The Eagles entered the bye week at 3-3 which is one game better than where they were at this point last season. Some would say this is an improvement others would say the current record is more of the same. The record at the bye speaks for itself but it’s the way they got to 3-3 that’s disturbing to me.
We all knew something had to change after the way the team entered the bye week blowing the past 2 games against the Steelers and the Lions. Andy Reid advised the day after the collapse against the Lions that he would be evaluating all facets of the team from the players to the coaches. A day later in a shocking turn of events Reid fired 2nd year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. I don’t think many of us saw this one coming including myself. My initial reaction was nothing short of joy because this defense is full of talent that clearly hasn’t been utilized correctly. They’ve blown 6 4th quarter leads in 22 games under Castillo which is ridiculous. The defensive line had 50 sacks a season ago which led the NFL and so far in 2012 they’ve gone the past 3 games without a sack. They rarely blitzed when the line struggled to get to the quarterback and Castillo clearly had issues making adjustments in game. All of that lead to the dismissal of Castillo during the bye week.
Todd Bowles will step in and replace Castillo and I expect to see an improvement on defense as the season continues after the bye. Bowles came in as the Eagles defensive backs coach after serving as the Dolphins defensive coordinator and interim head coach a season ago where he won 2 of the last 3 games of the season taking over the head coaching role in Miami. Bowles is a Temple University grad and a North Jersey native. He played 8 years in the NFL with the 49ers and Redskins and served on Bill Parcells coaching staff with the Cowboys and Jets. Parcells along with other brilliant football minds have given Bowles high recommendations which should ease any doubters out there who may question the move.
The bottom line is someone had to serve as the scapegoat for Andy Reid’s pitiful coaching performance so far this season. It’s unfortunate for Castillo because everyone knew from day 1 this wasn’t a move that favored him. The guy was an offensive line coach with the Eagles from 1995 and all of a sudden was being asked to be a defensive coordinator let alone switch to a defensive positions coach. Prior to being named defensive coordinator before the 2011 season Castillo hadn’t coached on the defensive side of the ball since the early 90s when he was a high school coach. Andy Reid should be ashamed of himself because he set Castillo up for failure. He had no business putting Castillo in this position to begin with but Reid consistently thinks he’s smarter than everyone else and thought he could pull a fast one on all of us I thought Reid would let his loyalty get in the way of making a change like this but clearly Reid is getting desperate and needed to do something and it’s good to see him fess up to his mistake.
Going into the bye the real problem hasn’t been the defense as much as it’s been the offense. Sure the defense has had its issues but as a unit they’ve still somewhat improved from last season. Mike Vick has been nothing short of a turnover machine this season and it’s getting to the point where I even wouldn’t mind seeing the Eagles bring in Donovan McNabb for a workout to see if he has anything left. Yes folks I said it bring back Donovan. I’d gladly take his throws into the ground over the ridiculous turnovers from Vick on a weekly basis.
The offensive play calling has been atrocious and its been this way since last season I’d say. What happened to using the screen pass, throwing deep, using trick plays, play action passes, and oh yes just RUNNING THE BALL once in a while. I haven’t seen such a vanilla offense since the Rich Kotite days. Every play seems to be the same it’s a curl or short out route and once in a while a run up the middle. I know our offensive line is banged up and they clearly aren’t helping the running game in any way but last I checked LeSean McCoy is a top 3 back in the league so put the ball in his hands. Gone are the days of the screen pass with Brian Westbrook or a sweep run and it’s a shame because McCoy might actually have more speed than Westbrook did at this point in his career. In my opinion DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, and LeSean McCoy are some of the best skill players in the league all in the prime of their careers and it’s completely going to waste thanks to the horrific play calling the last few seasons.
Maybe Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg just don’t have the trust in Mike Vick and who would with his performance so far in 2012 and last season. But as a coach it’s your job to maximize your players strengths and that’s where Reid and Mornhinweg are at fault. In 2010 Vick had a spectacular season because they let him roll out and run. Since that time they’ve tried to reform Vick to a classic pocket passer. Only problem is Vick is to short and can’t see over the line. He had a key pass knocked down against the Lions that would have iced the game because he can’t see through the jungle of defensive lineman coming at him. Vick should be rolling out of the pocket which would allow him to see downfield much better. If you’re going to keep him in the pocket you have to call more plays with a quick 3 step drop. The offensive line can’t hold up to the pressure long enough for Vick to make a play so it’s clear either roll him out of the pocket or call a play that allows him to get rid of the ball immediately. The offense has underperformed a lot more than the defense so far in 2012 and Andy Reid needs to dismiss Marty Morninweg along with Castillo. A lot of us think the time has come to bench Vick and start rookie Nick Foles who looked impressive in the pre-season. As much as I’d like to see that happen it may not be the smartest move right now to throw him in behind a battered offensive line that could possibly ruin his confidence. The way Vick is playing though it may be the only option as the season progresses.
Eagles owner Jeff Laurie stated at the beginning of the year if the Eagles finished 8-8 or failed to make an impressive playoff run Andy Reid will be fired. So far in 2012 they’ve won 3 games all by a combined 4 points. They’ve blown 2 games where they’ve had the lead in the 4th quarter and been blown out once by Arizona. Even some of the players have recognized this team could easily be 0-6 right now. But they could also be sitting at 5-1 right now if they didn’t implode against Pittsburgh and Detroit which is why it’s important to not completely throw in the towel for 2012.
Andy Reid has never lost a game coming out of the bye week and that will surely be put to the test when the undefeated Atlanta Falcons come to Philly also coming off a bye week on October 28th. The 3 games following the Atlanta game include Monday night football against the New Orleans Saints and two division games against Dallas and Washington. These next 4 games will ultimately not only decide the 2012 season but also the fate of Andy Reid.
I’ll end this on a positive note with some encouraging statistics I came across. The last 8 times the Eagles were 3-3 they went to the playoffs 7 times and went 10-6 and missed the playoffs the other time. Under Andy Reid the Eagles have started 3-3 4 times and 3 of those 4 times the Eagles went on to the NFC Championship game. I’m not saying that will happen this season but the way this season has gone so far I’ll cling to any statistic that favors our performance. The Giants lost 4 straight last year and were 7-7 on December 23rd. We’re at week 6 with plenty of football to go. Sit back and enjoy the ride because if you ask any NY Giant fan anything can happen in the NFL.