Sam Donnellon: This isn't an Andy Reid team

Posted: October 17, 2012

HE HAS COACHED the Eagles so long now that there are grown men who don't know how it used to be:

How Andy Reid's players once sounded very much like the coach; how no matter how bad the loss was, or the start of the season was, the public comments by anyone involved with this team would not even hint at disharmony.

You don't rip me. I don't rip you. We don't rip each other. That was the formula.

So if you're over the age of, say, 25, if you've been a fan of this team for as long as you can remember, watching Reid hold up his index finger three separate times Monday as he repeatedly and tersely said "one play" was, well, significant.

So too was this: Reid rebuked Nnamdi Asomugha's critique of the game plan before he was even asked.

"There wasn't a great change of scheme on what we did in the first three quarters," Reid said.

Asomugha told reporters on Sunday that Detroit's big fourth-quarter plays were linked to a change in defensive strategy, at times leaving single coverage on Detroit's receivers - particularly Calvin Johnson.

Reid, who rarely addresses what is reported in any media, disputed this without prompt.

"It wasn't that we blitzed more or had unsuccessful blitzes," he said. "We blitzed throughout the game and it wasn't that we played more zone, less zone, or different zones. It wasn't that we didn't continue to double 81 [Johnson] even though he made a couple of plays in the fourth quarter when he was doubled. A couple of plays he made were against man coverage, but there were also a couple against zone. It wasn't a big changeup . . . "

Later, as several questions sought to reconcile the two perceptions, Reid raised his finger repeatedly.

"There was one play in the fourth quarter that we got caught on in man coverage," he said. "There was one play in the fourth quarter that was a negative play and that was the shallow cross route by 81.

"One play."

Asomugha is a good citizen in addition to being a good player, and - minus the candor - he would have fit in well with those early Reid teams, which were often praised for their character and discipline. They didn't accrue penalties and they didn't turn the ball over 17 times in six games and they didn't punch their way out of a game the way Fletcher Cox did Sunday and the way DeSean Jackson could have if an official had seen it.

There was an Andy Reid player back in those early days, or at least the perception of one. And when the Eagles added a free agent, he always came with that kind of a reputation: Troy Vincent. James Thrash and Antonio Freeman. Brian Mitchell. Jon Runyan. Regardless of how it ended with Donovan McNabb here, he was Andy's quote clone back then too. Whether it was myth or based in any reality, Reid was considered a good chemist and a good coach.

As the pursuit of an elusive Super Bowl championship has lengthened, that reputation has shrunk, maybe even disappeared. Think Eagles now and you think of dumb penalties, crippling mistakes and boorish on-field behavior. These are the Eagles of Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles of drama and disharmony.

On Sunday, Vick spoke of not throwing Dallas Reynolds under the bus for that errant snap. But he kind of did, by doing that. Another player intimated that not everyone was giving his all. This is so far from that early Andy Reid reputation, it makes you wonder if it was ever real. Over the years it has taken personnel hits with the departure of Tom Heckert, Brad Childress, and above all, the death of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. Again, regardless of how it ended with McNabb, Reid has not come close to duplicating the success he enjoyed - if that's the right word - with him.

Since then, really, the Eagles have become more reality series than football team, and this was even before the sudden departure of Joe Banner in June or the divorce of the team's co-owners or Reid's own troubles. Reid was put on a mediocrity watch before all that of course, Jeffrey Lurie stating for the record that a .500 record, no matter what the order of wins, would get him fired.

So as we enter another bye week, that's what we once again have. A reality series. Is 9-7 enough to bring him back? How about 10-6? Will Juan Castillo be replaced during the bye? Will Vick?

Here's what I do know: Fans at XFINITY Live! displayed a startling lack of affinity for this team as I watched the game with friends and family Sunday.

Once Reid's greatest defenders, the pregame network talking heads now tend to scratch those domes as they question everything from playcalling to schemes to personnel decisions.

Fox analyst Michael Strahan even called the Eagles "underachievers" on Sunday.

And that was at halftime.

When they were winning.


Contact Sam Donnellon at donnels@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @samdonnellon. For recent columns, go to philly.com/SamDonnellon.

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