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Friday, January 15, 2021

Counting Down: An Andy Reid Retrospective

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

We couldn’t let Andy Reid ride off into the sunset, apparently headed to Kansas City, without one more look back at some of the highs and lows of his 14 years as coach of the Eagles.

Andy Reid’s five best draft picks, in descending order:

5. CB Lito Sheppard, first round, 2002: People wondered why Reid took him in the first round since he already had Pro Bowl CBs Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. But they were at the ends of their careers and Sheppard stepped right in when they left and made two Pro Bowls.

4. DE Trent Cole, fifth round, 2005: He came in as an undersized DE who was projected as a standup, pass-rushing LB. But Cole made an immediate impression with his quickness and non-stop motor and he’s been a mainstay of the Eagles defense for seven years and a two-time Pro Bowl selection – not bad for a fifth-round pick.

3. RB LeSean McCoy, second round, 2009: He sat and watched and learned for a year behind Brian Westbrook, and then he and his career took off. He was dogged by a concussion this season, but McCoy is one of the best in the NFL and a cornerstone of any franchise – if teams knew then what they know now, McCoy would have been a Top 5 draft pick in ’09 instead of a second-rounder.

2. RB Brian Westbrook, third round, 2002: There were plenty of doubters when Reid took this small player from a small school (Villanova) in the third round. Westbrook went on to have a Pro Bowl career and play on a Super Bowl and he’s now regarded as one of the top five RBs in Eagles history.

1. QB Donovan McNabb, first round, 1999. Sure, Reid had the No. 2 overall pick and he should have hit a home run with it. But he took McNabb instead of Akili Smith or Daunte Culpepper or Cade McNown or any of the other big-name QBs available that year. His decision proved to be a wise one and McNabb and Reid became the architects of perhaps the most successful era in Eagles history.

Andy Reid’s five worst draft picks, in descending order:

5. WR Freddie Mitchell, first round, 2001: He had one shining moment, a first-down reception on fourth-and-26 in a playoff game vs. Green Bay in 2003 that allowed Eagles to tie the game they won in OT. But Mitchell never played the game as well as he talked it and nobody even signed him after the Eagles released him in 2004.

4. LB Barry Gardner, second round, 1999: Reid’s second-ever pick after he selected QB Donovan McNabb and he missed big-time on this one. Gardner was supposed to be a foundation of Reid’s first defense, but he ended up being a journeyman who did little with the Eagles and eventually faded away.

3. S Jaiquawn Jarrett, second round, 2010: He was drafted to team with 2009 second-rounder Nate Allen to give the Eagles a tough and talented safety tandem for years to come. Well, Allen got benched this season and Jarrett, who couldn’t even get on the field on special teams as a rookie, couldn’t even make the team in his second year and was cut in training camp prior to this season.

2. LB Quinton Caver, second round, 2001: The Eagles raved about his speed and athletic ability and how he would have an impact on their defense. One coach even compared him to Lawrence Taylor. Well, Caver never played a single defensive down for the Eagles – he played on special teams as a rookie and then was released in October of his second season.

1. DE Jerome McDougle, first round, 2003: The Eagles even moved up 15 spots, from No. 30 overall to No. 15, to draft the All-American from Miami, but injuries and ineffectiveness took their toll and he never had any kind of impact on the Eagles. McDougle was on the Eagles roster for four seasons and finished with a total of three sacks.

Andy Reid’s five best free agent signings, in descending order:

5. C Jamaal Jackson, 2003: Nobody wanted this undrafted player from Delaware State, but Reid saw his athleticism and how well he handled the blocking calls and how much his teammates respected him and gave him a starting job in 2005. Jackson held it for the next five seasons, starting 71 straight games, until a change in philosophy – new offensive line coach Howard Mudd wanted smaller, quicker linemen – forced him out last season. Reid never got more bang for his buck than he did with Jackson.

4. RB/R Brian Mitchell, 2000: He was a triple threat for the Eagles during some of their most successful seasons – the Eagles played in seven playoff games and two NFC Championship games during three years with them. Mitchell was a valuable reserve running back, but he was the best in the business at returning punts and kicks. He had lost a little quickness by the time he joined the Eagles in Reid’s second season, but you knew the return game was in good hands, literally and figuratively, with Mitchell, who was always dependable and sometimes sensational.

