Evaluating Andy Reid (Part 1): The Worst Decisions of Reid's Coaching Career
He's taken the Eagles to the playoffs seven times, the conference championship game five times, and even a Super Bowl following the 2004 season.
He's sent dozens of players to the Pro Bowl and turned the Eagles into a perennial powerhouse in the NFC, but as the entire world knows, Reid has yet to win a Super Bowl.
Andy Reid has certainly made his fair share of mistakes as a head coach, but he's also made some pretty good decisions that have kept the Eagles competitive year in and year out.
Here are the 15 worst decisions Reid has ever made during his 10 seasons as head coach. Look for the 15 best decisions Reid has ever made in an upcoming article.
The Worst of Andy Reid
15.*Letting Brian Dawkins go
Too early to tell for sure here. At this point, it's up in the air, but Eagles fans such as myself are not happy with his departure.
Dawkins has lost a step and is no longer the force in pass coverage he once was, but he's still a Pro Bowl football player and the emotional leader of the Eagles' defense, along with being arguably the most popular athlete in the city's history.
14. Letting Derrick Burgess go
No one knew at the time that Derrick Burgess would turn out to be a sack machine, so no one really cared that Reid let him go to Oakland (although maybe we should have seen it coming, as he had three sacks in the '04 playoffs, including the team's only sack in the Super Bowl).
But I think we all wish now that our team could have him back. He recorded 16 sacks in '05 with the Raiders, best in the NFL, and followed that up with 11 sacks in '06, making the Pro Bowl both years.
13. Winston Justice vs. Osi Umenyiora
Remember this game? Six sacks allowed by Justice, and a combined 12 for the Eagles as a team. That tied an NFL record.
Putting in a tackle with no NFL experience (essentially a rookie) against the NFL's best defensive end in a primetime divisional game just doesn't make sense to me.
Allowing Justice to continue to compete vs. Umenyiora (against whom he was clearly overmatched) especially after Justice had given up three, four, and five sacks was pointless.
It could be argued that this blew the game, especially since the 16-3 score would have been much closer.
12. Signing Jevon Kearse to an eight-year, $82 million contract
I was thrilled when the Eagles picked up Kearse, signing him to a record contract for a defensive lineman. With his mammoth wingspan and 4.43 speed, I couldn't wait to see what he could do out there on the field, especially after three Pro Bowl seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
After Kearse's first season, it sure didn't seem like he would be a flop. The Freak only recorded 7.5 sacks in '04, but his presence on the defensive line helped the Eagles to a 13-1 record and home field-advantage throughout the playoffs, including the franchise's first Super Bowl berth in 24 years.
After that though, it was all downhill. Kearse recorded 7.5 sacks again in 2005, but seemed a big slower off the edge and the Eagles missed the playoffs.
In '06, Kearse started the season with 3.5 sacks in his first two games, before a foot injury kept him out for the remainder of the year.
Kearse had trouble rebounding in 2007, eventually losing his starting job to Juqua Parker, before he was released early in the 2008 offseason.
In all, Kearse recorded 22 sacks in 45 games, significantly less than the 36 sacks he recorded in his first three years with the Titans.
11. Not trading Lito Sheppard
I know management tried. I've heard the team was thisclose to a deal that would bring Randy Moss to Philly for Lito and draft picks. And the Eagles went after Chad Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and so on.
But the bottom line is that they didn't get any big-name wide receiver and left a two-time Pro Bowler as the nickel back.
Actually, make that dime back, as the strong play by Joselio Hansen combined with subpar play by Lito bumped Sheppard down to fourth on the depth chart by the end of the season.
10. Mike McMahon
More and more, teams are starting to realize the significance of a backup quarterback. Andy Reid of all people should have known better.
We were fine in '02 when McNabb (and Detmer) went down, and third-stringer A.J. Feeley stepped in to take the Birds to the playoffs. And in '06, Garcia carried us to five consecutive wins to win the division.
