Philadelphia Eagles: 25 Biggest Disappointments in the Andy Reid Era
Andy Reid has a current career win record of 120-75 (.615) and a 10-9 (.526) record in the postseason. He is the winningest head coach in Philadelphia Eagles history and has led the Eagles to five NFC Championship appearances and one Super Bowl appearance.
Reid's teams were always consistently one of the better, if not the best, teams in the NFL almost every season and he has achieved a great deal in his 13-year tenure with the Eagles.
However, Reid has failed to deliver a Super Bowl title to Philadelphia, despite making the postseason virtually every single season. And to say that he has certainly not been immune to criticism despite his success would be a gross understatement.
Like any other head coaching era, the Andy Reid era has seen a great deal of disappointment. Here are 25 of the biggest disappointments the Eagles suffered with Reid as their head coach.
25. 2-4 Start for "Dream Team"
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In reality, if Reid fails to turn around this underachieving 2-4 team, this 2011 Eagles team should skyrocket to the top five of this list. With an offseason characterized by the acquisitions of Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Vince Young, Cullen Jenkins, Steve Smith (Giants) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles were preseason favorites to win it all.
A record of 2-4 does not do much to inspire confidence. And if this team misses playoffs, it would go down as one of the biggest disappointments in Eagles history.
However, for now I will give this Eagles team a break due to the possibility of a turnaround. Regardless, the horrible start deserves to at least make this list.
24. Sean McDermott
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The passing of the legendary defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was tough on Eagles nation. Johnson’s death left the position vacant for a young Sean McDermott to take over. McDermott was taught everything Johnson knew about defense, but few expected him to live up to Johnson’s legacy.
However, no one expected his defense to perform as poorly as it did.
The Eagles defense dropped from the third-best defense in the NFL in 2008 to the 12th best in 2009 and 2010. However, what the statistics could not show was that the toughness seemed to have left with Johnson. The defense was no longer able to generate the kind of pressure it once did and confuse opponents with creative blitzes, striking fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks.
It sadly became clear that McDermott was not the protégé of Johnson that all had hoped he would be. And his shockingly bad 2010 red zone defense, which allowed a touchdown 33 times out of 43 in opposing red-zone trips, was enough to make up Reid’s mind and cut ties with him.
23. Juan Castillo
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Unfortunately for the Eagles, Reid’s decision to cut McDermott was followed by his decision to promote offensive line coach Juan Castillo to the defensive coordinator position. Castillo had no experience coaching defense at an NFL level and the move was baffling at best. However, many, including myself, assumed Reid must have had a plan. Castillo must be a diamond in the rough, a defensive genius.
So far, he clearly is not. He started off the 2011 season with a scheme that did not cater to the strengths of his players. He assigned Nnamdi Asomugha, a lockdown corner, to play zone. He allowed defensive line coach Jim Washburn to employ the wide-nine formation, which exposed the weakness of his linebackers. And he neglected to replace Casey Matthews at middle linebacker until already two games into the season.
Castillo clearly is not a genius and often looks like a deer in the headlights, seeming overmatched by the daunting tasks he is faced with on a weekly basis. The defense may improve, but it is clear now that is due to the talent of its players and not the ingenuity of its coach.
With this scenario, it would have been better just to keep McDermott, who at least has extensive defensive coaching experience and could do more with the incredible amount of talent he would have at his disposal.
22. 2002 NFC Championship Loss
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Nobody expected the Eagles to make it this far, and nobody expected the Eagles to win this game. As expected, they lost, and boy was it disappointing.
The Eagles defense played its heart out, holding Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf without a touchdown after the first half. Victory was so close, but the Eagles simply could not stop Marshall Faulk and fell 29-24 at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Eagles played their hearts out and gave it their all against what was regarded as a far superior team, but it just wasn’t enough in the end.
21. 2009 Season
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The 2009 season had a great deal of potential, as DeSean Jackson had a breakout season and became the most potent big-play threat in the entire league. Under Donovan McNabb’s strong arm, the Eagles were 11-4 and a final showdown against the Dallas Cowboys would grant them a 12-4 record, the NFC East crown and a first-round bye.
