Hypothetical: If you were told that an NFL team would make the playoffs 9 times in the next 12 years and include 5 conference championship game appearances, what would be your guess as to how many Super Bowls that team would win? And furthermore, having 3 of the 5 title games at home as well as be favored to win 3 out of 5. Wouldn’t you think that team would at least win 1? Other than the Buffalo Bills of the 90’s, how many teams have ever made so many close runs at a title in such a relatively short span of time? Well, that’s what Reid’s Eagles have done. Fun? Yes. Exciting seasons? Absolutely. Lucky to be a fan of such a team? Definitely. Inexplicably frustrating? Y-E- S!!
Let’s briefly take a look at each season of Reid’s tenure from a fan’s emotional point of view:
1999: New coach, fresh outlook, franchise QB. Ended season 5-11 but viewed team as being on the upswing
2000: 11-5, wild card playoff win, loss in divisional round against the pesky Giants. Outlook: Positive, team on the rise.
2001: 11-5, division champs, convincingly beat Tampa and Chicago then almost beat the Rams in Reid’s initial conference title game appearance. Outlook: Very Positive, we have a really good team!
2002: 12-4, division champs, lose to Tampa Bay in conference title game in the last game at Veterans Stadium. Outlook: Disappointed but still positive. Team needs a playmaker at the WR position.
2003: 12-4, division champs, lose to Carolina in conference title game. Outlook: How did we just lose 2 title games in a row to teams we should have beat? Still positive but damn, can we get a friggin WR please?
2004: WE GOT T.O! WE GOT KEARSE! We are DEFINITELY getting over that conference title game hump! 13-3, #1 seed…YES! We’re finally in the Super Bowl! Lose to New England in a game it appeared we certainly could have…maybe should have…won. Oh well. Outlook: Emotionally drained, a little frustration mounting, but still ok.
2005: 6-10, T.O. fiasco, post Super Bowl loser syndrome. Down year that was generally accepted if not expected. Outlook: We’ll be back.
2006: 10-6, division champs. Jeff Garcia to the rescue! Lose in divisional round to New Orleans. Outlook: Ok, we’re back. Now we just need a healthy McNabb again.
2007: 8-8, no playoffs. WTF?! Can McNabb ever stay healthy? Outlook: Is our window of opportunity closing?
2008: 9-6-1, division champs. Magical year, we’re back! Make it to a 5th conference title game but lose to Arizona. Outlook: What is wrong with this team? McNabb? The defense? Reid? Frustration level getting high.
2009: 11-5, wild card team. Season ends with back-to-back blowout losses to the hated Cowgirls. Outlook: Despair. Andy Reid must go! McNabb must go!
2010: 10-6, division champs. Vick’s year of redemption! Lose in wild card round to Green Bay. Outlook: Uncertainty. What kind of team do we have now? How do we fix the defense?
All of the “almosts” have weighed heavily on Eagles fans emotions and frustration has reached levels where it may be turning into numbness. What is the problem? Why is it that Reid’s teams have, to date, always come up just short of the ultimate goal? Is each and every year merely just different circumstances and a bad bounce of the ball here and there? I’m not saying Reid doesn’t try to fix problems and he has evolved over the years. But ultimately everything usually boils down to the head coach. Is there something fundamentally wrong with Reid’s overall philosophy?
My answer is yes, there is. Something is flawed. Reid is, after all, the common denominator here. After 12 years it’s time to look at the man in charge. His scheme has worked in the regular season as evidenced by his consistent winning. Where it has failed has been in the playoffs against quality teams. Playoff football is about 2 things: Running the ball and playing defense. Teams have to be able to do those 2 things if they hope to advance.
You might say look at the Packers this year, they won the Super Bowl and are a passing team. Well, lets look at how they won in the playoffs:
Against us, they won by running the ball and playing solid defense. The Packers’ RB’s rushed 29 times for 134 yards and controlled the game that way. In comparison, our RB’s rushed only 13 times for 49 yards.
Against Atlanta, they did pass the ball alot and Rodgers had a great game. However, I’m throwing this game out because they played in a dome. Though I will mention they had a balanced attack (31 rushes, 36 passes).
Against Chicago, again it was a good mixture of running the ball and playing defense. The Packers scored 21 points with 7 of those points coming from their defense.
All throughout the playoffs the Packers ran a balanced attack. They were not known as a running team all year since Ryan Grant was injured on opening day. But, they made it a point to be balanced in the playoffs.
