Whether or not head coach Andy Reid is patrolling the sidelines of Lincoln Financial Field in 2012, it is clear that some things need to change. A complete overhaul is probably not necessary, but there are some serious needs.
It seems that after the last two embarrassing losses, the focus is on Reid himself. The opinions are split pretty evenly between the camp that feels Reid is undoubtedly staying put, and the camp that feels like there is no chance he will be back. The only thing certain is that when it comes to Andy Reid, there is no middle ground.
For the most part, the front office is seen as being fully supportive of their longtime coach. But with three draft picks likely in the top 45 to 50 in the 2012 NFL Draft, it may be as good a time as any for Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner to hand the keys over to a new driver.
The Eagles have long held the philosophy that a team is built through the draft. Over the past half-decade or so, they have almost exclusively failed in this area. That is probably the biggest reason for their post-lockout spending spree.
It used to be that the Eagles would sign one big-ticket free agent, or sometimes none at all. Part of the reason was that they had a core group that they could just sprinkle new talent around. As that group dwindled due to age or injury, they have failed to rebuild.
With the cupboard bare, they had no choice but to splurge on free agents. That led to a group of unfamiliar individuals with no camaraderie or allegiance to each other. This is in stark contrast to Andy Reid’s most successful runs from 2000-04, when his teams won no less than 11 games and never failed to win at least one playoff game.
Eagles teams from the first half of the last decade had a history together. They had guys in all three phases of the game that went through wars together. They won together. They lost together. They rose and they fell together. They suffered through three straight NFC Championship Game losses together, and even lost a Super Bowl together.
That group had each other’s back. That group would do anything to help the team win. This current group is nothing like that. It has no character whatsoever. As soon as things get tough, they let the game, and now the entire season get away from them.
So where do the Philadelphia Eagles go from here? It’s hard to say. For one thing, they need to start adding some character guys who play with toughness and passion. Players who will lead when things go bad. Guys who play physical and with some attitude are welcome too. This team is just a little too nice, since they don’t like being called soft.
It would also help if they fielded a roster that wasn’t littered with sixth and seventh-round draft choices. There is something to be said for a plucky late-round pick sticking and contributing to a team, but they can’t be what your team is built upon. At some point, you need good players to beat the best teams.
The quickest way to do that is to change the current approach to the draft. Instead of always trading down for extra third, fourth and fifth-round picks, how about just trying to draft the players with the most upside or talent? It won’t always pan out, but it’s better to end up with two game-changing players than four average ones.
With a likely top 15 pick in the first round and two picks in the first half of Round 2, they simply can’t afford to trade down. They need to find a couple difference makers. The sad thing is, almost every Eagles fan can already see them trading one of those second-round picks for an extra third and fourth rounder.
Extra picks in the second half of the draft is just not what this team needs. This isn’t a team that has to start from scratch. There is a lot of talent here. In truth, as bad as this season is, they are really only four or five pieces away from being a true contender.
Offensively they are almost certainly set at the skill positions, and four out of the five offensive line spots are likely set for the next few years. Tight end is actually a strength, and probably the biggest question is whether or not to bring back DeSean Jackson.
Defensively, the team employs a pretty steady pass rush with Trent Cole and Jason Babin. Cullen Jenkins is the best inside pass rusher they’ve had since Corey Simon. They have been hurt by the loss of Antonio Dixon as a run-stuffer, so they could use some help there.
The real problem with this team has been the back seven. Their linebackers are deplorable, and none of them should be anything more than special teams players. If the linebacker play wasn’t bad enough, they are backed up by what is probably the worst group of safeties in the NFL.
On that side of the ball, if they can add two starting caliber linebackers with legitimate size, toughness and love of the game, and one hard-hitting, sure-tacking safety, it would transform almost everything. Adding a real defensive coordinator wouldn’t hurt either.
There are plenty of players available in the draft and free agency, and there are always coaching upgrades available. The question is, who will be making the decisions this offseason, and can they be trusted to make the right ones? Andy Reid hasn’t done it, so someone else may finally need to.