Well, he might be the worst QB who ever lived.
He couldn't pass the ball, he couldn't read a defense, and every time he ran with the ball, he fumbled it away.
He has long since been banned from the NFL for ineptitude, although he has been cloned and returned to the Eagles under the name of Kevin Kolb.
9. Letting Trotter go after 2001
The Eagles have never been what you would call a linebacker team, not so like the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots, who could probably turn Roethlisberger and Brady into star linebackers if needed.
So when Trotter made Pro Bowls in 2000 and 2001 for the Eagles, leading one of the most ferocious defensive units to to the playoffs both seasons, including a trip to the NFC Championship Game in following the '01 season, I hoped he would be around for years to come.
But the Eagles franchised him, he didn't like it, and before we knew it, he was gone.
Trotter joined the divisional rival Washington Redskins, where he played two miserable years, before thankfully returning to Philly for the 2004 Super Bowl team.
8. Punting the ball against New Orleans in the playoffs
In the 2006 NFC Divisional Playoff game, the Eagles had fourth-and-15 with just under two minutes to play and the season was on the line.
Jeff Garcia had been the hottest quarterback in the NFL down the stretch and the New Orleans' running game, specifically Deuce McAllister, was pounding the ball down the defense's throats.
And Andy Reid elected to punt. Three handoffs to Deuce, game over. Dream season over. I remember watching a sports show afterwards that backed Andy Reid.
It broke down the percentages of stopping the Saints' running backs on three straight plays (about 15 percent), and the chance of Garcia & Co. converting a fourth-and-15 play – something like 10 percent.
Given, those numbers, it would have made sense for the Eagles to punt the ball and put the game in the hands of the defense, but I think that is one time when statistics don't tell the whole story.
Garcia had been the magic down the stretch and punting the ball would essentially have been interpreted as giving up. There is no way to measure momentum, but I think the Eagles had momentum on offense and should have gone for the play.
7. Ignoring the punt and kick return duties from 2004-07
Oh, those were the years. Brian Mitchell had retired and Brian Westbrook was far too valuable to be used as a return man, leading the Eagles to hold open tryouts for the returning duties.
The guys who won these contests had names such as Reno Mahe, J.R. Reed, Dexter Wynn, Rod Hood, Bruce Perry, and Greg Freaking Lewis.
What envisioned Reid to enlist Greg Lewis as the team's punt returner for a game is beyond me. That is the equivalent of putting Todd Pinkston as a left tackle.
I still have nightmares of the 2007 season opener against Green Bay, when both Greg Lewis and J.R. Reed muffed punts, essentially losing the game for the Eagles, and bringing back good old reliable Reno Mahe to return punts.
When your team signs Reno Mahe to HELP the punt returning duties, that's when you know there's a problem.
Even Correll Buckhalter (as a kick returner) wasn't much help, and Jeremy Bloom got way too much publicity for my liking.
J.R. Reed was maybe the only guy I ever felt had the ability to break one for a touchdown, but he jumped over a fence and delayed his career several years, and I just can't get that fumble out of my mind.
Thankfully, the returning game seems in pretty good shape right now, with speedy youngsters DeSean Jackson and Quintin Demps in for the long haul.
6. Leaving in Blaine Bishop in the 2002 Championship
This is really more Jim Johnson's fault, as he was the defensive coordinator. The Bucs had the ball at their own 24-yard line in the second quarter, facing a third and two, down 7-3.
Normally, the Eagles would replace rookie safety Michael Lewis for Blaine Bishop on third-down plays, as Lewis was younger, quicker, and probably better at that point in Bishop's career.
For some reason, they left in Bishop, who had a pulled thigh muscle but didn't bother alerting the team, on this play. The result was a 71-yard pass to Joe Jurevicius. Bishop got beaten badly and I swear I can still see Levon Kirkland huffing down the field after Jurevicius.
