The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles can’t even put the “fun” in “dysfunctional.” That’s because this team is just plain bad and there is no fun in that.
Actually, referring to the 2011 Eagles as a “team” is something of a misnomer. If you were to look up the word “team” in the dictionary, you’d see ”2011 Philadelphia Eagles” listed under “antonyms.”
Before this season began, I wrote an article about how important it is, and how hard it would be, for this group of players and coaches to become a team. At the time, I recognized that it could be a hard obstacle to overcome but took the optimistic viewpoint in that this group would, in fact, come together eventually.
However, that has not happened and it is one of the biggest reasons why the Eagles are sitting at 4-7 with no shot at the playoffs.
The Eagles are a collection of individual players and coaches who are not operating as one cohesive unit. They are devoid of leadership and accountability on all levels and in all phases of the organization.
Look at what we’ve witnessed so far this season as these are all signs of a dysfunctional team:
- Two coaches arguing on the sideline during a game
- A defense that has no idea what it’s doing
- A defensive coordinator in way over his head
- A head coach struggling for answers
- A star player on offense putting his health and contract above the team
- A star player on defense alienated before the season began
- An undisciplined team committing stupid penalties
- Carelessness with the ball (turnovers)
- An injury riddled QB trying to do too much and is therefore actually hurting the team
- A team that disappears in the fourth quarter
- Wildly inconsistent play
- And last but certainly not least, the home crowd chanting “fire Andy” during a game
How did things get this way? How did the Eagles go from a playoff team with a solid foundation, to being so inept and dysfunctional?
For one, all of the changes they made in a shortened offseason are a large part of that. But, let’s focus on some of the key mistakes that were made that set the tone for this season’s complete disaster.
1. The effect on the players after moving Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator.
Yes, we were all shocked when this announcement was made. Nobody, from the fans to the media, could understand the logic behind this decision. But after the initial shock wore off, we tended to give Andy Reid the benefit of the doubt.
However, in retrospect, we didn’t consider what kind of message this sent to the players. If the Eagles were going “all in”, why would you make your offensive line coach the defensive coordinator?
One of the issues with former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was that some players didn’t buy into his scheme and coaching. The problem could have been more about the way in which McDermott tried to get his message to the players rather than the scheme; hence he may not have been a good “coach.”
This could have been why Reid decided on Castillo, because Castillo was regarded as a good coach and could relay his message to the players in an effective manner. However, you can be a good coach but you have to back it up by having a firm grasp of what you’re trying to teach.
That’s where this experiment with Castillo has failed. The entire concept of the Eagles’ defense has been like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole.
They brought in the “wide-nine” defensive line scheme without any linebackers to fill the gaps. They brought in two press-cover cornerbacks and forced them to play zone (and one in the slot).
You have safeties, who seem to always be out of position, running around in circles in the secondary. Then, you have Asante Samuel who still just does his own thing, he’s like a separate entity entirely.
And when you combine all this with Castillo’s lack of experience and knowledge of running a defense, you wind up with players that have absolutely no confidence in what they’re doing.
So again, they are not buying in. The defensive players may have seen the Castillo move as “weak.” Players have to respect and buy into a coach’s philosophy for things to be successful.
When they don’t, the end result is what you’re seeing on the field with the Eagles this season. And while the fans and media were all wondering why Reid chose Castillo, the players were probably thinking the same exact thing.
When a coach doesn’t know what he’s doing, do you really think the players will?
2. The Asante Samuel debacle illustrated the dysfunction of management/player communication.
After the Eagles traded for Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and signed Nnamdi Asomugha, they put Asante Samuel on the trade market. This did not sit well with Samuel and created some early training camp controversy.
We could say that players should accept that as part of the business that is the NFL, but players are also human and therefore subjected to natural human emotions. Samuel felt offended and betrayed by how the Eagles handled the situation.
And I don’t blame him.
What I want to point out here is the way in which the Eagles handle things regarding players. They are very business-like and cold. There seems to be a serious disconnect between management and the players when it comes to the business end of football.
How many times have you heard Andy Reid say one thing and a player say another? It’s as if there is no communication there. There have been several times where players have commented about never hearing from Eagles’ management regarding certain issues.