However, in the season finale, Philadelphia completely collapsed, losing 20-0 at Dallas and falling to 11-5 and the sixth seed. The very next week it was to face Dallas in the wild-card round, eager to redeem itself, but the first round of playoffs was even more disastrous. The Eagles were again blown out, losing 34-14. McNabb played poorly, the defense could not get stops, the offense committed turnovers and the entire team looked like a mess. It was a season of great potential completely down the drain, and was the first time Reid had ever entered the postseason and not won at least one game.
This game would officially end the McNabb era in Philadelphia: a sad and disappointing end to the most successful quarterback in franchise history.
20. Kevin Curtis
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Kevin Curtis was signed from the St. Louis Rams and was greeted with great optimism. He was a blindingly fast player with good hands and many believed he was merely overshadowed by having to compete with possibly future Hall of Fame wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
In 2007, Curtis caught 77 balls for 1,110 yards and six touchdowns. However, the stats are somewhat misleading, as Curtis often had amazing games against poor defenses and seemed to disappear against tougher opponents. He also seemed to come up short in situations where a big catch was needed.
Curtis then struggled to stay healthy for the rest of his stint with the Eagles (which was fortunate as it allowed DeSean Jackson to start immediately in 2008) and missed 20 games in 2008 and 2009.
There were initially hopes that Curtis could be the third option for the Eagles behind Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to give the Eagles an even more potent receiving corps, but he was too injury prone and the Eagles released him after the 2009 season.
19. Third Return of Jeremiah Trotter
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The 2009 Eagles lost their middle linebacker, Stewart Bradley, to a season-ending injury in training camp. Since then, the Eagles struggled to fill his place and they made the decision to bring back "The Axeman," Jeremiah Trotter, to fill the void.
Eagles fans everywhere were excited at Trotter’s return. If Trotter could be even close to the same player he once was with the Eagles, the Eagles defense should be okay, right?
Unfortunately, Trotter in fact was nowhere near the player he once was. He looked exactly like what he was: an aged and washed-up veteran whose best year were behind him. Trotter was too slow, lacked awareness and was often a liability on the defense.
Not quite the Trotter that Eagles fans and coaches had hoped to see.
18. Victor Abiamiri
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The Eagles drafted Victor Abiamiri with a second-round pick in 2007 draft. Abiamiri has shown promise whenever he has had playing time and even started at left defensive end for the first five games of the 2009 season.
Yet, for all that talent and promise, Abiamiri could never stay healthy. In three seasons, Abiamiri has only played in 29 games and only started six games.
He could have developed into a fearsome pass rusher had he been able to stay healthy.
17. 2010 Season
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The 2010 season was initially viewed as a season for little more than growth and development. With 11-year starter Donovan McNabb being traded to the Washington Redskins, it would be up to Kevin Kolb to lead the team, and first-year starters at quarterback usually struggle. The Eagles were likely looking at a 6-10 season and to contend in 2011 at the earliest.
However, things change quickly in the NFL. In Week 1, Kolb went down with a concussion after only two halves of football against the Green Bay Packers, forcing Michael Vick to start at quarterback in Kolb’s place.
Vick played well. Extraordinarily well. For weeks he led the NFL in passer rating for and never relinquished the starting job for the remainder of the season. He led the Eagles stunning wins over the Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins and engineered the biggest comeback win in franchise (and perhaps NFL) history against the New York Giants.
It seemed with Vick under center, nothing could stop this Eagles offense and the Eagles were destined for a deep playoff run. Surely with a rejuvenated Vick and his incredible story of redemption, this had to finally be the year, right?
Unfortunately, Vick, as well as the Eagles, soon came back to Earth. Teams began to figure him out and he began to look less and less like Superman and more and more human. A humiliating loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16 killed the Eagles’ hopes for a first-round bye. The Eagles faced off against the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card round and fell short 21-16 in yet another disappointing postseason appearance for the Eagles.
All those big games and big wins were ultimately for nothing. Despite all the highlight material, the Eagles once again failed to win the Super Bowl.
16. Stewart Bradley
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Stewart Bradley appeared to be a Pro Bowl player in the making. He had a very solid season in 2008 and impressed all with his play. Bradley was one of the most solid players on the team and was quickly becoming a fan favorite. Just imagine how good he would be in 2009 with another season to develop.
As fate would have it, we will never know the answer to that question.
