Most of the populated world fears the apocalyptic nightmare scenario. Whether due to nuclear war, depletion of natural resources, destruction of the modern monoliths defining our world or simply an object of space debris colliding with the planet to cause collateral damage, fear of the unknown may be worse than the actual act of destruction.
We don’t know how it will happen, but the one good thing about waking up in a post-apocalyptic nightmare is that the worst is behind you. The inevitable, unknowable, unceremonious end of life as we knew it has occurred and to our dismay or surprise, there are survivors. Hollywood offers us images of a lonely warrior wandering the desolate terrain in the wake of what used to be modern society, fending off zombie remnants of humankind or struggling to salvage sporadic survivors (who tend to look like Jennifer Beals or Mila Kunis), scattered across the wasteland. With each step, mankind moves away from the Eve of Destruction and toward an uncertain future.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the Philadelphia Eagles 2011 season has been an appalling disappointment. What began with a flurry of free agent moves orchestrated in conjunction with cries of “All In” and the moniker of “Dream Team” has now culminated in a nationally televised death knell. Thursday Night Football on NFL Network brought anyone brave enough to watch whistle to whistle coverage of a public execution. This is The End. The End of the Eagles previously slim playoff hopes. The End of the Dream Team Experiment. The End of the Andy Reid Era. In his thirteenth season, the most tenured NFL Head Coach has stayed at the same party for too long. It’s not so much that Andy Reid has overstayed his welcome; rather that he drank all the punch, scarfed down every cocktail weenie and stands apologetically next to the load-bearing garage wall that he just drove his SUV through while trying to leave.
On the football field, the Eagles suffered a 31-14 thrashing by the Seattle Seahawks and the game really wasn’t as close as the lopsided score suggests. The Eagles beat themselves but Seattle got the win. Pete Carroll even ordered a kneel down as the fourth quarter came to a close, imposing an unwritten mercy rule before his team and fans celebrated their resounding victory. Philadelphia looked worse than the Bad News Bears having essentially given up. To say that this Eagles team has a lot of questions may be corollary to suggesting that Andy Reid might not be the best spokesperson for Planet Hoagie. The Eagles lost to Seattle and may not win another game this season.
Failure to make the postseason is not the Philadelphia Eagles most pressing issue. After watching Thursday’s game the scrutiny should begin with the defensive unit. Coming into the season there were a lot of questions about the promotion of Eagles former offensive line coach, Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator. Castillo had no defensive coaching experience above the community college level but head coach Andy Reid was so impressed with Juan’s zeal (and 17 years of service) that he proclaimed Castillo to be the best choice. The team really did not interview any other prospects though a lot of names (Trgovac, Jauron, Williams, Rivera, Singletary to name just a few) had been circulated. At the time it seemed mysterious. Why not draw from a limitless talent pool to find the best candidate available through due dilligence? Was Castillo really the best person out there or were there other reasons why Castillo was granted the job? This cheerleader approach by Castillo does not work in the NFL (as has been proven repeatedly but most recently by Mike Singletary in San Francisco). Then again, across the sidelines stands Pete Carroll, college coach extraordinaire. So the amendment should be that the cheerleader effect can work if subsidized by a solid gameplan and fortified defensive scheme.
Not the case for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Thursday night’s game against the Seahawks again proved that this team is unable to make tackles and looks totally bewildered on the field. There were plenty of missed coverages not to mention a complete lack of pride or passion. There is no excuse for any of this – despite attempts to meld a Wide 9 philosophy with a poor core of linebackers having virtually no preseason and a collection of sixth and seventh round draft talent. Those excuses don’t fly in Week 12 of the NFL season. The players look lost and discombobulated and that is largely because they are lost and discombobulated. Stallwart defensive backs are being asked to play zone coverage while unproven rookie and sophomore safeties wind up covering world class receivers in their wake.
The Eagles defense was once again embarrassed - this time by Tavaris Jackson – whom they made look like Tom Brady. Tarvaris Jackson (13-16, 190 yards, TD, 137 QBR) is certainly no Tom Brady (nor is he Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Tom Mix or Tommy Hilfiger). Even Tom & Jerry might be more entertaining than Tavaris Jackson’s version of a passing clinic but Jackson was on the winning team Thursday night!
