Marty Mornhinweg is 0-for-2.
The Eagles' assistant head coach is the guy who convinced Andy Reid to bring in wide receiver Terrell Owens last year. Mornhinweg had coached Owens in San Francisco and told Reid he could keep Owens under control.
Then Mornhinweg recommended former Detroit Lions quarterback Mike McMahon as a backup possibility to starter Donovan McNabb. Mornhinweg had coached McMahon in Detroit and convinced Reid he could be a serviceable starter if anything ever happened to McNabb.
McMahon replaced McNabb nearly two months ago after the five-time Pro Bowler had to shut it down because of a painful sports hernia. McMahon's six starts hardly have been the stuff legends are made of.
McMahon, who will make start No. 7 Sunday when the 6-9 Eagles host the red-hot Washington Redskins, has managed to completed 50 percent of his passes in just one of his six starts. He's got an awful 50.0 passer rating. He's thrown just three touchdown passes, which is the same number of McMahon interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns.
Reid had hoped the mobile McMahon could keep the Eagles in the playoff hunt when he replaced McNabb. But they've won just two of his six starts, beating the 3-12 Green Bay Packers (19-14) and the 5-10 St. Louis Rams (17-16).
McMahon got the starting nod over career backup Koy Detmer, mainly, Reid said, because of his mobility. But while he has been occasionally been able to run from trouble and even pick up a first down here and there, he hasn't gotten the job done as a passer, though Reid insists McMahon's poor passing numbers aren't all his fault.
"Some are and some aren't," he said. "He's done some good things, and there've been some things he could have done better. That's the way it's been for all of us, including me."
Last year, the Eagles had the perfect backup for McNabb - veteran Jeff Blake, who had started 100 NFL games and thrown more than 3,000 NFL passes. But they let him go after the season and took Mornhinweg's suggestion and signed McMahon, thinking he'd be the perfect long-term backup to McNabb.
Which means along with everything else the Eagles have to shop for in the off-season, they've also got to look around for another quarterback who could help keep them afloat if McNabb goes down with another serious injury.
"It's tough," McMahon said. "I'm in the same situation as a lot of these guys. We're all trying to fight together."SERIES HISTORY: 142nd meeting. The Redskins lead the series 74-62-5. The Eagles had beaten the 'Skins seven consecutive times dating back to the '01 season before losing in Washington in early November, 17-10.
Quotes and Notes
--The Eagles have racked up more than 100 yards in penalties in each of their last three games and have been flagged for 90 or more penalty yards in five of their last seven games, much to the chagrin of head coach Andy Reid. Last season, on their way to the Super Bowl, the Eagles had just one 100-yard penalty game and two 90-yard games. "Some are a lack of concentration, like offsides and illegal procedure," Reid said. "Those are a lack of concentration. Some others have been the result of aggressive play. The aggressive penalties I can live with, but the concentration ones have to stop. There's no excuse for them."
Four of the Eagles' 10 penalties in Saturday's 27-21 loss to the Cardinals were false starts. Noise hardly was a contributing factor in quiet Sun Devil Stadium. Reid's offensive line, which is missing its season-opening starting center (Hank Fraley) and left tackle (Tra Thomas), has been guilty of many of the "concentration" penalties. Second-year right guard Shawn Andrews had two false-start penalties against the Cardinals. In the past five games, the Eagles' offensive line has committed 22 penalties.
--In the Eagles' first 14 games, they managed just four kickoff returns of 30 or more yards. On Saturday, they replaced Rod Hood with Bruce Perry, who was signed off the club's practice squad earlier in the week. In his first NFL game, Perry, a seventh-round draft pick in 2004, averaged 31.7 yards per return on six kicks, including a game-opening 49-yarder. "He did some good things out there," Reid said. "He was very decisive. He saw the hole and took it right up there."
Perry will get another chance to return kickoffs Sunday against Washington.
--Quarterback Mike McMahon on his starting stint with the Eagles the last six weeks: "It's been rough. Things don't always go the way you want them to go, and it's not always the ideal situation you would like to be in. But you are out there, you're fighting, you want to play and you want to be successful. It's frustrating when you don't get the outcome you want. But it's part of the game. You just keep fighting."
