Eagles QB Feeley not feeling backed up to wall vs. Pats

OTHER VOICES

November 24, 2007|By John Smallwood | John Smallwood,Philadelphia Daily News

PHILADELPHIA -- It's all a matter of perspective. What most of us would view as a lamb

being sent to slaughter, A.J. Feeley would have to consider a prime opportunity. If the Eagles determine that quarterback Donovan McNabb and his sore ankle, thumb or both are not in good enough shape to face the 10-0 New England Patriots on Sunday night - McNabb was listed as doubtful after missing his third straight practice yesterday - Feeley will be ready, he says.

"You're not intimidated by anybody in the NFL," Feeley said of the prospect of facing the league's only undefeated team.

"You respect them, but for us, it's another game to try to continue our winning streak."

But don't think that if Feeley starts, it will be a catalyst for "The Legend of A.J. Part II."

This isn't like 2002, when McNabb was out with a broken leg and backup Koy Detmer went down with a dislocated elbow.

Feeley started the final five games of that season and led the Eagles to a 4-1 finish before handing the reins back to McNabb for the playoffs.

If Feeley starts against the Patriots, it is likely to be for one game.

Lose, draw or win, (yes, that was listed in order of most likely outcomes), Feeley probably will return to the role of backup Dec. 2 when the Eagles play the Seattle Seahawks at Lincoln Financial Field.

Though McNabb did not practice this week, coach Andy Reid has not ruled him out as the starter Sunday night.

"If [McNabb] can get out there and play at a high level, then he plays," Reid said.

Reid has to desperately hope that McNabb responds well to treatment and is able to go against New England.

The issue is open to debate, but McNabb, even in this season of turmoil, gives the Eagles their best chance of pulling a stunning upset - a little chance rather than a minuscule chance. Beyond that, however, is the potential for the king-size headache Reid could get from playing Feeley.

Viewing this only from the angle of brewing controversy, little good can come from starting Feeley.

If the most likely thing occurs and Feeley's performance is fair to middling in a blowout loss, Reid would turn to McNabb and ask him to win four, probably five games down the stretch and try to get the Eagles into the playoffs.

Considering that McNabb's most recent appearance resulted in two interceptions and a 0.4 passer rating before he got hurt against the winless Miami Dolphins, there would be little belief that he can do it, especially against three teams (Seattle, the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants) that probably will make the playoffs and two others (the New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills) that will be fighting for their playoff lives.

The calls to forget about now and get rookie Kevin Kolb some experience with an eye on the future will get louder.

Let's say the Eagles lose but Feeley manages the game efficiently and makes a few good things happen.

Despite an excusable shaky beginning against Miami, Feeley completed 13 of 19 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. He led all three scoring drives in the Eagles' 17-7 win.

Considering McNabb's season-long inconsistency, it would be much harder to sell the argument that McNabb gives the Eagles their best chance if Feeley performs well against New England, which has been smashing opponents on a historic level.

Then we'd be talking about a full-fledged quarterback controversy.

The legend of Feeley's 4-1 finish in 2002 would grow as McNabb detractors cried for a change. During a week when they would want to concentrate fully on Seattle and reviving their playoff chances, the Eagles would be bombarded with questions about Reid's quarterback decision.

And what if Feeley, who led Miami to a 29-28 upset of the reigning Super Bowl champion Patriots in 2004, navigates the Eagles to a shocking victory?

With his team on a two-game winning streak under Feeley, would Reid stay committed to his policy that a starter can't lose his job to injury?

If Feeley is 2-0, how could you not stay with him for one more game to see whether he could push it to 3-0, particularly if the guy you'd go back to was 4-5 and struggling? Now that would be something to see - the Eagles' dream achievement turning into a nightmare.

John Smallwood writes for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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