Paul Domowitch: McCoy's greatness is lost in Eagles' abyss

Posted: December 14, 2011

ONE OF the great shames of this disappointing Eagles season is that it likely is going to waste what could be a record-breaking year by running back LeSean McCoy.

While we've been rubbernecking at the wreck on the other side of the ball, and contemplating the number of losses it might take for Jeff Lurie to pink-slip Andy Reid, and debating the all-inness of DeSean Jackson, and wondering how high the Eagles' turnover total will climb, McCoy has quietly put together one of the finest performances by a running back in franchise history.

With 14 rushing touchdowns and 17 total TDs, he is on the verge of breaking Steven Van Buren's 66-year-old club records in both categories. Van Buren had 15 rushing touchdowns and 18 overall scores in 1945, when the NFL season was just 10 games.

McCoy is first in the league in rushing touchdowns and first in rushing and receiving touchdowns, and with 1,172 rushing yards, he trails league rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew by just 50 yards. If he can beat out Jones-Drew, he will join Van Buren as the only Eagle to ever win the league rushing title. Van Buren did it four times.

He also has a realistic shot at breaking Wilbert Montgomery's 32-year-old club rushing record of 1,512 yards.

"It's been a tough season, and with us still fighting to make the playoffs, I have not had a chance to sit down and think about the things I've done this year," McCoy said after his team improved to 5-8 with Sunday's 26-10 win over the Dolphins.

Unfortunately for McCoy, once the Eagles' remote playoff hopes officially are snuffed out, which could happen this week, not many other people are going to be thinking about the things he's done this year either.

This Eagles season is going to be remembered for what went wrong, not for what went right. For Michael Vick's interceptions and the defense's fourth-quarter collapses and the WTF! promotion of Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator, not for McCoy's rushing heroics and Jason Babin's sacks.

While it no doubt will provide he and Drew Rosenhaus with tremendous leverage in future contract discussions, McCoy's impressive performance this season won't be appreciated nearly as much as it would have if the Eagles had finished 11-5 and made a Super Bowl run instead of a playoff-less 6-10 or 7-9.

It's like hanging a Rembrandt on the bathroom wall at Applebee's or putting the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond on display in a ShopRite deli case.

It will be the second time in 5 years that the Eagles have squandered a great performance by one of their running backs. Did it '07 when Brian Westbrook had the best season of his Eagles career. Finished first in the league in yards from scrimmage (2,104) and third in the league in rushing (1,333). And the Eagles went 8-8 and missed the playoffs for just the second time in 8 years.

Westbrook was 28 going on 29 at the time, which is 64 going on 65 for a running back. His biological clock was ticking. He lasted just two more seasons with the Eagles and another with the 49ers. Went to the playoffs with the Birds in '08 and '09, but never came close to matching the numbers he put up in '07. Missed eight games in '09, including seven with concussions.

For McCoy, who is only 23, there should be other opportunities to put up big numbers in seasons with happier endings than this one likely is going to have. Then again, this is football and his career could be over next Sunday.

If McCoy can beat out Jones-Drew for the league rushing title and the Eagles lose at least one of their three remaining games, he would be just the seventh running back since 1980 to win the rushing crown with a losing team. Twenty-one of the last 31 rushing champs and six of the last eight played for playoff teams.

If McCoy is going to win the league rushing title, his offensive line is going to have to do a better job of blocking for him than it did Sunday when the Dolphins held him to 38 yards on 27 carries. Thirteen of his 27 runs went for zero or negative yards.

"Poor," offensive-line coach Howard Mudd said when asked to describe the play of his unit against the Dolphins.

"We didn't do things well. Too many mistakes. They played uncharacteristic of the way they'd been playing the previous 5-6 weeks. It just wasn't good.

"It's the first time in a while that I've been disappointed in the way they play. We kind of slid backwards Sunday. Most of the mistakes were mental errors. Not blocking the right guy, things like that. Things that haven't been what we've been doing. It wasn't of the quality that I'm used to seeing."

Based on the defenses that the Eagles and Jaguars will be facing in the final 3 weeks of the season, and the fact that Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have this nasty habit of occasionally forgetting that McCoy is on the roster, it would seem unlikely that McCoy is going to catch Jones-Drew. Just one of the Jags' remaining opponents is ranked higher than 20th in the league in run defense (Falcons, fifth). None of the Eagles' final three opponents are ranked lower than 17th.

Moreover, two of McCoy's best rushing performances this season came in wins over the Eagles' final two opponents, the Cowboys and Redskins. He rushed for a season-high 185 yards against the Cowboys in a 34-7 win and rushed for 126 in a 20-13 win over the Redskins.

"We want to get him out in space," Mudd said. "Because he's real exciting when there's green grass. That's our goal."

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