Is one redheaded scapegoat enough for Eagles?

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, left, and Andy Reid look on during the second quarter against the Texans. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, left, and Andy Reid look on during the second quarter against the Texans. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer) (Brian McCardle)
Posted: January 16, 2011

The Eagles' organization found a redheaded scapegoat on Saturday, someone who, above all others apparently, should lead the parade out the door after the team's mixed bag of a 2010 season.

At least, that's the way it reads.

It wasn't the redheaded scapegoat preferred by much of the fan base, but defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was a ceremonial offering to the gods of losing, and they are hungry dudes who must be fed.

Earlier in the week, head coach Andy Reid was asked whether McDermott would be back for a third season as defensive coordinator in 2011. He must have misunderstood the question, or misheard it, because Reid gave a succinct answer: "Yeah."

This makes the second consecutive year, for those scoring at home, in which Reid's postseason analysis of who would be back and who would not turned out to be slightly flawed.

A year ago, Reid said Donovan McNabb would be the team's quarterback in 2010. It was a straightforward question and a straightforward answer.

People in Reid's position are forced to lie at times. He took pride earlier this season in describing how he "buys time" by not telling the truth. That's fine, but it means that eventually no one shows up to defend you when there really is a wolf.

And it might be that Reid lied on neither occasion, but lost an internal power struggle to keep the status quo. McDermott is an incredibly dedicated worker, and he had been with this organization before Reid arrived. Reid respects and defers to loyalty, and his statements Monday about McDermott were an unequivocal endorsement.

"Well, I would tell you you're dealing with a guy that's a tremendous worker and is a very smart individual. And so I look at it a little bit different than what you do in that I've seen him work with young guys, I've seen him work through injuries, I've seen him stay positive through those situations and still put us in a position to win football games," Reid said. "Knowing that he's going to do nothing but improve as a coach, just like all of us, with experience. And so I have a lot of respect for him and the way that he does business."

Unfortunately, I'm also going to fire him in five days.

That doesn't sound like what Reid meant, so it is fair to wonder whether someone else in the front office, with Joe Banner being a prime candidate, pushed for this change.

It might be that the likelihood Dick Jauron - who served this season as defensive backs coach and possible organization spy - will be hired as defensive coordinator in Cleveland made the Eagles jump rather than lose him.

All right, fine, there's nothing more popular than something different, although Jauron's 60-82 record as a head coach in the NFL doesn't exactly make him Mr. Undiscovered Genius.

Nevertheless, this move - and can the Eagles do anything in the light of day? - smells of fresh scapegoat.

It is difficult to tell whether McDermott is a good coordinator. He had a remarkably tough act to follow in Jim Johnson, and both of his seasons as coordinator were marred by significant injuries to the defensive core.

Nevertheless, the Eagles were tied for first in the NFL for takeaways since 2009 (72) and were fourth in sacks (84), and this season held opponents to the second-lowest quarterback rating against the blitz.

That's all nice, but the Eagles' defense also allowed the most points (370) in the regular season during the Andy Reid era, and that is the number that probably got the La Salle High School grad fired.

McDermott will work again, and he will say the right things about appreciating the opportunity he got in Philadelphia, but under truth serum he might ask, "You expected better with this group?"

By the end of the season, the defense was running on fumes and depending on lesser talents. Nine of the starters against Green Bay (including nickel back Joselio Hanson) entered the league as either undrafted free agents or seventh-round picks. Barrel, meet bottom.

Along the way this season, there were six changes to the starting lineup since the opener. Some of those changes were because of injury, but some were because the organization misjudged its talent. It was a mess, and it was a mess that relied heavily on rookies, which is never the way to win in the NFL.

So, you get what you get, and if you happen to be the defensive coordinator, you get fired. No big deal. That's just the business.

In any case, the Eagles found the redheaded scapegoat they were looking for, and now everything is fine.

If things don't go better next season, though, there might be another scapegoat. He might still be redheaded, but everyone in the front office knows that one will be a lot tougher to bring down.

Contact columnist Bob Ford

at 215-854-5842 or Read

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