Even Andy Reid, never considered a quick-on-his-feet kind of guy but at least someone who pays attention, let the Seahawks burn most of the final minute of the first half before a field-goal attempt without calling timeout to give his offense a better shot at answering. Asked about it after the game, Reid just said he never thought of that. Oh, my.
But as unpleasant a revelation as the last five weeks (and four losses) have been on the field, equally telling has been the silence emanating from the organization's front office. With Reid swinging alone in the breeze, it hasn't had the common decency to either cut him down or prop him up.
Reid wasn't alone in assembling the plan for the season, but he's getting the blame for its failure and, from all appearances, that suits team president Joe Banner and general manager Howie Roseman just fine.
There is no question that Reid is still a dominant force within football operations, but he has ceded a tremendous amount of player-personnel control in the last two years. It was the price he paid for his stubborn allegiance to Donovan McNabb. After the 2009 season, general manager Tom Heckert, a football guy in Reid's mold, was replaced by Roseman, an office wonk handpicked by Banner, and the scales shifted at the NovaCare Complex.
Banner gets to control the pocketbook and Roseman gets to play out his real-life Strat-O-Matic games with draft picks, trades, and free-agent signings. Reid might tell them what he wants, but they supply the who and the how much. The coach still gives the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down, but he is an organization man who defers to the expertise of other departments. And besides, he couldn't identify a cornerback in a police lineup.
This is a collaborative effort, Reid always says, when it comes time to hand out congratulations for the latest great draft pick or free-agent signing. So it is - until the team is 4-8. Then the big guy is out there by himself.
Regardless of how you feel about Reid - and most of his decisions this year have turned out to be just awful - there is no forgiving the front office for not stepping forward and acknowledging the obvious. For instance: "This season is disappointing for all of us, and all of us share in the responsibility for it. Mistakes were made on every floor and down every hallway of the building. We can only apologize to the fans and dedicate ourselves to getting this team back where it should be."
It wouldn't be that hard. It might even be good for the image, although it seems the front-office administrators don't want to have an image at the moment. It might even require an infrared camera to capture their shapes, like poltergeists who drift along the walls among the billowing draperies.
Well, let's do a quick review. The first five players taken in the 2010 draft were Brandon Graham, Nate Allen, Daniel Te'O-Nesheim, Trevard Lindley, and Keenan Clayton. Maybe they get a pass on Graham because he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last year and that was bad luck, but he didn't earn a real role even before that. Allen is a serviceable safety, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. Clayton can't get on the field. And when you can't get on the field among a linebacking unit that starts two seventh-round picks and an undrafted free agent, then you really can't get on the field.
The first five taken in 2011 were Danny Watkins, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Curtis Marsh, Casey Matthews, and Alex Henery. Watkins, after finally getting into the lineup, has been nothing special; the defensive backs haven't really played; Matthews was a flat-out bust as a rookie; and the kicker appears to be pretty good.
The percentages of success aren't very good there. Now let's take a look at what the Eagles did on the first day of free agency this season, when the gates opened after the lockout was settled and teams could sign undrafted free agents, which they had been studying with little else to do for, oh, three months. The Eagles signed 10 undrafted free agents on July 26. Only one, punter Chas Henry, made the 53-man roster. (Henry is tied for 23d in the league for net punting average, by the way. Sav Rocca is third.)
The front office, like chess masters scattering pigeons as they dash along the sidewalk playing 10 games at a time, consummated 134 transactions in the seven weeks between the unlocking of the door and the start of the regular season. (My personal favorite was the signing of tackle Joe Toledo, a veteran of five previous organizations in five seasons. Toledo was signed on a Saturday and waived on Monday. God knows if he even practiced. Whatever the personnel department thought it divined about Joe was very wrong, apparently.)
Along the way in those seven, heady weeks, the front office deleted some past errors (Brodrick Bunkley, Lindley); picked up some players they really thought would help (Vince Young, Ronnie Brown); and, of course, some who actually did (Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin). The whole cornerback thing was another matter entirely, a cake-for-breakfast plan that would have been fine if the superstars they acquired had actually been any good. (A great irony is that the Kevin Kolb trade that landed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was initially viewed as fair because the Eagles and Cardinals each got decent value. Now, the trade seems fair for a much different reason.)
To be clear, Andy Reid mucked this season up plenty, and depending on whose fingerprints are on the decision to tie their anchor line to Michael Vick, he might have done so for the next several years as well.
But there is plenty of blame to go around, and the whole organization would do well to begin sharing it. Otherwise, it just doesn't look good. If nothing else, the front office should take credit for turning DeSean Jackson from an occasionally thoughtless child into a mini-T.O. whose movements are monitored like a defendant out on bail.
Knock, knock. Joe? Howie? We know you're in there. Come on out and tell us how it's going.
Contact columnist Bob Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his past columns at www.philly.com/bobford