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Bird Feed: Reid. Replacements. Thoughts.

The 2012 season has not been good to Andy Reid, but before we spit on Reid’s good name as he departs the Eagles, here are two important details to remember. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

Reid

Andy Reid deserves a lot of blame for the Eagles catastrophic 2012 season. With Sunday’s lopsided loss to Dallas, the Eagles are all but mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. Reid’s tenure as head coach will also likely come to an end in the very near future. Still, regardless of Reid’s faults and miscalculations over the past two years, it’s hard to ignore all that has gone wrong for Reid over the past three months.

It all started when Reid lost his oldest son to a drug overdose in August. Being an NFL coach is hard. Losing a child is harder. Parents don’t bounce back from losing a child in just a few months, if ever. Reid would never use his son’s death as a scapegoat, but there’s absolutely no way it hasn’t impacted Reid in some way, shape, or form.

As much frustration as this season has caused Eagles fans, I can’t cheer for Reid to be fired. I just can’t. The guy lost his son three months ago. We don’t know what he’s going through or what he’s dealing with. Maybe he goes home to a wife that blames him for their son’s addiction and subsequent death. Maybe Reid cries himself to sleep every night.

Yes, Reid has been a bad football coach this season. He’s never been a bad person, though. And he’s dealing with the hardest thing any parent could possibly face. Reid is a human being. A heavy heart and a significant loss have impacted his coaching. Even if we don’t directly see it, the impact is there.

On the football field, things haven’t gone any easier for Reid, especially on the offensive line. Three starters were already out due to injury before a fourth went down Sunday. Plugging in one or two back ups is one thing. Replacing a whole line is totally different. Four starters can aid a lesser fifth lineman, but two starters can’t strengthen three. No team in the NFL can switch out four offensive lineman and not miss a beat. To blame Reid for the struggles of a line where three (and now four) starters, including an All-Pro, were lost to injury is a little over the top.

Let me also remind you in the NFL, the offensive line is perhaps the most important position next to quarterback. Even the great Tom Brady looks mediocre behind a shaky line. Aaron Rodgers lost to the Colts and Seahawks because he was under siege. Offenses don’t work when they can’t protect the quarterback. Reid has preached this time and again. Not even in his wildest dreams did Reid expect to enter Week 11 with an entirely different offensive line than the one he had at the end of the 2011 season. Second only to an injured quarterback, losing solid players on the offensive line is the quickest way to lose a season.

I’m not advocating for Reid to be given yet another season. Though he couldn’t help the offensive line issues, there are plenty of other issues that point directly back to Reid. So many in fact that he probably does deserve to be let go, and I’m ok with that. But I refuse to ignore the fact that Reid has faced difficult circumstances on the field and significantly harder ones off it.

Replacements

Ok, so if Reid is going to go, who’s coming in? I’m against any and all TV broadcasters. Bill Cowher? No thanks. Dude hasn’t coached an NFL game in too long. Remember when Joe Gibbs came back? Cowher is expired milk. Jon Gruden? No way. Gruden won a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team and then slowly led the Buccaneers into mediocrity. He’s not a football savant like the media wants us to believe. We can do better elsewhere. Brian Billick? Umm, no. The Ravens ran him out of town because his offenses were horrible… and he’s supposed to be an offensive guy.

If the Eagles want to move on from Reid, they need to bring in a newer coach with energy, passion, and a commitment to the team that won’t waver every time the lure of the broadcast booth returns. That guy is…

Ray Horton. (Who?) Horton is the current defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals. Prior to that post, Horton spent seven seasons under Dick Lebeau and Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh. He’s played in the NFL. He has no head coaching experience. That last part is important.

No head coaching experience means Horton won’t come in demanding control over personnel decisions. Reid got himself in trouble by having too big a role in who the Eagles drafted and signed through free agency. I want a coach whose sole focus is coaching. Horton won’t demand more responsibility than the position demands because he doesn’t have the experience behind him. Most importantly, though, Horton is a defensive mind. While it was nice seeing DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin run through defenses from 2008-2010, Philadelphia still remains a tough-minded, defense-loving town. Someone needs to reestablish the Eagles as a defensive force that bullies opponents, not the soft bellied pansies the Eagles have become since Jim Johnson’s death.

Obviously, I have no credibility in selecting a head coach for the Eagles, but it’s obvious what the team needs and what fans want. Horton brings toughness. He brings defensive acumen. He brings fresh air to a stale franchise.

Other Observations

Someone should inform Jeremy Maclin that football is a contact sport. Is it just me, or is Maclin always injured or in the process of being injured? Maclin dropped another huge 1st down Sunday and hasn’t even been an impact player since the 2010 season. Considering Hakeem Nicks, Mike Wallace, Michael Oher, Clay Matthews, and Percy Harvin were all drafted after Maclin, I think it’s safe to say the Eagles could have done better with that pick.

The Eagles cornerbacks have been downright awful this season. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie simply refuses to hit anyone, which is a serious problem when you play defense. The fact that he’s also a lousy cover corner should encourage the Eagles to refrain from giving him an extension. Also, in all likelihood, Nnamdi Asomugha will not be back either. Asomugha is due $15 million in 2013. That’s a lot of money for a corner that gives up big plays and tackles like he’s blindfolded. To make matters worse, Asomugha was the guy the Eagles paid instead of Jonathan Joseph. Joseph has developed into one of the NFL’s top 5 defensive backs. Oops.

I’m not ready to give up on Brandon Graham yet. He’s made an impact two weeks in a row now. As far as I’m concerned, every player on the defense can go except Graham, Mychal Kendricks, Nate Allen, Fletcher Cox, and Brandon Boykin. Blow it up and start fresh around the young guys.

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