Cheat Sheet: Ten Thoughts On the Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid.Here are 10 thoughts on a variety of Eagles topics, including this weekend’s matchup, draft positioning, potential head-coaching candidates and Andy Reid’s future.

1. Let’s start with draft positioning. As things currently stand, the Eagles have the fourth overall pick behind the Chiefs, Jaguars and Raiders. If the Eagles lose, the only game to keep an eye on is Raiders-Chargers at 4:25 p.m. If Oakland wins and the Birds lose, the Eagles move up to the No. 3 spot. Now if the Eagles beat the Giants, things get a bit messy because four teams – the Titans, Bills, Browns and Cardinals – are all currently at 5-10. If they all lose, the Eagles could theoretically fall as low as the ninth pick (the Lions are also at 4-11). Jimmy Kempski over at Blogging the Beast has calculated strength of schedule for all 32 teams. But a reminder that those numbers will change, depending on this weekend’s results.

2. The Michael Vick era in Philadelphia is likely to end Sunday afternoon. This will be his 34th start for the Eagles. There have been ups, downs and everything in between since Vick first took over for Kevin Kolb back in 2010. Two games stand out to me. One was the Monday night game against the Redskins in 2010 when Vick went 20-for-28 for 333 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran eight times for 80 yards and a pair of scores. The second game was later that year when the Eagles outscored the Giants, 28-7, in the fourth quarter for a 38-31 victory. Vick went 21-for-35 for 242 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He also ran 10 times for 130 yards and a score. Many will look back and say Vick was always the same QB here that he was in Atlanta. I just don’t think that’s true. With the Falcons, he completed 53.8 percent of his passes and averaged 6.7 yards per attempt. With the Eagles, those numbers were 60.2 percent and 7.6 yards per attempt. He worked to get better as a passer, and the Eagles were 18-15 in games he started. In the end, the results were not as fruitful as everyone wanted them to be, but Vick worked hard on improving his game. That shouldn’t be completely lost in all of this.

3. Speaking of Vick, I’m guessing Jeffrey Lurie is going to be paying extra special attention Sunday afternoon when the QB refuses to slide on a scramble or gets crushed as a result of a leaky offensive line. As we reported earlier this week, Vick’s contract includes a $3 million injury guarantee. That means if he suffers a serious injury that prevents him from passing a physical with another team for the 2013 season, the Eagles will owe him $3 million. If Vick gets through the game healthy, the team has until Feb. 6 to release him and get out of paying the $3 million.

4. If you only read one item on the coaching changes around the league, it should be this piece by Don Banks of SI.com. A lot of interesting nuggets. When discussing Reid’s future, he mentioned a few different teams. One is the Jacksonville Jaguars. They are far from a marquee franchise, but owner Shahid Khan is apparently looking to make a splash. Banks also mentions the possibility of Reid joining the Arizona Cardinals. Wouldn’t that be something? Reid and Kolb together again. Plus, he’d have a talented defense to work with. As for the Chargers, Banks indicates they might not be willing to pay the price Reid is going to command on the open market.

5. I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating: Eagles fans can appreciate what Reid accomplished and still think it’s time to move on. That point seems to be lost on many in the national media, and you’re going to hear a lot of analysts next week talk about how under-appreciated Reid was in Philadelphia. But the truth is, this team is 12-19 in its last 31 games. The franchise has not won a playoff game in four seasons. The coaching staff has been in disarray. And the quarterback situation is up in the air. Reid has accomplished a lot and given fans many great memories, but it’s time to go in a different direction. It’s really as simple as that.

6. Many have asked about timing. There really is no point for Lurie to wait. My guess is the move will be made official no later than Monday. Reid may get one final press conference. And Lurie will address questions about the team’s upcoming search. As I pointed out yesterday, assistants on teams that have first-round byes can interview with the Eagles next week. That means the Eagles don’t have a lot of time to waste if they’re interested in guys like Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and others.

7. As head coaches and general managers are let go Monday, be sure to keep a close eye on assistants. During the Reid era, we’ve seen first-hand the importance of assembling a staff. Whoever the new coach is will have to find a capable offensive and defensive coordinator, along with other assistants. If the new guy has not been a head coach in the NFL before, which seems likely, it’s particularly important to find established coordinators right away.

