There is nothing good about being 1-4 on the young 2011 season – especially with four straight losses. With due respect to the Bills, 49ers, Giants and Falcons the Eagles 1-4 record is misleading as it suggests that Philadelphia was defeated by superior teams. That has not been the case. In every game the Eagles have beaten themselves, ultimately snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by wasting 20-point leads or simply running out of gas in the fourth quarter. While there is plenty of blame to go around, most fingers seem to be pointed at Andy Reid, who by his own admission should be the focus of the burden. Admission is only the first step in any kind of healing process – one that has been unfolding for 13 seasons.
“I’ve got no one to blame but myself,” says Andy Reid. “This is my team so the responsibility is mine.” Despite most of his press conferences being unintelligible Shaquille O’Neal-type mumblings, Reid is trying to say all of the right things. This “mea culpa” routine has become stale and lugubrious because nothing has changed. He is the primary architect of this team (along with Howie Roseman and Joe Banner), he is responsible for the teachings of all his coaches and players and for their performances and he is the one who ultimately designs (or approves) the game plan – not to mention the adjustments he needs to make during the game. Joe Banner said the Eagles were “all in” after the flurry of free-agent signings once the lockout ended, signifying that the team president and mouthpiece of owner Jeff Lurie acknowledged that the talent was in place to win it all. If one person is to be blamed it should be Andy Reid.
While Andy Reid is bigger than Santa Claus (literally and figuratively), we all know what happened to St. Nick when he came across an irate crowd of Eagles fans amid a losing season one fateful Sunday. That didn’t end well for Kris Kringle and this won’t for Planet Reid.
There are many issues at hand with this 1-4 Eagles team. Blocking, Tackling, Turnovers, Penalties and terrible mental discipline in the fourth quarter all need immediate help. Going 1-5 next week at the hands of the Washington Redskins heading into a bye week would be the football version of hare karee or seppuku or career suicide. Reid’s song and dance of “I’ve got to put players in position to make better plays” or “I’ve got to do a better job preparing this team” or “we should have done a better job there” has become white noise following loss after loss after loss – not to mention season after season.
How long have we been screaming for a power running game? How often have we lambasted the Eagles for lack of talent at linebacker and safety? How long have we watched Reid retool the offensive line with little result? How long did we plead for some skill players that could dramatically open the offense and change a game? How long did it take to get rid of Donovan McNabb – yet Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook were run out of town early? It has been 13 years…which in the NFL is a virtual eternity… and still we hold onto our five NFC Championships tempered by the winningest decade of regular season (118 wins) in Philadelphia Eagles history.
Listing the Eagles problems in no particular order would include:
- High-priced free agents who are not performing
- Defensive scheme exposes weaknesses (linebackers and playing zone with cover corners)
- Poor fundamental performance (turnovers, penalties, poor blocking)
- Poor mental performance and preventable mistakes (missed opportunities, lost leads, dropped catches)
- Lack of power running game to preserve leads or score in Red Zone
- Poor clock management
- Poor play calling and scheme execution (on offense and defense
- If I missed anything please let me know. This team cannot hold a lead (has been outscored by 4 TD in the fourth quarter) has coaches in the wrong position.
- is clearly overmatched and should be replaced by
- as defensive coordinator immediately) is losing games that they should have won and are playing schemes which expose their weaknesses rather than accent the strength of their talent.
Twice the Eagles have had the game-winning or game-clinching score in their hands (quite literally) and four times they have had opportunity to preserve or maintain a lead and all four opportunities have resulted in losses. Despite having the two best line coaches (Jim Washburn and Howard Mudd) in the game on this team, neither the offense nor the defensive line can get it together for four consecutive quarters. Mudd is scheduled for hip surgery and a reconstructive approach might be needed for this whole team. Pain medication would certainly be appropriate for Eagles fans and season ticket holders!
In their last two games, the Eagles have amassed 1,000 yards of offense but lost both games – marking the first time in NFL history. Michael Vick has surpassed Randall Cunningham for the all-time QB rushing title. The team averages 30 points per game but surrenders 35. Good for a fantasy football team but not good enough in the NFL. Worst of all might be the microcosm of the Eagles 2011 season… Buffalo Bills line up with 4th down and half a foot, trying to draw the Eagles offsides and kill any chance of a last-minute comeback with a 7-point lead and under 1:30 left on the clock. Despite the fact that everyone in Ralph Wilson Stadium (plus those watching at home) knew not to jump on the hard count so that Buffalo would be forced to punt back to Vick, Shady, DeSean and the Eagles offense – Juqua Parker jumps into the neutral zone!
Three penalties for 25 yards backing the Eagles up from the 6 and negating a Vick score eventually resulted in pulling that TD off the board and settling for a field goal. Between the 20s this Eagles team is firing on all cylinders, executing plays, blocking, scheming, making positive plays out of broken plays and generally doing what they have to do in order to put this team into position – and subsequently failing once they get to the Red Zone.
What can be done? Well lots of things could be done but the real question is what should be done? Should Juan Castillo be the scapegoat and take the fall for the 1-5 start? Even if management wanted to, Jeff Fisher or Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy or Eric Mangini will not be walking through that door to clean up someone else’s mess in midseason. Flavor Flav is not walking through that door to help Andy Reid with clock management and most importantly, players with more talent are not walking through that NovaCare Complex door. The payroll is what it is and this team is already loaded with raw talent.
Nnamdi Asomugha is a premiere bump and run cover corner being asked to play in a zone defense as are Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel. Cullen Jenkins won a Super Bowl in a 3-4 defense but is being asked to adjust to a 4-3. Jason Babin was a beast out of the Wide Nine defense which focuses on linebacker play while the Eagles have 6th and 7th round picks at the position. Redshirt draft picks such as Brandon Graham, Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kurt Coleman, Curtis Marsh, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Moise Fokou, Brian Rolle, Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins have experienced a good game or two but still haven’t proven themselves. Nick Barnett (featured MLB for Buffalo) was available for the veteran market price in free agency this offseason having come off a championship right along with Cullen Jenkins and the Green Bay Packers. Casey Matthews or Nick Barnett?
When you are spinning out of control, the first task is to stop the momentum and regain control. After that you figure out how to get going in the right direction. Firing the head coach basically never works. Bringing in retread players will not happen as the Eagles have already imported premiere high-priced free agents. First is the Washington Redskins. The Eagles have to take one game at a time and would be well-served to take advantage of their upcoming bye week.
Being 1-4 in the NFC East does not spell doom as the division is still winnable – but the Eagles cannot run nor can they stop the run. How is that going to play out over the second half of the season against bruising, physical NFL teams? The Eagles already rank among the league’s worst at stopping the run as well as Red Zone offense and Red Zone defense. Reid needs to display that this team as it is currently constructed can make adjustments to overcome their shortcomings. Philadelphia has had opportunity to win every game and could just as easily be 5-0 as they are 1-4. Are the Buffalo Bills or San Francisco 49ers as good as their record? Record indicates what you’ve done but it does not indicate future success or failure.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org