Don’t Fire Andy Reid
Technically speaking, the Eagles season isn’t over yet. In reality, with the playoffs out of reach, the end can’t come soon enough. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who isn’t planning my New Year’s Day around this meaningless game against the Redskins, an awful team that can at least say they lived up to their expectations of being lousy. As the calendar turns on another year and one more Super Bowl dream deferred, here’s my wish list for the Eagles in 2012.
1. Don’t Fire Andy Reid
Four weeks ago, Reid had as much job security as a night-shift server at Friendly’s. Now, the smart money says he’ll be back. To me, that’s a wise move. Before you stop reading and fire off an anti-Andy screed, I’m not saying he should stay because the team might finish with an 8-8 record. He should stick around because upheaval is a big reason why the Eagles regressed this year. This past summer, the front office gambled that despite a shortened pre-season, they could find success with high-profile players, fallen stars like Vince Young and Steve Smith, rookies in the starting lineup, and a retooled defense with new coaches, including a coordinator whose career was spent on the other side of the ball. The phrase “epic fail” doesn’t quite do justice to how flawed that plan was. With a lack of better alternatives (see #2 below), give Reid one final season to weed out the pieces that didn’t fit, add new ones, and help Michael Vick rediscover his 2010 mojo. Anything short of a Super Bowl victory next year and Big Red can refuse to run the ball somewhere else.
2. Hire Steve Spagnuolo
There’s a rumor circulating that the Eagles defensive alum is not long for the head coaching job in St. Louis. Right now—at least on sports talk radio—there’s a weird fan-crush on Spags, despite the fact that his 2-13 season with the Rams offers no clues as to whether he can run a team. This bromance is about nostalgia, since he coached linebackers here under beloved defensive mastermind Jim Johnson, and also about jewelry, namely the Super Bowl ring he won with the Giants. It seems unlikely that Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner would recruit a high-profile Reid replacement like Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher or Brian Billick, partly for the money they’d command, but mostly because they’d want more control than Banner or Howie Roseman would give up. Give Spagnuolo a handsome offer to replace Juan Castillo and spend a year bolstering the defense. If Reid leaves next season, hand Spags the keys to the head coach’s office.
3. Pay Desean Jackson
Never thought I’d root for a pre-season hold-out, but that’s what Jackson should have done this summer. Instead, he made his point about wanting a new deal, then played the good soldier and reported to training camp. His loyalty was rewarded with a reduced role in the offense and what appears to be his last season as an Eagle. It’s easy for armchair quarterbacks to say the generously listed 175-pound wideout should hustle with reckless abandon on every play regardless of his contract status. But if most of them suffered two concussions on the job last year, they’d likely be home eating Cheetos and collecting disability pay. It also doesn’t help that Vick has a tendency to lead his receivers into dangerous coverage. Injuries and attitude aside, the bottom line is this: without Jackson to push opposing safeties deep into the backfield and pose a deep threat on any given play, the offense will suffer. To use a radio-edit paraphrase from Hustle & Flow, the Birds need to stop messin’ wit’ DJ and sign him.
4. Cut Vince Young
Somebody has to take the hit for the “Dream Team” comment that hung over the team like a curse. Might as well be the guy who said it—and whose touchdown/interception ratio is a lusty 4/9.
5. Find An Identity
Decades from now, the final standings won’t fully explain what made this season so miserable. Personality doesn’t show up on paper. It’s not a measurable stat, but it’s a big reason why fans soured on this squad. The drama never ended: Jason Kelce’s confrontation with Sign Man; Jason Avant saying the team treats the Linc like road games and enjoys getting booed by the home crowd; Young praising his own mediocre performances; Clay Matthews moaning about how fans here are “rough” and beyond his comprehension; and the nagging feeling that half the players care more about stats than wins and losses. In addition to adding talent, especially on defense, they need more guys like Brent Celek, who’s pissed after every loss, knowing he might be one step further away from a Super Bowl victory. They need more guys like Cullen Jenkins, who has a championship ring to back up his straight talk about the team’s lack of attitude and how “at some point, the man in you has to come out.” That leadership reminds me of the over-the-hill dude who wears number 20 for the Broncos. Somewhere between his Pro Bowls and collecting Medicare, that ex-Eagle has 51 tackles and three sacks this season. Forget Tebowing. The Birds need some guys who are B-Dawking, both on the field and in the locker room.