Philadelphia Eagles: Why Andy Reid Isn't to Blame for the Eagles Demise
To quote his now infamous press conferences, Reid has been putting his team in the position to win football games. He has brought in a slew of talented players that should make the Eagles the class of the National Football League.
He isn’t the one out there on the field playing the game, and he has no control over unforeseen circumstances that have plagued the team.
One poor season shouldn’t negate Reid’s 12 years of winning in Philadelphia. If the Eagles end up missing the playoffs in 2011, history should show Reid is not at fault.
This transaction was a statement to the rest of the NFL, as the Philadelphia Eagles reached out early in the free-agency period to acquire four-time Pro Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the game’s best defensive players.
Asomugha was immediately given a $60 million contract—the highest ever to a cornerback.
Asomugha had been one of the premier shutdown corners the league has seen in recent years, completely shutting down the one side of the field while on the Oakland Raiders.
Through nine games, Asomugha has been a colossal bust. He has three interceptions, but he ranks 100th out of 107 cornerbacks in terms of overall performance, per Pro Football Focus.
There has been talk about defensive coordinator Juan Castillo not using Asomugha right—Asomugha prefers man-to-man coverage and the Eagles used him more in press coverage—but this shouldn’t make the difference between one of the best and the eighth worst corner out of over 100 qualifiers.
Remember Victor Cruz's jump over Asomugha? Nothing Reid could have done about that.
Face it: Asomugha is struggling.
DRC, as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is popularly referred to, was brought over in the Kevin Kolb trade.
The Philadelphia Eagles shipped Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick. Rodgers-Cromartie was a Pro Bowler in 2009, and while his performance slipped off in 2010, he was still supposed to be a key asset to an Eagles team built to win now.
When the Eagles acquired Nnamdi Asomugha shortly afterwards, the Eagles owned arguably the best trio of cornerbacks in the league: Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel. DRC was expected to play as the nickel corner.
After all, the Green Bay Packers had played three cornerbacks on 62 of 66 defensive plays against the Eagles in the wild-card playoff game the previous season.
Rodgers-Cromartie has not only been a bust, but he’s struggled to get onto the field. He has played in just 308 of a possible 583 defensive snaps for the Eagles. He hasn’t intercepted a pass and quarterbacks are posting a 99.9 passer rating against him through nine games.
Andy Reid won’t be winning any NFL Coach of the Year honors for the way he has led the Philadelphia Eagles this season, but turnovers is a big area that has been unforeseen.
Last year, Michael Vick threw just six interceptions all season, posting a career-best 1.6 interception percentage. A drop-off was to be expected, but Vick has regressed mightily. His 3.7 interception rate is tied for his worst ever, and he’s fumbled eight times in just nine games.
It’s not as if he doesn’t have weapons. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are two playmaking wide receivers and LeSean McCoy is arguably the game’s best running back. Factor in that Brent Celek is getting more involved in the offense on a weekly basis and the offensive line has stabilized, and there are no excuses for Vick’s turnovers.
The Philadelphia Eagles did the right thing by not signing DeSean Jackson to a long-term contract. At just 170 pounds, the fourth-year wide receiver has had his share of game-breaking moments, but he also lacks the size or strength to be much more than a deep option.
Without a contract, Jackson has suffered on the field and off the field. He has just 29 catches for 503 yards and two touchdowns through nine games. He leads the NFL in highest percentage of drops (19.4) among catchable balls, and he’s totaled just 93 yards in the previous four games (one of which he was benched).
Jackson has also been said to be causing problems in the clubhouse, according to Pro Football Talk.
Other players around the league haven’t gotten the contracts they want and it hasn’t affected their performance. Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears is having a phenomenal season running and receiving the football, although he is still on his rookie wages.
Andy Reid did the right thing by benching Jackson this past week against the Arizona Cardinals for missing a mandatory team meeting. The blame for Jackson this season should be directed directly to Jackson and no one else.
Don’t forget about the impact of the NFL lockout on the 2011 season. The Philadelphia Eagles brought in top-notch talent from the free agency period, but because of complications in the player-owner agreements, these players didn’t have sufficient time to practice with one another.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Vince Young, Ronnie Brown, and Steve Smith—to name a few—were not able to learn one another’s playing styles as they would have in normal years. The players were basically signed and immediately reported to training camp, then the preseason and then the regular season.
Having time to get accustomed to the Eagles would have served these players well.
The Coaching Staff
Juan Castillo—the team’s former offensive line coach and present defensive coordinator—has been the object of much ridicule for the way in which the Philadelphia Eagles have struggled on defense.
Likewise, offensive line coach Howard Mudd and defensive line coach Jim Washburn—all new coaching additions to the Philadelphia Eagles—have been criticized for the way in which their respective units have played.
Mudd’s system for the offensive line specializes in small, undersized but quick offensive linemen like rookie center Jason Kelce rather than the bulky Jamaal Jackson. Washburn’s wide nine scheme emphasizes pass-rushing defensive ends like Trent Cole and Jason Babin but exposes the center of the field, a place where the linebackers are expected to make plays.
The problem here is that the team didn’t have the typical allotment of time back in March, April, May, and so on to practice these schemes because of the lockout. The players are essentially learning on the fly.
The offensive line has started to gel as of late, and the same may happen for the linebackers and the defense as a whole. Blaming Reid for promoting Castillo and bringing in Mudd and Washburn is just too soon.
Nine weeks doesn’t make a decision, especially when the situation didn’t happen the way it normally would.
The Philadelphia Eagles are a handful of plays away from being 8-1. Remember Jeremy Maclin’s drop against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday Night Football? Ninety-nine times out of 100, he makes that catch, and the Eagles probably would have gone on to win the game.
Remember Juqua Parker’s offsides against Buffalo? Say he doesn’t jump. Michael Vick & Co. get the ball back, and they had been almost unstoppable at that point in the game. They drive down the field, score and go to overtime where they win.
What about Jeremy Maclin’s fumble against San Francisco? There’s nothing Andy Reid could have done about that. If Maclin holds onto the football, the Eagles drive and score, and there’s another win.
The loss to the Chicago Bears came down to a fourth down throw from Michael Vick to Jeremy Maclin. The throw was high, Maclin fell and that was the game. Almost every single time, that’s a conversion, and if the Eagles go on and score, there’s another win.
Even this past week against the Arizona Cardinals was more on the defense. Reid’s decision to put rookie safety Jaiquwan Jarrett on Larry Fitzgerald is one of the more ridiculous coverage matchups I can remember, but the game shouldn’t have come down to that.
Michael Vick got injured, DeSean Jackson missed a team meeting and DRC left early with a high ankle sprain. If those players stay healthy, the Eagles probably win that game.
The Bottom Line
It’s easy to point at the Philadelphia Eagles’ 3-6 record and blame Andy Reid. He’s the head coach, and he deserves the credit for the wins and the blame for the losses.
It’s just interesting to think how this year would have played out had there never been an NFL lockout, had Michael Vick not suddenly regressed, had the players been given time to learn Juan Castillo’s schemes and had Jeremy Maclin not committed a pair of costly miscues.
The Eagles might not be looking at Reid as the goat, a guy on his last leash with the team. They might be looking at him as the man with the best chance to get them a Super Bowl title.