Philadelphia Eagles Know When To Hold 'Em, Know When To Fold 'Em

Take TenCorrespondent IApril 6, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 18:  Head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on during the NFC championship game against the Arizona Cardinals on January 18, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

During the past several seasons in the NFL, one would not have to look far in Philadelphia to find criticism of Andy Reid and his administration for their inability to win the "Big Game" despite reaching five NFC championships.

One reason for the simmering frustration felt by Eagles fans comes from the perceived lack of commitment from the Eagles front office in acquiring and retaining top flight wide receivers.

Adding to fans' frustration, is the paradoxical fact that for many seasons, Andy Reid has masterminded one of the most prolific passing teams in the entire NFL, yet has never been able to draft an impact wide receiver nor been able to procure a long time pass catcher for McNabb.

To compound the criticism already at hand, many fans point to the one season the Eagles had a "true No. 1 wideout" in Terrell Owens. With a dangerous weapon like T.O. to balance Westbrook at running back, McNabb had a tremendous season and the Eagles in dominant fashion, cruised to the Super Bowl. 

So, you can imagine the outrage, dismay, and frustration of fans when the Eagles were initially unable to reconcile differences with T.O. who had alleged that the Eagles originally low balled him on his original contract which was signed under unusual circumstances in his much publicized departure from the 49ers

As T.O. tore down the team from within and the Eagles imploded (McNabb's own injuries played a large part also) the Eagles management decided they needed to unceremoniously cut ties with their troubled wideout.

Owens, subsequently took his show, and double digit touchdowns per season, to arch rival Dallas. Now, when I heard he signed with the cowboys, I actually thought they were going to close the bridges in Philadelphia to stop people from jumping off. That's how distraught people were at the time. 

In the ensuing seasons, with frustration and outrage boiling to critical levels in the City of Brotherly Love, things got very worse as fans first watched the NFC East become ever more talented at the wide receiving position, as the Giants signed Plaxico Burress.

Then, the Eagles rejoiced when Donte Stallworth was acquired away from the Saints, only to be shown the door less than a year later.

Once again, Donte Stallworth's departure re-opened a familiar wound for Philadelphia fans when he signed with the New England Patriots.

There were fans in Philadelphia who were ready to give up their first born child, rather than let Stallworth walk away. But walk away he did, along with the last big time threat the Eagles had at wide receiver. 

In the meantime, the Eagles drafted one class of rookies after the next, each producing absolutely nobody who could play wide receiver in the NFL. The irony of a coach who demands 60 percent passing plays on offense yet is incapable of evaluating good wide receiver prospects has not been lost on astute fans here in Philadelphia. 

But then came the 2008-'09 season, and a few things happened. 

DeSean Jackson Arrives

Andy Reid has never fielded any wide receiver who could play much in the NFL (Freddie Mitchell might have been Reid's best pick, if not for his entertainment value more than his actual athletic accomplishments) so it was no surprise that nobody thought DeSean Jackson would amount to much.

But by the end of his first season, Jackson had a lot of people talking about how he may finally be the receiver Andy Reid has been looking for all these years.

Jackson, one of the fastest receivers at the combine during his draft year, has proved himself to be very capable of scoring touchdowns from anywhere. In his rookie campaign, he amassed 912 yards which set the Eagles record for most yards in a rookie season, and is 2nd in receptions for an Eagles rookie with 62 receptions.

But it's Jackson's ridiculous speed that makes him a home run threat that cannot be ignored.

It took Reid the better part of a decade to draft a good receiver, but it's better to come late to a party than never. With Jackson lining up for his second year, there is optimism in the air that better days are in store for this pass happy offense.

Terrell Owens Released

The Cowboys released Owens on Mar. 4, 2009. Owens was apparently shocked. He didn't know what ever could have happened to make them cut him. He felt he was mistreated (have I heard that one before?).

Donte Stallworth Drives Drunk

On the morning of Mar. 14, 2009, Donte Stallworth had a few drinks before getting into his vehicle which struck and killed a pedestrian in Miami Beach, Florida. On Apr. 2, 2009 Donte Stallworth surrendered to police. 

Plaxico Burress Released

On Apr. 3, 2009 Burress was released by the New York Giants. His numerous prior legal and professional infractions can be found here

Andy Reid Vindicated

I would like to say that I take no pleasure in recounting the troubles of others. It is my most sincere wish that these men, especially Stallworth, find some peace and resolution in their lives. However that does not change the fact that their choices have landed them in the positions that they are in.

While Andy Reid and the Eagles management have been dragged over the coals in recent years, especially in Philadelphia. I'm going to stand up and say that regardless of how he arrived at the choices he did, he stuck to his guns. From the beginning Reid has been a no-nonsense man, who valued character above all else.

That has been the philosophy at the core of an organization that has seen quite a lot of success in recent years. Despite the constant criticism for his inability to give the Eagles a star receiver, Reid kept his steady hand on the wheel when weaker men would have caved.

In a little less than one month, we've seen the paths chosen by three  prominent wide receivers who have occupied the envious minds and desires of so many Eagles during the past several years. Kenny Rogers would approve of Reid and the Eagles, who seem to have an ability to "know when to hold em, and when to fold em."

Reid could have allowed the destructive paths taken by Owens, Burress, or Stallworth to engulf the team, but he did not, opting to fold those cards and get out before more damage was done.

For that, he endured the wrath of frustrated fans who wanted everything without consequences. Sometimes you gotta be patient and play the hand your dealt. It looks like Andy Reid knew that long before any of us, and I'm glad he did. 


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