Eagles Facing Must-Win for Mike Vick, Andy Reid, Fans After Tumultuous Bye Week

Dan Levy@danlevythinksNational Lead WriterOctober 26, 2012

PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 09:  Michael Vick #7 and head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles observe a moment of silence in memory of Reid's son Garrett before a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field on August 9, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Andy Reid is 13-0 after the bye week.

Keep saying that over and over until kickoff on Sunday. Andy Reid, the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles since 1999, has never lost a game after a bye week.

Now, imagine what will happen if he does.

The Eagles are 3-3 on the season, coming off a bye week that saw Reid fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo—promoting first-year Eagles assistant Todd Bowles to the position—and promising more dominoes may fall if the Eagles don't turn their season around.

Reid had to do something. After the disappointment of last season's 8-8 record, missing the playoffs for just the fourth time since Reid took over in 1999, the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL was given an ultimatum by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to win or, ostensibly, get the hell out.

So far this season, the Eagles have won as many as they have lost, on pace for the 8-8 record the owner said will not be good enough for Reid to stay in charge.

Castillo was fired because Reid needed a scapegoat, and while the offense has been moribund this year—Michael Vick is taking more hits than anyone and the Eagles can't seem to stop taking bad penalties and turning the ball over—it was Castillo's defense that did give up fourth-quarter leads in two consecutive games, putting the Eagles, and Reid, in a suddenly must-win situation coming out of the bye week.

Good thing Andy Reid is 13-0 after the bye week.

Things should turn around this Sunday, and everything should be fine and dandy in Philadelphia for weeks to come. Right? Right.

Unless, of course, the Eagles don't win against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, Reid's unbeaten bye-week streak comes to an end and Philadelphia stares at a record of 3-4 after seven games, with a road trip to resurgent New Orleans on the horizon.

The prevailing conversation in Philadelphia this week on sports talk radio has been imagining the worst; what will happen to Reid and Vick if the Eagles do lose to the Falcons? Reid has given Vick a vote of confidence after every game despite Vick's inability to protect the football. How long can that last before Lurie loses his confidence in all of them?

With a rainstorm set to soak the East Coast on Sunday, people are wondering if Vick and the Eagles will have any chance to hold on to the football against a Falcons defense ranked fourth in the league in takeaways (10 interceptions and seven fumbles recovered).

Good thing Andy Reid is 13-0 after the bye week. That should fix everything.

Of course, it might not. Some people in Philadelphia were disappointed that Reid backed Vick during the hiatus, hoping the coach would make a bold decision to start rookie quarterback Nick Foles in his place. Foles looked good enough in preseason to earn the backup job, habitually the most popular position on the Eagles roster.

Vick surely understands the public's sentiment to back the backup. After all, he was in Foles' position as the backup to both Donovan McNabb and, for a short time, Kevin Kolb (note: this probably doesn't feel as good for Vick as that did).

In what could be Vick's last season in Philadelphia if the team exercises its out clause at year's end that will free it from the remainder of Vick's contract for a $7 million cap hit, Foles has become a popular Plan B among fans demanding a change.

Fans have become so frustrated with Reid and Vick in Philadelphia that they're clamoring for an unproven rookie to come in six games into a season that could still feasibly end with a run into the playoffs. It feels way too early for so many people to be jumping ship, but darn it if people aren't milling around the lifeboats, waiting to grab a vest after Sunday's game.

The Eagles' schedule, to be honest, isn't all that hard after these next two games.

The Birds still have five games in the NFC East but only play the Giants one more time after beating the division leaders in Week 4. The Eagles get four home games in the last eight weeks, and their remaining out-of-division games after the trip to New Orleans are games against the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Bucs and Cincinnati Bengals

The Eagles could plausibly lose the next two games, fall to 3-5 and still make the playoffs by winning their division.

It just depends who is still around for the Birds to make that run.

With Castillo gone, everyone has been put on notice. Marty Mornhinweg has kept his job as offensive coordinator for this week and will still call the offensive plays, but if the offense doesn't turn things around soon, it can't be long before Reid takes that responsibility on himself or gives it to another coach on the staff. Then where will that leave Mornhinweg?

By the way, we have gotten this far without mentioning how decimated the Eagles offensive line has been all season, usually a sure-fire way for coaches to save their jobs.

