John Smallwood | Maybe the Birds simply need better players

Posted: November 09, 2007

IT COMES AS no surprise that Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg takes full responsibility for the Birds' failure to score points.

The Buck Stops Here principle is standard procedure for Eagles coaches.

So when pressed about

quarterback Donovan

McNabb's comment that he was "definitely not the whole reason why" the Eagles are sputtering with a 3-5 record, Mornhinweg did not bite.

"I'm not going to comment on other people's comments," Mornhinweg said. "I haven't seen them. The offense is my responsibility, period. It starts with me."

But the process ends with the players on the field, and somewhere between Mornhinweg's

vision of what should happen and the players' execution, something has gone terribly wrong.

Earlier in the season, the

Eagles kept saying they were only a hair away from things clicking in stride.

Now, it's the halfway point, and instead of getting things right, that hair-thin line has grown to be the size of the Afro Julius Erving sported back in the day.

After a modest step forward in a 23-16 win against Minnesota, the Eagles' offense went right back into the nest in Sunday's 38-17 whipping at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys.

The offense is still disjointed; McNabb still looks disheveled, and the end zone still looks like the forbidden zone.

Training camp, four preseason games and eight regular-season games should have been enough time to come up with answers if any were to be found.

Yet, except for that 56-point

aberration against the Detroit

Lions in Week 3, this offense has been nothing like the high-scoring, dynamic unit everyone

predicted.

"In many of the important

statistics, we're just under or as good or even better than we have been last year or in 2004," Mornhinweg said. "The two problems that we've had are down in the red zone and sacks.

"Those have been our two problems. If you look at simply moving the ball, I think we're doing a reasonably good job there. Third downs, a reasonably good job. Yards per pass attempt, a reasonably good job."

In a classic case of statistics not telling the whole story, the Birds actually rank ninth in the NFL in total offense with 349.6 yards a game.

But in the infinitely more important category of scoring offense, the Eagles ranked 20th (19.5 points per game) - a level indicative of a team with a losing record.

"Normally, if you're good, you'll score points," Mornhinweg conceded. "If not, you're going to have trouble scoring points."

So simple, yet so true.

The Eagles can't score points and are a bad team.

Trying to figure out why this has happened is what has everyone walking on eggshells around the NovaCare Complex.

While not naming anyone specifically, McNabb's comments

on Wednesday were clearly a

reaction to the inordinate amount of criticism that all quarterbacks get when things aren't going well offensively.

The Eagles have worked on this over and over, yet still haven't been able to get things right.

The answer isn't complicated - the Eagles either have a game plan that doesn't work or players who aren't good enough to

execute it; or, it's a combination of both.

The troublesome point comes in trying to determine which is the greater issue.

"I don't think the philosophy is the problem," Mornhinweg said. "In the last two games, we're 4-for-8 [on touchdowns] in the red zone.

"You need to be 5-for-8 to be

really good. I think we've made some strides in that. We need more points. We need to be a

little bit more consistent."

If the philosophy is good, then it comes down to the players not executing.

"Yes, that's right," Mornhinweg said when asked whether the struggles are a matter of

execution. "Then, I've got to put the guys in positions to have

success.

"If they're in positions that we thought going in was a good spot, and we don't get it done, then we've got to do something else or put other players in some of those positions."

Ding, ding, ding, dinggggg! I think we finally have a breakthrough.

It has taken half the season

for the Eagles to find the answer that was there from the start. They don't have enough good players to make enough good plays. *

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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