8. If there’s one stat that particularly makes the last two years of Reid’s tenure look bad, it’s turnover margin. I went back and looked at the five worst teams in turnover margin in 2011 to see which improved this year. Here’s the chart:

 
2011 Turnover Margin
2012 Turnover Margin
Change
Bucs-16+4+20
Redskins-14+14+28
Eagles-14-23-9
Steelers -13-14-1
Cardinals-13+1+14

Three of the teams – the Redskins, Bucs and Cardinals – showed significant improvement. The Steelers stayed about the same. And the Eagles got significantly worse. Often times, I get irritated when analysts mention turnover margin because it’s so obvious. Of course you’re going to perform better when you give the ball away less and take the ball away more. The Eagles recognized their problem in the offseason, but their methods for finding a solution failed miserably.

9. If I’m Lurie and Howie Roseman, I’m asking every head-coaching candidate for their plans on improving the Eagles’ special teams. Bobby April’s unit has let the Birds down way too many times in the past two seasons. The Eagles are 24th in Football Outsiders’ special-teams rankings. While the defense has not played well, it’s been dealt the worst starting field position in the NFL. According to Football Outsiders, opponents have started drives, on average, at the 31.65-yard line (32nd). Part of that is turnovers, and part of it is special teams. On the flip side, the Eagles have started drives at their own 25.16 (27th). With so many games being decided by one possession, this has to be a point of emphasis with the new regime.

10. There will be a lot of talk about building blocks in the coming weeks. We’ll certainly expand on this topic, but I am intrigued to see what kind of offense the new coach will want to run, given the personnel. LeSean McCoy has to be an important piece. DeSean Jackson provides a vertical threat and can open things up for others, even though he’s lacking in some areas (red zone specifically). The offensive line is a giant question mark. If Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans return healthy, you could be looking at one of the better units in the league. And quarterback, of course, is a question mark, although Nick Foles is probably the favorite to start next season. Defensively, in the front seven, Fletcher Cox has shown Pro Bowl potential, and DeMeco Ryans is a nice piece. Brandon Graham appears to be a player on the rise, but you don’t know what to expect from others like Trent Cole and Vinny Curry. Other than Brandon Boykin, the secondary could be facing a complete overhaul. The new coach has some tools to work with, but his biggest challenge will be in determining how scheme will best fit the Eagles’ personnel.

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  • Jason J

    Dream Offseason:

    Eagles sign a Tackle like Jake Long or Andre Smith, depending on contract demands. Then sign a strong safety like LaRon Landry who should come cheaper than other options. Landry has been graded positively in both pass and run defense by Pro Football Focus. We then re-sign DRC as he is simply the best option for one of our corner spots. We cut Asomugha, Vick, Bell, Tapp, etc. to free up money for the draft as well.

    We trade back in the first round with the Rams for their two first round picks.

    1 DT Sheldon Richardson
    1 WR Keenan Allen
    2 –trade back in the second and get an extra fourth: CB Xavier Rhodes
    3 LB Chase Thomas
    4 DE Brandon Jenkins
    4 FS Phillip Thomas
    5 OT Xavier Nixon

    • dislikedisqus

      Wasn’t Andrew Smith the guy Fraham abused on Thursday night?

    • dislikedisqus

      There is no cap room to sign multiple top tier FA’s. Resign yourself to a build by the draft process over at least two years.

  • Mike

    Could not agree more strongly with #5. Getting a little tiresome to be lectured by non-local media about what we ought to be doing for Reid, or how we should be thinking about him. Time to move on, best wishes Andy.

  • theycallmerob

    Sheil, I read the SI article from your #4 post, and came across this in the Carolina Panthers section:

    “But Kelly is said to be only interested in an NFL job that comes with near-total personnel control, so he would seem a possibility only if the Panthers stay in-house with their GM opening and elevate Beane.”
    Have you heard this before? I assume, if true, this removes him from the Eagles’ list.

    • theycallmerob

      ha….of course, that’s what the entire Eagle’s blurb is all about. Guess I should finish one article before starting another.

