As we covered last week, the Eagles were 1-6 in their last seven home games, and only 1-7 in the last two seasons with the ball in the 4th quarter with a chance to win or tie. Well, now make that 1-7 and 1-8 respectively, this time after surrendering a 4th quarter lead to the illustrious John Skelton, who I would presume will be out of the league in a year or two. This happening once or twice is bad luck or an anomaly, it happening seven/eight times is an obvious trend, and reflects on the head coach. Really, it cannot get much worse than this, we are in 1999 3-13 territory folks. And, on the scale of disappointing seasons, I am at a loss to remember one was devastatingly disappointing as this one. Even in the late nineties, at least you expected the Eagles to be putrid and just planned accordingly. But, this team draws you in every week with it’s talent, and proceeds to cut your heart out. I am not one to lobby for cheering against one’s home team, secretly wishing for a loss, but I think we have unfortunately reached that stage. Really, the story of the rest of this season is whether Andy Reid can save his job, and I think we should all be cheering hard core for him to lose. Look, I’m not one to hate on Reid either. The guy has done a phenomenal job with this organization and was largely responsible for putting the Eagles on the map in the NFL, and I will always respect the guy deeply for that. However, the time has come, all things must some to an end, as they say. Here are some reasons why, as further illustrated by this week’s game:
1) Why do the Eagles always insist on defying all football logic? The Eagles have the leading rusher in the league in LeSean McCoy, who is very obviously their best player. The Eagles were missing both Jackson (to complacency/petulance) and Maclin (injury). The Eagles were winning the game going into the 4th quarter. Your starting QB, it turns out, had two broken ribs as well. Therefore, McCoy only gets 4 carries in the 4th quarter, and complete and total pass wackiness ensues? Huh? If this doesn’t say all that needs to be said about Reid, I don’t know what does. If there is one thing you can count on with Reid is that he will go out of his way to defy all football logic for the sake of throwing the ball.
2) New Flash- Juan Castillo is a total disaster. I hate to harp on this (since I talk about it every week), but it is the elephant in the room. Juan Castillo should not be the defensive coordinator of a Division I NCAA football team, let along the Eagles. Plain and simple. Nothing he has done has shown innovation, quick-wittedness, football savvy, or an innate ability to lead men. I have seen literally nothing redeeming about the guy’s tenure, other than perhaps vague notions about how hard he works from his colleagues. Well, congratulations Andy, you just threw your good friend into raging flood waters for him to drown. (Remember: Didinger explained the Castillo hiring as “Being thrown into the Atlantic ocean with concrete boots and being asked to swim to shore.”) Now, he will never get a job as a coordinator in the league again. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to make Castillo an assistant first before jumping to this insane conclusion that he could coordinate an NFL defense? I mean, this is the same approach they took with John Harbaugh several years ago, and now he is one of the better head coaches in the league with the Ravens. In my opinion, this move in and of itself should get Reid fired.
3) Complete and total loss of belief. This week’s loss was probably one of the most embarassing I can remember. Don’t be fooled, the Cardinals are a dreadful NFL football team, traveling east where team’s normally go to die, with limited talent and belief in themselves. There is no excuse for losing to a team like the Cardinals at home. Losing to this team speaks to a complete and total lack of focus and belief from the team, and the events leading to Jackson’s inactivation this week only strengthen this point. Maybe the players are saying all the right things in the media like: “Andy’s our guy”, “He’s a great coach”, “Coach ain’t playin’” etc., but the bottom line is that the players don’t appear to believe anymore, and this could be arguably one of the most central roles of the NFL coach.
Case in point: the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers have been picked for years to finally turn the corner, as they had a decent set of talent, especially as compared to the rest of the horrendous NFC West, but each year they disappointed. What is different this year? Is Jim Harbaugh some sort of strategic football savant out scheming everyone? I hardly think this is the case. The difference is that Harbaugh has the 49ers believing. In fact, this is exactly what he said his goal was coming in as head coach. Well, the Eagles (despite what they might say) no longer believe they will win. I think it started with Castillo and has spread like a cancer throughout the team. So, how do you deal with cancer? You remove it as soon as possible.
The Good news (Yes, there is good news). Despite how depressing this season has been, things are not ALL bad for this Eagles team. This is not the 3-13 mess of 1999 where the Eagles were strapped with zero talent and little hopes for a quick turnaround. This team still has an impressive array of skill players (Vick, McCoy, Maclin, Jackson, Celek, etc.), a developing O-line with promise, a core of solid pass rushers, some young LB’s with apparent promise (ie. Chaney and Rolle) and a secondary with talent and promise (despite his breakdown this week, I think Jarrett will be a solid NFL player, and obviously Asmougha and Samuel). Add to this the relatively high draft picks the Eagles will garner this offseason, and the situation appears easier to fix then perhaps it seems at first glance. This Eagles team could quickly snap back into relevancy with a savvy head coaching hire. For instance, a proven head coach who can instantly regain the belief of the players (hopefully along with a proven defensive coordinator), bringing a new energy and perhaps taking the Eagles over the top. At the very least, maybe the Eagles won’t insist on attempting to win despite thumbing their noses at all convention and maybe even win close games from time to time. I just hope Reid’s penchant for outsmarting oneself does not spread to the front office in this case (which it appears at times it has), and they believe they can find “the next Andy Reid” by hiring an unknown quantity. Well, let me remind Lurie and Co. that this situation is completely different. This is assuredly not a team ready to be blown up, which needs to start from scratch and build a winning attitude ala 1998. This is a team with a heck of a lot of talent in place and what the Eagles need is a proven head coach to make them believe again. So, Lurie and Co. should plan accordingly, find a guy who can inspire and makes doing this a distinct part of his plan. Schemes will take care of themselves if you hire the right people. It has to be a guy with credentials the players will instantly respect. Is this guy John Gruden or Bill Cowher? I don’t know, but this certainly would be a good start. Until then, enjoy having your football season over before Thanksgiving and secretly cheering for the Eagles to tank.