Garcia hopes to relive his success in San Francisco
November 23, 2006 8:39pm CST
Jeff Garcia has an impressive resume, playoff experience and great confidence. Sure, Garcia is no Donovan McNabb. But he's far from Bobby Hoying. With McNabb out for the rest of the season, the Philadelphia Eagles are putting their playoff hopes on Garcia's arm and legs. The 36-year-old quarterback won some important games and went to three straight Pro Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers earlier in his career. "I think some people overlook that he's a highly talented quarterback," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Thursday. "He's a high-level athlete. He can move and groove. He's been very accurate throughout his career." Garcia is eager to prove his skills haven't diminished. "I've really kept up my physical health," he said. "I feel that my strength of arm, my speed of foot, they're all relatively the same as they were back then." While replacing a five-time Pro Bowl quarterback like McNabb is a difficult task, Garcia has performed well under pressure in the past. Playing in the shadows of Hall of Famers Steve Young and Joe Montana in San Francisco, Garcia had a lot of success in five years with the 49ers. In his first full year as a starter in 2000, he threw for a franchise-record 4,278 yards. The following year, Garcia became the first QB in team history to throw for 30 or more touchdowns in consecutive seasons. He averaged 3,720 yards passing, 28 TDs and only 11 interceptions between 2000-02. Garcia badly wanted to lead the 49ers to a sixth Super Bowl victory, but he never had the supporting cast Montana and Young had when they won championships. He twice led the 49ers to the playoffs (2001-02), but they didn't get beyond the second round. After the 2003 season, Garcia signed a four-year, $25 million free-agent contract with Cleveland. His time with the Browns was a disaster, though. Garcia never seemed to click with teammates and had a hard time adjusting to Cleveland's lifestyle after spending his entire life in Northern California. Once Romeo Crennel took over as the Browns coach, Garcia was gone. He was reunited with former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci in Detroit last year, but missed the first five games with injuries and the Lions struggled. Garcia contemplated retirement a couple times over the past two seasons. Instead, he signed a one-year deal with the Eagles last March to provide a capable backup for McNabb. "I always have to take a step back and realize what has gotten me to where I am today," Garcia said. "That's just hard work and understanding how important it is for me to push the envelope every single day, how important it is for me to not rest on my laurels, not rest on just what I've done in the past, but really focus on if that opportunity does ever present itself. "I feel like there's been a rejuvenation within myself being here. I get to go out and earn my paycheck. I get to go in the heat of battle and in the line of fire and show what I'm all about, and that's really what it comes down to." Garcia wasn't the people's choice to replace McNabb, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the second play of the second quarter in last Sunday's 31-13 loss to Tennessee. Most fans wanted A.J. Feeley, who was 4-1 as a starter when McNabb broke his ankle in 2002. Coach Andy Reid, however, chose the more-proven Garcia over Feeley, a bust as a starter for Miami after leaving Philadelphia a couple year ago. "I brought Jeff in here for this situation," Reid said. "He and Donovan were similar in that they're both mobile quarterbacks, so he can do that part of the package the same that you do with Don. And, he has a lot of experience in this offense, so most of the throws that we had in before we will keep in." Garcia had his best season in 2000, when Mornhinweg was San Francisco's offensive coordinator. Mornhinweg praised Garcia's ability to withstand numerous hard hits and play through pain. "He certainly has tremendous respect around the league for his toughness," Mornhinweg said. "Jeff has that innate ability to handle the huddle and to manage a game. He does it very naturally." Garcia is 40-49 as a starter, including three playoff games. His first assignment for the Eagles is a tough one. Philadelphia (5-5) visits Indianapolis (9-1) on Sunday night. "This team needs to find a way to come together as a team," Garcia said. "It's all well within our reach. People don't expect us to be a playoff caliber team anymore. The pressure needs to be released off of our shoulders and we need to go back out and start having fun again."