The Eagles laid down again Monday night. Truth be told, the Eagles have been a mess for nearly two years; a mess Andy Reid made; a mess that could take years to clean up. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Remember those Eagles teams from the early years of the Reid era? Though they lacked talent, they battled every snap. You could never question their heart or passion, only their talent. Those teams only got better as Reid developed his draft picks into starters, Pro Bowlers, and even All Pros. Reid’s teams were built through the draft around character guys who loved football. Reid welcomed leaders who would hold the locker room accountable. When Reid saw a weak position a draft pick wouldn’t fix, he brought in a proven free agent like Jon Runyan. Reid and the Eagles wouldn’t spend big money on aging veterans. If a player thought too highly of himself and wanted a bank-breaking contract, Reid would show him the door. There was no room for egos and superheroes in Reid’s locker room. Only football players.
Then, the championship game losses mounted, the natives got restless, and Reid strayed from the philosophy that built the Eagles into contenders to begin with. It started with Jevon Kearse and Terrell Owens. Owens was a great addition for a year before scuttling the Eagles 2005 season. Kearse never made much of an impact. At first it appeared Reid learned his lesson. He continued to build his teams through the draft, adding young offensive talent and mixing in All-Pros like Asante Samuel when necessary.
Reid’s team of gutsy players rallied around Jeff Garcia in 2006 after Donovan McNabb blew out his ACL. In 2007, the Eagles overcame a slow start and would have made the playoffs if not for a late season McNabb injury. The next year, Reid’s resilient team went 4-1 down the stretch and knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Giants before falling short in the NFC Championship game yet again.
It was then that Reid traded his long-held philosophy of building a team with character guys who love football for high priced, big name players. The legendary Brian Dawkins was shown the door. Only an aging Brian Westbrook, Sheldon Brown, and Donovan McNabb were left to hold the locker room together. After a disappointing end to the 2009 season (two straight thrashings at the hands of the Cowboys), Reid went all in on talent.
McNabb was out. Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb were in. Team leaders were shown the door, younger bodies and quicker legs were welcomed. Draft picks stopped developing into reliable starters**, especially on the defensive side of the football. Locker room accountability was a thing of the past. The Eagles came up small in big games, most notably against Joe Webb and the Vikings on a Tuesday night with a first round bye and home field advantage on the line.
Instead of buckling down and getting solid players from the draft, Reid reached for questionable talent, signed a plethora of free agents to big contracts, and spent the most money on a cornerback over the age of 30 who had never sniffed the postseason. As a WIP caller stated, Reid brought in mercenaries to improve the Eagles. Unfortunately for Reid and the Eagles, mercenaries perform for money; not for love of a game, a city, a coach, or commitment to a principle.
Nothing is clearer about the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles than their lack of heart. They have no passion. There’s no Brian Dawkins breaking down into tears as he explains to his teammates what a pleasure it is to play with them. There’s no Jeremiah Trotter or Ike Reese telling young players to shut up and get to work. The Donovan McNabbs, Tra Thomas’, Jon Runyans, and Brian Westbrooks aren’t around to keep the offense relaxed and focused when things go poorly.
Reid was never a leader. To his credit, he knew this and built his team around players to keep the locker room together so he wouldn’t have to. Then, out of desperation and self-preservation, Reid sold his soul for talent and big name additions.
Philadelphia is a gritty city. I’ve grown up with losing Eagle teams and loved them regardless. Play hard, give a crap, and don’t be a pansy; that’s all Eagle fans ask. Reid’s most successful teams played to that philosophy with overwhelming success. Then he panicked and brought in the shiny toys with no backbone. Now his job is all but lost, his team is in disarray and leaderless, and the city hates the 2012 Eagles more than any Philly sports team in recent memory.
Andy Reid made the mess, but he most certainly won’t be around to clean it up.
[**There are a plethora of arguments one could make to support the firing of Andy Reid. Unbelievably poor drafting is certainly one of them. Can you name one significant player the Eagles have drafted in the past three years? Brandon Graham? I think his first big play came Monday night when he stripped Drew Brees. Nate Allen? Can’t stay healthy. Danny Watkins? Bust. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin? Virtually no impact this season. In fact, from the 2006 NFL Draft through the 2009 draft, guess how many picks still remain with the Eagles… six. (Maclin, McCoy, Jackson, Celek, Dunlap, and Avant.) That’s right, six. In four drafts, Reid managed to find six players worthy enough to remain employed by the Philadelphia Eagles. I don’t care who your coach is; you don’t win Super Bowls via free agency. If you’re not drafting well, you’re not winning. Reid’s poor drafts have caught up to the Eagles these past two seasons.]