Andy Reid or Michael Vick More to Blame for Eagles' Early Struggles?
Despite a current two-game winning streak to put the Philadelphia Eagles in second place in the NFC East, the Eagles are just 3-4 on the season, a far reach from what many expected from the so-called Dream Team.
Blame for the losses is traditionally bestowed upon either the head coach or the starting quarterback, and in this scenario, each deserves his fair share. Who is more to blame though—Andy Reid or Michael Vick?
I will highlight several reasons why Reid is at fault before addressing Vick’s deficiencies.
The Andy Reid Section: Questionable Coaching Decisions
Andy Reid made three big coaching changes in the offseason—luring legendary offensive line coach Howard Mudd out of retirement, signing Jim Washburn from the Tennessee Titans, and promoting long-time offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator.
The first two have paid off nicely, as the Eagles’ offensive line has gelled especially as of late, and the defensive line has been a force all season.
The decision to put Castillo as defensive coordinator was puzzling, and when it didn’t pay off, Reid took much-needed criticism for his choice. Putting a guy who had never coached defense at the professional level to suddenly lead the defense of a Super Bowl caliber team made no sense, and Castillo hasn’t exactly been a sparkplug for the defense.
Castillo certainly wasn’t helped out by the lockout, which prohibited coaches from meeting with players and ultimately the players from practicing with one another, but he also hasn’t made his mark this season, as the Eagles’ defense is just tied for 16th best in the league in points allowed, a ranking that certainly doesn’t reflect the star caliber of players the Eagles have on their defense.
Failure to Address Key Positions
Andy Reid went all out on the defensive line and the cornerbacks, bringing in Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to bolster the defense.
What Reid neglected to do though was add a veteran linebacker to a young group of inexperienced ‘backers. The Philadelphia Eagles have received sub-par performances this season from Moise Fokou and Casey Matthews, two players expected to contribute as starters.
Reid also ignored the safety position, expecting to go with Nate Allen and either Kurt Coleman or free agent addition Jarrad Page. Coleman has had his flashes of brilliance (see the three-interception game) although he has also been benched, and Page lost his starting job after a string of dreadful games.
4th Quarter Collapses
The Philadelphia Eagles have had no excuse to lose some of the games they have lost this season.
In a span of three weeks, the defense blew three fourth-quarter leads, while the offense didn’t put up much of a fight. The 35-31 loss to the Atlanta Falcons looked like a sure Eagles win, the 29-16 loss to the New York Giants wasn’t helped by 14 late points from the Giants, and the Eagles managed to blow a 20-0 lead to the San Francisco 49ers.
Regardless of the performances beyond Andy Reid’s control—Jeremy Maclin’s fumble or dropped pass—the head coach takes the blame for the wins as well as the losses.
Some have argued the Philadelphia Eagles are not a team; they’re a collection of players and superstars, and at many times, this has seemed the case.
Much of this cannot be helped by Andy Reid in the fact that the lockout didn’t allow players to practice together, but he and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo haven’t used some of their best players appropriately.
Nnamdi Asomugha is a fantastic man-to-man cornerback, but the Eagles use him in zone frequently. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hasn’t seen the field too much. The wide nine defense is great for the linemen like Trent Cole and Jason Babin, but it exposes the sub-par group of linebackers to the running game.
Same Old Mistakes
For his tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles, Andy Reid has been criticized for his inability to change, and he has proven that trend to continue again this year.
He is poor with clock management. He doesn’t conserve his timeouts effectively. He ignores certain positions on the Eagles (linebackers) and the opposing team (tight end).
Reid will likely never change, and that could be a big reason why he has never won a Super Bowl in 13 years with the Eagles.
The Michael Vick Section: Turnovers
Last year, Michael Vick threw just six interceptions all season. This year, he has thrown eight at the midpoint of the season, numbers which put him on pace for 16.
Vick has also fumbled seven times, a figure that currently leads the NFL. As a team, the Eagles lead the NFC in interceptions thrown (11) and fumbles lost (7), giving them an NFL-worst 18 turnovers.
Vick has always struggled to hold onto the football, but this year he has been worse than ever, and his 4.0 interception rate is the worst of his career.
Michael Vick was the surprise story of the NFL in 2010, emerging as an MVP candidate while resurrecting his career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
This year, Vick’s numbers have dropped off and speculation has it that the rest of the league has caught back up with Vick. His touchdown rate is down, his interception rate is up, and his completion percentage, yards per attempt, net yards per attempt and passer rating are all worse than last year.
Michael Vick engineered wins last year that just shouldn’t have happened. He led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 21-point comeback against the New York Giants. He beat the Indianapolis Colts, something no Eagles quarterback had done under Andy Reid.
He dominated a Washington Redskins team on "Monday Night Football," putting up 59 points while turning in one of the greatest performances by a quarterback in NFL history. He led the Eagles to a big 30-27 win over the Dallas Cowboys late in the season.
This year, he hasn’t been able to pull off the same magic. The Eagles blew a big lead against the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers, and while the defense had a major part in this, Vick didn’t lead the offense to any fourth-quarter points either.
The One Who Deserves the Blame
Michael Vick certainly hasn’t been the same quarterback in 2011 that he was in 2010, but most of the blame should be deferred to head coach Andy Reid.
A team with all the playmakers the Eagles have shouldn’t be 3-4, and some of Reid’s decisions don’t look too good right about now—Juan Castillo, no veteran linebacker, weak play from the safeties.
Last night’s win over the Dallas Cowboys was a big step in the right direction, but if the Eagles fail to make the playoffs with this team, Reid deserves the blame.
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