McNabb and Bum fastidiously maintaining that unblemished .000 record. McNabb, Reid lose chance at redemption
Champions write their own legacy. Everyone else's gets written for them.
That is the reality for Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, the coach and quarterback who reached five NFC championship games together and will now be remembered mostly for losing four of them and a Super Bowl.
Whether that's fair is beside the point. When the Eagles lost 32-25 to the Arizona Cardinals yesterday, Reid and McNabb lost the chance to write their own redemption story.
"It's a very sudden thing when you lose in the playoffs," Reid said through his soon-to-be-shaved playoff beard. "They all hurt. These are different guys. Every team is different."
McNabb had one more shot to write himself a new one. The Eagles' march to midfield with under 3 minutes left gave them plenty of time to drive for a tying touchdown. Four incompletions from the Arizona 47 ended the season.
McNabb, trying to put the ball over defenders, overthrew Jackson on second down. On third, he was forced to throw quickly as a blitzing defender closed and the ball was behind Hank Baskett.
Fourth-and-10 will linger longest, however.
Kevin Curtis was matched up with former Eagles cornerback Rod Hood. As Curtis cut toward the sideline, he stumbled. McNabb, throwing in rhythm, put the ball right where Curtis should have been. The receiver got his hands up and almost made the catch, but the combination of gravity's tug and the quickness with which the ball was upon him was too much.
Hood may have reached out and tripped Curtis up. It was hard to tell from replays.
"All I know is my man went down," McNabb said.
But Curtis, who deflected a pass that turned into McNabb's only interception, didn't have his legacy on the line. Neither did the other receivers who dropped passes during a futile first-half stretch. Neither did Asante Samuel or Sheldon Brown, who were abused by Cards superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
McNabb did. That explains why he was the last player off the field, walking up the tunnel with a stunned expression. It explains the weariness in his eyes and voice as he answered familiar questions about an all-too-familiar result. When someone asked if this team's late surge meant it was building toward a bright future, McNabb's eyes widened in disbelief.
"I guess I've been building for 10 years," McNabb said, in a tone that made it sound like a very long time.
There's no way to know if McNabb and Reid will ever have another chance. Certainly no one saw this one coming.
"You say 'next time,' but you can't really do that with this," Reid said. "That's not how this works."
Twenty-eight NFL teams are fighting to get to where the Eagles were. Coaches have been fired and hired. Players will be released and drafted and signed. Another spring of minicamps and another hot summer of two-a-days will pass before the opening kickoff of another punishing regular season.
When you consider all that, it really is remarkable that Reid and McNabb have been able to make these five trips to the final four. It has been a superb run by the coach and the quarterback, but that will not be their legacy. Not now.
They lost that chance yesterday.