Philadelphia Eagles: When Did You Know This Wasn't Their Season?
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It was Super Bowl or bust. The playoffs were a given, looking at the weak NFC East they'd face.
But it wasn't later that these Eagles were truly exposed and fans understood that this team was fundamentally flawed and not going to succeed.
It just was not their season. They weren't ready.
But when did you realize that?
The Hiring of Juan Castillo
Castillo was one of the strangest hires the NFL has seen
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For a moment, forget how stupid this hiring was from the moment it was announced, because it indicated something else.
Think back to the whole process the Eagles went through in searching for a defensive coordinator immediately after the 2010 season.
First Sean McDermott was Andy Reid’s “guy.” Then after standing behind him, Reid fired him. Then Reid left the country and everything seemed to be in the state of chaos. The team would not even acknowledge to the public any of the firings, which also included defensive line coach Rory Segrest.
At that point they began searching for a defensive coordinator and were linked to guys like Dennis Allen and Winston Moss—Allen went from the New Orleans Saints to the Denver Broncos as defensive coordinator and Moss stayed with the Packers as assistant head coach and inside linebackers coach.
Then defensive backs coach Dick Jauron left town, leaving the Eagles' defensive coaching staff in chaos.
After all that, the Eagles decided to name Juan Castillo, a guy whose primary focus was the offensive line and who had no defensive experience in the NFL, as their defensive coordinator.
Everyone knew the moment they announced it how poor of a decision it was. But that’s OK, the Eagles seemed to say, we are smarter than everyone else.
Except when this one blew up. It became apparent when you heard Castillo speak how awful a fit he was for the position. When he wasn’t talking about working hard, he was going off about the team’s fundamentals.
The defensive coordinator’s job is not to teach fundamentals. He is supposed to oversee the defense and provide the schemes and weekly game plans. The position coaches (Castillo’s job by trade) teach the fundamentals. Castillo was clueless about how to handle the job from the start.
Regardless, you knew this was not their season when a few candidates passed on the position, one coach left and the selection did not even know what the main task of the job was.
The Dream Team Reception
Vince Young thought joining the would-be 8-8 Eagles was like joining a "Dream Team"
We have all heard the theories about how Vince Young’s innocent "Dream Team'' comment on joining the Eagles doomed them, and how much out of context it was taken.
Almost everyone in the national media seemed to rip the Eagles for it, and almost everyone seemed to think it was a crazy notion that the Eagles could even think they would be good enough to be in a "Dream Team" discussion.
Whether it was through luck and he was just being bitter, or he actually saw something, professional loser Donovan McNabb made remarks indicting they should temper their expectations.
Was everyone wrong or was everyone on to something?
Turns out when usually everyone agrees on something, it is usually the way it should be. If you recall before the 2004 season, everyone knew it would be a Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl. Turns out everyone was right that year.
It may have been overlooked, but you should have known this was not the Eagles season when everyone doubted their ability to be a "Dream Team", and thus compete for a championship.
The Mike Kafka Sighting
Not a good sign when Mike Kafka is in the game for you--unless you're up big
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The Eagles had just blown a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead. They had the ball with about three minutes to go, trailing by four.
It was Michael Vick's return to the Georgia Dome, his first time back as a starting quarterback. It seemed like quite the dramatic scene; the Eagles attempting to make a comeback in Vick’s return.
Except Vick wasn’t in the game. He left earlier with a concussion. His backup and author of the “Dream Team” quote, wasn’t in the game either. Vince Young was out with an injured hamstring, and there were some concerns that he could not grasp the West Coast offense.
In the game was Mike Kafka. Obviously, this was not even close to the ideal situation.
You knew this wasn’t the Eagles season when you had to rely on the third-string quarterback making his NFL debut against the defending top team in the NFC on National television
Losing a Lead to the Giants
Vick left the game early with a hand injury
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It was the home opener at the Linc for one of the most-anticipated Eagles seasons in recent history.
Lining up against the Eagles that day would be the New York Giants, making it the first matchup between the teams since the “Miracle at the New Meadowlands.”
After New York took a 14-0 lead, the Eagles rallied to take a 16-14 lead. It was a typical Eagles-Giants game: the Eagles fall behind, the Giants collapse, the Eagles take the lead and win.
This game was different, though. After Michael Vick left with a broken hand that really wasn’t broken, the Giants pounced on the Mike Kafka-led Eagles and scored two late touchdowns to win 29-16.
The loss snapped the Eagles' six-game winning streak against the Giants.
The game really was the opposite of how Eagles-Giants games go. It’s always the Giants that collapse and hand it to the Eagles. Eli Manning commits the two late turnovers. The Giants fans leave the stadium early. Not this time, and not this year.
You knew it wasn’t the Eagles season when it was the Birds collapsing late against the Giants and losing to New York
The Ronnie Brown Run/Pass/Fumble Option
Does anything look wrong with this play?
This play simply was disgusting to watch. It had ramifications for the remainder the game, preventing the Eagles from scoring in a game they lost to the 49ers, 24-23, as well as preventing the Eagles from making the playoffs.
On the 1-yard line, seeing a defender about to tackle him, Ronnie Brown attempts to throw the ball, only to fumble it.
