The Mystery Better Known as the Philadelphia Eagles' Front Office
I initially contemplated naming this article "The MisEducation of Andy Reid." I thought of Lauryn Hill's hit song "Lost One" because currently there are quite a few so called former fans thinking of the chorus.
"YOU MIGHT WIN SOME BUT YOU JUST LOST ONE!!!"
The problem with the initial title is the situations that have occurred(or hasn't occurred, depending on your point of view) since the NFC Championship loss go beyond the decision making of Big Red.
As a fan, who do you blame?
Jeffrey Lurie for allegedly saying he would've like Brian Dawkins to have returned after he signed with the Denver Broncos?
Tom Heckert? After all he does hold the title of GM.
Andy Reid? Yeah, let's blame this guy! After all, he played with the city's emotions by stating he expected both Dawkins and Tra Thomas to be re-signed before the free agency period!
And last but not least, Joe Banner. The current cap space, number of draft picks, and departure of key veterans have the Actuarial Scientist's fingerprints all over.
Now the nominees of Culprit of the 2009 Offseason have been announced, the winner is(drumroll): NOBODY! Why? It's March! The roster won't be intact by any means until late August/early September. As fans, the most frustrating thing of all is not knowing what's going to happen next.
Having said that, for 10 years we have grown accustomed(whether we liked it or not) to the Eagles being tailor made to Andy Reid's liking.
After all, he drafted the best quarterback ever to don(no pun intended) a silver winged helmet. He also emphasized the importance of the offensive line, long snapping, and discipline.
Reid is also the winning-est coach in team history, he drafted stars like Brian Westbrook, Trent Cole, and Shawn Andrews who all have been to Hawaii at least once. Free agent signings like Jon Runyan and Asante Samuel have made him look like brilliant.
My, my, my...how things have changed. When Joe Banner told CSNs Derrick Gunn that some changes had to be made, nobody could've predicted that the main change would be who makes the decisions regarding player personnel.
Before, Big Red said "I want this guy," Banner told him the move works with the cap. After that either they pursue the player or they didn't. Now it seems that Banner handles the cap and personnel decisions.
The thought of this outrages fans of the City of Brotherly Love. "He's a cap specialist!!"; "He's not a football guy!"; "He doesn't look like he even knows how to put shoulder pads on!"
The bottom line is, he's been employed by a football organization for 15 years so he is likely to have some knowledge on the game.
This is my speculation/opinion: Banner has removed Reid's title as director of player personnel and wants him to primarily focus on coaching.
While reaching the NFC Championship can be looked at as a success (I believe the Eagles getting past Minnesota is the only reason Reid is still the head coach), you can't deny that the team went 9-6-1 and needed help from three other games to backpedal into the playoffs.
While Banner's decision making is suspect, I've felt for a few years now that Big Red's picking of players have been extremely subpar minus a few gems. His biggest weaknesses are Day One draft picks and marquee free agents.
Let's look at the history of Andy Reid's draft picks in Rounds One through Three and top free agents of each year. Looking back I'm grading them as well.
1999: Round One: Donovan McNabb-QB(A-, A+ if he ever wins a Super Bowl); Round Two: Barry Gardener-OLB(D); Round Three: Doug Brzenski-OG (C-); Key free agents:Doug Pederson-QB (only brought in to groom McNabb), Charles Johnson, and Torrance Small—both WRs (the first of the horrible receivers in Philly).
2000: Round One:Corey Simon-DT (B, short career but he made a Pro Bowl and Super Bowl); Round Two: Todd Pinkston-WR and Bobbie Williams-G (F and F, two HORRIBLE early picks). Key free agent: Jon Runyan-OT (One of the best free agent signings in history).
2001: Rnd 1: Freddie Mitchell-WR(F, FredEx never delivered. On top of the Reggie Wayne was available!!); Rnd 2: Quinton Caver-LB(F, a second round pick who was best on special teams); Rnd 3: Derrick Burgess-DE(Incomplete, he was always injured until his contract year in 2004 that was the Super Bowl run); Key free agents: N.D. Kalu-DE and James Thrash-WR(Two role players at best. Thrash was brought in as an upgrade to Charles Johnson and Torrance Small).