--Right tackle Jon Runyan will start his 143rd straight regular-season game Sunday. Runyan is listed as questionable with a knee and quad contusion and probably won't practice much this week. But no one doubts that he'll be in the lineup against the Redskins. The 32-year-old Runyan has had one of his better seasons. He'll be an unrestricted free agent after the season, but there's a pretty good chance he'll end up re-signing with the Eagles. He wants to stay in the Philadelphia area, and the Eagles need his experience and leadership on their young line.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6 - Sacks from the Eagles' defensive tackle position, with one game remaining. Last year, the DTs had 16.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no way in the world I ever would have thought we would be in this position that we are in right now." - Eagles free safety Brian Dawkins on the Eagles' season.
Bruce Perry, who was signed off the practice squad last week, did an outstanding job returning kickoffs against Arizona. He averaged 31.7 yards per return. In the first 14 games, the Eagles only had four kickoff returns of 30-plus yards. He'll handle the kickoff return duties again Sunday and also will get some carries, particularly if injured Reno Mahe can't play.
--DE Jevon Kearse, who sprained his knee Saturday in the loss to Arizona, is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against Washington. He didn't practice Wednesday.
--RB Reno Mahe, who leads the NFC in punt returns, is listed as questionable for Sunday's game with a calf strain. He didn't practice Wednesday. If he can't play, Dexter Wynn will return punts.
--WR Darnerian McCants didn't practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against Washington. McCants suffered an AC shoulder sprain last week. He is the team's No. 4 receiver.
--RT Jon Runyan didn't practice Wednesday because of continuing problems with his knee and quad. He's listed as questionable for Sunday's game, but he is expected to play.
--QB Mike McMahon practiced Wednesday despite rib and knee injuries. He is listed as probable for the Washington game and is expected to start.
GAME PLAN: The Eagles struggled badly against the Arizona blitz last week. The Redskins almost certainly will do the same this week unless the Eagles can get their ground game going early on and force them to back off. Andy Reid has tried every week to get quarterback Mike McMahon off to a fast start, but to no avail. They'll try again this week against one of the league's best pass defenses.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Eagles MLB Jeremiah Trotter vs. Redskins RB Clinton Portis. Trotter is the key to the Eagles' run defense. Portis has four straight 100-yard games.
--Eagles CB Rod Hood vs. Redskins WR Santana Moss. Hood has played well since replacing injured Lito Sheppard, but Moss is coming off a three-touchdown game.
--Eagles RG Shawn Andrews vs. Redskins LDT Cornelius Griffin. Griffin is the Redskins' best defensive lineman and needs to be neutralized if the Eagles are going to do anything offensively.
INJURY IMPACT: PR/RB Reno Mahe is questionable for Sunday's game with a calf injury. Mahe leads the NFC in punt returns. If he can't play, Dexter Wynn will handle punts. ... If LDE Jevon Kearse is unable to play Sunday, N.D. Kalu likely would start in his place. Kearse is questionable with a knee sprain.
New York Giants
The ongoing discussion involving strongside linebacker Carlos Emmons and the Giants has taken a new turn.
On Tuesday, the Giants placed the 10-year veteran on injured reserve with a sprained pectoral muscle. The move disqualified him not only from Saturday night's season finale against Oakland but also from any playoff appearances, and he vented his anger and displeasure to the media.
He claimed, among other things, that the Giants didn't tell him he was going to be placed on IR until Tuesday morning, but that "the new guy," who turned out to be seven-year veteran Jay Foreman, had been flown in the day before and was already in meetings.
Emmons said that his injury was healing, that while he probably couldn't play against Oakland, he would be able to answer the bell for the first playoff game the next weekend. He also said that he rushed back from the same injury earlier in the season "for the reason that the team needed me," and that there was a risk then of tearing the muscle and requiring surgery.
"They let me play," he said, "and if there was a risk then that they shrugged off, why is the risk so important now?"
Sources close to the team indicated that the decision was made for two viable reasons.
Emmons, in the estimation of the coaches, had not been playing particularly well, and with the injury still a factor, he was an iffy proposition.
Also, the injury could result in a tear on any play, and if that occurred, the Giants would be minus one roster spot since changes cannot be made in the postseason.
So they decided that it was better to bring in a healthy linebacker than to take a chance on losing one for the playoffs who hadn't been playing that well anyway.
It makes sense, and at the same time it indicates the cold-blooded nature of the big business that is the NFL.
At this point, since Emmons criticized the team in public and impugned coach Tom Coughlin (which is never allowed), it was also suggested that his return next season might be questionable at best.
Yet another suspicion, not voiced by any team official or player, is that this was payback for the morning of Dec. 15, when the Giants were to play Kansas City, when Emmons walked into the locker room at 10 a.m., saying his pectoral muscle had been re-injured in practice during the week and that he did not feel comfortable playing that day.