The Eagles make the playoffs if they get any type of points in that spot.
The play demonstrated the stupidity of the players, and it demonstrated the stupidity of the coaches for calling an option play in that spot.
Later in the game, the Eagles blew a 23-3 lead.
You knew this wasn’t the Eagles weren’t season when you realized how stupid both the players and coaches were.
"The Eagles Just Gave Them the Game!"
Apparently everyone except Jaqua Parker knew what was happening
Merrill Reese said the Eagles “Just gave them the game,” but he effectively could have said the Eagles gave up the season.
Setting themselves up for another Michael Vick-led comeback against Buffalo in Week 5, the Eagles had Buffalo on a fourth down.The Bills went to the line only to fake snap it to try to raw the Eagles offside.
Everyone except Jaqua Parker knew they were bluffing and would call a timeout to punt.
Parker jumped offsides, gave Buffalo a new set of downs, and ruined the game for the Eagles, who lost 31-24.
Merrill Reese called the play best. He and the team gave them the game, putting the final straw on a game that saw the Eagles fall to a 28-7 lead out of the gate, and Jason Avant do his best to achieve his goal of the fans being against him and them.
You knew this wasn’t the Eagles season when they were giving games away to teams.
Taking Arizona for Granted
The Eagles lost to Kevin Kolb's backup
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This was the most embarrassing game of the season.
The Eagles didn't get beat by Michael Vick's former backup, Kevin Kolb. They were beaten by Vick's former backup's backup, John Skelton.
Skelton led a fourth-quarter comeback to give the Cardinals a stunning 21-17 victory.
It was yet another fourth-quarter collapse, another one at home and for most this cemented defensive coordinator Juan Castillo as a failure. But this game may also be remembered for Andy Reid's arrogance on two fronts.
First, he thought the team would have been fine against the Cardinals without their superstar receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson showed up to a meeting a few minutes late, so Reid suspended him.
In other words, he took his opponent for granted.
Second, he refused to get away from his pass-happy philosophy and gave LeSean McCoy no more than than two fourth-quarter handoffs in a game the Eagles were leading with an injured quarterback.
You knew this wasn't the Eagles' season when they were taking their opponents for granted with a 3-5 record.
Playing as Individuals Against One of the Best Teams
The balls Jackson didn't drop were caught by Patriots
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The game against New England is when you knew this was not even close to a true team playing together, rather it was a bunch of individuals.
The Eagles jumped out to an early lead, and rather than taking time off the clock by using LeSean McCoy, arguably the best running back in the game, they decided to leave as much time on the clock for Tom Brady as possible.
It was typical Andy playing Andy Reid football, not winning football.
Next, there were coaches bickering and about to fight on the sideline. Jim Washburn and Marty Mornhinweg were seen screaming at each other during the game.
Then there was DeSean Jackson alligator-arming a number of passes, most of which resulting in drops and missed opportunities at touchdowns. He may have been thinking about keeping his body healthy enough for his next contract.
They didn't have any fight in them either, seemingly giving up on the game early. In an obvious situation where they needed to go for it on fourth down, they instead punted and seemingly conceded the game.
It was a bunch of individuals playing for each other, and not a team.
You knew this wasn't the Eagles' season when they were more interested in each other individually, and not the team winning football games.
"I Thought I Played Okay"
4 interceptions were "okay"
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It is debatable which part of this game was more despicable—the start or the end .
It started off with Vince Young throwing one of the worst interceptions you'll see, throwing it right to a Seahawk in the flats. This was right after the NFL Network ran a graphic showing a stat that nearly made it a lock the Eagles were going to pass the ball.
Then the Eagles quit on a Marshawn Lynch run, allowing the running back to pick up a touchdown after having him surrounded by a number of Eagles. On the play, Nnamdi Asomugha gave the worst effort you'll see from a football player on a tackle attempt. It was worse than Asante Samuel at his worst.
The end saw Young make an insanely ill-advised pass that could spark an interested debate about which was a more obvious no-throw situation, this play or the first play. He hit Seahawk David Hawthorne right in the hands as the Eagles were driving on a comeback attempt. Hawthorne took it 77 yards for the touchdown to ice the game.
Young finished the game with four interceptions, and said he thought he played, "OK." Seriously, he said that.
You knew this wasn't the Eagles' season when they considered their poor play to be adequate enough, while not giving any true type of effort.
Ultimately, that's how their season went.
Putting Their Season in the Hands of Mark Sanchez
The "Sanchize" could not pull off the miracle for the Eagles
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That same week, the Giants lost and still gave the Eagles a chance to win the NFC East.
All that needed to happen was for the Jets to beat the Giants. Sanchez, the same quarterback who even the Eagles' defense had just embarrassed, would have to beat a Giants defense that featured their factory line of pass rushers.
But Sanchez embarrassed himself again, fumbling on the goal line and being sacked in the end zone for a safety as the Jets fell 29-14.
Remember when the Eagles collapsed and lost to the Giants at home? That win would have been nice.
There was no Christmas miracle from Gang Green, and the Eagles' playoff hopes were officially gone.
Finally, if you didn't already, you knew this wasn't the Eagles' season when you had to trust the same Mark Sanchez a Juan Castillo-led defense beat up the week before.