The debacle that was the ‘Dream Team’ in 2011 pushed Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid closer to the unemployment line than ever before in his 13 seasons in the City of Brotherly Love.
An 8-8 finish was unexpected and unacceptable after training camp hype had the Eagles planning their Super Bowl Parade down Broad Street in South Philly before playing a single snap.
Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie gave Reid a mandate that another 8-8 season would be his last in charge of the Eagles. Missing the playoffs wouldn’t be good enough, and perhaps even making the playoffs and failing to advance wouldn’t be good enough.
Through six weeks the Eagles are 3-3 and right on pace for Reid to be on the outs come January.
Andy Reid’s Up and Down Eagles
Reid’s Eagles have been more up and down than an elevator, and lately it’s been far more of the latter.
Philly started the season with three wins through the first four weeks. Two of the wins were over Baltimore, the only loss for the Ravens this season, and the defending champion Giants.
The following week the Eagles traveled to Pittsburgh where the Steelers are close to unbeatable, with the Steelers returning from their bye week. Philadelphia lost on a field goal as time expired, nothing to be ashamed of.
This past Sunday, however, Reid’s team held a ten-point lead, at home, with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter against the Lions, who were returning from their bye as well.
The game was well in hand until Mathew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, who were both held in check for the first three quarters (just 91 passing yards for Stafford who threw for over 5,000 yards last season, and one catch for Johnson who had over 1,600 yards and averaged one touchdown a game in 2011), exploded.
Johnson broke loose for five catches and 107 yards in the fourth quarter while Stafford ran for a touchdown and threw for another. The Lions tied the game in the final seconds and won 26-23 in overtime on a 45-yard field goal from Jason Hanson.
This game ultimately cost defensive coordinator Juan Castillo his job. Reid fired Castillo Tuesday morning and promoted defensive backs coach Todd Bowles to coordinator. More on that move below.
The loss is one that brings up plenty of questions about Reid’s squad and Reid himself.
Castillo The Scapegoat?
The Eagles are the second youngest team in the NFL this season, but they have plenty of veterans in key roles, many of whom have struggled to open the year.
No one has struggled more than quarterback Michael Vick, who despite his impressive yardage numbers has thrown eight interceptions and lost five fumbles. The Eagles lead the league in turnovers and are -9 in turnover differential.
The vaunted defensive line that is built with Pro Bowl players inside and out has produced just six quarterback sacks. The defense has a total of seven, and the Eagles are on pace for just 18 sacks this season after leading the league with 50 in 2011.
Overall, the defense seemed to have improved despite the pass rush deficiencies. Pro bowl cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie are doing a good job covering wide receivers downfield as quarterbacks have struggled throwing against the Eagles. Philly’s defensive backs have allowed quarterbacks to complete just 52 percent of their passes, the lowest percentage in the league.
The linebacker play is also vastly improved with the additions of DeMeco Ryans and rookie Mychal Kendricks. Opposing teams this season have scored on just seven of 20 red zone opportunities versus the Eagles defense and are converting just 29 percent on third down.
However, that wasn’t enough to save Castillo’s job.
Reid claimed that some trends that plagued the defense last season started to creep up again, and this led to the move to replace Castillo. Obviously Reid is referring to the defense’s inability to hold leads in the last two weeks, something the Eagles failed to do five times in 2011.
Castillo seems to be as much of a scapegoat as anything else.
Reid needed to send a message that average isn’t good enough. So now Todd Bowles, who played eight seasons as a defensive back for the Redskins and 49ers, and has over a decade of NFL coaching experience including a short stint as the Miami Dolphins interim head coach last season, takes over play calling duties in Philadelphia.
Bowles was originally interviewed for the coordinator position in 2011 before it was handed to Castillo. Reid is obviously hopeful that Bowles can push this defense, which consists of six former Pro Bowl players in the starting eleven, to an elite level.
The offense, on the other hand, has struggled to score points, entering Sunday’s game with the second fewest points scored in the league. With a lineup that includes Pro Bowl-level talent at the play-making positions in running back Lesean McCoy, wide receivers Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and tight end Brent Celek, there is no excuse for such limited production.
Vick has never looked to be in a rhythm this season, and the offensive line is giving up far too much pressure and allowing him to take some vicious hits on weekly bases.
Pressure Mounts After Bye Week
So, now at 3-3, and if you look back further 11-11 since the beginning of last season, the Eagles enter their bye week. On the other side waiting for Reid’s team are the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, who are also on a bye week.
Since Andy Reid, the longest tenured coach in the NFL, was hired by Lurie in 1999, the Eagles are 13-0 following their bye week. So at least they have that to feel good about.
So far 2012 looks far too familiar to the debacle that was the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles.
There are ten games remaining, ten opportunities for the Eagles to show that they are not a mediocre football team. Ten games to fight, scratch, and claw their way to a playoff birth and division title. Ten games to prove they are what we thought they were: a talented Super Bowl contender. Ten games to save their head coach’s job.
The Eagles need to turn things around quickly or Reid will be dusting off his resume for the first time this millennium.