Enough is enough.
Even though he tried to divert attention from his own failures by firing defensive coordinator Juan Castillo on Tuesday, there is no question that Eagles head coach Andy Reid is fully to blame for the dysfunctional football team he “runs.”
His biggest blunder was putting Castillo, who had been the team’s offensive line coach since 1998, in charge of the defense last spring. After an “exhaustive” search that saw several prominent candidates spurn the Eagles, Reid decided it was a good idea that his new defensive coordinator would be someone who hadn’t coached defense since he did so at a Texas high school in 1989. Seriously? I know people will say Reid took a chance on a guy who basically begged for the opportunity, but you don’t take wild chances like that in the NFL. You do and you get beat and that’s what teams have done to the Eagles.
The Eagles lost to the Arizona Cardinals last year and this season because they allowed wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the Cards’ lone offensive weapon, to run free in both defeats. Against the San Francisco 49ers last season and the Detroit Lions on Sunday, both at home mind you, with both teams’ offenses showing no signs of life, the Eagles’ D lifted their foot off the gas and allowed both to rally and win. With three high-paid linemen (ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole, and tackle Cullen Jenkins), another well-paid end (Darryl Tapp) and two first-round picks (end Brandon Graham, who has been a huge bust, and tackle Fletcher Cox, who decided to punch a helmet-wearing Detroit Lion in the head Sunday) the Eagles have generated zero sacks in the last three games.
The first two are Castillo’s fault, no question about it, but the last one is on Reid. Since he is the Eagles’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Reid has the final say on personnel decisions. Don’t be fooled by title of general manager given to Howie Roseman or previously to Tom Heckert, now the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. That was title only. Which players to sign, not sign or let go and who to draft are Reid’s decisions and they’ve been awful as of late.
Let’s look at free agency first.
Last year the Eagles assembled the “dream team” according to backup quarterback Vince Young, one of worst signs by Reid in his 14-year tenure. Young was awful last year, no more so than against the Seattle Seahawks on a Thursday night when his interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter sealed the Eagles’ fate of staying home during the postseason. They also brought in Ronnie Brown, whose key fumble at the goal line against the 49ers last year will never be forgotten because of its stupidity, Nnamdi Asomugha, who is no more than an average player right now making superstar money, Steve Smith, who decided to dive to the ground to avoid taking a hit only to end up short of a first down against the Cardinals last year, and Jenkins, who looks old and slow this season after showing signs of life in 2011. Reid also allowed David Akers, the best kicker in franchise history, to leave town for San Francisco, where Akers had a record-setting 2011 campaign. In Akers’ place Reid chose Alex Henery, who has been no more than OK so far, in the fourth round of last year’s draft, far too high for a kicker when there were other pressing needs.
And speaking of drafts, let’s look at the past three.
The Eagles selected 33 players since 2010 and currently just five (guard Danny Watkins, safety Kurt Coleman, safety Nate Allen, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and Henery) are starters. That doesn’t include center Jason Kelce, who is out for the year with a torn ACL. Five (or six if you want to include Kelce) out of 33 is a terrible ratio for a team that supposedly prides itself on its ability to draft. The Eagles’ selections are more notable for their wild misses (2011 second-round safety Jaiquawn Jarrett was cut earlier this year and 2010 third-round defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who was cut last year, was taken instead of Penn State linebacker NaVorro Bowman), foolish trades (moving up to take Graham when Texas safety Earl Thomas and South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul were on the board) and down-right headscratchers (selecting Watkins, at the time a 25-year-old who had only played football for four years). This April, the Eagles took Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry, who has yet to dress for a game this year despite the Eagles’ desperate need for pass rushers.
But the biggest mistake regarding personnel was the decision to make Michael Vick the franchise quarterback.
Vick has been absolutely awful this year, but it’s not just this year. In his last 27 starts, Vick has only three turnover-free games. Three!!! He has 39 turnovers in that time, 29 interceptions and 10 lost fumbles. Even it was half that number it would be bad, but 39 is just comically inept. If you watched Sunday’s game against the Lions, you heard how Vick carried a football around all week to remind himself not to fumble. You heard how he said he wouldn’t throw anymore interceptions this year. So what happens? With an inexperienced center and the playclock dwindling Vick decides to change the play only to have Dallas Reynolds snap the ball right past his head. Two more interceptions, including a terrible deep pass to a wide-open DeSean Jackson, which Vick blamed on the wind of course, raised his season total to eight. It could easily be twice that number if defenders could catch the ball.
I understand why Reid chose Vick over Kevin Kolb in 2010, I do. The Eagles’ offensive line was average at best and there was no way Kolb would survive playing behind it. At least Vick could escape at times when pressure came. Plus, there was no quarterback at the time (Robert Griffin III is that quarterback now, but he is actually a quarterback and not just a great athlete playing the position) who had the raw skills that Vick possessed. It’s easy to get mesmerized with the things Vick can do. The game where he put it all together came against the Redskins on a Monday night in November 2010. With one of the worst defenses in NFL history, Washington allowed Vick to complete 20-of-28 passes for 333 yards and four scores and run for 80 yards and two TDs in a 59-28 victory. Since then Vick has been the same careless quarterback he was with the Atlanta Falcons.
People might read this and say, ‘Hey, Joe, I thought you were an Eagles fan? Shouldn’t you support the team and not rip them like this?’ Trust me, I’d love to. I’ve been an Eagles fan all my life and my dad has had season tickets since 1995. There is nothing I want more than to see the Eagles win a Super Bowl. For the longest time I thought Reid would get it done, but he has made nothing but terrible decisions the past three years. And that is why they’re 3-3 going into the bye, with a home game against unbeaten Atlanta and road game against New Orleans looming. Certainly not because of Castillo’s failures.