In 2009, Bradley suffered a torn ACL before the start of the season and never saw the field that year. In 2010 he returned, but in poor shape. Perhaps he had never fully healed from his injury or had never adjusted from having an entire year away from football, but Bradley often looked lost in 2010. He was a liability on pass defense and was very inconsistent against the run.
The player who was once seen as a potential leader on defense and a lock at middle linebacker was not brought back for the 2011 season.
15. Reggie Brown
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The Terrell Owens controversy in 2005 was a headache for anyone associated with the Eagles, but when it became apparent Owens would not return after the 2005 season, Eagles fans could reassure themselves that Reggie Brown was surely a star in the making. Brown was a tough and physical receiver, and at the very least Donovan McNabb would still have a potent weapon on offense.
Unfortunately, Brown never developed into the playmaker at wide receiver the Eagles hoped he would become. Brown had flashes of playmaking potential but was extremely inconsistent and a mediocre receiver at best.
14. Jevon Kearse
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Before the 2011 Eagles “Dream Team” was the 2004 Eagles. While never officially proclaimed a “Dream Team,” the Eagles front office also surprised the football world with the big splashes made in free agency.
The most famous acquisition was that of Terrell Owens, but the Eagles also acquired Jevon Kearse to aid their pass rush. With Owens on offense and Kearse on the defense, this Eagles team was surely unbeatable.
Owens worked out, but unfortunately Kearse was a big disappointment. The move was useful in that it required the offensive line to account for him, which opened up sack opportunities for the other defensive linemen, but Kearse only posted 7.5 sacks in 2004 and 2005. His 2006 season was cut short by an injury and he only registered 3.5 sacks. Then in 2007, Kearse returned, but noticeably smaller and with far less burst than before.
He was a good player on the Eagles, but not nearly as productive as many envisioned he would be.
13. Ernie Sims
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Before the 2010 season, the Eagles traded for Detroit Lions linebacker Ernie Sims. Sims was one of the better players on the Lions and had a tremendous amount of speed. On a relatively weak Eagles linebacker corps, Sims was expected to add a great deal of depth at the position and to improve the consistency of the defense.
Unfortunately, Sims overall played very poorly with the Eagles. He showed weak instincts and constantly missed assignments and tackles. Not exactly a future star at linebacker that coaches once envisioned he could become.
12. Stacy Andrews
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Stacy Andrews was a solid offensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals and many hoped his signing would improve the stability of the Eagles O-line. Andrews would be expected to start at right guard alongside his brother, Shawn Andrews, and to solidify the right side of the line.
Andrews never found his way onto the field. It may have been because he never recovered from his torn ACL surgery a year ago, but either way, Andrews did not perform well enough in practice for the coaches to play him in 2009, and when he did play he played poorly.
11. Flaws of Donovan McNabb
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Donovan McNabb was booed on draft day but soon proved his critics wrong, as he emerged as a star quarterback and led the Eagles to five NFC Championships and a Super Bowl appearance. He was the best quarterback the Eagles have ever had and has won more games than any other quarterback in Eagles history.
However, for all of McNabb’s positives, he also had weaknesses. Very clear weaknesses.
McNabb struggled with accuracy his entire career, could not stay healthy (only starting an entire season once) and failed to come up big when his team needed him at times.
This is not to blame McNabb for the failure of the Eagles to win a Super Bowl, but McNabb’s career could have been far more successful. However, flaws in his game would also contribute to his inability to win a championship.
10. The Departure of Brian Dawkins
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Brian Dawkins was not just an All-Pro safety. Dawkins was the heart and soul of the Eagles defense and one of the most popular Eagles of all time. He was on the team for 13 years, the undisputed leader in the locker room, and was still playing at a high level.
The Eagles chose not to re-sign him, and he went to the Denver Broncos, where he continued to play at a high level.
The failure of the Eagles to bring back B-Dawk was shocking and perhaps one of the most disheartening moments in franchise history. It was a huge disappointment for Eagles fans and could arguably be higher up on this list.
9. Shawn Andrews
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Shawn Andrews was taken in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft and immediately showed himself to be an immensely talented lineman. He was a phenomenal athlete and was instrumental to giving Donovan McNabb adequate protection for the next few seasons.
