Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Andy Reid and the Eagles

In my mind, this week (weak) sealed it.  While my confidence was certainly wavering after the past 22 games of The Michael Vick Era, for some reason I was still clinging to some hope that Andy would “do better” after he left us with that hollow line week after week after week.

As I really sit down and think about what I want to write about the man, Andy Reid, from his coaching abilities and disabilities to his ridiculous relationship with the relentlessly passionate Philadelphia Eagles fan base (and of course the rabid media), it's hard to even know where to begin. The relationship has gone back so long. Perhaps, that is why I was always quick to give him the benefit of the doubt. He took us to sustained goodness (never got the greatness part) and every season was filled with hopeful potential.

This season, and last season for that matter, is no different as far as the aspirations of the football team and the city. Basically, even if the Eagles get to the Super Bowl that would not be enough; this city would have plenty to complain about if our team once again failed to win the big one under Reid. Well, while they are certainly not out of it, its hard to imagine this season’s record not ending up somewhere around last season’s record given the brutal schedule the Eagles are saddled with this year. Eight and Eight. Woefully short of expectations for a team that keeps throwing around absurd talk before seasons because “they look good on paper.”

Mike Vick’s mention that this team had what it takes to be a dynasty and Vince Young’s infamous Dream Team comment are laughable. This team can’t get out of their own way enough to win games with a 10 point lead and less than 6 minutes to go with the ball.  At this point, I’m of the opinion that Andy Reid is the man that is standing in their way.

It didn’t used to be this way with Andy. He used to surround himself with top notch personnel, many of whom have gone on to bigger and sometimes better things. John Harbaugh, Brad Childress, Ron Rivera, and Steve Spagnuolo are just a few that have gone on to head coaching jobs. Things really haven’t been the same since the great Jim Johnson passed.

Sean McDermott was a logical successor to Johnson, but Reid was quick to axe McDermott which meant Andy was on the hook to find the Eagles next defensive coordinator.  The decision he made will ultimately lead to his demise as the head ball coach of the Eagles.

For years Andy has fancied himself the smartest guy in the room. For a little while there, he might have been. It has become evident over the past few years that he no longer is. In 2010, he traded up in the first round and I remember everybody thinking that Earl Thomas was heading to Philadelphia. Nope, Andy saw something in Brandon Graham that apparently nobody else did. He picked the defensive end Graham 13th overall and he has 3.5 sacks in 3 years. Jason Pierre-Paul has 26.5 sacks and went 15th to division competitor and defending Super Bowl champ New York Giants. Earl Thomas was second team all NFL at safety for the Seahawks last year. The Eagles haven’t had a reliable safety since Brian Dawkins left town 3 years ago.

In 2011 he selected a 26 year-old Canadian offensive lineman named Danny Watkins in the first round. Watkins started 12 games last year but has been an on-again-off-again starter for a bottom 5 in the league offensive line unit that has been devastated by injuries this year. Nobody saw this pick coming at the time. Andy thinks he knows something that nobody else does, but it’s turning out that he doesn’t.

It’s safe to say these high picks weren’t working out like some draft steals he was able to pull off in Brian Westbrook and Trent Cole. Somewhere along the way, Andy lost his mojo.

Also in 2011, Andy made the decision to hire his own offensive line coach, Juan Castillo, as the architect of the Eagles defense. The audacity of this decision is unparalleled. The decision to hire Castillo was disrespectful. It was disrespectful to legitimately experienced candidates who he decided weren’t good enough for his team. It was disrespectful to his owner, Jeff Lurie, who finally came out publicly to say he was confused with the move to appoint Castillo. It was disrespectful to a defense that now had to take orders from a virtual novice when it came to game planning and scheming from the defensive side of the football. This isn’t Friday night in Texas. Everybody in the NFL is the smartest in the world at what they do. What made Reid think the Castillo decision could ever work? Arrogance is the first word that comes to my mind as the answer to that question.

