Phil Sheridan: After 'unacceptable' season, Lurie says Reid will return

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie expressed confidence in coach Andy Reid while saying mistakes were made.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie expressed confidence in coach Andy Reid while saying mistakes were made. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 04, 2012

Using Jeffrey Lurie's own remarkable logic, Eagles coach Andy Reid has no choice but to bring back Juan Castillo as his defensive coordinator for his make-or-break 2012 season.

Seriously.

If Reid wasn't fired for giving Castillo a job he was singularly unqualified for - and blowing an entire season as a result - how can he fire Castillo? If there are no consequences for Reid's failure of leadership in 2011, how can there be consequences for Castillo?

How many scapegoats does this coach get, anyway? Aren't Sean McDermott, Donovan McNabb, Tom Heckert, and other sundry players, personnel men, and assistant coaches enough? When does the accountability apply to the head coach?

Not now, obviously.

So, if Reid has any sense of honor, he will retain Castillo for this win-or-bust season. If it was a brilliant idea to promote his offensive line coach to defensive coordinator last year, then surely it must be just as brilliant this year.

Lurie rambled his way through 13 minutes of self-contradiction Tuesday before declaring Reid his coach for another season. The only "fire" the Eagles owner mentioned was in Reid's belly. Listening to the whole discourse brought back memories of another NFL owner - Al Davis.

Years ago, the Eagles played the Raiders in the old Los Angeles Coliseum. The crumbling stadium was dotted with signage proclaiming the dominance of Davis' similarly crumbling dynasty.

"The Team of the Decades," read one. "A commitment to excellence," said another. There was a poster in the press box listing the records of the winningest sports franchises of the previous quarter-century or so. Sure enough, the Raiders were among them.

It had been ages since the franchise's heyday, but in Davis' mind, the Raiders remained the class of the NFL.

In Lurie's mind, the Eagles aren't the team that has regressed each of the last three seasons. They aren't the team that has failed to win a playoff game in three years. They are the NFC team that has been to the playoffs the most since 2006! Only Baltimore has been to the postseason more since 2008!

It has been said here before. Reid's first six seasons were superb, worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. He took his team to four consecutive conference championship games and one Super Bowl. His record over the first six seasons: 64-32, a winning percentage of .667. That equates to an average season of 11-5.

It has been seven years since that Super Bowl. Reid's record since losing to the Patriots in Jacksonville: 62-49-1. That's a winning percentage of .554, which means average seasons at 9-7.

In that time, younger head coaches such as Sean Payton in New Orleans, Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, and Mike McCarthy in Green Bay have sped by Reid to win Super Bowls. Lurie conceded that, among NFC teams, the Eagles went into 2011 well behind the Saints and Packers.

"I thought they were the most formidable teams in the NFC," Lurie said. "I still believe that. What I was hoping was that, taking some of the player moves, changing some schemes and all the things that we did in the offseason, that it would bring us closer."

Instead, the Eagles lost miles of ground. Not because of injuries or bad luck, but as a direct consequence of the head coach's decision making.

Somehow, Lurie decided that meant the Eagles will overtake those superior teams next season with the same head coach, same quarterback, and same tired philosophy that de-emphasizes ball control on offense as well as such positions as linebacker and safety.

He called the 2011 pratfall "unacceptable" even as he accepted it. He said the season-ending four-game win streak was "fool's gold" even as he was fooled by it. He expressed full confidence in Reid's judgment even as he acknowledged the mistakes that sabotaged this season of expectation.

Cynical fans - a category that grows with each fruitless season - often suggest that Lurie would never pay Reid the millions in his contract not to coach the team, that Reid is safe at least until his contract expires after the 2013 season. That never quite added up for me. After all, Lurie paid Kevin Kolb $12 million, at Reid's behest, to not be the franchise quarterback in 2010. When you look at some of the other bad contracts of the recent past, Lurie would come out ahead paying Reid not to throw his money around.

It is impossible to counter the cynical arguments now, though. If fans want to believe that Lurie cares only about a full stadium and merchandise sales, or that he's cowed by Reid's presence, it is awfully tough to make a counterargument.

Lurie owns the team. He doesn't have to justify himself, and he didn't.

"The Super Bowl is always the goal," Lurie said. "It's not enough to just make the playoffs."

But missing them is just fine.


Phil Sheridan:

Who should stay and who should go? Cast your vote at www.philly.com/stayorgo


Phil Sheridan: More Coverage

Lurie's harsh words could be seen as a warning. D1.

Good or bad move? Every fan had an opinion. A9.


Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, psheridan@phillynews.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan

|
|
|
|
|