In January, a few days after Jeffrey Lurie called the 2011 Eagles season “unacceptable” and “the most disappointing” of his ownership, the team fired cornerbacks coach Johnnie Lynn. The year before, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was shown the door. So what person not named Andy Reid might get the blame if the Eagles do not have a successful season in 2012?
1. Michael Vick
After leading the team to a sparkling eight wins in his first 10 starts, the team is 7-8 in his 15 subsequent starts, including losses to Joe Webb (UAB), Ryan Fitzpatrick (Harvard) and John Skelton (Fordham). In addition, Vick has missed seven of the Eagles last 32 games (including playoffs).
The Eagles could cut Vick and start anew at the position because the team only owes him $3 million after this season. Coach Reid has a history of success with quarterbacks, such as Brett Favre in Green Bay, Donovan McNabb and Vick in 2010.
Odds Vick is the scapegoat: 25 percent. They structured Vick’s contract to be able to get rid of him after 2012, but they don’t have a quarterback to replace him.
2. DeSean Jackson
Jackson sat out part of training camp in 2011 and got benched for the loss to Arizona after he missed a special teams meeting. Despite looking tentative over the middle since getting obliterated by Atlanta’s Dunta Robinson in 2010, Jackson still caught 58 passes for 961 yards in 2011.
Jackson is not the high-decibel distraction that diva Terrell Owens was in 2005, but the organization created a storyline with Jackson in the role of troublemaker. The one-game suspension was a case of the punishment outweighing the crime, with the dampening of Jackson’s season totals taking precedence over winning a game.
Odds Jackson is the scapegoat: 10 percent. The Eagles slapped the franchise tag on Jackson for 2012, then signed him to a five-year deal. He should be part of the offense, with Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, tight end Brent Celek and all-everything LeSean McCoy, for years to come.
3. LeSean McCoy
The running back is one of the game’s premiere players, but is unsigned beyond 2012. While it is believed that McCoy’s agent has been negotiating with the club for a long-term deal, it’s certainly possible McCoy could play this season as a contractual lame duck.
Odds McCoy is the scapegoat: 5 percent. McCoy will likely get his money. He is certainly worth it, and in recent weeks the team has signed Trent Cole, DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis to multi-year contracts. It also helps McCoy that he fired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent. Rosenhaus was Terrell Owens agent when the Eagles banished Owens in 2005.
4. Howie Roseman
The attorney at law has been the general manager for the last two drafts. Among players taken in the first five rounds, Nate Allen, Mike Kafka, Clay Harbor, Riley Cooper, Alex Henery and Dion Lewis have contributed. They’ve gotten production out of late round picks Jamar Chaney, Kurt Coleman, Jason Kelce and Brian Rolle.
However, Roseman’s top picks—Brandon Graham in 2010 and Danny Watkins in 2011—are the grand marshals of a parade of stiffs taken in the fourth round or earlier that includes Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Trevard Lindley, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Curtis Marsh and Casey Matthews.
Odds Roseman is the scapegoat: 0 percent. He’s one of Lurie and Banner’s guys.
5. Juan Castillo
After defensive coordinator Jim Johnson passed away in 2009, the Eagles named his protégé, Sean McDermott, to the position. After two down seasons, the team fired McDermott. Yet Castillo somehow kept his job after last season’s embarrassing performance.
The team ranked 10th in defense, but that statistic was propped up by four straight wins at the end of the season against teams that did not finish above .500. The Eagles were 4-8 after 12 games in large part because Castillo, a longtime offensive line coach, appeared out of his element. The lowlights included five—five!—blown fourth-quarter leads.
Odds Castillo is the scapegoat: 75 percent. The Eagles spoke to former Rams head coach and Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo about joining the team, but he took the D coordinator job with New Orleans. The team then hired Todd Bowles to be the secondary coach. Bowles, who has many years of experience as a defensive side of the ball, could be Castillo’s replacement in 2013.
6. No Scapegoat
The Eagles have a successful season before losing the NFC Championship Game to Detroit. Why Detroit? Because the Lions are the only NFC team without a Super Bowl appearance, and Tampa Bay, Carolina and Arizona each beat Andy Reid’s Eagles within the past decade to advance to their only Super Bowl.
In such a scenario, Eagles management will point out that if the team just got a break here or there, they’d be going to the title game. Team president Joe Banner will declare that the Eagles are more successful than the Steelers because the Eagles have more playoff appearances in the last decade than Pittsburgh, despite the Steelers' two Super Bowl victories since 2005. The Eagles reward Reid with another three-year contract extension.
Odds the team goes deep in the playoffs and doesn’t need a scapegoat: 30 percent. The Eagles have talent and could get hot at the right time. But to get to the Super Bowl, they’d likely have to beat some combination of Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and a remodeled Alex Smith. If they get to the Super Bowl, they could face Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or the Steelers, Ravens or Texans defense.