Marcus Hayes: This will be Eagles coach Andy Reid's make-or-break season

Andy Reid needs to return Eagles to elite status or else Jeffrey Lurie will send him packing. Ed Hille / Staff Photographer
Andy Reid needs to return Eagles to elite status or else Jeffrey Lurie will send him packing. Ed Hille / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 18, 2012

As we count down to the beginning of training camp, the Daily News will answer a Big Eagles Question each day. In Part 1, what will the Birds' bold offseason mean and what impact will Jeffrey Lurie's postseason proclamation have?

SO, WHAT to make of the series of jarring announcements from the Eagles?

Cap'n Andy, with his dismissive demeanor and his madcap schemes, is on notice.

On notice from Admiral Jeffrey.

What has become clear in this turbulent Eagles offseason is that no one on the Good Ship Lurie has any more wiggle room.

After 2012, Reid has a year remaining on his contract. He has been given everything he can possibly want.

Lurie removed consigliere Joe Banner from power; finally, Reid's voice is the only one that matters.

Perhaps as significantly, Lurie issued a command to Reid to be more personable, to be less arrogant.

Most significantly, Reid obeyed.

There is so much more.

Lurie approved a deal, last season, for the controversial quarterback he recreated that eradicated Michael Vick's bankruptcy worries.

Deals this offseason for the petulant and dangerous Seans, both Le and De.

A middle linebacker in this year's free-agency sweepstakes.

A first-round guard last year, and first-round defensive tackle this year.

Lurie approved last year's upgrades at both cornerback positions, plus the removal of their loudmouthed, overvalued teammate.

Every position is tucked away and satiated.

Lurie approved converted offensive-line coach running the defense — a line coach who, Reid said last year, was his first choice of anyone. Period.

Lurie let Reid pursue two Cadillac line coaches, now in their second seasons.

Unlike 2011, this summer Reid will have had players in for offseason workouts.

He will have run his precious minicamps.

Beginning Sunday, Reid will have a real training camp and preseason games with which to temper his 2012 team.

Which, unless it proves among the elite in the NFC, will be his last Eagles team.

Lurie has prepared to clean the decks if this ship founders.

Because, unlike 2011, Reid will have no excuses.

Understand: None of the excuses in 2011 was invalid. But none was avoidable, either.

It was absurd to ask first-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, the converted offensive-line coach, to install a new defense around a remade linebacker corps that centered around fourth-round rookie Casey Matthews.

It was ridiculous to expect first-round guard Danny Watkins, a latecomer to the game, to contribute without the benefit of a full preseason.

It was nonsense to expect cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to play a different brand of defense in deference to one-trick pony Asante Samuel, who now is gone.

It was, sadly, too much to ask DeSean Jackson to play hard every play after he held out of training camp in hopes of securing a new contract.

But the Matthews folly has been replaced with veteran DeMeco Ryans in the middle and second-rounder Mychal Kendricks.

Watkins played well when he finally cracked the lineup Game 5.

With Samuel traded, Asomugha and DRC will stay out of the slot, will not be asked to sink into cautious zones, and will be encouraged to play the pressman coverage that made them Pro Bowl corners.

Now financially secure, Jackson should play with the abandon that made him the most feared player in the game.

Even Castillo should be more adept both at planning and at in-game adjustments.

Or else, the decks get scoured.

New head coach.

New general manager.

Reid? Gone.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg? Gone.

Castillo? Gone.

Offensive line coach Howard Mudd? Re-retired.

Defensive line coach Jim Washburn? Maybe retired.

The Eagles can cut Vick without real penalty, since no signing bonus money would be accelerated onto their cap. He will have been paid a whopping $32.5 million for two seasons, which, of course, the Eagles hoped would average out to less of an annual outlay, assuming he would play 6 years or so.

But if Vick continues to get injured or fails to continue to progress under the Reid/Mornhinweg reign, he could be let go.

That would be the decision of the new coach and GM.

New coaches and GMs love to bring in new quarterbacks.

Also, DRC can be a free agent after this season; he will be a major outlay if he regains Pro Bowl form. He might be gone, too.

Or, they might win.

The moves were made, the edicts issued, with failure in mind. That is, if the Eagles are a .500 team, or if they are a quick loser in the playoffs, Lurie can remake the team without much turbulence.

And, if they succeed — if they reach the NFC title game or the Super Bowl — Lurie can cement what he has.

He can extend Reid with no argument from Banner.

He can pursue DRC, either via franchise tag or extension, and preen about having the game's best tandem.

He can tout Howie Roseman as an executive to whom he gave a chance, apparently to the detriment of Banner, and Lurie can look brilliant in the afterglow of such a decision.

But this is what it all meant.

Contact Marcus Hayes at hayesm@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/MarcusHayes.

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