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What Total Disaster Looks Like or The Philadelphia Eagles

I thought someone should write an article saying that Andy Reid should not be fired and I thought that someone should be me. I am not saying that he won’t be fired (he will), but I do think most of this mess is not Andy Reid’s fault. Let’s talk about it:

Everyone universally agrees that Andy Reid is the best coach the Eagles have ever had. This is true in spite of the fact that he may be one of the worst game day coaches in the league. For these two things to be true, Andy Reid must be one of the best “during the week” coaches in the league. And I do believe that is true.

Andy’s strengths are worth enumerating:

  • He is a remarkable developer of QB talent. Donovan McNabb is a middling talent (more on that in a moment) that looked like a superstar to third parties (thank you Dan Snyder!). He made other teams think that players like Bubby Brister, AJ Feeley and Kevin Kolb were not just legitimate starting QBs in the NFL, but guys who should get PAID. He made Michael Vick play in a system. There are probably only 4 or 5 other coaches in the league capable of doing that. This is a fundamental “working with guys during the week” talent that should not be discounted and is not easily replaced.
  • Any Eagles fan will tell you that Donovan had a mechanical issue that caused him to go for weeks throwing the ball into the dirt 5 yards in front of the receiver every play. Yet he went to 6 Pro Bowls because Andy Reid put him (along with all those other guys) in a system where he could be successful.
  • Speaking of which, Andy was a man ahead of his time in recognizing the transition of the game from a balanced offense to one that threw all the time. Of course, he then proceeded to fail to take advantage of great running backs, but there you go.
  • Andy actually gave in and acknowledged that he is a terrible, terrible play caller and turned play calling duty over to his offensive coordinator. That takes a strong man. That is called turning a weakness into a strength.
  • I think the even keel is good. Never too high, never too low. For a coach to have a long tenure, that is difficult.
  • Great manager of personalities (with the exception of TO): Few coaches could bench their starter every 6 or 7 weeks for a few games (A necessity to let Donovan McNabb work out his mechanical flaws) and still keep the team and keep his QB mentally intact.

Now let’s look for a moment at the things that have gone wrong this season:

  • The offense is terrible. But the answer is not remotely to fire the offensive coordinator. It is not his fault. The real fault lies with injury, the lurking menace to every NFL team. Think about this: 2 years ago the Eagles had 5 offensive players go to the Pro Bowl as starters or first alternates:
    • Michael Vick – injured most of this season
    • DeSean Jackson – injured most of this season
    • LeSean McCoy – knocked into next week two weeks ago
    • Todd Herremans – injured most of this season
    • Jason Peters – injured for the entire season

Jason Kelce, starting center and OL signal caller is out as well. Think about that. A team that 2 years ago had 5 pro bowlers on offense, last night played with less than half of their “starters” and none of their “good players”. If I told you a team could lose the 6 best players on their offense and still score 30 points, you would find that utterly amazing. It is amazing they score any points at all.

A team cannot be very good without 3 offensive linemen, a pro bowl quarterback, a pro bowl WR, and a pro bowl RB. Take Gronkowski, Welker, Brady, and three offensive linemen off the Patriots and see how good they are. Take Schaub, Johnson, Foster, and half the offensive line off the Texans and see how they play.

  • The defense is terrible. But let’s be frank, the defense has been terrible since Jimmy Johnson died. Johnson was a brilliant defensive mind who always got the most out of his talent. Defense relies hugely on scheme and having a great schemer is critical. Imagine Pittsburgh without Dick LeBeau. Andy Reid has tried desperately to replace Johnson and has failed. I must admit, I liked the idea of bringing in Washburn and trying Wide 9. We needed an innovator and Andy Reid was going to let Washburn bring that innovation to the defense channeling it through his administrator Castillo. It turns out lots of defensive line schemes work when you have Albert Haynesworth and he is motivated. Washburn is not the guy. Asomugha had lost a step. Brutal defensive breakdowns. I credit Andy for trying to fix the airplane in mid-flight rather than just playing out the string, it is a shame that it was already crashing.

Now let’s talk about the bigger picture:

  • The Quarterback position has gone terribly wrong: I don’t blame Andy for this, he played the hand he was dealt. Think about it: Vick was the backup to McNabb and Kolb. He traded McNabb when McNabb had no gas left in the tank (right decision), thinking Kolb would take over (wrong decision) and planning to have Vick back him up because Vick was not good enough (mechanical problems). He quickly realized Kolb would not cut it and gave Vick a chance and Vick succeeded beyond his wildest expectations. Now maybe I am projecting because I was never really a Vick believer, but I assume Andy was not either yet said, “What am I going to do, the guy is playing like an MVP, I can’t take him out.” You get to the end of the season and you can’t trade your MVP-caliber QB. Particularly given that you have no alternative. If you traded him and started Kolb, you are an idiot and you are fired, so Reid does the only thing he can do: Sign Vick to some big dollars and then have Vick disappoint him again and again. The only thing that would have made all this better is drafting someone besides Kolb. Sadly, the 2007 draft was one of the worst QB drafts ever. Kolb was actually the best QB in the draft. Alternatives include: JaMarcus Russel, Drew Stanton, Troy Smith, and Brady Quinn. So Reid recognized that it was time to draft the future, picked the best QB available, he just turned out to stink.
  • Needed to find that new defensive coordinator. It is hard. It is as hard as finding a coach better than Andy Reid will be. There is an element of magical luck to the equation and he never struck gold.
  • Namdi Asomugha: It turns out that was a reach for a corner that had lost a step. But Jimmy Johnson had always believed in having great corners so you could blitz and feel good. Think about the corners they had: Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Lito Shephard, Asante Samuel: That is a lot of pro bowls. Lock down corners simplify the defense and you want as many as you can get. Almost no one thought this was a bad pick up. No one had thrown a ball at Asomugha in years. Tough break for Andy, hard to hold him responsible.

Does this sound like a coach that deserves to be fired? What is amazing is it seems like he has not lost his team despite an 8 game losing streak and an unrecognizable offensive line-up week to week. They come out and fight hard every week in spite of this awfulness.

Great job, Andy. It is hard to imagine the next Eagles coach could do better in similar circumstances. But I will predict this: With a health offensive line (particularly Jason Peters, a top 5 NFL lineman last year) and a healthy LeSean McCoy, I bet that the next guy could win more games pretty easily – he just has to pick a better defensive coordinator.

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