This changed the momentum of the game, the Bucs took the lead, and that was all she wrote for the 2002 season. And Bishop never played another game in the NFL.
5. No power runner
Tony Hunt was supposed to be the power back the team had never had. He was supposed to be our Brandon Jacobs or Marion Barber, the guy who got the ball on fourth-and-1when we desperately needed that tough yard. That didn't work out, however.
The Eagles have never had that big, bruising back (with all due respect to Dan Klecko this past season), and there have been times over the last few years when they could have used one; think third-and 1, and fourth-and-1 against the Giants this past season.
4. Jerome McDougle
Every team makes bad draft picks. It's just part of life. But we had to watch our management actually traded up 15 spots for Jerome McDougle?
I don't know what Reid saw in McDougle, but we as Eagles fans sure didn't see it. We grew to hate McDougle during his tenure in Philly.
You can't even walk through Philly anymore wearing a McDougle jersey without getting booed. You can't even say the name McDougle.
He compiled three sacks in five seasons before the Eagles mercifully released him during the 2008 preseason, and one of those sacks came courtesy of two 15-yard penalties that helped the Eagles lose to the Bucs on Matt Bryant's 62-yard field goal in 2006.
3. L.J. Smith: L.J. Smith himself was about half of all of Andy Reid's mistakes as a coach.
3a) First, Reid drafted L.J. in 2003, a move that didn't seem so bad at the time. Looking back at that draft, we as Eagles fans wish Reid could have just picked Jason Witten, a five-time Pro Bowler who is most likely headed to the Hall of Fame someday.
3b) After 2007, it was clear L.J. wasn't going to produce like the team had hoped, but rather than cut ties with our underachieving and overpaid tight end, Reid franchised him.
3c) Rumor has it that all the Eagles needed to offer the Chiefs for Tony Gonzalez was a third-round pick. I've also heard the team just needed to offer a fourth-round conditional pick for arguably the best tight end in the game. But it didn't happen.
3d) This past season, backup Brent Celek clearly outplayed L.J. in every aspect of the game, especially down the stretch, but Reid continued to start L.J. game after game, frustrating us as fans to no end.
We all knew Celek was much better, and hopefully Reid realized that himself when he saw Celek catch two touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game.
Meanwhile in Kansas City, Gonzalez caught 96 passes for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns from Tyler Thigpen, Damon Huard, and Brodie Croyle.
I think that after watching L.J. Smith try and play tight end all season, we as Eagles fantasize just how much we could have used a playmaker like Gonzalez, who started for the AFC in the Pro Bowl even at the tender age of 33.
Thankfully, L.J. is now Baltimore Ravens' coach John Harbaugh's problem, and we as Eagles fans don't ever have to worry about him again.
2. Run-pass ratio
Sometimes I find myself seriously questioning Andy Reid's play-calling abilities. In 2008, the entire sports world began to question Reid's play-calling abilities, particularly his refusal to stick with the run.
For the season, including playoffs, the Eagles were 11-1 when they called for 20 or more handoffs and 0-6-1 when they didn't.
Seems to be a common trend here. Maybe in the NFC Championship Game, management should have called for more than 16 runs against 51 passes.
1. Freddie, Thrash, Pinkston, GLew & those wide receivers
We went the first four years of McNabb's career watching our franchise quarterback throw to guys like Trash & Stinkston, two players who did not keep up defensive coordinators at night.
No one seemed to agree, but as Eagles fans we all told anyone who would listen (and still will tell anyone) what McNabb could do with a genuine receiver. We swore he would have led the Eagles to multiple Super Bowls during his career.
Reid's only attempts to bring the team a legit No. 1 receiver (drafting Freddie Mitchell in the first round in '01, drafting Reggie Brown in the second round in '05, and bringing in T.O.) were flops.
Games like the '03 Championship against the Panthers, in which McNabb's receivers were manhandled by the Panthers' young secondary, just added to our frustration as fans. Hopefully, DeSean Jackson is the real deal.
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