…Brian Westbrook.

What! What are you nuts, Veasey?

Well we already know the answer to that question. After all, you’re the guy who picked George W. Bush as your website ‘American of the Year’ for 2008. You’re the guy who has consistently supported Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.

You think Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter are hot. You whole-heartedly believe in this Jesus fellow, and that he died on a cross specifically for your individual sins that would not even be committed for another two millenia.

But Brian Westbrook needs to be replaced? Well, now you are just simply over the top. If the old Byberry Hospital were still around, we might have you committed. Well gang, this is the response that I would expect, but let’s talk about the facts that lead me to make this statement.

First let’s dispense with the obvious. For right now Brian Westbrook is one of the most important players on the Eagles roster. Some would make a solid argument that he is the single most important player to the team. I concur with their assessment, for this particular playoff run. He does not need to be cut, does not need to be replaced right now.

But here is something to seriously consider, something the the Philadelphia Eagles management had better be seriously considering.
Brian Westbrook will turn 30 years old at the beginning of the 2009 season.

For most people that is nothing. It is the beginning of a decade that will be very much like their 20’s, at least physically and where overall health is concerned. However, for a professional athlete, it quite often marks the beginning of the end. And for a Running Back playing in the National Football League, Brian Westbrook is already on borrowed time.

As Jim Rome just said in the last few days about LaDainian Tomlinson, running backs who hit age 28 usually fall off rapidly and suddenly. Let’s look at some examples from the past few decades.

Remember Dallas great Tony Dorsett? TD rushed for over 1,000 yards every season of his career until first missing the mark at age 32 in 1986. He never again came close. Barry Sanders? He retired after playing at age 30. Walter Payton? He was strong through age 32, his fourth straight season rushing for over 1,300 yards. He was out of the game two years later after missing the mark at age 33.

How about Marshall Faulk? A top contributor right through age 29, but at 30 and 31 showed serious wear and tear, and by 32 he was done. Perhaps the greatest of all-time, Emmitt Smith, was slowly declined through his 32-33-34 seasons. He resurrected his career for one last solid season at age 35, a true enigma, but was gone after that season.

The fact is that while Brian Westbrook is not likely to completely lose his effectiveness next season, he is already now showing serious signs of the wear and tear that his heavy workload has put on his body over the past half dozen seasons. The Eagles might be able to squeeze one, maybe two more strong years from B-West. But the facts and history speak for themselves.

Despite what many ‘WIP’-styled fans feel, Andy Reid should coach the Eagles as long as he remains physically healthy. Donovan McNabb remains one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL, and there is no reason to feel that he won’t stay at that level for at least another three years.

But Brian Westbrook is at the edge of his productive career. The Eagles need to begin thinking about bringing in his heir apparent, or risk a sudden loss at the position that will leave them seriously reeling.