Throughout his tenure in Philadelphia, the most prevalent criticism directed at Andy Reid has been in regards to his personnel decisions, game-planning, clock management and play calling.
There are instances of each of these costing the Eagles through the first five weeks of this season.
Given that, and considering the Eagles have had a few close calls, it’s worthwhile to pose a question as to whether or not the Eagles are underachievers.
This is not to say that the Eagles are underachieving, and it’s also not to condemn Andy Reid before the facts have been accounted for.
Through the first three weeks of the season, Andy Reid’s inability to adjust his game plan according to the flow of each game was noticeable. Reid’s stubborn adherence to his game plans had manifested itself in the form of his play-calling and game management decisions.
Reid called a staggering amount of passing plays even after Michael Vick had thrown several interceptions. Even though the Eagles ended up winning two of those games, it’s worth noting that things didn’t necessarily have to come down to the wire.
A lot Reid’s critics called for more running plays so the games wouldn’t be so close. During the Birds’ Week 4 win over the New York Giants, Andy Reid answered the call and utilized his running arsenal more often.
Though it appeared as though Reid only ran so much to beat the Giants, last week’s loss at Pittsburgh saw Vick attempt 30 passes and the running backs combine for 23 rushing attempts. That’s a much more even pass-run distribution than we’re used to seeing in two consecutive weeks.
That may indicate Reid is changing his play-calling to better suit the abilities of his players. But, a closer look will show that his problem with adapting to the flow of the game is still noticeable.
To be specific, the Eagles’ ground attack was mostly ineffective during the first half of the Giants game. However, Reid kept handing the ball off, which is not unlike the way he kept throwing the ball in the three prior games.
Consider this: we saw the same I-formation run three consecutive times during the Giants game that almost got the Eagles in the end zone, but the drive ultimately ended in a field goal.
He trusted LeSean McCoy to run the ball the same way he had trusted Michael Vick to throw it. If McCoy would have fumbled twice, and the Eagles lost that game, would we be saying Reid should have called more passing plays?
Andy Reid’s personnel decisions have been under fire as well, most notably heading into this year with Juan Castillo still on board as the team’s defensive coordinator. However, that looks like it may have been the right decision. After all, the defense last year was catered to Asante Samuel’s exceptional ability as a zone cornerback.
This year, the team has seen the defense in more man-coverage, and it has performed remarkably better because it is no longer structured around Samuel.
Nonetheless, the Eagles lost last week at Pittsburgh because of the zone scheme the defense was in on the final drive. You can blame Michael Vick all you want, but when he left the field the Eagles were winning and the Steelers were far out of field goal range.
Here, again, Andy Reid demonstrated his inability to adjust to the flow of a game when the defense stayed in the same coverage after Steelers receiver Antonio Brown got behind Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin and caught a ball for a 20-yard gain. Shortly thereafter, Ben Roethlisberger targeted Boykin’s area again for another gain.
That kind of play calling is puzzling to say the least. And even though you could say it was Castillo’s fault, Andy Reid is the head coach.
Also during the Pittsburgh game, Reid left himself with one timeout when Pittsburgh took the ball for their game-winning drive. It doesn’t matter how or why the timeouts were used because it’s not the first time Reid has misused them.
In fact, the Eagles could have lost their game against the Giants because Reid chose to use a timeout to ice Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes. It’s almost like he doesn’t understand how to use his three chances to stop play.
So, is Andy Reid causing the Eagles to underachieve? Could they have won last week if not for Reid’s decisions? Could the team’s three wins have come by a larger margin? Probably.
There’s no denying the talent on the Eagles’ roster. However, not putting players in situations that maximize their abilities is what the team’s underachieving comes down to. Reid could have run the ball more. He could have had the defense in a different scheme a few times. There are a few instances where calling timeouts has come back to burn him.
But even with all of this, the Eagles are 3-2, and they have improved with each week. We can’t call them underachievers until they’re out of it. However, they probably could have done better to this point.