No matter what happens with the rest of the 2011 season, no matter if the Eagles defeat the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football, or whether they put together a couple of late-season victories to make this dreadful campaign look semi-respectable, Andy Reid must go.
He has been a good coach who has put together a sterling compilation of regular-season victories. By most accounts, he's also a decent man with a fairly harmless personality - though there is an odd dichotomy between his gregarious national image and the high hat he gives locally. But at the end of the season, it is time for Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and president Joe Banner to pat the big man on the back, tell him it was a job well done, and escort him out the door in favor of someone new. The time is no longer his.
I say this not because I dislike Andy Reid. I say it in reflection of what has happened this season, circumstances that remind me of the final days of Rich Kotite and Ray Rhodes, where we saw a team that resembled clothing with frayed threads. We wear those clothes knowing that at any moment the seams will come apart and we'll be left standing naked on a street corner. And that's really embarrassing.
The fact is, a ton of Andy Reid misjudgments have put this Eagles season on the brink. Surely, we can throw a little blame on Lurie, Banner, and general manager Howie Roseman, all of whom have gone under cover as Lincoln Financial Field burns.
But Reid is the architect of this franchise. He has shaped the team in his image, and the job he has done this season - a season that, in light of all of the promising offseason activity, was supposed to result in a Super Bowl - has been wholly inadequate. The Eagles aren't going to the Super Bowl. And they aren't going to the playoffs, either.
In the last 20 years, only three teams in the NFL have gone to the playoffs after posting a 3-6 record, and this team isn't good enough to join that party. The Eagles have lost seven of their last eight home games. They have lost five games this season while having the lead in the fourth quarter, four of those at home.
The NFL is not a league where you can afford to make misjudgments. In the NFL, you don't have time to see if certain things you try will work; you must know they will work. Trial and error cannot be a concept in pro football, where so much is at stake. At a time when the fan base has suffered through 12 years of angst to win a championship, with Reid being only the third coach in NFL history allowed to coach that long without winning one, he has treated this season as if he had five more years coming to him to get things together.
I can boil this season down to at least five major mistakes that have put the Eagles in such a terrible situation:
1. Juan Castillo. Reid took a major leap of faith when he promoted Castillo from offensive-line coach to defensive coordinator.
I don't know what he was thinking. I especially can't figure out why he would hire a defensive coordinator who was forced to defer to the scheme of a defensive-line coach. But clearly Castillo was in over his head. When a team loses five games in the fourth quarter, the defensive coordinator hasn't adjusted well enough.
Castillo may have been an OK choice for a rebuilding team. But one expected to contend?
2. Personnel selections. I still can't comprehend how Reid figured the wide nine would work with a middle of the field as soft as a Samoyed. Reid backed up the defensive line with a collection of inadequate linebackers and safeties, and the fact that he didn't recognize those players' inadequacies is most troubling. After so much kerfuffle about Reid's hiring only "character players," he doesn't seem to have one leader in the bunch on defense.
Yes, the signing of Nnamdi Asomugha does seem like the front office was playing fantasy football.
Watch the tape of the winning touchdown the Arizona Cardinals scored to beat the Eagles last Sunday. Asomugha looks as if he intentionally delayed a count before he gave a half-hearted, matador-esque effort as receiver Early Doucet flashed toward the goal line.
And don't get me started on Steve Smith's preferring to fall down (short of a first down) rather than be tackled.
3. DeSean Jackson. The Eagles gave $4 million to that same Smith, while their most important offensive player, Jackson, was left dangling in the wind playing for peanuts.
I'm not oblivious to the fact that Jackson is a diva. But what did the Eagles expect? Sending Jackson to the battlefield after conning him that coming back to training camp and being a good soldier would be a precursor to a new contract was like poking at a burning fireplace ember. Eventually, something was going to flare.
Is it a coincidence that Jackson looks as though he's not exactly busting it, in patterns and on punt returns? Against the Bears, DeSean took a flat-out dive rather than join the pursuit to tackle an interceptor.
And then he comes late to a meeting. It was T.O. all over again, and the Eagles should have known better, because poking at Jackson like that simply hurt the team.
4. The draft. Do I really need to embellish the fact that Reid's first four draft picks didn't contribute a lick and that he wasted our time with Casey Matthews?
5. Michael Vick. Nine games into the season it is fair to ask this question: Did Reid hook his cart to the wrong horse? For years, we heard about how sensational Kevin Kolb was going to be for this franchise, and then within a whisker Vick became the guy.
We bought into the evolution theory that it was a different Vick, that he was a more seasoned and studied quarterback. But here are the facts: Since last season's Minnesota game, when Vick looked horrible, the Eagles are 3-9 with this QB at the helm. Vick has completed only 59.9 percent of his passes since then, for only 229 yards a game and 6.6 yards per play, with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and an overall passer rating of 73.9. Right now, with defenses clogging his running lanes, the quarterback has looked tentative and unconfident.
A couple of years ago, when the Eagles lost that NFC title game to Arizona, Banner gave us the stock answer to insanity. My definition of insanity would be this ownership group's getting fooled by a few late-season victories, perhaps even one Sunday night against the Giants, and continuing on with Reid.
If the Eagles melt down for the rest of the year and limp to the finish at 5-11, it will be a lot easier decision for Lurie to act on. But even if the Birds are 7-9, Lurie has to cut the cord. The grand Andy Reid plan got close to paydirt, but not close enough. And it's now time for a change.
Mike Missanelli hosts a show from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 97.5-FM The Fanatic.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.