How to Turn the Dream Team into the Redeem Team -- 10 Ways to Fix the Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles, the big spender in the free agent market this off-season, are a dismal 3-6, and 3 games behind the NFC East division leading New York Giants. Clearly this is not the record they hoped for when the Birds management shelled out nearly $110 million on players this season. The self-proclaimed 'Dream Team' has big issues and even bigger questions about who they are as a team. If they are going to salvage any part of the rest of the season, they need to get back to focusing on the basics of football.
Here are 10 ways for the Eagles to become the 'Redeem Team' this season:
1. Bring Back the Blitz -- The Eagles have long-lived by the blitz and died by the blitz yet it is mostly absent in this year's playbook. The blitz mentality and swagger it produces has traditionally been ingrained into the fabric and personality of the Philly D. No current NFL quarterback is afraid of the new 'Wide 9' defense scheme, which leaves too many gaps in the line and too many places for a running back to find room. This season, there has been little to no pressure on opposing quarterbacks, translating into the Eagles ranking at the bottom of the league in turnovers and sacks.
2. Impose Mandatory 'How to Tackle' Film Sessions -- Show film at least once a week of former defensive greats Andre Waters and Reggie White tackling offensive players. Too many receivers, running backs and tight ends are gaining excessive yards after the catch due to shoddy and non-existent tackling by the current team. (Also, when Brian Dawkins retires, bring him back as a defensive line coach.)
3. Implement Moneyball -- as Washington Redskin's owner Daniel Snyder learned the hard way, big-ticket free agents do not guarantee wins or help create team chemistry. Perhaps it's worth taking a look at the principles of Moneyball and finding unheralded talented players who are measured on how well they perform football basics including tackling, blocking, running, and catching -- and that don't come with a $60 million dollar per player price tag.
4. Find the Next Buddy Ryan -- Philly is one of top 5 media markets where coaches receive great exposure, yet management overlooked the chance to find the next up and coming defensive genius. Rob Ryan could have been a welcome addition to the D but the Eagles chose to insert someone who has never coached defense a day in his life. To have former offensive coordinator Juan Castillo coach the defense, after Eagles brass spent millions on Pro Bowl Players, is an arrogant and ignorant move that has failed.
5. Get Back to Basics -- Stopping the run and running the football are what wins games especially in December and beyond. The Eagles have one of the top running back in the NFL yet the play calling still skews heavily to the pass. Quarterback Michael Vick has an alarming 11 interceptions so far this season. Teams are averaging more than 5 yards a carry against the Eagles defense. It all adds up to the Eagles needing to go back to a more balanced game of running and throwing the ball.
6. Play to Vick's Strengths -- Michael Vick is not a pocket passer, nor does he protect the ball well. The team needs to return to executing the high percentage plays to help him succeed; such as: screens, designed roll outs or planned bootlegs behind 6'4 left tackle Jason Peters or the 6'9 King Dunlap. The long shots down field are exciting to watch, but they are too well defended without the success of moving the ball and getting first downs.
7. Outsource Clock Management -- Bring in a clock management expert, ala Bill Belichick, New England's shrewd head coach. Andy Reid has a well-deserved reputation for poor game time clock management. Having a specialist focus on this basic but crucial area will help limit unnecessary time outs, delay of game calls, and bad decisions in 4th and short situations.
8. Sign DeSean Jackson Now -- DeSean is clearly a disgruntled employee phoning in his blocks and other assignments. And who can blame him? He's one of the best offensive weapons on the team yet is seriously underpaid. Making him happy is a smart move for the entire offense.
9. Fix the Intangibles -- Bring in tough guys like Herm Edwards, Chuck Bednarik, Buddy Ryan and even Sylvester Stallone to teach this team about toughness and swagger, something that is sorely lacking this season. Or why not bring in Al Pacino to give his 'football is a game of inches' speech if it helps inspire the team to play with an edge.
10. Coach Andy Reid Has To Go -- In 13 years, he hasn't won a ring. He's burned out (see: Dick Vermeil), and his style of coaching is no longer a fit for the team or for the city. His party line of not putting his players in a position to win is not a viable excuse and embarrassing to the fans that have to hear it every week. The organization would benefit from some fresh blood and thinking. I hear Tony Dungy is available.
And if all else fails, Philly fans can root for that other green team in the league coached by a Ryan - the Jets.