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With McNabb and Reid back, what changes will Eagles make?

PHILADELPHIA -- Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb will be back in Philadelphia next season. With that out of the way, the biggest question is whether the Eagles can win a Super Bowl with this coach and quarterback.

The Eagles have reached the NFC championship game five times in the last eight years, only to lose four, including Sunday's 32-25 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals. The one year they advanced, they lost to New England.

So, Reid and McNabb are judged on their playoff failures. It's probably unfair considering all their success, but that's life in a city with passionate fans and a win-it-all-or-else mentality.

"One out of five isn't good enough," Reid said Monday. "I'd much rather be moving on."

Now that it's official the Eagles won't end their 48-year championship drought this season, the critics are bashing Reid and McNabb the way they did when Philadelphia was 5-5-1 in late November.

But neither is going anywhere, according to team president Joe Banner.

Hoping to end speculation, Banner issued a statement through a team spokesman saying Reid and McNabb will be back. Owner Jeffery Lurie already has said he wanted both to return.

It's possible the front-office structure could change. Reid also is the executive vice president of football operations, and Tom Heckert the general manager. Perhaps Reid will delegate more responsibility to Heckert or someone else so he can concentrate more on coaching and possibly some personal matters. Many of his close friends are concerned about his weight and his family went through a crisis when his two oldest sons were arrested in 2007.

"I haven't thought about that stuff," Reid said when asked about potential changes. "We never talk about that kind of stuff."

McNabb's future was uncertain when he got benched for the first time in his career during halftime of a loss at Baltimore on Nov. 23. It seemed the Eagles might want to move forward with Kevin Kolb, a second-round pick in 2007.

But McNabb returned to the lineup, led the Eagles to a 4-1 record down the stretch and an unlikely playoff berth as the No. 6 seed. He played well in two playoff victories on the road and had an up-and-down performance against Arizona.

McNabb struggled in the first half Sunday. He misfired four times, including two passes that could've been touchdowns, on Philadelphia's second possession that ended with a missed field goal. But he was superb in leading the Eagles back from a 19-point deficit to a 25-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.

After the defense promptly relinquished the lead, McNabb needed to drive the Eagles 80 yards for the tying score with 2:53 left. But he threw four straight incompletions from the Cardinals 47, finishing 28-of-47 for 375 yards, three TDs and one interception. He also lost a fumble, got sacked twice and was called for intentional grounding.

That only fuels those who say McNabb can't win the big game. After all, he seems to always come up short when he has a chance to lead a comeback victory in the final minutes.

But McNabb can't be blamed for the loss to the Cardinals. A defense that had allowed only four TDs in the previous six games was the main culprit. They couldn't stop Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald & Co. in the first half, putting the Eagles in a 24-6 hole. Once McNabb put Philly ahead, the defense gave up the winning score on a 14-play, 72-yard drive that lasted 7:52.

The team's only Pro Bowl picks -- cornerback Asante Samuel and free safety Brian Dawkins -- had poor games. Defensive mastermind Jim Johnson was outcoached by Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

"The defense didn't get off the field when we were supposed to," Dawkins said. "The offense did their job; we did not. They drove the field. They got us points. We went ahead. Defensively, we have to get off the field and we did not."

Though management has made it clear it wants McNabb to return, he could force his way out by demanding a contract extension. McNabb, signed through 2010, already said he wants a new deal.

McNabb didn't want to discuss the issue after the game, and was unavailable when players cleaned out their lockers Monday.

"I feel very good about Donovan," Reid said. "I think Donovan had a heck of a year. I thought he guided this football team as well as he ever has. He's a great person and a great player."

The Eagles have more pressing contract decisions. Bookend tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, who've protected McNabb throughout his 10 seasons in Philadelphia, will be free agents. Dawkins, nickel back Joselio Hanson, running back Correll Buckhalter and tight end L.J. Smith also will be unrestricted free agents.

Age is a factor with Dawkins (35), Runyan (35) and Thomas (34). Hanson and Buckhalter are valuable players. Smith almost certainly won't be back.

Runyan sounded like a guy who didn't expect to return.

"I've done my part," he said. "I'll sit back and let it unfold."

Buckhalter, who missed three full seasons to knee injuries early in his career, wants a chance to be a starter.

"If the opportunity presented itself, I'm going to take it," he said.

The Eagles have two first-round picks, Nos. 21 and 28, and an extra fifth and sixth. They also have cornerback Lito Sheppard as trade bait. The former All-Pro hardly played on defense the final two months.

"I want to be back on the field playing, however that needs to happen," Sheppard said.

The Eagles put all these offseason decisions on hold by staging a remarkable turnaround. They were written off after a tie against woeful Cincinnati and a lopsided loss to the Ravens, but won three straight to get back in the playoff mix. They were all but eliminated after losing to Washington in Week 16, but got help from other teams and whipped Dallas 44-6 in essentially a playoff game for the final wild-card spot.

Philadelphia beat Minnesota, knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants and went to Arizona as a 3 1/2-point favorite only to come up short -- again.

"The ultimate goal for us is to win the big game," cornerback Sheldon Brown said. "We accomplished some good things. We didn't get to the big dance, so it's nothing to brag about."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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