However, Andrews ultimately never lived up to his incredible talent and potential as he battled depression and back injuries and was lost for the entire 2008 season. The Eagles were hopeful he would return in 2009, but he was lost to another back injury. While he rehabbed he released many bizarre music videos on YouTube that caused fans and sportswriters to question his desire to play football.
Andrews was eventually released and signed with the New York Giants.
8. 2007 NFC Divisional-Round Loss
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The 2006 season looked bleak, with the Eagles posting a 5-6 record and their franchise quarterback, Donovan McNabb, lost for the season. They were seemingly eliminated from playoffs. However, Andy Reid appointed veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia his starting quarterback over the more popular and younger A.J. Feeley.
Garcia engineered a five-game winning streak for the Eagles, which gave them a 10-6 record and the NFC East division crown. He then led the Eagles to a victory over the New York Giants in the wild-card round.
The divisional round started out promising with a crushing hit by Sheldon Brown on Reggie Bush to start the game, but the New Orleans Saints recovered from the potential momentum shift and found themselves 27-24 over the Eagles.
And with 1:57 left in the game and a 4th-and-15, Reid decided to punt the ball. The punt allowed New Orleans to run out the clock and end the Eagles’ 2006 season.
A promising season was squandered by an inexplicable and senseless play by Reid.
7. Terrell Owens
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Terrell Owens was not just a big-name free-agent signing. He was much more to Eagles fans.
Owens was anointed the savior. He was the player who would win the Eagles a Super Bowl. Donovan McNabb had been throwing to the likes of Todd Pinkston, James Thrash and Freddie Mitchell for his entire career and finally had his playmaker at wide receiver.
Once the 2004 season began, all the hype seemed to be legitimate. T.O. caught 77 balls for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns in one of his finest seasons as a pro athlete. Everything looked great for Eagles fans, and the McNabb-Owens combination would surely become a historic one-two punch, similar to Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.
However, T.O. broke his ankle during Week 15 against the Cowboys. The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl without him, but T.O. defied doctors orders and played regardless, putting his career on the line. He was the most productive receiver in the Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.
And this act of toughness appeared to convince Owens that he was not appreciated enough by the Eagles franchise and he demanded his contract be restructured. The Eagles refused and Owens started a circus, dominating the sports headlines with weekly controversies, which included direct jabs at the Eagles organization and its quarterback, Donovan McNabb.
Owens was eventually suspended in 2005 for conduct detrimental to the team and released after the season. He then signed with the Dallas Cowboys and went from hero to villain in just a year’s time.
Just imagine if T.O. had kept his mouth shut and remained on the Eagles. How many great seasons would the Eagles have by now? How many Super Bowl wins?
6. Jerome McDougle
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Jerome McDougle was a huge bust, that much is clear. His career was marred with injuries and lack of production, but what made his signing by the Eagles even worse is that Reid decided to trade up 15 rounds, giving up his 30th and 63rd overall picks to take McDougle.
He had only three sacks over four seasons. The numbers speak for themselves.
Had the Eagles not drafted McDougle, they potentially could have had Troy Polamalu, Dallas Clark, Nnamdi Asomugha, Anquan Boldin, Lance Briggs or Jason Witten.
5. Freddie Mitchell
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Freddie Mitchell, or “Fred Ex” as he preferred to be called, is one of the worst, if not the worst, busts in Eagles history. Mitchell was a first-round pick but compiled only 90 receptions, 1,263 yards and five touchdowns in his entire career. He never had a single season where he caught 500 yards or more.
McNabb’s lack of playmakers was a significant contributor to his failure to win a Super Bowl for Philadelphia, and the Eagles could have drafted Reggie Wayne, Chad Ochocinco or Steve Smith had they not drafted Mitchell.
Mitchell represented another failure by the Eagles to draft a wide receiver for McNabb, which eventually led to their decision to trade for Terrell Owens. And the previous slide already details how that trade wound up.
4. 2009 NFC Championship Loss
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The 2008 Eagles were left for dead at 5-5-1. With McNabb struggling and Reid on the hot seat, how could this season possibly turn out well?
However, the Eagles surprised all of us by going on a 4-1 run to close out the season, ending at 9-6-1. With a few lucky breaks (such as a victory by the Oakland Raiders over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and a complete beatdown of the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale (44-6) the Eagles snatched the NFC’s sixth seed.
