The Eagles Stink-And It’s Andy Reid’s Fault
The blind optimists and Kool-Aid chuggers will tell us in the coming days that the Eagles can still reach the playoffs. A 10-6 record might just do it, although the reality of the situation is that the Arizona Cardinals now hold the tiebreaker over the Birds, were the two fetid 3-6 teams to end up deadlocked for a post-season berth. So do the Bears, Falcons, Niners and Giants, for that matter.
Any talk about the Eagles in the playoffs is laughable right now, because this season is over. There is no hope of a second-half rally, as there seemed to be after the big win over Dallas two weeks ago. The Eagles are a complete mess, and it’s time to end the talk of how much “talent” the team has and face the reality that this team is comprised of players who do not know how to win and, worse, lack the fortitude necessary to handle business in key situations.
More importantly, it’s time for owner Jeffrey Lurie to realize that concentrating both the personnel and the coaching responsibilities in the hands of Andy Reid is a bad idea. Reid has assembled a team that does not have the ability to thrive in the NFL. From the moment people started gushing about how great the Eagles could be in 2011, the entire organization adopted the attitude that winning would be merely a function of stepping onto the field and dazzling the opposition with skill and ability. Even as the losses piled up in the season’s first half, the Birds continue to behave as if fate was conspiring against them. After all, how could such a talented group fail repeatedly? Either Reid has to go all together, or he must be stripped of his GM duties immediately. Howie Roseman may be the de facto man in charge of personnel, but Reid holds sway in every situation, often pulling out the “I played the game” card on Roseman and Banner. If the Eagles keep Reid for the final two years of his contract, they must install a proven general manager and keep Reid out of the team’s executive branch.
The fact is, this team is not nearly as good as it thinks it is–and that’s before intangibles like grit and resilience are taken into account. With them in the equation, the Eagles are borderline hapless. The offensive line remains extremely shaky. The linebacking corps, while certainly more productive than it was in September, remains mediocre, and the safeties–even when everyone is healthy–are uninspiring. Watching Larry Fitzgerald torch rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett Sunday showed two things: how desperate things have become on the back line and how overmatched defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is that his charges can end up in a defense that allows said disaster to happen.
Perhaps the biggest mistake that has been made is the overvaluing of Michael Vick. The $100 million quarterback had another clunker Sunday, completing 47.0% of his passes and tossing two interceptions, the last on a badly overthrown ball as the Eagles were trying to drive for a game-winning TD. Vick has thrown 11 touchdowns and as many picks this year and has a QB rating off 79.8, which ranks 20th among the top 30 passing-yardage leaders in the league. (Even Donovan McNabb, who was benched in Minnesota for awful play, has a higher rating.) Vick’s pedestrian figure is a much more accurate representation of his performance than was last year’s season-ending 100.2 mark. Vick played five full seasons before the 2011 campaign, and in four of them, his final passer rating was 81.6 or lower. That’s hardly grounds for a nine-figure contract. But Reid saw fit to spend that much money on a quarterback whose shaky career has featured gushing from people who value highlights over consistency and too little reliable play.
The Eagles’ 3-6 record is an accurate representation of an organization that has mishandled the entire season, from the minute Reid anointed Castillo as his defensive coordinator, through giddy free-agent buying to the ugly end of Sunday’s game. The Eagles lack heart. They lack toughness. They lack talent. They lack direction. They lack reliable leadership. Their 3-6 is an absolutely accurate representation of who they are. Period.
The trouble is, removing Reid from this is practically impossible. His decision to deactivate, rather than fine, DeSean Jackson before Sunday’s game proved that. As former Eagle Jeremiah Trotter said on 97.5 The Fanatic’s pre-game show, sitting a top player hurts the whole team. If a coach wants to penalize a player, he can do it by fining him. That would be particularly effective with Jackson, whose cavalier approach to participation is due entirely to dissatisfaction with his contract. By benching Jackson, Reid showed an arrogance that goes beyond even his previous levels. He showed he doesn’t care whether Jackson’s absence handcuffs the team and causes it to fall out of playoff contention. He’s secure, and he knows it. Who cares if the Eagles lose to the Cardinals at home? He made his statement, and he’s owed about $10 million over the next two seasons by an owner who isn’t too keen on wasting money.
It’s time for Lurie to get tough on someone other than a player seeking a new contract. Throughout his entire tenure, the owner has crowed about “gold standards” and reveled in a devoted fan base that filled his stadium and helped the franchise value soar. The past few years have featured stunning playoff collapses and now this disgraceful season-long performance. If Lurie keeps the same business model in place, he is setting the stage for a prolonged period of failure. Either fire Reid or strip him of his personnel responsibilities. He can’t have both. This season has proven that changes must be made. Does Lurie have the stomach to make them, or is he like his team–soft and ineffective?
- Penn State should not accept a bowl bid, even if it means passing on a trip to Pasadena. The Nittany Lions need to finish the regular season and move on with their coaching search and investigation into who knew what and when. A bowl trip would just prolong the agony of the 2011 and continue to remind victims that it was football that spawned the tragedy in the first place.
- Today is the likely the final day of this chapter of the NBA lockout, and it’s unlikely a deal will be made. It’s mystifying that the majority of players is letting a small number of big-contract guys hold up a deal because they are insisting that teams over the salary cap be allowed to keep spending money. The “regular guys” ought to wrest control of the union away from the stars and preserve a season, not the right of Carmelo Anthony to command a $120 million contract and to play in New York.
- After overspending (four years, $50 million) for Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies had better not cry poor when it comes to fortifying their offense. The team needed a closer, but giving a guy whose save total has dropped in each of the past three seasons that kind of money for four seasons is a reach. Let’s hope we don’t hear about self-imposed salary ceilings when it’s time to add strong offensive weapons, especially after the Phils announced a rise in most ticket prices.