The other day I was listening to sports radio and they had former Eagles player Geoff Pope on the show. He spoke about how things were run in Philadelphia and the accessibility for the players to Andy Reid.
I don’t have an exact quote for you since it was on the radio, but Pope’s gist was that Reid is only accessible by certain players and that these players were of a certain ”status.” Basically, if you were a nobody, you couldn’t talk to the coach.
Heck, even if you’re a somebody you still may not be talking to the coach. When Donovan McNabb was heavily rumored to be on the trade block back in 2009, he alluded several times to the fact that as far as he knew, he was still the starting quarterback for the Eagles.
I recall thinking that, how can he not know if he’s on the trade block? Maybe he was just towing the company line and behind closed doors he did know, but he did put on a believable act as if he didn’t.
Another example of the lack of communication is the DeSean Jackson benching during the fourth quarter of the New England game. Jackson said he was offered no explanation for the apparent benching.
We all know why he was benched but, don’t you think a coach would come over and give him an ear-full and tell him he’s being benched for poor play? I mean, maybe he needs to hear that in the heat of the moment and not just let it be assumed or inferred.
In the end, these situations just reflect a real lack of communication between the players and the coaches and/or front office.
3. The DeSean Jackson contract debacle.
We can easily blame DeSean Jackson for his lousy play this year because he’s more concerned about his health than helping the team win. However, the Eagles could have done something to avoid the issue by offering him some sort of security.
The Eagles stated all offseason that they could not do anything with Jackson’s contract because of the unknown’s relating to the lockout and what the new CBA would bring. Then, after that was all settled, Jackson just watched as the Eagles signed player after player.
The money the Eagles used on Vince Young, Ronnie Brown and Steve Smith could and should have been used on Jackson.
So in essence, what the Eagles showed was that they valued bringing in role players instead of securing their own star player in Jackson. Jackson surely noticed this and I’m sure many others on the team did as well.
Prior to the season, there was no question that the Eagles should extend Jackson’s contract because he was a star player and brought a lot of value to the Eagles offense. So the question wasn’t “if” they should pay him, it was “how much.”
The Eagles chose to not do anything and therefore created the situation they are now in regarding Jackson. It doesn’t bode well for a team atmosphere when the organization doesn’t take care of its own “home grown” players.
4. The Eagles completely misjudged Michael Vick’s potential.
Michael Vick just isn’t the same player we saw in his first 10 games last season. He hasn’t played horribly, but he is nowhere near the same kind of player he was thought to be after some electrifying performances last season.
In a nutshell, NFL defenses have caught up with him and know how to defend him now. He is just 3-8 in his last 11 starts and turns the ball over far too often.
He has regressed back to his old ways and takes off too early from the pocket and makes bad decisions with the football. He is far from playing championship caliber football at the quarterback position.
Yes, he can still make plays and was probably the best option at quarterback over Kevin Kolb or Donovan McNabb, but he is not the player they had thought he would be.
5. Signing Nnamdi Asomugha was not needed and merely displayed arrogance.
Signing Asomugha was almost as big of a surprise as moving Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator. At the time, we all knew cornerback was the team’s biggest need on defense.
However, most people thought that issue was addressed adequately with the trade for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The signing of Asomugha seemed forced and a tad-bit overboard.
It’s almost as if they did it just because they could. They were flexing their salary cap muscles and showing the rest of the league that hey, we can, and therefore we did.
Most fans, including myself, were pretty excited for the move. We had just brought in the best cornerback in the league, how can that be a bad thing?
Well, in retrospect, maybe it was a bad thing because it forced the situation with Asante Samuel and made Rodgers-Cromartie play out of position. It also took away money that the Eagles could have used on DeSean Jackson or even LeSean McCoy.
Everything has a ripple effect. The ripple effect of signing Asomugha indirectly impacted two to four other players. You can’t fault the Eagles for signing the best available free agent, but when you look back on it, maybe it just simply wasn’t necessary.
All of these components played a part in forming the “team” you see now and all of the mistakes and changes this season are just too much to overcome.
Andy Reid is in real danger of losing control of this thing and if his team quits on him, it may lead to his demise in Philly.
I never thought I’d say this, but perhaps the Eagles did too much to try to improve in one season and it dramatically backfired on everyone. Ultimately, it has left the fans feeling robbed of yet another chance for glory.