Getting pulled pushes buttons

Farmer is a Times staff writer.

Joey Porter sacks quarterbacks.

Joey Porter does not get sacked.

That's why it's not particularly surprising that the Miami Dolphins linebacker refused to come out of Sunday's game against New England, even after his coach sent another linebacker on the field to replace him. That reportedly happened with about three minutes remaining in a 48-28 blowout by the Patriots, after Porter had been penalized on consecutive plays for unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Around the NFL on Sunday, some other prominent players reluctantly accepted benchings. Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb was pulled after a miserable first half against Baltimore, and Cleveland quarterback Brady Quinn was replaced in the third quarter of a loss to Houston.

Obviously, neither player was happy about it.

"My first reaction was, 'Wow,' " said McNabb, benched for the first time in his 10 seasons. "Whatever decision was made, the coach makes that decision. It all starts with me with the ball in my hands, but it's not one particular position that's the problem. For me, it really doesn't help when you turn the ball over."

In a move that illustrates how messed up things are with the Eagles at the moment, Coach Andy Reid didn't personally inform McNabb he wouldn't be the second-half starter. Reid left that up to quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur.

Reid said Monday that McNabb -- and not second-year quarterback Kevin Kolb -- will start Thursday when the Eagles play host to Arizona. Kolb, who had thrown only nine passes before he was thrust into Sunday's game, had two interceptions against the Ravens, one of which was returned an NFL-record 108 yards for a touchdown by safety Ed Reed.

Publicly, at least, Reid offered McNabb an olive branch Monday when he said, "As I sit here right now, he's my starting quarterback. I need to coach better. Donovan needs to play better and the guys around Donovan need to play better."

The bottom line is, both Reid and McNabb could be gone after the season.

The same goes for Cleveland Coach Romeo Crennel, whose team is 4-7, bringing his overall record with the Browns to 24-35.

When asked Monday about his future with the franchise, Crennel sounded like a man whose office-door lock could be changed at any moment.

"My future is that I'm coaching for the next game," he said. "That's all that I can worry about."

Oh, he has his share of worries -- starting with Quinn, who has shown flashes of promise and cannot be saddled with all of Cleveland's offensive problems. No. 1 receiver Braylon Edwards, for instance, leads the league in drops.

When asked after the game if he was surprised he was benched after just 10-plus quarters as a starter, Quinn, who happens to be playing with an injured finger on his throwing hand, didn't aim for political correctness.

"Uh, yeah," he said. "Come on, I'm in this game to play. After that last one, I didn't really have any inclination I was on such a short leash. The fourth quarter is where games are won or lost and I just wish I would've been able to be in there to have a chance."

Like Reid, Crennel sounded contrite Monday in announcing that Quinn remains the starter.

"It's not an issue because he's the quarterback," the coach said. "We like the things he's shown us. We need to help him more going down the stretch. If we can do that, we might be able to win a game."

So, for the time being, despite some bruised egos, both McNabb and Quinn are back where they began -- as starting quarterbacks on also-ran teams.

Next time their coaches try to remove them from games, McNabb and Quinn should really make things interesting. They should pull a Porter.


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