Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Franchise Seeking Stability

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy ReidSometimes, it’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture.

After the Eagles’ 30-17 loss to the Falcons Sunday, I was thinking about the state of the franchise. From 1999-2009, the first 11 years of Andy Reid’s tenure here, you often heard the word “stability” associated with the Eagles.

It was coach and quarterback. Reid and Donovan McNabb. For 10 of those years, Jim Johnson ran the defense. And throughout it all, Joe Banner stood by Jeffrey Lurie, working with Reid (and others) to determine the direction of the franchise.

You knew what you were getting with the Eagles. A team in contention pretty much every season. Eight playoff berths. Six division titles. Five NFC title games. And one Super Bowl appearance. An established record of consistency and winning, even if they never quite brought the Lombardi Trophy home.

The results in those 11 years make what’s happened in the past two rather remarkable. Here’s a brief timeline of what I’m talking about:

February, 2011 – In pretty much an unprecedented move, Reid announces he’s promoting Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator. Castillo would get a 22-game, 20-month run before being fired during the bye week of the 2012 season.

August, 2011Michael Vick signs a six-year contract extension. Fourteen months later, he has no clue whether he’ll be the starter in the team’s Week 9 matchup at the Saints. There’s a real possibility he could be benched for a rookie third-round pick. Not because the Eagles are building for the future, but because Reid might think Nick Foles gives the team a better chance of winning right now.

November, 2011 – Amid a season of frustration and failed expectations, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive line coach Jim Washburn have to be separated after a heated verbal exchange on the sideline against the Patriots.

March, 2012 – The Los Angeles Times reports that Reid was ready to walk away from the Eagles if he didn’t get more personnel control. He got it. And he stayed.

June, 2012Joe Banner steps down as team president. The Eagles try to put a positive spin on his departure, but it seems evident that he simply was no longer needed, given the roles of Reid and general manager Howie Roseman.

August, 2012 – Lurie is asked if another 8-8 season will be good enough for Reid to return. He says no. Whether on purpose or by accident, he puts a number in the back of everyone’s head just before the regular season begins.

October, 2012 – Following Castillo’s dismissal, Todd Bowles takes over, and the defense allows the Falcons to score on their first six possessions (touchdowns on the first three). Players talk both on and off the record about a lack of passion and energy. For the first time in 14 seasons, Reid loses following the bye.

Which brings us to where we are today. In the most unusual of seasons, the Eagles are 3-4. It’s impossible to look at each week – each win and each loss – and not think of the bigger picture. Reid needs to go 6-3, maybe even 7-2, to return.

If not, Lurie will be tasked with determining the future direction of the franchise, and part of his focus will be figuring out a way to regain stability.

WHAT YOU  MISSED

Despite how some perceived his post-game comments, Michael Vick is not ready to give up the starting job. T-Mac’s got the latest on the QB situation.

The Eagles made changes to their offense during the bye week. A look at those tweaks, plus a review of how rookie Dennis Kelly and the rest of the offensive line performed on Sunday.

An anonymous Eagles defensive player criticized the team in an interview with a national reporter, saying the Birds played without energy and passion vs. Atlanta.

The Eagles adjusted their defensive line rotation, giving Brandon Graham more snaps and Jason Babin less. Here’s the breakdown.

LeSean McCoy said he didn’t see any pride from the Eagles.

And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to give Birds 24/7 a like on Facebook.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

SI.com’s Peter King thinks Reid should give Vick one more week:

And I look at the fact that the Eagles, 3-4, can still save their season, and they go to the team playing the worst defense in NFL history next Monday. The Saints have allowed more yards over the first seven games of an NFL than any team ever has. This is the kind of game made to give a struggling team confidence. And Reid has invested so much time and effort in Vick — who didn’t turn it over once Sunday in the loss to Atlanta — that to yank him now Reid would have to have an inordinate amount of trust in rookie Nick Foles to win big. I think there are too many signs that Vick and McCoy could bust out in New Orleans for Reid to yank Vick now.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com doesn’t think benching Vick would do the Eagles any good:

I think Foles would struggle just as badly, if not worse, behind an Eagles offensive line that’s playing without three starters. I think the defense is falling all over itself because it doesn’t know who’s supposed to be in charge, who’s supposed to be playing and what they’re supposed to be running. I think the entire Reid program in Philadelphia is collapsing in on itself, and that Reid can change coordinators or quarterbacks or his socks or the pregame warmup music and none of it would make a difference. The only thing benching Vick would do at this point is underline, in the locker room and for the outside world, just how desperate a man Andy Reid is. I don’t see how it would help the Eagles win more games.

COMING UP

It looks like the Eagles are off today and there’s no media availability because of Sandy. But we’ll still have plenty to chew on at Birds 24/7. Hope everyone’s safe out there.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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