Phil Sheridan: A few proposals on how Reid can do better than he has

Posted: October 17, 2012

You have Andy Reid's solemn promise.

"It's my job and responsibility to get better," Reid said Monday, less than 20 hours after a franchise-rattling overtime loss to the Detroit Lions. "They [Eagles fans] have my word I'm going to do that."

At this latest crossroads in Reid's 14-year tenure, the NovaCare Complex is a hall of mirrors. Reid can wander those halls, looking for solutions to the Eagles' problems. But every time he turns a corner, every time he reaches a dead end, he comes face to face with the big guy with the walrus mustache.

The Birds defense? Reid's the one who flipped the bird to conventional wisdom, or any wisdom, and shifted his loyal offensive line coach to the crucial defensive coordinator role.

The quarterback? Reid decided to offer Michael Vick reentry into the NFL, then fell in love with either Vick or with being the guy who finally got the most out of Vick.

The offensive line? Reid brought in Howard Mudd to drastically change the traditional and familiar approach to pass blocking, necessitating an equally drastic change in personnel.

Discipline? Reid used to build his teams around smart, dedicated players who were deeply invested in one another and the program. Now he has a bunch of mercenaries who are better at boasting about how great they are than at the difficult work of becoming great.

It is a lonely spot for Reid to be in, but it is the spot he wanted. He has won every power struggle, ousted everyone with even the slightest difference of opinion, in order to do things his way.

So here he is, 3-3 and promising to get it fixed. What he really needs to do is break something - namely, some of those mirrors. If the Eagles are going to salvage this season, Reid is going to have to smash a few of his cherished preconceptions and acknowledge, then correct a few of his mistakes.

Suggestions?

Promote Juan Castillo. That's right, promote him from defensive coordinator to assistant head coach/offensive line. Put Castillo back in charge of the group that most desperately needs fixing.

This is no knock on Mudd. His legacy as a terrific coach is written. But he espouses a unique approach that runs contrary to every offensive lineman's instincts and experience. Maybe it's just a bad fit because of personnel. This isn't about blame. It's about fixing it. Let Castillo simplify the techniques, revise the schemes and see if Danny Watkins, Demetress Bell and the rest can tighten up and become an asset.

Turn the defense over to Todd Bowles. If Bowles wants to work around the gimmicky and deeply flawed wide nine scheme, let him. If not, let defensive line coach Jim Washburn decide whether to adapt or take a 10-week paid vacation. His call.

Maybe it's personnel. Maybe it's something else. The Lions certainly showed that the wide nine can work against the run Sunday. But the Eagles aren't getting pressure, they aren't causing turnovers and they can't stop the run when it matters.

Since Reid grafted Mudd and Washburn and their unique schemes onto his system, the Eagles are 11-11 and are routinely beaten in the trenches. Nothing personal. Smash the mirror and move on.

Call the plays. With Bowles running the defense, Reid can focus on his side of the ball. He once demoted himself as a play caller, turning the responsibility over to Marty Mornhinweg. So why not give Mornhinweg a break and take control of the flow of the game?

Considering how poorly the offense has started out each week, Reid can't do much worse. And maybe Mornhinweg would bring a fresh perspective with some in-game suggestions that help.

That brings us to the quarterback. This is a double mirror image. Reid not only turned his franchise over to the mercurial and unreliable Vick, he left himself with a rookie in the No. 2 spot. Going to Nick Foles would mean admitting that 2012 is now about building toward 2013 and beyond.

Reid may not be able to do that just yet. It tells the rest of the team that the Eagles are playing out the string, and that could lead to a total collapse. If Foles is going to have a chance, he needs to take over a team that believes in him.

Fix the line, balance the play calling, rejuvenate the defense, and maybe Vick's play improves. It is fair to give that formula a chance coming out of the bye week - a month, say. If it works, great. If not, Foles will be more prepared and the team more accepting of a change.

Will Reid do all of this? No. Will he do any of it? Maybe. He has given his word to fix the team. That means starting with that guy in the hall of mirrors.


Contact Phil Sheridan at psheridan@phillynews.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter.

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