Eagles Wake-Up Call: What It All Says About Andy

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy ReidAndy Reid’s 14-year odyssey has come down to the next 10 hours.

Ten games, 60 minutes of game clock a pop. In that time he has to prove to owner Jeffrey Lurie that “substantial improvement” has been made, and that he at the very least has his first Lombardi surrounded. Whether he is fighting for a contract extension or a ring before time runs out, the urgency is high.

At the current rate, the 2012 club will end just like last year’s bunch did — at .500. Lurie has already deemed that outcome unacceptable.  A playoff appearance — and maybe a playoff run — seem necessary to re-establish job security. The Eagles will have to go  7-3 the rest of the way to put themselves in proper position for a playoff berth.

That is the reality Reid is operating in. It is a driving force behind his intensive bye week evaluation, one that has already resulted in the firing of longtime friend Juan Castillo in favor of Todd Bowles. The head coach sounded like he was just getting warmed up.

“So, this is one of the moves and we’ll see where this goes from here,” Reid said.

The majority will not disagree with the decision on its face. Castillo’s promotion to defensive coordinator was met with resistance across the board, and most will welcome a veteran defensive coach like Bowles, who is regarded as one of the bright young minds in the game.

But it all feels a bit knee-jerk, doesn’t it?

“It’s what I thought yesterday was the best thing as I went through it and evaluated it,” said Reid.

This is a man that helped save his own job last year by preaching consistency. He built his offseason, and his entire campaign for 2012, around the idea that it was important to keep the band together. Six games in and one of his top lieutenants has been sacrificed. If Michael Vick‘s third-down pass to Jeremy Maclin isn’t swatted at the line late in the fourth quarter, is Castillo still the coordinator?

And it’s not like the Eagles are in a big hole. Reid’s teams are often slow out of the gate. The 2003 Eagles (12-4) started 3-3. Same in 2001 (11-5) and 2008 (9-6-1). They made it to the NFC Championship in each of those campaigns. His teams get better as the season goes on.

Normally, Reid could trust in that history and stay the course. This time around, he cannot bank on faith.

This is confirmation that Reid, if this is in fact the last stand, will go down on his own terms. If you believe the L.A. Times report, he won a power struggle over Joe Banner this offseason and threatened to walk if he didn’t have more say over personnel. Now he has cut ties with maybe his most loyal follower, and has implied that no one is safe — not the quarterback, not the offensive coordinator, no one. The Eagles are a game out in the division.

One of the defensive starters talked a couple weeks back about the value of Reid being so even-keeled. Football by its nature is an emotional and psychological game, and teams are prone to large ebbs and flows during a 16-game slate. Reid steers the team around the big dips, the player said, by virtue of his steady hand.

Now Reid is spending the bye week tearing things apart (his words), and there is a greater sense of volatility.

“That’s not how I go about [my business],” said Reid, when asked if he is viewing this as a 10-game audition to save his job. “I do what I think is best for the Philadelphia Eagles, cut and dry. I think if you get it past that then you’re going to do things that are [not right].”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Plenty of reaction to the defensive coordinator shakeup.

Some of the current players were shocked by the move.

Former players chimed in as well. Asante Samuel used the opportunity to tell Reid to look in the mirror. 

Reid hints that more moves may be coming. Does that mean Vick could be replaced by Nick Foles?

Bowles addressed the media and talked about the type of scheme he plans on running. The most important thing right now, according to Bowles, is to figure out a way to close.

An emotional Castillo went one-on-one with with Vai Sikahema and made no excuses.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Castillo sat down with Derrick Gunn as well and expressed his affection for Reid just hours after being fired by him.

“I love Coach. And I’ve said it before: I’d take a bullet for Coach. He gave me an opportunity of a lifetime, man. And Mr. Lurie and the organization, an opportunity of a lifetime. I didn’t get it done. That’s hard.”

Peter King believes Castillo looks a lot like a scapegoat right about now.

Unless Reid does something to address the offense in the next few days — the Eagles have a bye this week — Castillo’s firing will be the biggest diversionary tactic I’ve seen in the league in some time. Philadelphia’s offense ranks 31st in points per game (17.2), with explosive players all over the place. It’s a disgrace.

So let’s see what else Reid has up his sleeve. Maybe it’s taking the playcalling from Mornhinweg. Maybe it’s starting backup quarterback Nick Foles, which I wouldn’t do quite yet. Maybe it’s reading Vick the final riot act — one more turnover-plagued game and he’s out. But it had better be something, or else Reid’s 14th season as coach of the Eagles may be his last.

Michael Silver over at Yahoo cautions against a QB change, and gives his take on the Castillo/Bowles move.

However, I’m still surprised that Reid would react so strongly. There are less conspicuous tweaks he could have made, such as stripping Castillo of his play-calling duties and letting Bowles handle the job (which the coach could have chosen not to publicize) or quietly leaning on Castillo and Mornhinweg to make some philosophical changes during games.

Instead, it was as if Reid chose to make a statement – to Lurie – that he has identified the reason for the team’s under-performance: i.e. someone other than Andy Reid.

COMING UP

Reid’s comprehensive evaluation rolls on. Whatever it yields, we’ll have it covered for you.