3. QB Jeff Garcia, 2006: Reid learned his lesson in 2005, when he signed journeyman Mike McMahon to back up Donovan McNabb the year after the Eagles went to the Super Bowl. McNabb got hurt, McMahon was awful – the Eagles lost five of the seven games he started — and the Eagles didn’t even make the playoffs. So, Reid signed Garcia, a former Pro Bowl QB, and that paid off big when McNabb got hurt again and Garcia led the Eagles to a 5-1 record down the stretch and into the playoffs, where they beat the New York Giants in a first-round game before losing to New Orleans.

2. LB Carlos Emmons, 2000: For four seasons, Emmons gave the Eagles something they haven’t had since – a rock-solid strong-side linebacker who can cover tight ends and also stop the run. Emmons didn’t get a lot of attention playing with the likes of Pro Bowlers Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent, Hugh Douglas and Troy Vincent, but he was an integral part of one of the best defenses in the league. And, as stated previously, the Eagles struggled at that position ever since Emmons left after the 2003 season.

1. OT Jon Runyan, 2000: This was Reid’s second big personnel move, after he drafted Donovan McNabb in 1999. Reid wanted another big, aggressive tackle to line up opposite All-Pro Tra Thomas and when Runyan’s contract with the Tennessee Titans expired, Reid quickly made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. It was money well spent as Runyan and Thomas became the real foundation of the Eagles teams that had those remarkable playoff runs. For the first time since Dick Vermeil was coach and Pro Bowlers Jerry Sisemore and Stan Walters lined up at tackle, the Eagles had bookend blockers who could protect the quarterback and open holes for the running backs.

Andy Reid’s five worst free agent signings, in descending order:

5. QB Mike McMahon, 2006: For some reason, Reid though McMahon would be a solid backup for Donovan McNabb the year after the Eagles went to the Super Bowl. McMahon had started some games for Detroit and he was a veteran who had played in a similar offense, so … Well, the move blew up in Reid’s face – McNabb got hurt and the Eagles went 1-5 in the games McMahon started, and just one season removed from the Super Bowl they didn’t even make the playoffs.

4. QB Vince Young, 2011: What was Andy Reid thinking?

3. OT Demetress Bell, 2012: The Eagles needed to replace Jason Peters, the best left tackle in football, and ended up signing a guy who couldn’t beat out King Dunlap. Bell was handed a starting job in training camp this season, but quickly lost it. Then, when he had to play during the season because Dunlap got hurt, he almost got Mike Vick killed. It’s uncertain whether Bell just didn’t pick up the system or just wasn’t very good, but his utter failure to fill Peters’ shoes was something the Eagles couldn’t overcome.

2. CB Nnamdi Asomugha, 2011: Asomugha was given a mulligan for his first season with the Eagles, when he was late in joining a defense going through a major transition. But there was no excuse for his terrible play this season, when he was used and abused by almost every NFL receiver he was matched up against. Asomugha came to the Eagles with the reputation as being one of the top two or three CBs in the league, but he was so bad he ended up getting benched in the season finale vs. the Giants. If Asomugha is going to be with the Eagles next season, he’s going to have to take a big pay cut and restructure his five-year, $60 million contract.

1. S Blaine Bishop, 2002: This former Houston Oilers Pro Bowl safety signed a three-year deal with the Eagles and was supposed to team with Brian Dawkins and give them a dynamic one-two punch at safety. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Blaine Bishop played more like Joey Bishop (google “Rat Pack’’ if you don’t know who he is) and he was gone after just one year. Probably the most lasting memory of Bishop came in the NFC Championship game defeat to Tampa Bay, with his woeful coverage and plodding pursuit on WR Joe Jurvecius’s 69-yard TD reception that blew the game open in a 27-10 loss.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan32@aol.com.


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New photo page, Delaware Community Lens, will celebrate First State

'There's enough places to on social media and the internet that are not positive places. This is meant to be a respite.'

Meet ‘The Wilmington:’ A liquid ode to Delaware’s largest city

The new cocktail uses gin, peach-infused simple syrup, lemon and cinnamon.

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