Yes, you read the headline right. As far as this Eagles fan and journalist is concerned, the big man is 100 percent culpable for what happened Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Yes, Donovan McNabb had a poor game and continued his recent alarming trend of throwing passes at his receivers’ feet. Yes, the run game did much of nothing; yes, the offensive line gave up four sacks; and yes, Miles Austin was this week’s Lucy for Sheldon “Charlie” Brown on the Slant-N-Go route that scored the winning touchdown.
If you don’t get that last reference, you might be one of the few who didn’t know that Sheldon falls for a double move more often that his cartoon namesake is the sucker for Miss Van Pelt’s field-goal trick.
But the blame still falls on the mustachioed man who, despite 10 years experience, still hasn’t learned one key job function: decision making.
Based on what he displayed on Sunday night (and really his whole tenure as coach), I’d love to watch Andy Reid tackle one of those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. I’d like to gamble on it, too, because I’d probably be a big winner betting on him to find the least desirable option.
In this case, his culpability comes down to two bad choices, both of which came in the fourth quarter: The 4th-and-1 sneak call and the decision to kick a 52-yard field goal with five minutes left.
The first one is almost excusable, because you could kind of see it happening...until you actually pay attention to the situation, which was a perfect illustration of why the Eagles fail so miserably on 3rd-and-short situations.
DeSean Jackson gets nine yard on first down...and the Eagles were stopped on three straight “x-and-one” running plays. THREE TIMES. Yet, Leonard Weaver, a 275-pound fullback who all of a sudden has become a huge part of the offense with Brian Westbrook out, got exactly zero of those carries.
Making it even worse is that this happened early in the fourth quarter of a tie game with the Birds barely in Dallas territory. They weren’t losing, their defense was playing great, and after getting stuffed twice, Reid goes for it knowing that failure gives the Cowboys great field position—a trait that contributed to 10 of their first 13 points, and eventually their last seven as well.
On top of that, when they do fail, Reid challenges the spot—with only one timeout left, meaning that a loss would cost them their last clock-stopper.
Ask any of the other 31 NFL coaches, and I’d bet my job that 25 of them punt the ball. Why not?
Yes, there’s potential for a huge punt return, but barring that the worst case scenario is pushing the Cowboys back 25 yards and forcing the Cowboys to go the length of the field...in a TIE GAME. Again, I can’t stress that enough.
Nope. Instead, Reid chose the option that had the highest failure rate and the worst possible consequences. And, of course, they happen—the Eagles fail, the challenge fails and Dallas turns a short field into a touchdown.
But then, just when you think it can’t get any more bizarre, you have Philly’s second fourth-quarter possession.
Now down a touchdown, the Eagles are driving. Reid, apparently learning his lesson from before, gives Weaver a huge carry on third-and-one at midfield...and of course, he picks up the first down.
But after two incompletions and a sack, Reid is faced with a tough spot: 4th-and-11 from the Dallas 35, under five minutes to go and no timeouts.
He has three choices:
A) Go for it, knowing that while fourth-and-10 is a tough conversion, it could mean the game;
B) Punt, hope your defense holds and run a two-minute drill;
C) Bring in David Akers for a 52 yard field goal attempt, knowing that Akers struggles from that far, a make still leaves you down by four and a miss gives the Cowboys basically the same field position you gave them off the last drive.
Even if you didn’t see the game and have only read this far, I don’t think I need to tell you what happened.
Yes, once again, Reid took the option with the biggest risk and worst consequences. And while it didn’t backfire (Akers made his third FG of 40-plus yards on the night), it did absolutely nothing.
Sure, the defense didn’t hold. They almost did, forcing a 3rd-and-3 that Dallas converted at the two-minute warning, but even if they had what would it have accomplished?
Down by four, Philadelphia still would have had to drive a good 60 yards with no timeouts and hit the end zone.
Sadly, that’s par for the course for Andy Reid.
And because of that, the Eagles squandered a huge chance to take control of the NFC East. They sit at 5-4 (with a quintet of wins over teams whose combined record is 11-30) and look a lot like the same team that went 9-6-1 and snuck into the playoffs last season.
That team surprised a lot of people and made the NFC Championship Game. But with a tough schedule remaining in a conference where 10 wins might actually miss the playoffs, they’re going to need to get better in a hurry.
And that starts at the top.