If Eagles quit, Reid could be done

Posted: October 10, 2011

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Bad teams in the National Football League come in three flavors. They are: 1) the teams that are significantly lacking in talent, 2) the teams that make too many mistakes and, 3) the teams that roll over and quit.

Which are the 1-4 Eagles?

No. 2, you should excuse the expression.

But all eyes now are on the question of whether or not rolling over is entering the equation. Yes - it is getting that bad, this early. For the record, I don't see any quit yet. The fourth quarter of yesterday's 31-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills offered a pretty clear demonstration that everybody is still trying on both sides of the ball, and that frustration at their predicament has not yet overwhelmed them.

But as the losses mount, one more ugly than the next, this will become a more legitimate topic - to go along with an offense and a quarterback that have become turnover machines, and a defense whose coordinator (and the scheme they handed him) have now become an open question.

This is not just a semantic issue, by the way, because teams that play lousy are sometimes survivable for a head coach but teams that quit always get people fired. And after watching this team for five games, it is now in the differential - the chance that Eagles coach Andy Reid might not survive if this turns into a debacle of a season that nobody saw coming.

With that, it was in his own interest when Reid said after yesterday's game, "The guys stayed determined. They made plays. They stayed aggressive and gained real confidence, which I thought was important."

It was a fair enough assessment of the fourth quarter. The Eagles did fight back from a 31-14 deficit. They cut the gap to seven points and twice had a chance to do better, stopped once by their (gulp) fifth turnover of the day (a Michael Vick interception of a pass pried away from Jason Avant) and stopped a second time when Juqua Parker jumped offsides on a fourth-down play where the Bills were doing nothing more than lining up and praying that somebody would jump offsides.

So the Eagles did keep at it. Still, it was just a mess of a game. Five turnovers. A run defense that was gashed badly for the fifth straight week. A pass rush that the Bills mocked with screens and shovel passes. And a head coach, in his weekly head-scratcher, who ran a play with 8 seconds left in the first half instead of kicking a field goal and ended up with nothing when Vick threw the ball incomplete through the end zone as time expired. That Reid had no timeouts remaining goes without saying.

The consensus pick to win the NFC East is in last place on merit. The Eagles look terrible and the questions are getting more pointed.

"In the National Football League, your job is on the line every week," Reid said, at one point.

When asked specifically about his job security, he said, "All I'm concerned about is that next game. That's what I care about. That's the only thing I can control . . . getting this football team better, getting myself better, and the coaches better. That's all I care about."

If the downspiral were to continue, Reid will have nowhere to hide. He is the one who picked Vick, whose turnovers and injuries - while not all his fault - are both still chronic. He is the one who invented Juan Castillo as a defensive coordinator, and changed to a scheme that is stopping nobody. He is the one who shook up the coaching staff and shook up the roster knowing there would be no offseason because of the lockout. It is all him.

Meanwhile, all around Reid, the strain is becoming obvious. You go from locker to locker and the tension grows with each conversation.

"It's the same stuff," an exasperated LeSean McCoy was saying. "Every week, I can't find something new to tell you. We beat ourselves. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. A team like this, they feed off of that - and they did today. You can make excuses all day but that's what happened. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers . . .

"I don't know what it is but we need to fix it if we're going to have some type of a successful season - because losing ain't the Philadelphia Eagles. That's not what we do. But, obviously, we're losing a lot."

McCoy was asked if he thought the team realized just how desperate the situation was becoming.

"I can't speak for everybody, but I know that they should know," he said. "We need wins, badly. We're in a desperate situation, man. Each game, the stakes are high. Each game counts. Either we get this together, or . . . "

The rest was left unspoken.

But it really does start with the head coach.

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