Whenever things are going badly for the Eagles – and recently that’s been all the time – coach Andy Reid always blames himself. His line, which he’s repeated so many times that it’s become a joke among the fans and media, is this: “I have to do a better job putting the players in position to make plays.”
But Reid’s problem isn’t the plays he calls – it’s players he’s called to join the Eagles. And, despite the so-so play of big-name free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha and Jason Babin, the problem has been the drafts Reid has overseen, especially some recent ones.
Weak drafts are why the Eagles had to go out and hire Hessians like Asomugha and Babin and Cullen Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Weak drafts are why they’ve had to patch their injury-ravaged offensive line with journeymen like Demetress Bell, King Dunlap and Dallas Reynolds. Weak drafts are why their special teams are so bad, especially in coverage, which are usually manned by linebackers and defensive backs that were mid-round draft picks and are trying to work their way into a starting job.
More than anything, weak drafts are why the Eagles missed the playoffs last year and will miss the playoffs this year, and they’re why owner Jeffrey Lurie will eventually fire Reid and his staff, most of whom have been here for more than a decade.
Reid’s early success – the Eagles went to four straight NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl – masked his early failures in the draft. And nobody noticed or even cared that early success was due to the personnel prowess of his predecessor, Ray Rhodes. Reid is a much better coach than Rhodes was when it comes to things like leadership and running an efficient organization. And as bad as things are now for Reid’s team, it’s nothing like Rhodes’ final season, when anarchy reigned.
But Ray Bob could pick players and the roster that Reid inherited from him in 1988 had a total of eight Pro Bowl players on it. That included two players who would anchor what would become a very good offensive line, Tra Thomas and Jermane Mayberry. It also included six Pro Bowl players on the defensive side of the ball – Brian Dawkins, Hugh Douglas, Jeremiah Trotter, Troy Vincent, William Thomas and Bobby Taylor.
So, remember that when you hear people say what a great defensive coordinator the late Jim Johnson was. Sure, he was innovative and aggressive and he had the respect of his players, but he also had a lot of great players with which to work.
Reid’s best pick, as everybody knows, was his first pick, quarterback Donovan McNabb in 1999. Since then, Reid has lectured us a thousand times that the way to build and maintain a team is through the draft, with the occasional veteran free agent to fill an occasional hole.
Well, the Eagles currently have nine players on their roster who have played in the Pro Bowl and only three of them were drafted by Andy Reid. The rest are the kind of costly free-agent signings that Reid avoided not so long ago. And it’s the failure of most of Reid’s draft picks to have an impact – only running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive end Trent Cole would be considered star players — that has brought this Eagles team down to its current level.
Whether that’s the fault of Reid or general manager Howie Roseman is debatable, but Reid has the title – at least for now – of not only coach, but also Vice President of Football Operations. Whether he deserved it or not, he got the credit when the Eagles are good. And, whether he deserves it or not, he gets the blame now that they’re bad.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.