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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Eagles' Fans Should Vote With Their Feet

They cannot fire owner Jeffrey Lurie, but they can try to make him look bad, not buy the team's merchandise, and so forth.

Lurie's announcement today that he will bring back head coach Andy Reid means that the owner has the following thoughts -- he thinks with his heart and not his head. Reid has been with the Eagles for 13 years, and Lurie is loyal to him, even though a) they haven't been to the Super Bowl in 7 years, b) Reid made a boneheaded decision in naming Juan Castillo his defensive coordinator, c) the team has only had one good linebacker during Reid's tenure and d) inking Michael Vick to a long-term deal doesn't look like a good decision now. Oh, and there's another one -- Lurie probably feels bullet proof because the demand for his tickets and merchandise is such that his fan base would probably re-up even if Joe Kuharich or Jerry Williams were coaching the team and guys like King Hill were still playing quarterback.

Ugh. Aargh.

Will this prompt the second "WTF?" headline from The Philadelphia Daily News, second only to the one that the people paper inked when Reid named Castillo his defensive coordinator after having served as the o-line coach since Bill Clinton was elected for his second term? Look, Reid is a good coach -- his record proves that. But there is a difference between someone who can manage the team to make the playoffs and someone who can win a championship. Reid has had plenty of opportunities to win a championship, and he hasn't gotten there. And look, this past season he put together a team more designed to draw headlines than to win games. The team lacked good coaching, lacked good leaders and blew 5 second-half leads. Win 2 of those 5 games and you make the playoffs. Lose all 5 and then win your last 4 and have a 5-1 record against divisional opponents and try to rationalize the season wasn't all that bad.

It was a train wreck. And it's been a series of train wrecks frequented by blind spots about positions (such as going into a season once without a punt returner and then without a fullback and almost never with linebackers who can come close to make a Pro Bowl save Jeremiah Trotter), bad time management, and, this season, almost no leadership among the players, no one holding DeSean Jackson accountable for his attitude or Michael Vick accountable for his, yes, stupid unwillingness to slide to avoid hits. I like Vick, but where is a leader who will tell him that the team needs him to avoid getting hit?

Sorry, but I just don't get it. And the only way for Eagles' fans to send Lurie a message that his head coach is the fourth best among the four major teams in the city -- is to vote with their feet. Don't buy the merchandise, don't buy the tickets, and don't go for being teased that almost is good enough. Every year, we get pumped up that "this is the year" and every year we hear sanitized nonsense about how the Eagles are improving and how it's Reid's fault when they don't and you hear Howard Eskin arrogantly dictate to us that football is complicated, we don't know the game and the Eagles obviously know more than we do. Huh?

Football is a game, it's easy to understand because it is a game, and it's not higher math, rocket science or neurosurgery. Not even close. If it were, it wouldn't have so many fans. And what the fans see is accurate -- and that is that the team was flawed, that it's head man cannot handle the dual role of coach and GM, and that under his leadership it won't go any further than say 10-6 any more, perhaps a division title and perhaps to a conference championship game. Reid has had an owner who has given him carte blanche, and he hasn't delivered.

True, I've written before that a fundamental tenet of human resources is that you shouldn't can someone without a better alternative as a replacement. That said, there must be better alternatives out there. Duke didn't hire Coach K knowing that he'd be the most successful college hoops coach ever. He was a young head coach with a career record of 1 win over .500 at Army when he got the Duke job. Dick Vermeil was the Eagles' 6th choice in the 70's when he got the job, and for a while he had the highest rating as a celebrity on Philadelphia-area commercials because of his success as a coach (okay, he didn't win a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, but he was a much more straightforward communicator).

There is another Mike Tomlin or Mike McCarthy out there. Jeffrey Lurie should have taken the time to check around, figure that out and go get the guy. 14 years ago he thought he had another Shula or Noll in Reid, but it just didn't work out that way. And it doesn't look like it's going to work out any time soon.

So, instead of change, we'll have to listen to the likes of Cullen Jenkins telling us that the defense finally jelled, despite the fact that they did so when they were 4-8 (or, put differently, garbage time for their season), that the players like Juan Castillo (sure, because if you have a coach who doesn't know what he's doing, he won't hold you as accountable as one who does), that Castillo will be back, that DeSean inexplicably won't be despite what he means to the team, that linebacking isn't all that important to their scheme, that somehow they'll figure out a way to play Nnamdi Asomugha, and that their safeties are actually pretty good. Worse yet, you'll have media types buy into the hype and tell us that they should be a favorite to win the division. The whole rap will be so saccharine that if you don't brush after listening you might just get a cavity.

Sorry to be so tough, but clarity can be offensive, and Jeffrey Lurie made it perfectly clear that somehow, after watching this regression, Andy Reid can rebound and turn the franchise around and get the team a championship. I suppose that if you tell yourself something like that enough, you'll be able to convince yourself of anything. The will not to believe is always strong, and, in Lurie's case, the will not to believe is that Lurie refuse to believe that his chosen coach cannot win a championship. That's a dangerous way of thinking, and Lurie's stubbornness not to admit what many of us believe is either courage or folly.

And most fans would argue folly.

I hope that Lurie is proven right, but I don't think that he will be.

And where will the accountability be if the linebackers stink again, the safeties can't cover, and the offensive line has holes in it?

Because we'll hear, "well, we've been working to get the team younger, and I'm looking forward to having Andy return for another year."





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