Why Garcia Got The Nod

The Eagles knew during the off-season that they needed an upgrade at the backup quarterback position and they brought in Jeff Garcia as to fill that need. This week, it took Andy Reid a couple of days, but he gave Garcia a ringing endorsement to take over the Eagles offense.

The decision as to who to start at quarterback Sunday against the once-beaten Indianapolis Colts turned out to be no decision at all for coach Andy Reid. He signed veteran Jeff Garcia in March so that he'd have a proven backup to turn to if anything happened to Donovan McNabb. And he intends to stay with that plan.

Garcia replaced McNabb early in the second quarter of last week's 31-13 loss to Tennessee after McNabb tore his right ACL. But when Reid didn't immediately announce after the game or even the next day that Garcia would start against the Colts, it appeared that he might be leaning toward his third quarterback, A.J. Feeley.

But Reid said Wednesday that wasn't the case.

"I brought Jeff in here for this situation," the Eagles coach said. "For this reason right here. I feel very good about his ability. He's the best one for the job right now. He has great experience in this league and he knows the system."

The 36-year-old Garcia went to three straight Pro Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers in 2001-03. He spent the last two seasons in Cleveland and Detroit, starting 10 games for the Browns and five for the Lions, before signing with the Eagles in March to back up McNabb.

Garcia's numbers last week weren't all that impressive. He completed 26 of 48 passes for just 189 yards against the Titans. That's a puny 3.9 yards per attempt. But he moved the offense, which was something McNabb hadn't been able to do before he got hurt.

He guided the Eagles into Tennessee territory on five of nine possessions. Four of those drives went for 47 or more yards. Two went for scores, including a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end L.J. Smith.

"I was a little more cautious with the football than I probably needed to be," said Garcia, who has thrown 127 career touchdowns to just 71 interceptions. "I didn't want to get caught with the football, caught in a bad situation."

"Part of the problem last week was they went into a prevent (defense) pretty early. They dropped seven or eight guys back. They weren't going to give up anything deep. We had some good drives, but we didn't finish those drives like we needed to."

Reid thinks Garcia will be much more effective this week with a full week of practice and the coaching staff able to game plan around his strengths. Garcia is much more effective outside the pocket, where he can take advantage of his mobility and throw-on-the-run accuracy, which is better than McNabb's. Last week against Tennessee, he didn't leave the pocket much.

"Being able to get out there and practice and get into a rhythm with the receivers and give the offensive line a chance to get a feel for me will help a lot," Garcia said. "I need to be good with the football. I need to protect the football. I need to be good on first down. That's going to be a key in this game."

The Eagles will go with just two quarterbacks for now - Garcia and Feeley. They signed a third quarterback, Omar Jacobs, to their practice squad.

Four years ago, during his first tour of duty with the Eagles, Feeley stepped in late in the season after McNabb and backup Koy Detmer both got hurt. He guided the Eagles to four wins and five starts and helped them earn the NFC home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Feeley has a stronger arm than Garcia, but is more interception-prone, which is something the Eagles and their struggling defense can't afford right now.

"We need to find a way to come together as a team," Garcia said. "This is going to be a game where every play counts."

Reid said this will not be a week-to-week thing. He said Garcia is the starting quarterback. Period. "He's the quarterback," he said. "It's not a short leash (he's on). That's not what it is. He's very a very successful quarterback in this league."


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