That is the word that best describes the look on Andy Reid's face in every important game situation. But, that cannot go nearly far enough to describe the feelings of Philadelphia Eagles fans after this week's pathetic showing—a tie against the one-win Cincinnati Bengals.
The fans, apparently unlike the Eagles players, knew that NFL games can end in ties. Even knowing that, I would venture to say that the fans were even more surprised that this one actually did. A tie? Against the Bengals? Seriously?
Andy Reid is the most accomplished head coach in Philadelphia Eagles history and has had a great run of success with the team. However, as this team continues to slide closer and closer to mediocrity, we have to start asking ourselves how much longer we can really retain this same coaching staff.
How long ago it seems, back to the days when the Birds routinely dominated NFC East opponents. During their run from 2001 to 2004, the Eagles appeared in four straight NFC championship games including the 2004 Super Bowl. They had a ridiculous 21-3 record against divisional opponents.
Since then, however, they have played at a meager 7-14 clip against the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins. The core of the team that once dominated the East has remained much the same, but not enough improvement has been made to stay ahead of the pack.
How long ago it seems, since the Week two shootout between Philadelphia and Dallas, a highly-anticipated affair between two of the NFC's Super Bowl favorites. After the game, a 41-37 Dallas victory, most who watched agreed that they had just witnessed the NFC's (and perhaps the NFL's) best two teams do battle.
Who is saying that now?
The Eagles have fallen far and hard and the one who should shoulder the blame for this one is Coach Andy Reid. When your team is consistently losing games you could and should win, it becomes obvious that you as a coach have lost your effectiveness.
Do I think Andy Reid is an awful coach? Yes and no.
During the week, I would argue that at least for the first eight years of his tenure in Philly, he has been among the best coaches in the NFL at preparing his team for Sunday. However, as a game day coach, he has always been questionable, notably with his play-calling and clock management, but his teams have for the most part been so talented and so well-prepared that it had rarely come into play.
But, now with the rest of the NFC East closing the talent gap, those flaws are becoming more and more apparent. Reid was given a free pass last year, despite an underachieving season because of off-season family problems that lingered into the year. Last season, five of the team's eight losses were by four points or less. This year, none of their four losses have been by more than six points.
In that time frame, they are a pathetic 1-9-1 in games decided by six points or less. In this league, you simply have got to win the close games, and the Eagles have not been doing it.
Most of these losses are directly attributable to Reid's game management. I do not have any specific stats on this and I do not know if any are necessarily available, but the Eagles must be the worst clock management team in the league. Fans of the Birds have become all too familiar with the sight of the clock slowly ticking down as the team on the field, and Reid on the sideline, lack any sense of urgency.
The play-calling at this point has become a disaster, culminating with this week's decision to drop back for 60 pass attempts, while running the ball just 18 times, against a Bengals defense that allows 131 rushing yards a game. Not only is this a terrible decision in the first place, but the swirling winds in Paul Brown Stadium and the inability of Eagles receivers to gain any separation from the defensive backs, made the passing efforts futile from the start.
I understand more than anyone that losing Shawn Andrews has been a huge blow to this running attack, but losing one player to injury is no excuse for being unable to run the ball against the Bengals. Brian Westbrook is an elite NFL running back and it is the job of the coaches to put him in a position to make plays.
In addition to poor game management, Reid's normally superior preparation of his team for game-days seems to have worn off. They have been coming out of the gate flat and Reid's game plans do not seem to show a very good knowledge of his opponents. He has not put his offense in position to strike early, and as a result they have been playing from behind far too often.
The season still has six games left, but they are six very tough ones against the Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Giants, Redskins, and Cowboys. These teams' combined records are 38-22. And now, sitting at 5-4-1, they can basically count on having to win five of those six to secure a playoff spot.
That is the task for Andy Reid and his staff: to take a team that has fallen to a new low, turn them around, and finish off with one of the strongest stretches of football in his head coaching career. Make the playoffs and he lives to see another year.
Miss out and I am afraid it has got to be time for him to go.
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