When Andy Reid became coach of the Eagles in 1999 he made two personnel decisions that turned a bad franchise into a good one — his defensive coordinator (Jim Johnson) and his quarterback (Donovan McNabb).
Last year, Reid made two personnel decisions that turned a good franchise into a bad one, and they’re the same decisions – his defensive coordinator (Juan Castillo) and his quarterback (Michael Vick).
How’s that for symmetry, not to mention irony?
Reid erased one of his mistakes on Tuesday when he fired Castillo and replaced him with Todd Bowles, who had been the secondary coach. And Reid hinted that he might try to erase the other one, when he was noncommittal about Vick – when asked whether Vick would remain the starter when the Eagles come off their bye week and play Atlanta on Oct. 28, Reid said “As I sit here today, he’s the starting quarterback.”
Read into that what you will and a lot of people think it means Reid is considering benching Vick in favor of rookie Nick Foles, but don’t expect that to happen. After all, the Eagles are 3-3, which isn’t good, but isn’t awful, either. They’re just a game out of first place in NFC East and anybody who even remotely follows the NFL knows what a wacky league it can be.
But that didn’t stop Reid from shaking up his defense, even though the offense has been the real problem this season. Of course, Reid isn’t about to fire his long-time buddy, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, even though the offense is ranked 31st in the 32-team NFL, leads the league in turnovers by a wide margin and has scored just one touchdown in the first quarter this season.
When asked on Tuesday why he made the move with Castillo now – Reid had never fired a coach in the middle of a season before – he said “If I don’t think things are working for the best for the organization at that particular time, I’ve got to be responsible for that, too.”
And Reid, as head coach, is responsible for everything, good and bad. He deserves credit for the Eagles’ run of four straight NFC Championship Game appearances and he deserves credit for taking the team to the Super Bowl after the 2004 season, only the second time the Eagles have ever been there.
But he also deserves criticism for the mediocre team that the Eagles have become. Despite Reed’s earlier success, his Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since 2008, which is forever in the NFL. And the main reason the Eagles’ fortunes have fallen is their draft history, which is not good. And that, too, falls on the head coach.
Sure, Reid has struck it rich a few times with players like LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and rookies like Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox appear to have bright futures. But for a coach who claims that the key to building a franchise is through the draft, Reid has swung and missed too many times.
That’s why they had to go out and hire free agent mercenaries like Jason Babin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha and Jason Peters and Cullen Jenkins and Evan Mathis and DeMeco Ryans. These are the best players on the team, with the notable exception of McCoy, and Reid didn’t draft them – somebody else did and then Reid signed them to make up for his own draft mistakes.
That’s also why, if Reid was sincere about wanting what’s best for the organization, he would have stepped up to the podium on Tuesday and announced that he was stepping down as head coach. He would have pointed to the critical mistakes he’s made – with Vick and Castillo topping the list – and admitted that he simply hasn’t done a good enough job the last few years and was quitting for the good of the franchise.
After all, if the guy he hired for the all-important job of defensive coordinator – and don’t forget that Reid is an offensive guy who rarely interferes on the defensive side of the ball – was so bad that he had to fire him after less than two seasons, why should the guy who hired him keep his job?
Plus, Reid was the one who decided Vick could be a system quarterback who could read defenses, stand tall in the pocket and run his offense. Instead, Vick has looked dazed and confused much of the time and he’s turned into a turnover machine. And Reid was the one who decided that Castillo could run his defense even though he had never even been a defensive assistant in the NFL before. Instead, Castillo appeared to be overmatched when it came to matching wits with opposing offenses and it became clear that his players had no confidence in him or his decision-making.
The buck is supposed to stop at Andy Reid’s desk. And even though he said more than once that he accepts the blame for his poor decisions, he hasn’t accepted the consequences.
But not to worry – if things continue the way they are, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie will take care of that for him.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org