"The Morning After "
Good morning boys and girls,
For the second straight week, I did not see much of the game. Periodic updates provided by family members were once again the MO.
I was in the minority however in so much I wanted the Eagles to lose. My reasoning was two-fold.
One, I wanted to ensure the highest-possible draft pick (more on the draft a little later) and B, I wanted this dreadful season to end with a loss. Why? I did not want the inevitable 'we finished on a high-note' crap; 'we beat a divisional foe and played spoiler' nonsense to be entered into the equation and conversation.
This was a pathetic, horrific season and it was only fitting that they lose the final game. That bitter taste can now fester all off-season.
Quite a difference a year makes, huh? Last year at this time of course the Eagles were headed toward the Playoffs on their way to Jacksonville. They were coming off arguably their most impressive season on both sides of the ball in quite some time.
This past season of course has been the exact opposite.
Let's do a quick statistical comparison from last year to this year, just for s#its and giggles. Come on along for the ride, it'll be fun. In actuality, some stats will surprise you and prove even further that statistics are very often not a true indication of how good or bad a team truly is.
NOTE: ALL rankings are for the entire league.
Okay, so you now can see on paper the numerical differences between last year's model and this year's.
But of course the game is not played on paper.
I am of the mind that the whole Terrell Owens saga was a convenient "distraction" for most of the season. Now by convenient I do not mean the Eagles enjoyed it or condoned it.
No, what I mean is while all of the attention was directed toward Mssrs. Owens & Rosenhaus, no one was paying attention to the fact that this was simply NOT the same team that walked off the field in February in Jacksonville.
Not even close.
Was it complacency? Sure. We've all seen the stats being bandied about how the team that loses a SuperBowl has a tough time the following season, more often than not, missing the playoffs entirely. I think complacency plays a big role in keeping a motivated and hungry the year following a SuperBowl appearance.
That responsibility, to keep them motivated, of course falls squarely at the feet of Andy Reid and his staff. Yes, it's true that professional athletes get paid millions of dollars and as such should not need any additional motivation other than the chance to appear on MTV Cribs. But we all know that is simply not the case.
We as fans also got complacent, don't you think? Don't you think we got a little spoiled and presumptuous? The regular season had become merely a test drive, didn't it? The playoffs were a foregone conclusion.
And when the team starting hitting speed bumps, we didn't know how to react, did we? I mean these were the Eagles. Winning had become expected. Winning had become a given. After crushing the hapless Niners, Donovan and TO were all smiles on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Detroit here we come!
But it was not meant to be.
So where does the ultimate blame lie for this simply deplorable season?
Yes, the coaching and Andy Reid and the front office and Andy Reid must take a major hit. Allowing players like Corey Simon, Derrick Burgess and Our Hero Ike Reese leave clearly left a hole they could not fill.
All the time we hear how good a system the Eagles have in place. A player leaves? No problem. It's the system, not the players.
This just in: The system failed.
Somebody blew a gasket. Somebody threw a monkey wrench in the plans.
Here's one man opinions and grades for the Philadelphia Eagles 2005-06 model.
Front Office: F
For allowing the above-mentioned players to leave without adequate backups to step in. For allowing the whole TO thing to linger until it was too late and there was nothing left to do but do what they did and suspend him for the season. A major distraction that did not need to be. For not having an adequate backup Quarterback in place should Donovan go down. For allowing the Brian Westbrook contract matter to last as long as it did. Another distraction that did not need to be.
Head Coach: F
Far too often the play-calling was extremely predictable. Clock management was pitiful.
Coaching Staff: F
I give Offensive Coordinator Brad Childress a pass as he clearly is just a figurehead on this team. Andy calls the plays. Period. See above.
Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson did not exactly have a stellar season, either. Far less blitzing than in the past. But in his defense (no pun intended) he didn't have the same level of player(s) he had in past seasons. But the bottom line is getting to the quarterback and stopping the run. And the 2005-06 Eagles Defense did neither of these very well, particularly the former.
Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo. As loyal reader Robin Haberle pointed out to me, the Eagles were the most penalized team in the league in terms of offensive holding. Shawn Andrews was very close to setting a club record for most penalties in a season. All of this means the techniques that are being taught are pretty bad, wouldn't you say?
Offensive Assistant Marty Morninwheig (or however you spell his name, like it matters). He was the brain behind bringing in Mike McMahon to be the backup QB. How'd that work out? He also reportedly was the one who convinced Andy that they (the Eagles) could control Terrell Owens. How'd that work out? What does he do to earn his paycheck anyway?
Prior to his season ending, Donovan McNabb was on course for arguably his worst season as a pro. Yeah, he's real muscular now isn't he?
Call it muscle,
Call it fat,
But it must be jam,
Cause jelly don't shake like that.
As for M Squared and Koy… well anyone who saw more than 30 seconds of any game post-Donovan knows these two gentlemen are not NFL-caliber backup quarterbacks. It's almost laughable when watching these two "quarterbacks" attempt to run an NFL Offense.
Running Back: C
This position showed some promise, particularly toward the end of the year. Both Ryan Moats and Bruce Perry gave glimpses of what they can do and bring to the table. Neither is an every down back, nor is Brian Westbrook of course.
Obviously The Commish, aka Lamar Gordon (the name is from Batman, Commissioner Gordon, come on you remember that!) was not the answer to the 'who is the big back on the Eagles' question.
There have been rumblings emanating from within certain members of a specific Polish/Italian family that former Eagle Duce Staley will make his return, assuming the Steelers cut him, as they are expected to do in the off season.
