team around him while McNabb is out for the reason rehabbing an injury? Not a good one. It would be a complete betrayal, and it's something Reid would never do.
Owens is done and next year the Eagles go back out to the field with McNabb as their leader, for better or worse; and as much as I criticize McNabb, he offers far more better than worse. The main problem with the Eagles offense is and will remain Andy Reid, not McNabb, until Reid adjusts his offensive philosophy to play to McNabb's strengths and away from his weaknesses -- that is, run the ball more, for myriad reasons, not the least of which is that it's suicide to run the most radically short pass-oriented offense in the league with one of the league's least accurate short-passing quarterbacks; roll McNabb out more and script more bootleg plays; encourage McNabb to scramble not excessively but regularly, making sure to slide or get out of bounds as often as possible.
The Eagles have the personnel to rebound next year offensively and defensively, provided they make a few modest changes to their roster and shake up their philosophies on both sides of the ball. (Reid's shortcomings as a strategist are well-documented, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's less so -- he telegraphs his blitzes too much. You see them coming a mile away and, too often lately, they don't get to the quarterback.)