A month ago Philadelphia was sports heaven, now it has turned into sports hell. Philadelphia has seemingly taken a trip back in a time machine to the year 1997, when the Flyers were the only team in the city that could actually contend for a title. The difference between 1997 and 2011 was the expectations that we the fans attached to the football team and the baseball team.
Philadelphia is coming out of, what could possibly be the worst sports weekend in the cities illustrious history. The start of the weekend saw the Phillies, the baseball team that couldn’t possibly came out of this season without a championship, lose in the first round. It ended with the Eagles, the football team who was dubbed the “Dream Team” by its backup quarterback during training camp, drop to 1-4 on the season. The fans don’t want to cope. The fans want blood.
To be from Philadelphia is to be entrenched in Philadelphia sports. The fans passion for sports can be its greatest asset, but at times it can also be its worst trait. The current state of the Eagles is proving the latter. A simple turn of the radio dial to the local sports radio station will tell you all you need to know about the pulse of the Eagles fan base right now. “Fire Andy Reid” is becoming such a popular statement in the town, one heard early and often in any conversation regarding the team. But is this really the answer?
I plan to piss a lot of people off with this article. The people who scream for a championship like they've never expierienced one, but were parading down Broad Street on October 31, 2008. The people who celebrated in the offseason when the Eagles made a flurry of free agent moves and acted as if the Lombardi trophy was surely going to be taking up residency on Broad and Patterson. The People who booed Donovan McNabb in 99, loved McNabb in 2004, and then shoved him out the door in 2010. Oh am I ever going to piss a lot of people off with this article.
Juan Castillo is a popular target of fans frustration. The current Eagles defensive coordinator was not only never a defensive coach in the NFL, but spent his career as an offensive line coach. But there’s a few things Juan Castillo didn’t get, that his predecessor Sean McDermott did get.
The first was the media hype. We buy into it every single year. It begins with Comcast Sportsnet doing its player profiles of the Eagles draft picks, talking up those 5th and 6th and 7th rounder’s like they were the steals in the draft. I could list the amount of late round picks who the local media over hyped, and are no longer on the team. Well the media did the same thing with McDermott.
When McDermott was hired, no one questioned the move. No one questioned if the young McDermott was ready, and why would they when the local media was talking him up as the next Jim Johnson. Well McDermott wasn’t ready. Not even close. Sean McDermott coached the defensive for two seasons and was finally let go after his defense couldn’t stop a pop warner team. But we gave him time, because he was young, and he was talked up as the next great defensive mastermind. We bought into it.
Castillo didn’t receive that luxury. The Castillo move was immediately questioned, and not praised as the “right thing to do” like the McDermott move was. Now Im not saying that the fan base shouldn’t have questioned the Castillo hire, because questioning the move was justified. But by the time Comcast Sportsnet’s football experts got done ripping the hire, they finally decided to try and use its normal hype formula to no avail. We gave McDermott a long leash because we bought into the media hype machine surrounding him.
The other thing that McDermott had, that Castillo doesn’t was at least one capable linebacker. In McDermott’s first season they traded for Will Witherspoon who wasn’t Lawrence Taylor, but he certainly wasn’t as bad as any of the current linebackers on the team. In McDermott’s second year he had Stewart Bradley back, and the team traded for Ernie Sims. They, like Witherspoon, didn’t play amazing but they were much better than what you will see this Sunday.
Juan Castillo? Oh yea that guy was given a 4th round draft pick, who the fan base thought would be the next Clay Mathews all because he shared the same blood line. The local media talked young Casey Mathews up and made it seem like failure would never be an option for the future Pro Bowler. The media never once mentioned that if Casey was half as good as his brother he wouldn’t have lasted until round four of the draft. It became clear rather quickly why Casey lasted until round 4 when he actually had to play an NFL game and proved to be severly overmatched.
What no one is doing, what no one would dare to do at this point of the season, is to actually defend Castillo. Juan Castillo is trying to implement a brand new defense with absolutely no OTA’s, and barely any training camp. A red flag should have been thrown when Casey Mathews showed up and was immediately given the starting job. That should have been a good indication of how dreadful this linebacking core would be. But no one wanted to focus on the negative when the front office was busy signing former pro bowlers at a rapid pace.
