Where Exactly Did It Go Wrong for the Philadelphia Eagles?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 28: Head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles walks off the field following the Eagles 30-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field on October 28, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

It's almost hard to believe that the Philadelphia Eagles led the NFC East with a 3-1 record at the end of September. From that point forward, Philadelphia won a grand total of one game, finishing with the third-worst record in the NFL

But considering that those three victories came either against weak opponents are at home, and that all four of their wins in 2012 came by a grand total of six points (they literally didn't beat a single opponent by a field goal or more), it's hard to find any good in what happened to Philly this year. 

That's why Andy Reid, Juan Castillo, Jim Washburn and Jason Babin are already out, and Howard Mudd, Marty Mornhinweg and Michael Vick are likely to join them as ex-Eagles employees in the very near future. 

For weeks, we've been focusing on what the Eagles have to do to get back on track, but with the entire NFC East now in offseason mode, let's take one final look back at what killed this team in 2012. 


Where/When It All Began to Go Wrong: Tuesday, March 27 in Queen City, Tex. 

That's right—the Eagles' season actually began to fall apart 1,200 miles outside of Philadelphia and more than five months before the NFL season kicked off. It was then and there that All-Planet left tackle Jason Peters ruptured his right Achilles tendon. 

Peters was never able to return. And without his best pass-protector, Vick was a turnover-plagued disaster to start the season. As bad as the defense became, the original issue that crushed the Eagles was terrible play from the offensive line.

This is a team that turned the ball over 17 times in the first six weeks and never recovered, and not having Peters was the primary reason for that drop-off. 


Where/When the Wheels Officially Came off: Sunday, Oct. 28 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. 

Despite the fact the defense ranked right in the middle of the pack in terms of points and yards allowed, the scapegoat when Philadelphia entered its Week 7 bye on a two-game losing skid was defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. 

And while Castillo wasn't exactly considered to be crucial to the solution to any more of an extent than he was part of the problem, the defense spiraled into an abyss as soon as the Castillo era ended and Todd Bowles took over. 

Beginning in that Week 8 game against Atlanta, the D appeared as though it had stopped trying. They were dominated by Matt Ryan there, and the bleeding didn't stop until Eli Manning turned the lights out on them in Week 17. 

When all was said and done, the Eagles had surrendered the most points in the league over the final 10 weeks, and by a wide margin. They also had allowed a league-high completion percentage of 66.8 and a league-high passing-touchdown total of 26. They had the fewest interceptions and takeaways during the same stretch. 

Considering the talent they have on that side of the ball, and also considering how healthy they remained, it's simply hard to believe how poorly they played. 


Why They Couldn't Fix It: The Players Gave up on the Coaching Staff 

This is speculative, but how else do you explain what happened here?

I understand why the offense struggled with Peters, Todd Herremans and Jason Kelce all out on the offensive line, with LeSean McCoy and Vick missing time due to concussions and with DeSean Jackson being placed on injured reserve with five weeks to go. 

But I don't understand how a defense led by Pro Bowl-caliber players like Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can blow that many coverages, miss that many tackles and fail to make plays over and over again. 

This is what happens when you play fantasy football with real players in a real setting. The Eagles had all the talent you can possibly need, and they stayed healthy on defense all season, but Asomugha hasn't gelled with the rest of the defense, DRC has lacked consistency, Ryans has disappeared far too often and the rest of the defense was victimized time and again by the vulnerability against the run that stems from the silly wide-nine alignment. 

I don't believe a mishmash of experienced veterans ever completely bought what Washburn and Castillo were selling, and I don't believe Reid helped the morale of the locker room when he threw Castillo under the bus after six weeks. This thing was capsizing at that point, and there was no passion or energy the rest of the way. 

They couldn't fix this thing because they didn't want to fix it. 


Two Plays That Defined What Went Wrong

The first comes from a blowout loss to Washington in Week 11, and it simply is my favorite of many available shots of the Eagles being embarrassed by a blown coverage. Easiest touchdown Aldrick Robinson ever scored.

The second comes from a blowout loss to Arizona in Week 3. The Eagles had a chance to start 3-0 but trailed 17-0. Six seconds left in the first half, but they could get back in the game with a score from inside the 10-yard line. 

Problem is they failed to see Kerry Rhodes coming at Vick on a safety blitz. Vick never even looked to his left and was hammered by Rhodes, causing a fumble which the Cardinals scooped up for a 93-yard score to pretty much end the game. And Philly's season was never the same after that loss. 

How to Make It Right

I've said this time and again, but they have to clean house. Good start with Reid being fired, but they should also consider waving goodbye to the entire secondary and need to upgrade the front seven drastically. 

That, along with hiring the right coaches in the first place, will be the key to making this transition go smoothly. Forget about Reid and Vick and the rest of the names left over from a failed run. Time to move forward.