Should Brian Westbrook be Finished as an Eagle?

Okay so this is the post I’ve been alluding to since yesterday.  I firmly believe that when Westbrook plays Andy Reid’s offensive philosophy completely changes.  What worked during the 6 game winning streak were simple runs with Shady & The Weave either up the gut or off tackle.  The Eagles averaged over 100 yards rushing in each game during the streak and the offense was successful because of its unpredictability and balance.  The run/pass ratio for the Eagles during the streak was 55-45 in favor of the pass.  Unheard of numbers based on previous seasons.  Not surprisingly, teams didn’t know quite how to prepare for the Eagles and as a result, the offense exploded.  Reid & Mornhinweg stuck with the run, even when it didn’t always work early in the game, and the results paid off in the 4th quarter (i’m reminded of The Weave’s 12 yard scamper for a first down late in the Giants game to help keep the big drive going). 

But since Westbrook’s return, the Eagles offense has managed 10 points in its last 6 quarters.  I think this is largely because Andy Reid simply can’t help himself when Westbrook is in the game.  He remembers what Westbrook used to do and how he used to drive defenses nuts and he tries to game plan that way.  Sadly, Westbrook’s injuries have finally begun to catch up with him.  He seems a step slow and even if his knee & ankle are healthy, there is simply no way he’s in “game shape” at this point in the season, having only played about 4 games.  From the 2nd half of the Denver game through the entire Dallas game, Reid refused to pound the football and turned The Weave into nothing more than a glorified O-lineman (which is a shame because he’s truly become a DOMINANT WEAPON).  What made the running game successful during the streak was its simplicity.  Whether because of Shady being a rookie, The Weave being new to the system, or the flux in the O-line, the running game was pretty straightforward.  Pound the ball.  Off tackle or behind Jackson, it was mostly downhill.  Now that Westbrook has returned, all of that went out the window.  Sunday’s game against the Cowboys saw a 75%-25% pass/run ratio and there was no attempt to pound the ball.  Instead, the “running game” consisted of screen passes, passes into the flat, & pitches out wide (I say “running game” because Reid is on record as saying he considers those types of passes to be runs.  NEWS FLASH: THEY ARE NOT RUNS!)

Look…I love Westbrook as much as anybody.  His game-winning punt return TD against the Giants years ago turned the franchise around and really laid the foundation for the success of the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb era.  That was just one of many memorable Westbrook moments over the years (the screen pass TD against the Vikings last year in the playoffs and the big run against the Giants early last season where he left Antonio Pierce in the dust are 2 more).  If I thought that Reid could utilize him in a different fashion, I’d LOVE Westbrook to retire as an Eagle.  If Reid kept him around as a 3rd down back and a guy you could put in the slot from time to time or pop into the game to spell Shady, I’d absolutely be THRILLED (sort of like what happened to Tiki Barber & Warrick Dunn in their last couple years).  But I just don’t think Reid is capable of that and have seen no evidence to the contrary.  When Westbrook plays, the Eagles’ offense gets predictable and becomes very easy to stop.  Just look at what the Cowboys did – they didn’t bring an extra guy into the box to stop the run (because they knew Westbrook wasn’t gonna run), they doubled DeSean (because they didn’t need the extra guy on the line of scrimmage) and they blitzed the hell out of McNabb (because they knew he was gonna pass on almost every down).  Is this Westbrook’s fault?  NOT AT ALL.  He just does what he’s told.

I don’t want to see Brian Westbrook leave the Eagles until he’s ready to retire.  I really don’t.  But if the Eagles’ offense is to really fly again, he may need to go sooner rather than later.  That has nothing to do with him but EVERYTHING to do with Andy Reid’s stubborn refusal to stick to the game plan that was so successful for 6 straight games.   Reid has definitely surprised us all with some of the successes he’s had this year.  Here’s hoping he surprises us one more time, sticks to the run on Saturday night, and that the Eagles celebrate a victory over the Cowboys with 150+ yards rushing and rushing TD’s for Shady, The Weave, AND Westbrook.  I can think of no sweeter victory.


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