Loyal readers of this space (hi, Mom!) know that I advocated for a free pass for Eagles coach Andy Reid this season, after the death of his son, Garrett. I stand by that. The problem is, I am in the minority. The VAST minority.
Count Jeffrey Lurie among the 99%. He has a deep affection for Andy Reid, but he also has an abiding love for the bottom line, and a team that follows a .500 season with another mediocre campaign doesn’t exactly send the fans to Modell’s to buy another jersey. If the Eagles finish 8-8–or worse – Lurie will cut the cord. Reid will be gone, and the Eagles will move on with Chucky or Billy the Chin or somebody else.
And Sunday’s loss to Detroit will be a big ingredient in the dismissal.
This was a particularly ugly loss, the kind that fans point to after a season is over as the “if only” game. You know the one: “If only the Eagles hadn’t choked away that lead against San Francisco last year, they would have won the NFC East.” Come late December, when the regular season ends, if the Birds are once again out of the post-season, fans will refer back to the blown 10-point advantage against the Lions as this year’s “if only”.
All of the ugly storylines from 2012 were on full display in this one. Michael Vick turned it over on three occasions. The offensive line allowed the Lions safe passage to the passer almost every time the Eagles’ beleaguered QB dropped back. Once again, the vaunted, highly compensated pass rush couldn’t register a sack, and the Eagles’ defense, for the third week in a row, allowed a rival to drive the field to set up a game-winning/tying field goal. The ground game sputtered. Or, more accurately, it was muted from the sideline. (LeSean McCoy carried the ball 14 times.) The Eagles’ red-zone travails continued. And in overtime, the Eagles and Vick abandoned their wise second-half strategy of getting rid of the ball quickly and fell apart under the Lions’ pass rush.
It was a team-wide collapse, and it may well be more emblematic of this team’s personality than any of the near-miss victories it has amassed through the first six games. The Eagles won three games by a total of four points, and two of their losses have been by a total of five. This is Team Icarus, and an argument could be made that if not for three plays that went fortunately the Eagles way (L.J. Fort’s drop in Cleveland; a replacement ref’s shaky interference call against Baltimore and just-short field goal by the Giants), they could be 0-6.
A 3-3 record isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially not in the NFC East, where all four teams are packed within two games of each other. But in the NFC, which has seven teams sporting better records than the Birds, the competition will be tight for wild-card berths, and the Eagles have already dropped a pair of conference contests.
The good news for the team is that it has two weeks to fix its myriad problems. The bad news for fans is that they have two weeks to agonize over the Eagles’ shortcomings and the ugly nature of Sunday’s gag job. Oh, and did I mention that the next opponent, Atlanta, is 6-0 and will be coming off a bye, also?
Reid, of course, is offering no concrete plan for fixing the mess. He’ll try “to do a better job” and will no doubt work hard over the next two weeks. (Rumor has it that defensive coordinator Juan Castillo will be putting in 26-hour days at the NovaCare complex.) But since Reid is the architect of the roster, as well as the man responsible for making it play well on Sunday, he deserves double blame for any shortcomings. If the players can’t get the job done, then he should have brought in better players. If the personnel is adequate, then he should be more successful as a coach. No matter how you look at it, everything comes back to him.
And this loss will stick to him like neither of its predecessors this season should. This one was at home, against a 1-3 team that committed 16 penalties and trailed by double digits with 5:18 left. It should have never happened. But it did. And, now, in the most important season of Reid’s time in Philadelphia, no amount of compassion can save him. It’s all about results, tragedy be damned. Right now, the Eagles are an average team, a well-documented 11-11 since the beginning of last year. There is time for a turnaround. Reid is known for his prowess after a bye, and his teams usually play better later in the season. So, Eagles fans should not be without optimism.
But, if the post-season proves to be elusive once again, many will look back to Oct. 14 as an “if only” moment.
And use it as a reason to drive Reid out of town.
- Nobody likes the Cardinals, but hats off to St. Louis for dispatching the Nationals in such dramatic fashion last Friday night/Saturday morning. It was great to see Washington blow a 6-0 lead in front of its incredulous fans, who finally found their way to the ballpark in time for the playoffs. It’s even better that Stephen Strasburg sat out the series, in an attempt to save his arm. Don’t worry, Nats, there will be plenty more post-season opportunities. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. Thank you, St. Louis.
- By the time this week is over, Andrew Bynum will have had an Orthokine procedure and a lubricating injection into his balky right knee since coming to Philadelphia. That’s on top of a similar shot last February at the All-Star break. He may be able to give the Sixers a full season of play this year, but the organization had better think carefully about giving him a long-term deal, due to that knee’s instability.
- It is always great to see the Yankees get it between the eyes, but it’s time for the MLB to begin using instant replay to overturn awful umpiring decisions. Fans are less concerned about a two or three-minute delay than they are about their heroes’ getting hosed by the umps. Anybody who makes the “human element” argument should be sentenced to a season of watching the Mets play. Let the players make the mistakes, not the men in blue.