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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Fatal Flaw of Andy Reid

See the post on Philly Sports Daily.

I just learned of the demise of PSD - sorry to see it go. Here is the post as it was published.

It’s the BYE week for the Eagles, the Phillies have been playing golf for far too long already, the NBA is busy destroying itself, and the NHL just started. So, there’s time to offer up a deeper look at the Eagles’ failure this season.

Something Andy Reid said when he hired Juan Castillo as his defensive coordinator keeps coming to mind as the Eagles “D” has embarrassed itself through most of this season so far. (If anyone is fooled by last week’s performance against the lowly Washington Redskins, I have little doubt that a game against a half-decent offense will bring them and the Eagles defense crashing back to Earth soon enough after the bye.) The interview was reportedly held in the middle of the night at the NovaCare Complex. While the Eagles organization loves to operate in secrecy, this seemed odd even for them. Possibly somewhere in the back of their collective minds they realized how absurd it was to interview their offensive line coach for a defensive coordinator position in the NFL.

Reid talked about how impressed he was by Castillo’s “presentation” during the interview. I remember that word distinctly. It was essentially the same thing Jeffrey Lurie said when he hired Reid more than 13 years ago.

Lurie gushed over Reid’s preparedness to be a head coach. He talked about the thick three-ring binder that Reid had accumulated over the years as an assistant with every detail laid out for how he would run a team. The fact that he had every minute of training camp already planned was particularly thrilling to the Eagles’ owner.

Fast-forward into the 13th year of Reid’s tenure. His biggest flaw, the thing that has thwarted this team’s Super Bowl runs over and over again, has been discussed almost weekly since he arrived.

Andy Reid simply cannot adjust.

The examples are far too numerous to list here (or anywhere else but a record book), but a few recent ones should suffice. Just last Sunday provided a great example that has been swept under the rug because the Eagles won. The Eagles didn’t score a point in the second half. A game they dominated in the first half, and should have put away early if not for an anemic red zone offense, came down to the need to convert a 3rd-and-1 to seal the win. Washington, a team that is just not very good and had benched their quarterback, shut down the Eagles vaunted offense in the second half. They adjusted at halftime, and the Eagles could not counter.

The same thing happened on a bigger scale last season. The Eagles offense looked unstoppable with Michael Vick at quarterback. Ironically, making Vick the starting quarterback over Kevin Kolb may have been the one time Reid made an adjustment to his original plan. Yet, opposing defenses eventually adjusted and the Eagles never countered. They ended up in the Wild Card game of the playoffs thanks primarily to a late-season loss to a horrible Vikings squad and lost to the Packers.

Finally, there’s the defense. Reid’s best decision as the Eagles head coach may have been hiring Jim Johnson as his defensive coordinator. Johnson ran the defense throughout Reid’s tenure until he died from cancer before the 2009 season. It was never questioned that Johnson was essentially the head coach of the defense – even Reid said it. Johnson put an often dominating defense on the field that frequently carried the team.

The fact is that the “coaching tree” attributed to Reid is actually Johnson’s tree. Current NFL head coaches John Harbaugh, Steve Spagnuolo, Ron Rivera, and Leslie Frazier, all coached under Johnson – not Reid.

Despite knowing about the severity of Johnson’s condition at the end of the 2008 season, Reid has still completely failed to replace him. Johnson may be irreplaceable in many ways, but the point is that Reid’s efforts suggest he hasn’t even tried to find an adequate substitute. Promoting Sean McDermott almost looks like a stroke of genius after the hiring of Castillo, and McDermott was gone after one season.

To make the so-called bold move of hiring Castillo look like anything but the joke that it has become around the league, the defense needed to come out of the gate strong. Instead, it has reminded fans of the days of Rich Kotite, a man who regularly seemed like he was lost as a coach. In a moment of passion, fans might think that they know more than the coach but when they cool down they will generally admit that they can’t really know the intricacies of a team the way an NFL coach does.

When there is evidence that they actually do know more than the coach – something many believed of Kotite – it’s time to move on. Castillo has already become Kotite-esque.

The NFL doesn’t give coaches time to prepare presentations at halftime to install adjustments. Castillo doesn’t have the experience needed to be able to make adjustments on the fly in a league where success is built on doing just that.

And Andy Reid is in his 13th season of proving he’s equally as incapable as his novice coordinator.

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