Ladies and Gentlemen:
Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning is a habit, unfortunately so is losing.” After appearing to be on the verge of another run at the Super Bowl the Eagles have now lost three in a row. They have definitely picked up some bad habits. This time, however, the Eagles were not beaten by a last second play, they were just beaten. The Jaguars controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage, not because they have more talent but because they have more discipline…and heart…and character. Fred Taylor must be 56 years old and yet he looked like Barry Sanders in his prime the way he was breaking tackles. I don’t remember how many times an Eagles defender got his hands on a Jaguars offensive player and failed to wrap him up. It seemed as if it happened every play. Every play in a very long and frustrating game.
When the season started, I was pissed that the Eagles were not getting enough respect. Why were so many of the pundits predicting a NFC East last place finish for them? But the truth of the matter is, despite their offensive prowess, the Eagles have yet to prove themselves as anything more than what they are. A .500 team. There is obviously a lot of talent but it is talent devoid of emotion, discipline and confidence. Greg Gumbel said that in an interview with Brian Westbrook, he asked the Eagles running back how they were reacting to the heart breaking losses. He reported that Westbrook said that they approach it very business-like. I have always downplayed the importance of emotion in a football game saying that it will only carry you through the first few minutes of a football game. Even accounting for my watered down theory, the Eagles have given up points on six out of eight of their opponents opening drives, They have also scored more points in the third quarter than in any other quarter of the game. Can lack of emotion be blamed for their slow starts?
What about lack of concentration? For the second year in a row, the Eagles lead the league in dropped passes. Discipline? They are among the leaders in penalties as well. I wonder if they lead the league in game altering stupid penalties. Effort? Will to win? I already mentioned the missed tackles. What about those defensive breakdowns late in the game? You can’t teach talent. Either you have it or you don’t, but discipline, character, emotion, technique, these are things that fall directly on the coaching staff. Coach Dick Vermeil was the master of inspiring exceptional performance from otherwise mediocre players. Bill Belichick can fit any player into his system or, and this is a major point, modify his system to get the most out of his players. The Patriots lose their two starting Super Bowl receivers and yet are 7-1 and look unstoppable, again. So, on one hand you have a great motivator and on the other hand you have a great tactician. Where does Andy Reid fit into this?
Reid has proved himself to be a great coach in many facets of the game and clearly his players like playing for him. But is he capable of sustaining success? As The Honorable Michael Howard Smith has asked in the past. Is he a Marty Shottenheimer who plugs in the same system wherever he goes and has consistently good teams but never wins the big one and never stays very long in one place? Or, is he a Bill Belichick who consistently wins by adapting and overcoming obstacles. This season, or should I say, the remaining eight games of this season, will go a long way in determining that about Andy Reid. Last year was a mulligan. If the Birds cannot turn it around, then the Philadelphia faithful will start calling for Andy Reid’s head.
There is no line out yet on the Eagles Redskins game so I will chime in later on the prognosticating front. I will pass on the statistic that Andy Reid’s Eagles are 7-0 after the bye week (but 3-5 going into the bye week…Hmmm…).
I’m looking forward to some more lively comments. I know a lot of you are hurting. Maybe, this week, we’ll be lucky enough to receive some comments from The Edge. I always can use a dose of his cynicism when times are tough in Eagle Land.
Enjoy the bye week. I think we all could use it.