That’s where Andy Reid doesn’t seem to get it. Lesean McCoy is a great weapon and has shown he can run the ball. Jerome Harrison showed what he could do when given a chance. Yet we only gave them 13 carries in a playoff game? Last year’s playoff loss to Dallas, McCoy and Weaver totaled 10 carries. In 2008’s conference title game loss to Arizona, our RB’s totaled 16 carries. See the pattern? I will grant you the fact that when teams trail in games they pass more. But other than last year’s drubbing in Dallas, we were never that far behind in the other games to where we needed to abandon the run. Reid abandons it far too soon, and he does that consistently.
Playoff football is played in the winter months. Freezing cold and snowy weather is not conducive to passing the ball. If all games were played in climate controlled domes the Eagles would never have to worry. But, they are played in the elements. Running the ball, or at least committing to a balanced attack (where teams think that maybe, just maybe, we’ll run the ball) is crucial to winning in the playoffs.
All of that leads me to say what I think is Reid’s biggest flaw: lack of a balanced attack…aka, failure to consistently run the football. And that, my friend, is purely a coaching philosophy. One thing that has always stuck with me is that there have been players from opposing teams who, after games, stated that the Eagles offense was predictable. That has always troubled me because there were times when even I knew what was coming!
Being predictable is what I believe is Reid’s achilles heel. Because of his pass-happy philosophy teams can just key on 1 thing…rushing the QB. However, what bothers me more than just the simple pass-run ratio, is when we attempt to run the ball. Reid’s philosophy is to come out in the 1st half passing the ball to build a lead. Then mix in the run more in the 2nd half to control the game and kill the clock. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work. As a matter of fact, the only year that really worked was 2004.
Reid needs to be more balanced in the beginning of games. There are games where he does mix in the run early but by and large he’s a pass 1st, pass 2nd, and pass 3rd kind of play caller. It almost seems as if he uses the pass to set up the pass! Usually coaches use the run to set up the pass (I know, so “old school”). And keep in mind that if you look at the Eagles’ rushing stats this past season, Vick had 100 carries that counted as a “rushes” but were really a called pass play (for the most part).
Other philosophical deficiencies that I feel have previously held or continue to hold the team back:
1. Doesn’t value the LB position. Reid has never drafted a linebacker in the 1st round. He’s used a total of 4 draft picks in rounds that are considered to be where you find good players (rounds 1 – 3). Three 2nd round picks and one 3rd rounder over 12 years on the position with Stew Bradley (3rd rounder) being the only one worth mentioning (the three 2nd rounders were Quinton Caver, Barry Gardner, and Matt McCoy…UGH!). Other than the players he inherited from Ray Rhodes, LB has always been a weak spot on our defense.
2. Early on Reid would never address the WR position because he felt that we were “fine there”. He thought McNabb could compensate for the lack of talent at WR. What he didn’t realize is that he was also hindering McNabb.
3. As you saw when McNabb was here, whenever he started the game “cold” or was struggling, Reid would have him continue to pass the ball. Reid’s philosophy was that he would “pass his way out of his slump”. Usually coaches start running the ball to help the QB and the team.
4. Reid loves smallish fast guys on defense for the most part. These are the same players that get manhandled by good offensive lines. Have you ever noticed the defensive line go MIA at times? I sure have. Sometimes size DOES matter.
5. Can we acquire a true center one of these days? For an ex-offensive lineman, Reid sure doesn’t seem to think the center position is important. He’s never drafted one and all of the centers he’s had have been undrafted free agents. This past year’s center, Mike McGlynn, was drafted although he was a guard that Reid switched to center this year and marks the first time somebody he actually drafted played that position.
6. He waits too long before cutting ties with some players. Shawn Andrews, Stacy Andrews, Jerome McDougle, Freddie Mitchell, Todd Pinkston, and LJ Smith all fit that category. How does that hurt the team? They waste roster spots!
7. I’m not sure this falls under the philosophy category but he really needs to hire a professional replay reviewer to tell him when and when not to challenge plays. He is BRUTAL in this area.
If you’ve read this far, you probably think I’m a Reid hater. Actually, I’m not. It’s like having an annoying friend you’ve known for years. I like Andy Reid, I think he’s a good coach overall and an even better human being. But he just has these flaws that impact my team and they really drive me bonkers sometimes. And, I didn’t even get into the whole game and clock management issues. All of the things I listed are fixable if he chooses to see them and address them accordingly. He’s not a dumb man but he sure can seem to be stubborn.
At the end of the day, my opinion is that if Reid doesn’t get us a Lombardi trophy in the next 1 -2 years max, we have to move on. Just like Joe Banner stated at the end of 2009, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.