Former star Vincent decries Eagles lack of leadership

RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Phillip Hunt (left) and Derek Landri celebrate a stop, a practice that former Pro Bowler Troy Vincent finds offensive.
RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Phillip Hunt (left) and Derek Landri celebrate a stop, a practice that former Pro Bowler Troy Vincent finds offensive.
Posted: November 28, 2012

IT'S AS though steel locker-room doors are transparent for Troy Vincent. He isn't in the Eagles' locker room anymore, but he seems to know exactly what's going on.

The Eagles inducted Vincent into their Hall of Fame before their Monday night game against Carolina.

He welcomed the honor, and, in typical Vincent style, made the most of the chance to undress the Eagles' obvious deficiencies in the leadership department. In particular, Vincent assessed the experience of Nnamdi Asomugha, the most heralded corner to play in Philadelphia since Vincent went to five Pro Bowls from 1996-2003.

With just four interceptions in two seasons, repeated high-profile coverage mistakes and overt criticism of former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, Asomugha embodies the failings of the Eagles. They are 11-16 since he joined the team.

"I feel for him," said Vincent, whom the Eagles signed away from the Dolphins in 1996. "You come in, you're the most coveted free agent, things are not working well. The coordinator's removed. There's adjustments that were made to fit your [man-to-man] style of play.

"It's already a lonely world, the position itself. When the entire world is looking at you . . . I've been there before. There's nothing, it seems, that can go right. You're not winning. A missed tackle . . . everything just gets magnified."

Vincent is a Trenton native. He lived in Yardley when he played for the Eagles. He recalled how, as the Birds struggled in the late '90s, his mailboxes met their end as angry fans drove by with baseball bats.

"We had to put up a brick mailbox," Vincent said.

Asomugha has yet to report any vandalism, but then, he lives in a condominium.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie committed $25 million in guaranteed money to Asomugha before last season, the centerpiece of a spending spree that earned the Eagles the unfortunate nickname "Dream Team." The Birds stumbled to a 1-4 start and finished 8-8.

Lurie won't fire head coach Andy Reid now, but, within the past week, he has been dispatching lieutenants; first, his corporate spokesman, then his marketing chief.

Lurie on Monday night did not entertain questions about his team's awful play or Reid's erratic coaching. Lurie simply introduced Vincent and Leo Carlin, who has run the team's ticket sales for 52 years, and who also now is an Eagles Hall of Famer.

Carlin has been a steady soldier.

Vincent was a hero.

Lurie fawned over Vincent's character and leadership and accountability . . . then Lurie slunk out, stage left, ushered by three bodyguards, as ever, accountable to no one.

No matter.

Vincent let fly with a Kalashnikov.

Bodies lay littered at his feet.

"I just see a lack of leadership," Vincent said. "You have to hold each other accountable in the locker room. I don't know what's being said when you're not making a play."

Vincent takes the Eagles' poor play personally.

"I'm a fan. I'm passionate about the green. I want to see this franchise do well," said Vincent, who seethes when he sees excess celebration from an underachieving team. "You see people dancing after a 3-yard catch or a tackle on third down - that's what you're supposed to do. You cheer after the season. But somebody has to point that out. It's personal to me.

"I was once one of those individuals who was out there, who was booing."

Rest assured, Vincent would have booed Asomugha.

"If you don't produce, and you're the highest-paid player coming in, you will be held accountable," Vincent said.

Leadership begins with production, Vincent said.

There have been productive players on this roster.

But quarterback Michael Vick, appreciative of a football career resurrected from a felony conviction, is not going to demean anyone.

DeMeco Ryans is a newcomer trying to re-establish himself as an elite player. Trent Cole lacks the starch; Cullen Jenkins, the pedigree. Jason Babin was incredibly productive last season, but Babin disappears when double-teamed; he is a situational star. Asomugha is bright, sincere and insightful, but, as a refined man of letters, he is uninterested in inspiring his less sophisticated co-workers.

Last week, DeSean Jackson bemoaned the lack of leadership.

Jackson is in his fifth season. He has been to two Pro Bowls. He just signed a 5-year, $51 million deal.

Sound like leadership material?

Leadership will not manifest itself among the Eagles until Jason Kelce returns to the center of the line and Fletcher Cox cements himself as the pillar around which the defense is built.

They are the most grounded of the talented, young players, but they are much too young to embarrass anyone at a meeting or in a locker room or on a sideline.

Leadership is years away.

Years, and a few roster moves: "You need new personalities," Vincent said.

That's what it took for Vincent to ascend from star to leader in the late '90s, after the departure of hard-driving leaders such as William Thomas and Mike Zordich.

"I wanted some of the guys out of there," Vincent said. As for posers and prima donnas: "You want those guys removed. I'll take a less talented individual if it's someone who's not going to make mistakes."

Vincent was aghast at Jenkins' sideline screaming match during a preseason game this summer, but he was more offended at the lack of heart he has seen since the season began. The Eagles sent him and seven teammates to the Pro Bowl after the 2001 season, when the Eagles lost to the Rams in the NFC Championship Game.

"I don't think we were as talented as some of the groups that we see," he said, pointing at the steel locker-room doors. "The talent is here."

The leadership is not.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

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