  • Tim Greene

    #5

  • xlGmanlx

    If we are trying to sign the #1 free agent every year, that speaks to issues with our drafting. If we have to fill a major need through free agency, there are bigger issues. FA is best used to fill supporting/ST players. Hopefully 7 will restructure his contract along with NA, and the front office can either flip them for picks or hire the right head coach.

  • Bdawkbdawk

    I disagree with number 5, Sheil. I think us Eagles fans vastly underappreciate Reid. The “Eagles fans can appreciate what Reid accomplished and still think it’s time to move on” seems like a post hoc position. A position that some Eagles fans have taken in response to criticism. I can’t pretend to ignore all the Eagles fans who were screaming for Reid’s head when we were .500 – early in the season. The NFL is a hard league to win in and we are in a period of outrageous parity. I don’t presume to know your thought process or motives, but I would wager that most people who hide behind #5 wanted Reid out a long time ago.

  • Knighn

    I totally agree with number 5. A lot of the level-headed fans that I know echo that sentiment. Even when this season started to go pretty bad (before it totally collapsed in a crap heap) my mentality on Reid was that if he could turn it around and get the Eagles back in the Playoffs and make a decent showing in the post season Reid would have been deserving of an extension. My opinion on Reid has always been that he is a Good AND flawed coach. My main question was whether he would ever be good enough to overcome the flaws or if those flaws would eventually drag him down completely. Unfortunately it was the latter.

  • Garrett S

    Great piece.

    There will be a lot to digest in the next few months. Part of this frustrating situation is that beyond speculating on the next HC, we can’t predict ANYTHING about the direction of this team. No idea who will still be around, no idea who we will sign, no idea who we will draft, and no idea what type of team we’ll have in terms of personality or style of play.

    In regards to number 5 and everyone else’s comments, one item that’s not really mentioned is how much Jim Johnson had an impact on Andy Reid’s success. How much credit should we really give Andy for those years competitive years?

    Think about it, he’s put together some pretty good offenses over the years, but all had major flaws. He was a huge west coast offense guy but was stubborn about spending on wide receivers early on (until the TO move). That’s not necessarily a bad move, but his ‘cogs in the wheel’ (The Pinkstons and the Fred-x’s), were never efficient enough in 5-15 yard passing downs.

    Beyond that, he’s made questionable calls on personnel, notoriously bad clock management decisions, and his game plan was most often suspect.

    I feel like the offensive line injuries doomed the offense, which is not Reid’s fault, but like Sheil mentioned, the turnovers are a killer.

    I’m still optimistic for next year since in the NFL, it’s so easy to go from worst to first from season to season. We do have some serious talent that can be rebuilt. A healthy OL will decidedly reverse the fortunes of the offense and Peters is the best player on this team.

    Personally, I have my fingers crossed for an aggressive Defensive minded head coach who picks an OC who has a similar strategy as what the Redskins are employing. Let the run set up the big play-action. We have the personnel for that, when the O-line is healthy.

    And the ridiculous statement to end this long winded comment….I’d actually like to see Spags given a second chance. I know he hasn’t done a thing correct since the Giants, but I think he’s ready.

  • dislikedisqus

    Since this is a grab-bag post, let me lob in a question alobg the lines of the turnover observation above: how many times this year did an Eagles receiver drop a likely TD pass that would have made a difference in the outcome (i.e. we lost by 7 or less). I recall at least two by Celek and the one last week by the new guy.

  • Z

    Could not agree with your #5 post more. I love(d) Andy Reid. But his decisions (and the play calling) the past few years have been more than suspect. They’ve been downright out of character…and awful.

    Reid’s situation here is much like that of Terry Francona’s in Boston. Francona was a great manager – bringing the Sox to the promised land- but all of my Boston fan friends were happy he moved on. He was great for the Sox, as Reid was for Iggles, but it was (and is) time to move on.

  • Reid has D’s

    I can’t wait to see how this all shakes out. My dream for the past 9 years was to see Reid fired. Over those years I have always been a Super Bowl or bust fan. If the Eagles won the Super Bowl, I was happy and Reid could stay. If not then Reid needs to go. It feels good to know that I will be a total Eagles fan once again.