No comment or response was received from anyone in charge, of course, but it is just another indication of an apparently growing unrest among the team's players and the harsh methods employed by Coughlin and the front office.
There has as yet been no comment on a rumor that wide receiver Plaxico Burress, when summoned to gather with the rest of the team by Coughlin, stayed by his locker in the rear of the clubhouse and responded: "I can hear you fine from here."
SERIES HISTORY: The Giants and the Raiders have met only nine previous times, with Oakland holding a 7-2 lead. Oakland has won the last four games. The Giants only victories were back-to-back in 1986 and 1989. The last meeting was a 28-10 Raiders victory in Giants Stadium in 2001.
Quotes and Notes
--Linebacker Jay Foreman (6-foot-2, 247 pounds) was signed as a free agent and will see action either from scrimmage or with the special teams. He is the son of former Minnesota Viking Pro Bowl running back Chuck Foreman. He was assigned the locker once used by Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, and a bronze plaque over the nameplate attests to that. "Pretty good company, isn't it?" he grinned.
--Defensive end Osi Umenyiora on the Giants' road record: "We have struggled every time we've gone on the road, and I don't know what the reason could be. This is our chance to get rid of it for good and just blow them out."
--Rookie Corey Webster is going to start at right cornerback in place of Curtis Deloatch. When asked if this was because Webster has been playing well in a substitute's role or if it had more to do with the fact that Deloatch was struggling, coach Tom Coughlin had a one-word answer: "Both."
--Quarterback Eli Manning on his current performance level: "I am not satisfied with the way I've been playing. Nobody would be. So we have to go out to Oakland and get a win, and I have to play well. My goal is to improve each week and get a win. And no, just making the playoffs is not satisfying. We need to win the division, and winning Saturday will do it."
--Left defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy was a college roommate and teammate of Oakland defensive end Derrick Burgess when both attended the University of Mississippi. "Yeah, we're good friends," he said, smiling. "We talk to each other all the time. I called him last night (Tuesday) and we trash-talked to each other."
--Right defensive tackle William Joseph, who should be able to play after three weeks out with a sprained ankle, is looking forward to the action. "Besides, they (the Raiders) don't have anybody on their team from (the University of) Miami," he said. "So how good can they be?"
--Left defensive end Michael Strahan isn't satisfied yet. "We're in the playoffs, but our goal was to win the division," he said. "We can do that if we beat Oakland on Saturday. We need to move into the playoffs on a winning note."
BY THE NUMBERS: There are nine possibilities (out of 29) that would make the Giants the third seed in the playoffs and thus the host team against the sixth seed (the lesser of the two wild-card entrants). Seven involve a Giants victory over Oakland and two involve a tie between the Giants and Carolina. The Giants hold an insurmountable 10-game lead in strength of schedule, the tiebreaker that would make the Giants the third seed.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Does it feel good? No, man, it's an empty feeling. Thank God for this chance to make it right." - Giants defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy on how he feels about "backing into" a wild-card spot rather than winning the NFC East last week, when the team lost to Washington.
There will be roster changes aplenty on defense, but coach Tom Coughlin isn't sharing any of that with the public. He has, however, admitted that rookie Corey Webster will start for Curtis Deloatch at right cornerback.
Other changes are expected to be made among the starting linebackers, and even WLB Nick Greisen isn't guaranteed of staying there. He may move to middle linebacker, where both Antonio Pierce and second-teamer Chase Blackburn are out due to injury. That would put Roman Phifer or Jay Foreman at the strong side, with Reggie Torbor the likely starter on the weak side. Rookie Eric Moore and Justin Tuck are also possibilities.
Offensively, the Giants should get RT Kareem McKenzie back after three weeks, putting the offensive line at full strength for the first time during that period. LT Luke Petitgout returned last week, allowing David Diehl to go back to his left guard spot.
--TE Jeremy Shockey did not practice Wednesday (sprained ankle) but is considered a likely starter. He suffered the sprain last week against Washington.
--LCB Will Allen, who has not played well lately and who allowed Redskins' WR Santana Moss to get loose for two long TD catches last week, is the starter for now, but rumors persist that when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March, the Giants will make only a cursory attempt to re-sign him.
--QB Eli Manning, whose arrival via the draft-day trade with San Diego in 2004 led to the angry demand for a release by QB Kerry Collins, now with the Raiders, says he doesn't really know Collins and has no ill will. "I think he is a very talented player," he said. "He took the Giants to the Super Bowl (2000 season), and I have met him once, as he got off the bus when the Raiders came here (Giants Stadium) to play the Jets. I walked up and shook his hand."