Of course, that would mean the Eagles had to actually acknowledge their injuries by reworking protection schemes for Vick, something that hasn't happened at all this season. Besides, injuries or not, it just might be too little, too late for some folks on the offensive side of the ball in Philly.

Let's not forget the third phase of mediocrity under Reid this year. Special teams coordinator Bobby April had to answer questions about his own job security this week, with reporters questioning if Reid's indication that more changes might be coming meant April's tenure could end if his squad doesn't turn things around.

April's kick coverage units are dreadful this season, and while the coach told reporters he isn't worried about his job security—focused more on "what we have to do" as a group—he should be worried.

Everyone should be worried. If Reid was truly given that ultimatum by Lurie, he knows 8-8 isn't going to cut it.

Reid knows that falling to 3-4 is no way to build the momentum to make a run to the playoffs. He knows that he can only wait so long for Vick to put together a complete offensive game on a consistent basis, not the turnover-laden efforts the Eagles have seen far too often with Vick under center the last two years.

Reid knows all of this has to change and change fast.

Good thing he is 13-0 after the bye week.

Oh, a funny thing about that bye week statement you keep reading: It doesn't really pertain to this week's game at all.

Reid is 13-0 coming off the bye week, indicating that more time to prepare has given the coach a big advantage. The thing is, in those 13 games, the Eagles have faced another team coming off their bye just once.

The Eagles beat the Falcons in 2008 after both teams came off their bye weeks, marking the only time in the Reid era that his team came off the break and faced another team also coming off its break, as is the case this week.

Reid is 1-0 in games where both teams were coming off the bye—nothing to complain about, for sure—but he is 12-0 in games where he had more time to prepare than the other team's coach. That's not the case this week, making that undefeated streak incredibly less important.

Two of the post-bye-week wins came after a bye in Week 16 when the opponent had its bye in Weeks 1 or 2 and, in one case, was resting players for the playoffs while the Eagles were playing out their season. In other words, numbers lie, or at least don't tell the whole truth.

The Eagles have faced relatively soft opponents out of the bye, with eight of the 13 teams finishing those respective seasons with .500 records or worse (granted, the loss to the Eagles did have something to do with that record). Rarely, if at all, have the Eagles come out of a bye and faced a team as hot as the Falcons.

All that said, Reid has run out of rope. Bye week or not, Reid needs to win, and he needs to make sure the personnel on the field, and on the sidelines, are best served to get him to the playoffs.

Despite the support for Foles, it would be very surprising if Reid pulled the plug on the Vick Experience before the season was totally lost. Developing another quarterback does not seem like Reid's most sensible goal with 10 games left in what could be his last season. If Reid inserts a rookie into this mess, he might as well just announce to the world that he's done in Philadelphia for good.

Could Foles come in and give the offense a little spark, similar to what Reid hopes Bowles will do as the head of the defense? Sure, it could happen. It could also happen that Vick took the bye week to work on better decision-making and ball security and the Eagles win on Sunday—extend that streak to 14-0 after the bye—and get the season back on track.

That could happen. But what if it doesn't? What if the offense struggles in the rain against a good defense, and what if the special teams suffer in the elements or the defense looks lost under a new scheme? What if the Eagles, picked by some to make the Super Bowl, fall to 3-4 with very little hope for so much as a spot in the playoff tournament?

What then?

It seems ridiculous to put so much weight on one regular-season game this early in the season. SportsRadioWIP host Anthony Gargano, by no means a knee-jerk type of talk show host just trying to get fans to panic for his own ratings bump, suggested on Thursday that this week's game against the Falcons is the biggest regular-season game since December 28, 2008, when the Eagles bead the Dallas Cowboys 44-6 in a winner-makes-the-playoffs game in Week 17.

Gargano and his co-host Glen Macnow—and a few other radio yappers in Philly this week—think this game is that important; if Reid can't get a win to continue his bye-week streak, the whole thing will blow up, the Eagles will be destined to miss the playoffs, Vick will soon be relegated to the bench and Andy Reid's tenure, which is all Philadelphia has known for a generation, will begin the unraveling to a disappointing end.

It's a good thing Reid is 13-0 after those bye weeks, or this season could get ugly, fast.


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