From there, they stormed past the Minnesota Vikings and ended the dreams of the New York Giants to repeat as Super Bowl champions. It seemed like a season of destiny and one last shot for this Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook to win a Super Bowl together.
However, what is often the most unpredictable of things is how predictable they are. As usual, the Eagles fell to an inferior Arizona Cardinals team in the NFC Championship and failed once again to win a championship. Despite defeating the best team in the NFL a week ago, the Eagles had no answers for Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner.
It was a crushing loss and one that will never be forgotten.
3. Super Bowl XXXIX (2005) Loss
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Many would place the 2005 Super Bowl loss of the Eagles as the most disappointing moment in Eagles history, but I would not. The Eagles were overall underdogs in this contest, so it does not deserve the top spot on this list, in my opinion.
Nevertheless, it was incredibly disappointing and a game the Eagles should have won.
The Eagles got off to an incredible start against the New England Patriots, and Tom Brady and the Patriots were playing surprisingly poorly in the first half. Then the Eagles squandered opportunities to score early and build an insurmountable lead when they had the chance. McNabb threw a red-zone interception and the Eagles offense stalled following a fumble by Brady that could have granted the Eagles good field position. The Eagles led at halftime 7-0, but in reality should have been up by at least 13-0, if not 21-0.
Then Brady got hot, and the Eagles pass rush could not get to him or rattle him. On the other hand, the Eagles O-line struggled and McNabb was pressured all game.
Regardless, the Eagles found themselves in the fourth quarter with the ball and the score 24-14, in position to mount a comeback. However, with 5:40 left to play, the Eagles oddly ran a game plan that used up 3:52 of the clock and cut the deficit to 24-21, but with only 1:55 remaining. New England ran out the clock and gave the Eagles the ball with 46 seconds left, and the Eagles failed to rally and win the game.
The Eagles defense failed to play up to its expectations, and the Eagles coaching staff failed to call more aggressive plays to give the Eagles the best chance to win at the end of the game.
The loss overall represented a huge failed opportunity and the Eagles failed to deliver a championship despite having one of their best chances in franchise history to do so.
2. 2003 NFC Championship Loss
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The Philadelphia Eagles were facing off against the Jon Gruden-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not only were the Eagles regarded as a far superior team, but the Eagles were playing their final game at Veterans Stadium and were expected to have a substantial home-field advantage. Thus, the Eagles were heavy favorites in this conference championship.
However, after a quick score by Duce Staley put the Eagles up 7-0, the Eagles appeared lifeless. McNabb and the Eagles offense failed to do anything against the Buccaneers defense and the Eagles completely fell flat. The game was ultimately lost 27-10.
This was a disappointing loss, as the Buccaneers were almost unanimous underdogs and that it was the last game ever played at the Vet. The Buccaneers went on to win the Super Bowl in a crushing victory over the Oakland Raiders, a game Philadelphia certainly could have won had it advanced.
1. 2004 NFC Championship Loss
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In the end, the biggest disappointment in the Andy Reid era was the 2004 NFC Championship loss against the Carolina Panthers. At 12-4, the Eagles were one of the finest teams in the NFC and were on a magical run, having defeated the Brett Favre-led Green Bay Packers with the miraculous 4th-and-26 play in arguably the greatest Eagles game of all time.
Surely, destiny was finally on Philadelphia’s side. The team couldn’t possibly fail a third time in a row, could it?
Actually, it could.
Just like the previous season, the Eagles were facing a team they were near unanimously expected to beat in the Carolina Panthers, and once again, the Eagles failed to defeat a lesser opponent and advance to the Super Bowl.
McNabb threw three interceptions, but when he threw the ball accurately, it was dropped multiple times by his incompetent wide receivers (many passes which would have granted first downs). The Eagles allowed McNabb to be sacked five times and McNabb was eventually taken out of the game with injury and Koy Detmer was forced into action.
The Panthers scored only 14 points, but it was enough to defeat the Eagles, who managed to score only three in four quarters of football.
It was not only a humiliating game, but it was the third straight time the Eagles had failed to win the NFC Championship. As a result, the 2004 NFC Championship was the biggest disappointment in the Andy Reid era.