When you're sitting at 1-4 and in the cellar of the NFC East, it's easy to point fingers. But when you spent the type of money that Philadelphia spent this past offseason, it's not just easy to point fingers, it's necessary.
So point them at Andy Reid, the team's part architect, head coach and offensive coordinator. Reid is a disciple of Mike Holmgren. He has had a long and steady coaching career and is well respected. People even generally feel sorry for him given his sons' legal troubles. In his 12 seasons with the Eagles, he has 129 career wins -- the best winning percentage in franchise history-- and he led the team to the 2004 Super Bowl.
But Reid needs to go.
In a "What have you done for me lately?" league, you'll find Reid hasn't done much. Once thought of as an elite offensive mind and play-caller, Reid has become both predictable and consistently unsuccessful. Dallas destroyed Philly in their wild card game two years ago and Green Bay beat them at home last season. This year, the Eagles have stumbled to a 1-4 start.
Against a fiery and confident Buffalo team on the road Sunday, Reid's stale offensive scheme quickly landed the Eagles in a 28-7 hole. Reid has always been known as a pass-first coach who uses variations of the West Coast offense to thrive. Yet despite having what is perhaps the league's most talented offense, Reid continues to struggle getting points on the board thanks in large part to a stubborn commitment to throw, even when it's not working.
In their prior three losses this season, the Eagles averaged a mere 21 points per game. Michael Vick tossed four more interceptions Sunday, bringing his total turnovers to 10 for the year -- he had nine all of last year. Vick has looked confused in the pocket, and LeSean McCoy, on track for another Pro Bowl season, hasn't been able to get the ball when it counts.
When the Eagles hosted New York two weeks ago, we saw the same issues. McCoy gashed the Giants during the first half and single-handedly kept Philly close with his 96 yards of total offense and a key touchdown that pulled them within four. Yet Reid refused to run the ball in the second half when the Giants were on their heels. McCoy ended up with 128 yards rushing on 24 carries and another touchdown. The way he was running the ball, he should have had 40 carries alone. Meanwhile, New York was bouncing Vick around like a pinball machine; he was eventually hurt because Reid continually put him in a vulnerable position by keeping him in the pocket. Vick's postgame comments clearly demonstrated both frustration and a general lack of trust in his offensive line.
What made the Eagles so lethal last year was a combination of three things: a). Vick being an effective pocket passer, b.) McCoy getting 25-plus touches a game and c). utilizing DeSean Jackson's downfield speed. In 2010, Philadelphia was a sound football team that didn't beat itself.
The 2011 Eagles are like a broken mirror that doesn't reflect. They are undisciplined, they don't tackle, they mindlessly turn the ball over. Vick refuses to throw the ball away, as he did in 2002, and McCoy doesn't get the ball nearly enough. The offsides penalty against Buffalo didn't lose Philly the game Sunday; 59 minutes of mediocre football and poor decisions did.
The "dream team" comparisons that were made before the season began have proved as stupid and untrue as those made for the NBA's Miami Heat. Like the South Beach basketball team, this Eagles team has superior talent but lacks a killer mentality. Even when it has a lead, it cannot close. Watch this team for half a quarter and two things become readily apparent: The Eagles are immensely talented and they are NOT winners.
This all brings us back to Andy Reid. A great coach puts players in the best place to succeed. Andy Reid doesn't do this.
McCoy is averaging nearly 6 yards per carry, good enough for first in the entire league. He's an emerging star. If Reid would rather throw 35 times a game, then he must utilize and protect his team's strengths. Get Vick moving outside the pocket where he becomes a dual threat; use the screen pass to McCoy; allow DeSean Jackson to run flag and deep posts; and put Jeremy Maclin in the slot. Super-talented tight end Brent Celek is seldom used in the passing game, despite catching 76 balls for 971 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2009.
Defensively, Philly is 30th in rushing yards against. While the pass defense ranks seventh, it somehow manages to give up one gaping play after another. For an organization that gave Nnamdi Asomugha $60 million, allowing the Giants' un-drafted free agent Victor Cruz to go for 110 yards, score twice and do this is a joke. Asante Samuel is probably the best No. 2 corner in the league, yet despite the ability to shut down aerial attacks, the Eagles run soft zone coverage that neither slows the pass nor the run.
Everything on this team right now is backwards. And the NFC East is a brutal division where nine wins will be hard to come by.
Andy Reid has a long list of accomplishments and he has been here before. And he signed free agents like Asomugha, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins. So the writing is on the wall: A 1-4 record heading nowhere but south is completely unacceptable. Philadelphia needs a stern leader that forces the Eagles to play sound football, yet is inventive enough to unleash all of the team's superb, but now oddly-harnessed, talent.
The last team to make the playoffs after the starting the season 1-4 was the 2002 New York Jets. Unless the Eagles pull off some Herculean comeback, this season is undoubtedly Andy Reid's last.
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