--LB Jay Foreman becomes the third player on the Giants' roster whose father also played in the NFL. He is the son of Minnesota great RB Chuck Foreman; sub QB Tim Hasselbeck is the son of former TE Don Hasselbeck; and LB Barrett Green, currently on injured reserve, is the son of former Giants SS Joe Green.
--RG Chris Snee was exonerated from the holding penalty that cost the Giants a touchdown last week against Washington (it negated a Manning to WR Amani Toomer pass), by none other than his father-in-law (Giants coach Tom Coughlin). "The guy tried a spin move on Chris," Coughlin said. "He slipped and Chris just threw him to the ground. Officials have to learn that when they see a guy on the ground, it isn't always because he was held."
GAME PLAN: The Giants will attempt to get RB Tiki Barber loose against an Oakland defense that ranks 25th in the NFL against the rush. To do this, they'll need to neutralize the middle of the Raiders defense, DTs Ted Washington and Tommy Kelly and MLB Danny Clark. If that works, and if the support corps has to move up to help, then QB Eli Manning can begin throwing passes, many of them to be directed at rookie LCB Fabian Washington. The Raiders will attempt to run the ball, but without RB LaMont Jordan (sprained big toe) that isn't a positive option. QB Kerry Collins has a weapon in WR Randy Moss, and he'll try to isolate him against rookie RCB Corey Webster.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Giants LDE Michael Strahan gets the blue-ribbon matchup, going against huge Oakland RT Robert Gallery (6-foot-7, 325 pounds), the second player drafted in 2004 (just after Eli Manning). Gallery is less quick than big, but quicker than most for his size. Strahan, whose weight is down to 255-260 pounds, is exceptionally fast off the snap and wily after 13 years in the league.
--Giants RCB Corey Webster, a second round draft pick this year, will have to find a way to contend with Oakland WR Randy Moss and/or Jerry Porter, two of the NFL's best. Each has 70 receptions for a combined 1,429 yards and seven TDs. But without a running game (if RB LaMont Jordan is out due to a sprained big toe) the Giants defense can afford to double-team and play zone formations all game.
Frankly, it's anybody's guess who the Giants' three linebackers will be and where they'll line up. All coach Tom Coughlin will say is that "we have to make some defensive adjustments" in light of the missing players. That list includes SLB Carlos Emmons, MLB Antonio Pierce, MLB Chase Blackburn and possibly SLB Reggie Torbor.
The Cowboys (9-6) are bracing for the possibility of winning 10 games and staying at home for the playoffs.
If they don't get any help - i.e. a Washington or Carolina loss - that is what they face going into their Sunday night matchup against the Rams.
If anyone had told the Cowboys before the season that they would have won 10 games, they all would have assumed they'd make the playoffs.
"Every year it's proven that 10 wins gets you in," tight end Dan Campbell said. "This would be the first time since 1991. That's tough to think about. But right now we are the odd man out. But our goal was to win the division. If things don't work out, you want to get in as a wild card. That is what we are hoping for. We just want in and see what happens from there."
The Cowboys are at this point because of a tough NFC and because of a season in which five of their six losses have been by seven points or less.
Consequently, Campbell said the Cowboys have no one but themselves to blame, recalling especially last-minute losses to the Redskins and Seahawks.
"We had a chance to do something about it," Campbell said.
That's safety Roy Williams' point of view as well.
Although the Cowboys need the Eagles to beat the Redskins or the Falcons to beat the Panthers to have a chance, he said he would not allow himself to be fan of another team.
He will do his best to help the Cowboys beat the Rams and accept whatever fate comes to them.
"I feel if we would have took care of business in the close games we had and some other games, we wouldn't have to worry about who wins or loses," Williams said. "We can't put faith on somebody else or another team. We should have taken care of it. I honestly feel if it was meant to be it's meant to be. I am not about to get excited about another team winning or losing."SERIES HISTORY: 27th meeting. The series is tied 13-13. Dallas won the last meeting in 2002. The Rams have won the last three meetings in Dallas.
Quotes and Notes
--Coach Bill Parcells has said he has not decided whether he will be back for a fourth season in 2006.