2002: Rnd 1: Lito Sheppard-CB(B, would be an A if he stayed healthy. Well, he'd still be a starting Eagle if he stayed healthy too); Rnd 2: Michael Lewis-S and Sheldon Brown-CB(C for Lewis, made one Pro Bowl but a liability in coverage; A for Sheldon, the steadiest defensive player of the Reid era) Rnd 3: Brian Westbrook-HB(A+, Reid's best draft pick ever. Even better than McNabb); Key free agents: Shawn Barber-LB(signed for 1 year then bounced to Kansas City).
2003: Rnd 1: Jerome McDougle-DE(F, and they traded up to get him); Rnd 2: L.J. Smith-TE(D-, Jason Witten was available); Rnd 3:Billy McMullen-WR(F, ended up trading a 3rd rnd pick for an undrafted rookie in Hank Baskett); Key free agent: Nate Wayne-LB(he came to the Eagles with knee problems
2004: Rnd 1: Shawn Andrews-OG/OT(A- could rise if he stays mentally strong); Rnd 3: Matt Ware-CB(C, a nickel at best). Key free agents: Jevon Kearse-DE(started good, but 2006 injury triggered his downfall), Dhani Jones-LB(better know for poetry and bow ties rather than football). I'll throw in the trade for Terrell Owens this year, we know how that turned out.
2005: Rnd 1: Mike Patterson-DT(B, wasn't worth a top pick to me but he's a worthy starter); Rnd 2:Reggie Brown-WR(D, projected to be #1 WR. now he's not expected to make the 2009 roster) and Matt McCoy-LB(F, who??); Rnd 3: Ryan Moats-HB(F, too one dimensional for this team). Key free agents: Mike McMahon-QB, Keith Adams-LB, Jon Ritchie-FB(None made any sort of impact).
2006: Rnd 1: Broderick Bunkley-DT(B, improves each year); Rnd 2: Winston Justice-OT(F, a 1st rnd prospect at USC. Now on the traing block); Rnd 3: Chris Gocong-OLB(B-, needs to be used as a pass rusher more); Key free agents: Darren Howard-DE(just started living up to his hype in 2008), Jeff Garcia-QB(perfect year for him to come along).
2007: Rnd 2: Kevin Kolb-QB(incomplete, still McNabb's team), Victor Abiamiri-DE(incomplete, 2008 injury slowed his progress); Rnd 3: Stewart Bradley-LB(A, he's the defensive leader now), Tony Hunt-RB(F, big RB body with a small football IQ); Key free agents: Sav Rocca-P(He's serviceable but can be replaced) and Kevin Curtis-WR(A good receiver, but not a #1. Better in the slot).
2008: Rnd 2: Trevor Laws-DT(C, a bit high to pick someone not starting anytime soon) and DeSean Jackson-WR(A-, lived up to the hype his rookie year); Rnd 3: Bryan Smith-DE(incomplete, didn't suit up his rookie year hardly); Key free agents: Asante Samuel-CB(so far so good), Chris Clemons-DE(A slow start his first yr, but showed signs of improvement), and Dan Klecko-FB/DT(I like him better as the 4th DT).
And there you have it. In ten years, there were 32 draft picks in the first 3 rounds. Over 60% were busts which is horrendous for a team that expects to keep competing. Of the 19 key free agent signings, a little over 25% were worth it. These numbers don't add up to a team staying competitive.
I believer there is currently a lot of anymosity among the Eagles organization. As fans we don't know for certain because the front office has taken extra steps to keep things in house. The little we think we know is only because of a few leaks, so that's not credible information.
What we do know is we have a Vice President who is clearly unhappy with the recent results of this football team. We have a head coach who has been extra silent lately along with his franchise quarterback who could use some extra help in his supporting cast. I believe a gag order has been put in place regarding the Eagles off season plans.
What irritated me the most about Banner was his explanations in his Howard Eskins interview a week ago. If he's in charge, he doesn't need to explain his decisions to everyone (Do you think Bill Parcells would ever do that?).
Hopefully, the Eagles come back stronger in the fall and resemble a Super Bowl contender. It's not too late for that to happen. How will it happen? Well, that remains to be seen and that is the unsolved mystery that only the Eagles front office would have clues too.
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