There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2012 disaster of a season.
A lot of them are confirmations of what Eagles fans have been saying for years. Some are observations about how the team can succeed with what it has, and a few are about philosophies that have proved themselves unsuccessful in the NFL.
Regardless, these lessons are meaningful. Hopefully, the next head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles will discuss some of them during his interview.
The Philadelphia Eagles, especially on the defensive side of the ball, are loaded with a lot of big names and former Pro Bowlers. And a lot of the younger Philadelphia Eagles haven’t seen much playing time because of that.
However, when they have seen time this year, some of the Eagles’ younger players who were thought to be busts or incapable of performing at the NFL level have flourished this year.
Brandon Graham is not, and probably never will be, as valuable as some of the players he was drafted ahead of. However, he is proving himself to be a legitimate starter in the NFL.
Also, Mychal Kendricks has proved that he is able to cover tight ends effectively. This is good news moving forward, regardless of whether or not the team’s next head coach decides to switch to a 3-4. It’s also worth noting that Kendricks played in a 3-4 in college, and he was an excellent blitzer in that scheme.
Although he has missed tackles and been unable to bring some guys down when he gets a hold of him, Kendricks is young. That means he can get stronger, and he can develop a better sense of the game.
Eagles young defensive players cannot be brought up without discussing Fletcher Cox, who has undoubtedly been the team’s second-best defensive player behind DeMeco Ryans.
Fletcher Cox looks great for a rookie, and he could be one of the Eagles’ best players for years to come.
We all know how great LeSean McCoy is. But how about Bryce Brown?
I don’t mean to jump the gun with Brown, but even considering the fact that he’s played against the lowly Carolina Panthers defense and a Dallas Cowboys defense that didn’t have a few key starters, you don’t just pick up more than 150 yards on the ground two weeks in a row like it’s nothing. And he’s a rookie with hardly any college experience!
Brown is big, strong and his speed is explosive. But he isn’t without his flaws.
Brown does not do a good enough job protecting the ball, and it has cost his team greatly since he took over in the backfield.
However, if he can improve there, he will doubtlessly be the NFL’s best backup running back, and potentially one of the more formidable backs in the league.
Also, Dion Lewis hasn’t looked too bad when he’s gotten his touches, and he was one of the team’s training camp stars.
And if Chris Polk is as good as some say he is, who knows what could happen for the Eagles in the future via trades and a secure RB lineup the entire way through.
I doubt that many people believed that the Eagles were going to be the “dynasty” Michael Vick said they could be after Vince Young’s “dream team” went 8-8.
Regardless of how stacked a team looks on paper, it means absolutely nothing in regard to what the season will ultimately become.
A lot of people were fooled by the predictions of the Eagles going to the Super Bowl and being a contender this year.
A lot of people were skeptical about the implementation of Jim Washburn’s Wide 9 defensive philosophy.
For whatever reason, its success last year didn’t carry over to the 2012 season.
And when you think about it, it’s kind of a stupid thing. It’s not exactly like having a 3-4 and blitzing the outside linebackers every down, but it’s something like that. And it’s flat-out silly.
It’s not a bad thing that Andy Reid likes to throw the ball; however, it is a bad thing that he throws the ball as often as he does.
Look at how much offense the Eagles running backs have generated when they get the ball in their hands this year. Despite the quarterbacks’ turnovers, the backs’ limited amount of touches and everything else wrong with the team, LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown have played pivotal roles in the points the Eagles have scored.
Imagine what it could have been like if they had seen the ball more.
That’s not to say they would have won a lot more games. But it is to say that they could have had a better chance to do so.
Maybe Eagles fans never appreciated some of the great offensive linemen the team has had over the years.
This team, even considering the problems it has had on defense, may have been in a wild-card race at this point if its offensive line wasn’t as hurt as it has been. After all, the Eagles score a lot of points every season. There’s no reason to suggest that wouldn’t have been the case this year if they had their offensive line intact.
Now, we know that in order to be successful in the NFL, the offensive line has to be stacked on the depth chart, and there really isn’t any exception.
The next coaching/management regime the Eagles have will know this, and they will be prepared in the event of any injury the line suffers.
Andy Reid has been notorious for experimenting with how he positions and utilizes his players. He’s also notorious for saying “I gotta put them in a better position” after losses.
We know now and we can say with absolute certainty that in order to be successful in the NFL, players must be put in positions that emphasize their strengths. You can’t just try to mold them into what you want them to be.
Though there are exceptions to that, Andy Reid hasn’t really found any of them despite how hard he has tried.
For example, Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen will never be able to adjust in-play quickly enough to cover the entire middle of the field. Michael Vick will never be the pocket passer Reid wanted him to be. Casey Matthews will never successfully transition from a college outside linebacker to a successful NFL middle linebacker.
The same can be said about coaches. Offensive line coaches will probably never make championship-caliber Super Bowl defensive coordinators.
Moving forward, the team’s players will likely either be cut or used appropriately.
It’s pretty clear now that there cannot be an NFL equivalent to the Miami Heat. This is evidenced best when you take a look at the Eagles defense.
Nnamdi Asomugha and DeMeco Ryans were supposed to be two of the NFL’s best defensive players. Jason Babin and Trent Cole were the second-best defensive end tandem in the NFL, second only to the New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
Regarding these players as a whole, Ryans has been the only piece that has been worth much of anything.
It is clear moving forward that it may be a while before the Eagles are contenders again, and the next head coach will have to draft players. Because for whatever reason, star players who come together on new teams just don’t seem to work in the NFL.
The strengths that they have on one team, especially in the case of Asomugha, can sometimes be attributed to the lack of those same strengths in their former teammates.
Asomugha was just the best corner on a team with bad corners; DeMeco Ryans cannot carry a defense without at least one formidable complementary linebacker; and Jason Babin was a flash in the pan. After all, once the Eagles stopped showing as much of the Wide 9, Babin’s production dropped off dramatically and it never recovered.
It turns out that we have been right for a long time about Andy Reid, and there is no excuse for his continuous blunders that we have pointed out over the years that have been dismissed by national pundits.
There is no excuse for drafting poorly, and there is no excuse for poor clock management. There also aren’t excuses for not utilizing your star running backs enough or making bad coaching decisions.
When everyone outside of the Eagles’ fanbase blamed Reid’s players and assistants, everyone inside the Eagles’ fanbase held the head coach accountable for consistently demonstrating the same level of incompetence in the first place.
Mike Ditka, Chris Berman and Jon Gruden aren’t fooling anyone. And frankly, it’s insulting to an Eagles fan’s intelligence to say that the circus that has become the Philadelphia Eagles isn’t entirely the fault of Andy Reid.
What they do is make things personal and consider Andy Reid the man, who is a great guy for all we know, and not Andy Reid the coach when they talk about his status in Philadelphia and his performance as a head coach.
Reid’s regime has been a failure. It’s painful to say that, for whatever reason. However, it is what it is because he hasn’t won a Super Bowl. Success is found in winning a Super Bowl, and not in beating the Giants, winning the NFC East a few times and losing conference title games.
I actually think Reid seems like a very nice guy who I’d love to have a drink with. However, I don’t want to keep investing some of my free time into football teams that he runs anymore.
Remember, you watch all the games and you follow all of the moves closely. You’re right, probably.
We’re used to saying this as Eagles fans, and we all know that its redundancy has grown so tiresome that it has left a resonance of resentment and hostility among the fanbase as a whole.
However, Andy Reid likely will not be back next year. So, “there’s always next year” has a different, more optimistic ring to it now.
Next year will really be different from the last 14, good or bad, and that prospect carries with it a new, splendid truth and relevance.