He will make that decision after Sunday's season finale if the Cowboys don't make the playoffs. Parcells is 25-23 in three years with the Cowboys. Although they have yet to win the Super Bowl, which was the stated goal, or even win a playoff game, the organization is better than it was before he arrived. The Cowboys are already guaranteed their second winning season in his three years. The Cowboys were 5-11 in each of the three years prior to his arrival. The franchise is set for the future with more talent and more disciplined players than before he arrived.
--There is a good chance the Cowboys will finish 10-6 and not make the playoffs. Since 1990, only three teams have won at least 10 games and not made the NFL playoffs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
2003: Miami - Denver (10-6) finished ahead of Miami (10-6) based on a better conference record (9-3 to 7-5).
1991: San Francisco - Atlanta (10-6) finished ahead of San Francisco (10-6) based on a head-to-head sweep.
1991: Philadelphia - Atlanta (10-6) finished ahead of Philadelphia (10-6) based on a better conference record (7-5 to 6-6).
--QB Drew Bledsoe pledged before the season to donate $2,500 to the Salvation Army for every touchdown pass he threw in 2005. He has 22 so far. On Wednesday he presented a check for $55,000 to the Salvation Army.
--DE DeMarcus Ware was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Week for his play in the 24-20 road win over the Carolina Panthers on Saturday in Charlotte. Ware wreaked havoc on the Panthers' offense throughout the day, totaling three sacks, the most by a Cowboys' rookie in a single game since the sack stat was instituted in 1982. The Auburn, Ala. native also forced three fumbles, the most by a Dallas defender since the team began keeping single-game defensive statistics in 1984. Ware's first sack and forced fumble led to a Carolina punt, his second sack and forced fumble resulted in a Dallas field-goal attempt on the ensuing possession and his final sack and forced fumble on the day also resulted in a Panthers' punt. Ware posted his season-high with eight tackles on the day, and with seven sacks in 2005, he ties for second-most among NFL rookies. A first-round pick from Troy, this is Ware's first Player of the Week award. He was previously honored as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for October.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Safeties Keith Davis and Willie Pile have shared the free safety job next to strong safety Roy Williams. Neither has made coach Bill Parcells rest easy.
"We have been a little inconsistent," Parcells said. "That position is concerning to me. Not just right now. We have to do something to create stability."
--QB Drew Bledsoe has increased his base salary next season from $500,000 to $5 million because of contract incentives, namely throwing 22 touchdown passes. He only needed to surpass last season's total of 20 in Buffalo to reach the incentive.
--WR Terry Glenn has already earned $225,000 in bonuses. He got $150,000 for gaining over 1,000 yards in receiving. He got $75,000 for notching at least 60 catches. Glenn has 60 catches for 1,092 yards.
--DE Greg Ellis is watching $250,000 go out the window. His contract calls for a $250,000 bonus for 10 sacks or more. Ellis had eight sacks through 11 games but has none over the last four games as his playing time has suddenly diminished.
--S Roy Williams is second on the team with 81 tackles. Linebacker Bradie James leads the way with 104. Williams, who has made the Pro Bowl the last three years, now has 80 or more tackles in each of his first four seasons. Williams is listed as probable for the Rams game with an ankle injury, but Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said he has little worry about Williams being ready to play.
Game Plan: With Julius Jones running well again, the Cowboys will ride the ball-control ground game against the Rams. The flip side of that is they need to keep the ball away from the explosive Rams offense. Defensively, preventing big plays is a must.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Rams WR Torry Holt vs. Cowboys secondary. Holt has 98 catches for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns. His numbers have come from three quarterbacks: Marc Bulger, Jamie Martin and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The bottom line is Holt makes plays and he will be a challenge for a banged-up Cowboys secondary, where safety Roy Williams and cornerbacks Aaron Glenn and Anthony Henry are hobbling. Inexperience at safety also has the Cowboys concerned about being beat over the top. And unlike last week, when the Cowboys double-covered Steve Smith of the Panthers, the Rams have too many other weapons to use the same strategy against Holt.
Cowboys RB Julius Jones vs. Rams run defense. The Rams give up 141 yards per game. No team in the league is worse against the run. Now that Julius Jones has his juice back, following last week's 194-yard performance, he will be tough to stop. He is running with quickness and confidence. He could easily go for 150 against the Rams.
INJURY IMPACT: CB Anthony Henry (abdominal strain) practiced on Wednesday and is expected to play against the Rams, although he was expected to play last week after practicing Wednesday before declaring himself unfit on Thursday.
G Marco Rivera (neck) remains limited. He is listed as questionable for Sunday night's game against the Rams. If he can't go, look for Andre Gurode to start for the second straight week.