Sean McDermott got two years, with a defensive scheme that was virtually handed down to him from Jim Johnson. Finally after a year and a half the fan base started wondering if this man was who the media portrayed him to be when he was hired. Juan Castillo has gotten five weeks.
I have no idea if Juan Castillo is a good defensive coordinator, but I know he’s stuck in a tough situation. A fan base that is screaming for his head, a linebacker core that Hellen Keller could run through, and no safety’s what so ever. Give Juan Castillo the same amount of time you gave Sean McDermott before you started screaming for his head. Lord knows that Castillo has a tougher task than McDermott ever had.
Fans want head coach Andy Reid to go. 12 seasons with the team, no Super Bowls and a post game press conference that makes you want to rip your hair out. But if you’re one of the many that is screaming for Reid to get fired, I ask you who would you want to replace him?
Jon Gruden? Who won a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team, and who coached his teams so well that he picked in the top 5 of the draft twice (2005, 2007). Jeff Fisher? Yea because he brings a winning tradition with him of zero Super Bowl wins in 17 years as the Titans head coach. Bill Cowher? Please that guy was Andy Reid before Andy Reid was Andy Reid. It took Bill Cowher 14 season to win his first Super Bowl, but amazingly Eagles fans think he’s the answer. Andy Reid is now in his 13th season as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and has had TWO losing seasons. Two losing seasons in 13 years is a record that any coach would love to have.
Many people complain about Andy Reid as a player evaluator. His drafting has raised a few eye brows in the Philly area and when he decided to take a 26 year old offensive guard with his first round pick in last year’s draft many fans scratched their heads. When first round pick Danny Watkins, and Second round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett failed to dress the first few weeks, fans hit the roof with anger. But I want those fans to look around the entire league. Name me the rookies that are making an impact this year.
Nick Fairley, the 13th pick in the NFL Draft, made his season debut in week 5, the same week that Danny Watkins started his first NFL game. Most fans aren’t realizing the impact that the lack of OTA’s and training camp had on these rookies. Most rookies have months to prepare for week 1, these players had weeks. If you look around the NFL you will notice that it’s not just Eagles rookies who aren’t dressing on Sunday.
And what about you? Yea the person who is reading this article foaming at the mouth because I dare want to keep Andy Reid and Juan Castillo around. You need to blame yourself for buying into the Dream Team nonsense, and for drinking the cool aid that the local media gladly served out before the season started.
We knew what this team was, and we knew who the players were, and what they weren’t. Instead of going out and addressing the linebacker need, Howie Roseman went out and addressed the defensive line, and corner back. Paul Pusluszny, Stephen Tulloch, and Nick Barnett were all available during free agency but the Eagles elected not to sign them. Amazingly no one was bringing up the lack of any capable linebacker during this time, or the fact that the team failed to address the position once again, but it’s hard to see the problems when you’re busy focused on what you’re going to wear to the Super Bowl Parade.
The Eagles are a team that is great in some areas and god awful in others. The Eagles offensive line is an absolute mess but even when the coach goes out and addresses the problem in the draft, he gets criticized. The Eagles linebacking core has been neglected for far too long, and is now catching up to them. Both safety positions are empty, but there is optimism there with two former 2nd round picks. Is any of this stuff you didn’t already know before the season started?
We focused on only the good. The amazing defensive line core with new additions Cullen Jenkins, and Jason Babin. The secondary that featured three Pro Bowl corner backs. The quarter back that had a brand new contract, and weapons every where he looked. and than reality hit.
The Eagles just aren’t who we thought they were. For once we need to sit back and realize that the team itself isn’t capable of performing any better. How in the world can you expect to win a game when you turn the ball over five times? Did Andy Reid throw four interceptions? Did Juan Castillo get the ball stripped from him? When we looked at this team in the off season it should have been clear that this was a team who was deep in some positions and empty in others. But we refused to see the negatives with our green colored glasses on.
Sometimes you need to make a change, but right now is not the time. A new coach would not turn this team around. The Eagles aren’t going to win a Super Bowl this season. That fact should have been evident by merely looking at the offensive line and linebackers in week one. The public bought into what the media was selling, a Super Bowl winning team. There are certainly people to blame, but no one should be fired for problems that should have been evident in week one but the public refused to acknowledge.