Not gonna happen boys and girls.
The Eagles already have one injury-prone RB in Correll Buckhalter (remember him?!) and he's younger than Duce.
Wide Receiver: A & D
No, this is not an homage to the diaper rash ointment (can you tell I have a young baby?).
The two grades reflect With TO and Without TO.
With him, the Eagles receivers as a group would be an A. I truly believe that. TO opens the field. TO makes those on the field better. Like him or not, you cannot deny this.
Of course we all got a front row seat to life Without TO and it was not a pretty sight.
Greg Lewis regressed in a big way. Billy McMullen made some nice catches but is a 4th or 5th NFL receiver at best. Darnerian McCants was…well whatever. How he stayed on the team as long as he did is a mystery.
Only the emergence of Reggie Brown kept the Eagles receiving corps Without TO from getting a grade of F.
Tight End: F
I am big enough to admit when I am wrong. LJ Smith, despite showing flashes of brilliance, displayed a penchant for putting the ball on the carpet… that is of course after he actually caught the ball.
Offensive Line: F
What is all this talk that Jon Runyan had a good year? What games were these people watching? Do people assume that since he played every game he must have had a good season? Sorry, doesn't work that way.
The aforementioned Shawn Andrews makes The Fridge look like Ally McBeal. Let's keep it to two Big Macs from now on big guy.
Artis Hicks was beaten repeatedly and out of position constantly and struggled mightily.
Jamaal Jackson, Adrien Clarke and Todd Herremans looked pretty good as backups. Jackson in particular looked as if he is ready to challenge incumbent C Hank Fraley next season.
But the blocking and schemes were just plain bad.
Injuries are part of the game and yes the OL was hit hard but that is no excuse for lack of technique and the endless number of False Start Penalties.
Defensive Line: F-
This group gets the lowest grade on the team. Jevon Kearse needs a seeing-eye dog to find the pocket but he was not alone. No, The Freak can return to top form but he needs help.
Hollis Thomas. Sam Rayburn. Darwin Walker. Paul Grasmanis. Juqua Thomas. Mike Patterson. Trent Cole. ND Kalu.
Other than Kearse — and Patterson and Cole due to their youth — who else from this group would you want to see in Eagle green next season?
Now before you think I've had too much cough medicine and think I'm nuts, this grade was arrived at looking at this position as whole.
Jeremiah Trotter alone would warrant an A while Bow Tie and The Bullet (AKA Dhani Jones and Keith Adams) would get an F.
Combine the two grades you get the C.
Both the Bow Tie and The Bullet were exposed as not being NFL caliber linebackers. I think The Bullet is great Special Teams guy and can find a home there and spell the starting linebackers in the future but as an every down player…no way.
As for the Bow Tie…it is quite clear he lived off the play of the defensive line last season and this year he was asked to do more and be more involved earlier in the play and he just couldn't do it.
When the season started, all the talk was how Sheldon Brown was the only member of the secondary who didn't make the Pro Bowl the previous year. This was to be his year. And truth be told, he started out very solidly.
The same cannot be said for the other members of the secondary.
My favorite target (and loyal reader Tommy Karr's personal favorite), Lito Sheppard, was well on his way to being beater again and again yet living off the reputation of having made the Pro Bowl the previous year.
Speaking off living off a reputation, what in the world happened to Michael Lewis? He perhaps more than anyone on the entire team seemed to lose the fire, the passion that was synonomous with the Eagles Defense of years past.
As for Brian Dawkins, yes, he showed his age at various times but he, along with Mr, Trotter were asked to do more than they have in the past. Far too often, Dawkins was in man-to-man coverage with a receiver and that has never been his strength. This speaks to the poor defensive schemes of Jim Johnson.
Truth be told you could argue the grade for the Secondary should be higher based on the poor play of the Defensive Line. If they are not getting to the QB, it makes it that much harder to maintain coverage for longer periods of time.
Special Teams: D
David Akers proved that he is still one of the elite kickers in the league. Obviously he came back too soon from his injury.
The Punter position was adequate. Nuff said.
The return teams were nothing special. I will not come down on Special Teams Coach John Harbaugh as he was constantly dealing with new players.
I believe Reno Mahe led the NFL in average punt returns. All together now: Whooop De Freakin Do!
How many GM's around the league will be at Reno's door should he get cut?
And Dexter Wynn did a fine job filling in for Reno, didn't he? It's that damn part about holding onto the ball that Dex has trouble with but other than that he's great.
You were expecting an A+?
What a difference a year makes, huh? Oh…I already said that.
Defensive Line. Is that the most pressing need?
Or is it Offensive Line?
Or perhaps Wide Receiver?
Don't forget about Linebacker.
A stud Running Back would be nice.
ll help come via the Draft?
Well funny you should ask.
Here's the way the Drafts have went down in the Andy Reid era and you can gauge for yourself if you think help is on the way via the Draft.
This team has lots and lots of holes to fill. This off season will be the most important in the Andy Reid/Jeffrey Lurie/Joe Banner era. Another losing season and we will hear lots of talk of stripping Andy of his GM duties ala Mike Holmgren in Seattle. How'd that work out?
I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Jules Pilla, the man behind insidetheeagles.com. Without Jules, there is no home for The Morning After.
Thank you Jules!
I would also like to thank all of you, the faithful followers and readers of the TMA.
Until next year…
Time's Yours. Food's mine.
SteveHave comments or questions? Drop Steve a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .
© Copyright 2005. Jules Pilla
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Eagles or the NFL.