Seattle totaled 347 yards of offense (Eagles 330) but 174 of those yards were via the rushing attack, which devoured the Eagles defense. The Seahawks were led by RB Marshawn Lynch who finished the night with 22 carries, 148 yards and a couple TD. This was testament as much to the fact that the Eagles appeared not interested in playing as Lynch’s talent. Philadelphia showed no heart or desire allowing Lynch to break tackles and run rampant all night long. Especially disconcerting was the fact that Seattle’s pop-gun passing game (173 yards) was no alternative to Lynch’s legs. Knowing what an offense will do is one thing, stopping them is quite another.
The blame starts with the head coach Andy Reid and goes down to defensive coordinator Castillo, his supporting coaches, the players and even the ball boys – but it does not exonerate Joe Banner or Howie Roseman (more on them later).
Both Reid and Castillo have to realize that the team and the defense do not want to play for either of them. More than that, coaches are squabbling on the sidelines, players are squabbling in practice and nobody seems to have any sense of who is in charge or how quickly this doomed ship of fools is sinking.
Case in point… marquee free agent prize Nnamdi Asomugha was splayed out on the turf, crumpled, wounded and suffering from the result of a cranial collision. While the Eagles medical staff attended to Asomugha, assessing his mental acuity and deciding between concussion syndrome or simply having the sense knocked out of him… DeSean Jackson and Marshawn Lynch were 5 yards away yucking it up and socializing on camera as though they were at a cocktail party that just happened to be held in a football stadium in front of 60,000 people.
Philadelphia Eagles fans are exhausted from years of teetering on the verge of success then ultimately being disappointed. Five NFC Championship appearances, one Super Bowl loss and constant reminders that the Eagles are the gold standard of the NFL all sound like positive attributes. Over that time the Eagles have more first round playoff wipeouts than Super Bowl appearances and more former coaching assistants finding success elsewhere than the team has NFC Championships. Reid’s record is 122-81 (.600) but since losing Super Bowl XXXIX, Reid’s squads boast just a 61-52 (.539) record – and January 2005 in Jacksonville seems like a long time ago. No player remains on the roster from that Super Bowl-losing squad and in fact Reid remains the only person still with the team in the same role from that 2004 season.
This team has blown 5 fourth quarter leads which should have been winnable games. Whether 9-3 or 4-8 this defense has proven heartless and toothless to the point of being disgraceful. There are four games left in the 2011 season. Each man must show some kind of character, heart, and play with a sense of pride in order to salvage something from this season – such as a job for 2012.
DeSean Jackson is a petulant man-child pouting over his contract. He saw the team spend countless millions this offseason to bring in Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Ronnie Brown, Steve Smith and Vince Young – not to mention Michael Vick’s $100 million deal – all while Jackson was asked to honor his existing contract. LeSean McCoy meanwhile expressed his desire to win football games and his realization of his place in the team’s hierarchy – both within the talent pool and the veteran structure.
Silently, McCoy has led the league in rushing and TD while Jackson is short-arming balls in the end zone and getting benched for his terrible attitude. Vick has taken a record number of hits which finally sidelined him and made way for Vince Young to show what he could (and couldn’t) do.
No one doubts that there is a plethora of talent on this Eagles roster, but isn’t it the job of the coaches and veteran players to ensure that the best possible performance comes from that talent? Asante Samuel, Casey Matthews, Danny Watkins and Nate Allen have all been vilified for seeking their due respect or for playing below their hype level and yet it is Jackson spouting off to reporters in the locker room, spewing venom at anyone who dares to ask him whether he is giving 100% effort. Well DeSean, what do you think?
How much worse does it have to get before Howie Roseman and Joe Banner realize the situation? Coach Reid, Juan Castillo and several others need to be part of this housecleaning project. The wheels have come flying off the proverbial bus with no hope of recovery. That same proverbial bus has flipped over dozens of times rolled down the proverbial road and exploded, setting fire to a proverbial mission run by nuns for starving orphans, homeless war vets and recovering baby seals. Roseman and Banner must know that there is no Hollywood ending to this story. Jeff Lurie knows that the time comes to pull the plug on every failed project. If they know it and we know it… who is left that doesn’t know it?
The only question remaining is whether or not this ownership group wants to win a championship or simply find out how long they can string loyal Eagles fans into spending their hard-earned money and deep-seeded passion on a team that clearly cannot win. The past 13 years follows a long road since 1981 and a longer road since the 1960 NFL Championship which pre-dates the Super Bowl Era.
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