(Philadelphia, Pa) —- After witnessing probably the worst regular season loss of the Andy Reid era on Sunday, I was bombarded by colleagues, fans, and friends/family with the overriding question “What is wrong with the 2007 Philadelphia Eagles”.
Some fans and evaluators may point to the team’s woes this season due to a rusty Donovan McNabb coming back from injury, red-zone problems, non in-game adjustments, failing to run the football, inconsistent play at the wide receiver position, and other excuses. Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid truly believes this 2007 squad is a better team than its record and reaffirmed his thought pattern by saying after the game the Dallas game, “I know we are,” and “We have to get this thing changed around and get a little momentum going, and then we’ll be fine.” But as someone that has followed the fortunes of this franchise for over 30 years, I believe the lack of “Quality of Depth” on this team’s current roster is the largest problem and Andy Reid the “VP of Talent Evaluation” has done Andy Reid the coach a disservice with his “spotty” record making personnel decisions over the last couple of years—-28 players on the current roster making up the nucleus of this team were drafted by Reid. In looking at his track record of picks over 9 years there are some scary numbers:o 74 Total Pickso 31 w/ Eagles including Practice Squad & Injured Reserveo 16 are in the NFL but not w/ the Eagleso 28 Out of the NFL o Total of 8 Pro Bowlers of the bunch (QB Donovan McNabb, G Shawn Andrews, CB Lito Sheppard, S Michael Lewis – 2004 backup, RB Brian Westbrook – Alternate in 2004, DT Corey Simon – Alternate in 2003, and DE Derrick Burgess for the Raiders).
We all know that Reid is signed through 2010 and that he is not going anywhere anytime soon, but the best way to fix this team for the upcoming seasons is to get a new voice in personnel besides Big Red. Granted Reid has been a successful coach for most of his 9 + years in Philadelphia (83-53 regular season record, 8-6 record in the playoffs, 4 NFC Championship Games and 1 Super Bowl), but I don’t think that makes him a capable evaluator of talent. The decision to promote Reid on May 8, 2001 to Executive VP of football operations seemed like the “vogue” thing to do at the time in the NFL as former Super Bowl winning coaches — Mike Holmgren, Bill Parcells, and Mike Shanahan — were given the opportunity to “buy the groceries and cook the meal” as Parcells once said. And Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie liked the way Reid had turned Ray Rhodes’ rag tag team around in two years going from 3-13 to 11-5 and winning the NFC East for the first time in years, but it was way too early in his career (2 years as Head Coach with a regular season record of 16-16 and a 1-1 playoff record including a 21-3 wild card win over the Tampa Bay Bucs) for the new role in my opinion. The rise to the “VP of Everything” title was meteoric to say the least and it surprisingly came without the Super Bowl pedigree of the aforementioned coaches. Reid’s success for much of his tenure has been built with top players remaining from the Ray Rhodes era (B. Dawkins, J. Trotter, D. Staley, Tra Thomas, Ike Reese and others), but recently there has not a replenishment of these players’ roles through the draft or free agency as they have gotten older or left effecting the team’s future core.
Recent NFL history has shown that successful Super Bowl winning teams have had multiple people involved in the running of personnel. This is due to the fact that key off-season personnel decisions are too important, especially the draft, in molding a playoff worthy team to leave everything in one man’s hands. Former NFL Head Coach Jimmie Johnson recently talked openly on the NFL on Fox pregame show about the difficulty (meetings, film study, day to day running of the team, etc) that he had in wearing both GM and head coach hats for the Miami Dolphins and how he couldn’t see it at the time, but the dual roles were a big reason for his non-success in Miami. The Seattle Seahawks have rejuvenate Mike Holmgren by removing his GM duties and giving them to Tim Ruskell in 2005, just in time for a run at Super Bowl XL. The Packers also in 2005 hired GM Ted Thompson from the Seattle Seahawks to take over Mike Sherman’s General Manager duties with Sherman remaining as the Packers’ head coach (BTW: The Packers during Sherman’s reign as GM and head coach had one of the NFL’s worst draft records with picks like first-round draft pick Jamal Reynolds, taken 10th overall in 2001).
Recent Super Bowl Teams and their Braintrusts
— Baltimore Ravens 2000 (Ozzie Newsome, James Harris, and Brian Billick)
— New England Patriots 2001, 2003, 2004 (Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick)
— Pittsburgh Steelers 2005 (Kevin Colbert, Doug Whaley, and Bill Cowher)
— Indianapolis Colts 2006 (Bill Polian and Tony Dungy)
The Reid tenure as Talent Evaluator has been marked by:
o Missing on Day 1 Draft Picks (1st Rd – Freddie Mitchell, 1st Rd – Jerome McDougle, 2nd Rd – Bobbie Williams, 2nd Rd – Quinton Caver, 2nd Barry Gardner, 2nd Matt McCoy, 2nd Rd Todd Pinkston, 3rd Billy McMullen, and others). These are the players that should have formed the nucleus of the current and future team.
o Animosity toward contract holdout/outspoken players (John Welbourne, Jeremiah Trotter – 1st Time, Cory Simon, and Terrell Owens)
o Head Scratching use of the “Franchise Player” Tag (Designating Trotter and Simon then letting them go for nothing)
o Trades making little sense that yielded almost nothing (2 Draft Picks traded for Mark Simoneau, Trading 2 Picks to move up to select Bobbie Williams, Trading a high 2nd Rd Pick to move up to select Jerome McDougle, Trading a 1st Rd pick to Dallas in 2007 when impact players WR Anthony Gonzalez, OLB/DE Anthony Spencer, TE Greg Olsen and others were on the board)
o The usual 10 Million Dollar Salary Cap Surplus while letting quality veterans leave (Derrick Burgess, Ike Reese, Carlos Emmons, and others). Plus letting Quality 7th Rd Draft Pick DE Rahim Brock walk to the Colts without signing him to the roster (Brock was a starter at DT for 2006 Super Bowl Champion Colts).
o Questionable Day 2 Draft Picks that did not perform and are out of the NFL (Center John Romero, WR Gari Scott, WR Na Brown, OL Scott Peters, RB Thomas Hamner, S Norman LeJeune, KR Jeremy Bloom, LB Tyreo Harrison and many others). These players usually spent time on the roster without making an impact after they were expected to provide quality depth and excel on special teams.
o Extensions to ‘Underachievers’ before they had fully produced (See DT Sam Rayburn 2004, WR Greg Lewis 2004, OG Artis Hicks 2004, WR Todd Pinkston 2003, and others listed in my Eagles contract extensions article
o Free Agent signings of underachievers DE Jevon Kearse, DE Darren Howard, DT Ian Scott, DT Montae Reagor, QB Mike McMahon, and others.
o Too many undrafted free agents (Reno Mahe, Greg Lewis, Sam Rayburn, and others) on their roster (currently 14). In today’s NFL, undrafted free agents are good as a sprinkling, but you need to build your team around quality players selected in the 7 Rounds of the draft and by signing key veteran players.
In order to catch the Patriots and Colts of the world — keep finding guys at the top and bottom of the draft, signing key veterans, winning (4 Super Bowls between them) despite injuries and defections— the “right” personnel decisions need to be made and that starts with letting someone else be in charge of all personnel matters starting this off-season.