Disastrous season might lead to nuking Eagles' roster

Juan Castillo and Andy Reid assess the damages during Sunday's game.
Juan Castillo and Andy Reid assess the damages during Sunday's game. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: November 29, 2011

I was struck by the TV clip of Jeffrey Lurie watching Sunday's game from his box, Lurie holding binoculars but not quite holding them up to his eyes, almost using them to shield his view of the field instead of enhancing it.

Moments like this, you'd love to know what ownership is thinking. My view has always been that Lurie thinks pretty much whatever team president Joe Banner tells him he thinks. That might not be entirely fair, but I haven't gotten to spend enough quality time with Lurie to know any better.

Banner isn't saying what he thinks right now, either. Reporters asked about that following Sunday's crushing loss to the Patriots, and were stiff-armed. Maybe the silence was telling, if you thought Banner might launch a passionate defense of Andy Reid in the midst of the coach's darkest hour.

Coming into this season, those of us who follow such things figured Reid had 2 years to win a Super Bowl with Michael Vick, Reid entering 2011 with 3 years remaining on his contract. After 2012, all bets were off, for Vick and for Reid. Until then, Reid was safe. But there was always a caveat. "If this season turns out to be a disaster . . . "

Well, we're pretty much there. Can the season somehow still not be a disaster, if the Eagles win their final five games? Could management conclude Reid is on the right track, but with all the changes and the lockout, yadda, yadda, yadda, let's try again next season with yet another defensive coordinator?

Maybe. But I don't think this team is going to win its final five games. I think it might win a couple, maybe three. I think this is going to be Reid's first losing season since 2005, and I think if you're the owner/president, the decision about what to do involves how you view not just the coach but the whole roster.

Vick is a project of Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. If you are convinced Vick is the face of your franchise for years to come, you probably don't fire Reid yet. But the guaranteed money in Vick's 5-year, $80 million deal ties you to him for just 1 more year after this. If you think you're on the wrong track, period, and aren't just a few tweaks away from the Super Bowl, maybe you hire a new coach and draft a quarterback - good draft year for that - and make next year a transition year, like 1999 was.

I think the future might be what this team is playing for, rather than the postseason, starting Thursday in Seattle - the players no longer control whether they make the playoffs, but they might be able to control whether management will leave the Linc New Year's Day after the season finale feeling it needs to blow the whole thing up and start over. More jobs than just Andy's might be at stake, these final 5 weeks.

DEVELOPING STORYLINES

-- Eagles' o-line did a solid job protecting Vince Young. Took some penalties, though.

-- If you could give DeSean Jackson Jason Avant's team-first attitude and boundless desire, you might actually have a wideout worth Larry Fitzgerald money, instead of one who just thinks he is.

-- Watch that infamous fourth-and-1 play again and note the Pats' defensive alignment. They weren't loaded up against the run; they knew the Eagles were going to pass. In fact, it looked like they knew the exact play that was coming. Young had a guy in his face as he rolled out, Brent Celek was well-covered, nothing there.

-- The thing about the Patriots is, other than Tom Brady, they really don't beat you with superstar talent. They're just smarter, better coached, sounder, more professional. And that's something Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie really need to ponder.

OBSCURE STAT

The Eagles are 5-5 all-time when their quarterback throws for 400 yards or more, as Vince Young did Sunday. Throwing for 400 yards is not a recipe for success. You tend to throw for a lot of yards when you're desperately trying to catch up, not when you're winning.

WHO KNEW?

The Eagles would be three games behind the Bengals at this point in the season?

EXTRA POINT

The last time the Eagles had a losing season - and 2011 isn't officially a losing season yet, but I have faith it will get there - was 2005. Hmm. What happened in 2005? Kinda hazy on that. Seem to remember something about a driveway, and situps, and a wide receiver who kept making himself a distraction, on purpose, because he was unhappy.

More to the point, I remember how pleased the front office was with itself that it hadn't indulged said wide receiver's whims, until the season was a smoking ruin.

And I remember talking to Andy Reid months later about that mess, asking what he took from it. Reid said he should have acted on Terrell Owens much sooner, before Owens undermined Donovan McNabb's authority and tore apart the locker room.

Apparently, the lesson didn't stick. DeSean Jackson isn't tearing apart the 2011 locker room - he is nowhere near the malevolent presence T.O. was - but the outlines of the problem are similar. The Eagles went to camp with a prominent weapon, a team catalyst, a diva, very unhappy about his salary. Once they determined that what he wanted was unacceptable, they just assumed they could force him to be a happy camper, and there would be no residual damage. After all, just like T.O., he was under contract.

Hasn't worked that way. I think the Juan Castillo decision might have been the one that doomed the Eagles' season, but letting Jackson drift listlessly along wasn't a genius move, either. Look at the last 3 weeks: DeSean misses a Saturday meeting, sending a terrible message to his teammates on the eve of a crucial game against Arizona, the Eagles come out flat and lose at home to the Cardinals, with everybody buzzing over Reid's decision to sit Jackson. Huge distraction. Then Jackson recommits himself, plays with fire and purpose, the Eagles upset the Giants. Then, sometime Sunday, after a couple of Vince Young misses, Jackson's enthusiasm flags again, he starts short-arming balls, and down go the Eagles.

Has Jackson's play made it abundantly clear he isn't worth what he is seeking? Yes. Has management winning that hissing match done anything to help the Eagles? No.

I wish I felt management grasped that second point as well as I know it has grasped the first.

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