The Eagles fell apart almost immediately last season. It was a combination of things that all reflected poorly upon Reid that contributed to a team that began the season 4-8. A big waving finger was pointing at Juan Castillo as a main reason for the early season struggles. Nevertheless, Andy trotted Juan out as the defensive coordinator again for the 2012 season. Turnovers and discipline were the major issues of a team that was 3-3 entering the bye week. It certainly wasn’t a defense that kept the team in every game, save one, while dealing with an offense that was 31st in the league in points and continually placed it in a hole by committing a mind-boggling amount of turnovers.

After two straight blown 4th quarter leads Andy broke. He needed a scapegoat. He needed a pressure release. The media was ready to eat him alive so he created a diversion in hopes of saving his team, his season, and his job. He fired Juan Castillo and brought in a man with some experience in Todd Boles.

Now, the Eagles came off the bye week at home against the Atlanta Falcons. Nobody is running away with the Wild Cards in the NFC this year so this was not exactly a make or break game, but for every Eagles fan’s sanity, we needed to see the team come out with a much better sense of purpose and urgency then they had been playing with. The exact opposite happened. Matt Ryan and the Falcons picked apart the Eagles defense so bad in the first half (4 scores in 4 possesions) that it elicited ludicrous comments from my friends like, “It looks like they’re taking a dive for Juan.”

It was that bad this past Sunday against the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons. At this point, Reid is throwing darts at the wall trying to come up with something to save his job. It turns out Mike Vick had a magical 10 games in 2010 and never was before and never has been since that caliber quarterback. It turns out Nnamdi Asomugha is just above being a bum (ask Julio Jones if Nnamdi is still considered the best press corner in the league?). It turns out wide 9s can’t register a sack with two maniacs at defensive end. It turns out that having a top three running back doesn’t mean your offense is any good.  Right now Andy is like George Clooney clinging to life in the 25 foot waves in The Perfect Storm. You know this ship is going down, you’re just not sure when yet. (This has the be the first and last Clooney-Reid comparison ever made.)

So after all of these gut-wrenching games that Eagles fans have to endure, Reid gets his chance to explain himself. He gets his chance to break down what the Eagles did wrong, and why it happened, and what he’s going to do to fix it. Except that never happens. Every week the slimming down walrus lookalike saunters up to the podium as if it’s the guillotine. Answering to the media and the fans is clearly an obligation to Andy Reid that he feels he is above.

You’d think after more than a decade in Philadelphia he’d realize that his demeanor is not exactly going to endear himself to the blue-collar fans of the Philadelphia Eagles. After any loss, every Andy Reid press conference goes the exact same way.

“I’ve got to do a better job of putting players in position to make plays.”

*Deep sigh*

“In hindsight, that may have been a better option.”

*Throat clear, a look of disdain, and another deep sigh*

“I’ve got to do better, we’ve got to do better.”

Normally, I wouldn’t mind these answers so much. It’s standard boilerplate NFL coach talk for basically telling you to, "Go f*&@ yourself, I'm busy and this is taking up my time." They all do it. But what really grinds my gears is that every single week we see Andy Reid’s football teams come out and make the same mental mistakes without fail.

Somebody is always good for a personal foul not having to do with an actual play.

Somebody is always good for a fumble at the worst possible time.

Andy is good for an ill-advised challenge once every two games.

For 13 years now it seems, Andy has screwed up calling timeouts. The Eagles have to have the highest rate of calling a time out in the first 5 minutes of a half of any team in the league. Why not instruct Vick to take a 5 yard penalty on 1st and 10 with 12 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter instead of wasting a time out? Time-out calling seems like common sense, but for years Andy has screwed up this seemingly simple detail of being a head coach.

All of these things I mention are related directly to coaching. They are not things affected by talent. They aren’t schemes and plays. They are simply a reflection of a coach who is not getting it done. That’s why I’m tired of the false promises of a coach who’s days are numbered in the City of Brotherly Love.