On The Edge Blog

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Andy Reid era has become a disgrace

The best quarterback in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles was benched during Sunday’s game, and his head coach didn’t even have the you-know-whats to tell him.

Before we get into how Eagles head coach Andy Reid threw away the season at halftime of a three-point game, doesn’t Donovan McNabb deserve better than a lowly assistant telling him that he is being benched for the first time in his career? The fact that Reid didn’t think he needed to waddle over to McNabb and tell him what was about to happen disgusts me.

How many times have we heard that the Eagles are one of the classiest organizations in professional sports, yet this is how they treat one of the best players to ever put on a green jersey? At least guys like Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor and Duce Staley got to walk off the field in their last games. They weren’t benched like McNabb. I swear right now that if Brian Dawkins gets embarrassingly benched like what happened today, I will disown this team until Reid, Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie are all run out of town.

Now, I understand that McNabb was having a bad game, but knowing that the entire season was riding on the following 30 minutes of football, why make the change then? Why do it when your team trails by just three points? Why do it for a quarterback who is completely untested and unprepared to face the toughest defense of the last decade?

Basically all that Reid did today was tell his players, his bosses, and millions of green-blooded Philadelphians that he was throwing in the towel on 2008, and that he was only concerned with saving his job for 2009. If he really wanted to win Sunday’s game, A.J. Feeley, despite his propensity for throwing to the wrong colored jerseys, should have relieved McNabb, not a player who had thrown just nine passes in his career.

Honestly, I don’t know if Kevin Kolb is going to be the next Ron Jaworski or the next Bobby Hoying, but don’t we deserve to watch the players who give us the best chance to win? Apparently we don’t, and the rest of the team showed what they thought of the move, being outscored 26-0 in the second half.

Looking forward, not only did Reid ruin any chance of the franchise quarterback playing another meaningful game with the Eagles, he simultaneously ruined any chance that Kolb had to make a good first impression on a fan-base that seems to have an empty place in their hearts when it comes to the quarterback position.

Instead of giving Kolb the reigns after the Cardinals game on Thursday night, which would give him 10 days to prepare for his first start, Kolb got himself a whooping from Ray Lewis and company, and then gets just three days to prepare for his first start. That is of course unless Reid makes McNabb walk out onto the grass at the Linc as a lame duck.

It’s kind of funny that three Sundays ago I walked out of Lincoln Financial Field, after the 36-31 loss to the Giants, angry and frustrated that this team wasn’t playing up to its potential, but now I can’t even root for us to win because that will just extend the Andy Reid era. At least when Rich Kotite coached the team, I wasn’t disappointed because I knew we were going to lose most of the games. With Reid, we should win, but all we do is find different ways to lose, and it needs to end.

On the bright side, at least now I can enjoy my Thanksgiving dinner because I can’t see myself rushing through a good meal to watch the train-wreck that will appear on the NFL Network that night.

Like the "On the Edge" Blog? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show, where, this week, we will have tons to discuss, including the benching of Donovan McNabb, and the Eagles’ Thanksgiving night battle with the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The bungle versus the Bengals

A tie?

The Philadelphia Eagles actually tied the lowly Cincinnati Bengals. How did this even happen? Even hockey doesn't have ties anymore!

"I didn't even know it was in the rule book," said Donovan McNabb after the game. "I guess we're aware of it now. In college, there are multiple overtimes, [and] in high school and in Pop Warner."

Notwithstanding our quarterback not knowing that a game could end in a tie, there are so many things wrong with this team right now that it would take a dissertation to fully analyze them all, but here is brief attempt to figure it all out.

At this point, I have only have one problem with the Eagles' defense, but the Eagles' offense played so poorly that nobody is exempt from criticism today.

Starting with defense, why do the Eagles' cornerbacks play predetermined positions? Asante Samuel only covers the opponent's number one receiver when that guy steps in front of him before the snap. All game, the Bengals had T.J. Houshmandzadeh line up in the slot so he would go up against Joselio Hanson instead of Samuel or Sheldon Brown. How could Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson not make an adjustment so that Houshmandzadeh didn't end up with 12 catches, 149 yards and a touchdown?

Forgetting about the defense, the Eagles' offense is turning into a joke. The offensive line can't run block, the wide receivers drop passes, our inaccurate quarterback can't throw a timing route to save his life, and our head coach spends the entire first quarter calling plays out of a script of only passing plays that require pinpoint accuracy and perfect timing. Other than that, this offense is firing on all cylinders!

So with six games left, what can the Eagles do to make a run at the playoffs, which, seems unlikely, but are not out of reach, as the Eagles are just half a game out of a wild card spot?

The lazy answer is for Andy Reid to say, "I'll figure it out," or they could get back to playing Eagles football, which means digging out tapes of the non-T.O. teams of 2003 and 2006.

Why those years? The Eagles offense was dominant in those years without a star wide receiver, and Reid displayed the type of creativity with both Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, turning them both into MVP candidates.

The problem with the offense isn't the players, it is that they are running the same plays over and over again. Sitting in front of the television, you can guess what plays are coming, but in previous seasons, teams had no idea what we would do. Our play-calling was so fresh each game that the Eagles won division titles despite having Todd Pinkston and James Thrash at wide receiver.

This season, when Westbrook lines up in the backfield, teams know that he is mostly a blocking back, but in previous seasons, he would get handoffs, catch screens, or move outside to the wide receiver spot and exploit slow linebackers and safeties.

Even Reid's usage of DeSean Jackson has become predictable, and he has only played 10 games! On Sunday, the Bengals knew exactly when he was going to get the ball on an end around, and held him to just three yards on two carries.

To further beat the dead horse, the Eagles had 18 third down plays against the Bengals, and didn't run the ball once! That is complete, 100 percent predictability! Back in 2003, the Eagles offense had worse weapons, but was able to move the chains because they kept defenses honest by running consistently running the ball. In 2003 and 2006, the Eagles ran for more than 100 yards in 21 of their 32 games, but this year, they have only topped the century mark in five of their 10 games, and can't pick up a measly yard in crunch time.

Now I know that the easy thing to do would be to give up on this season, and blame Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, the offensive line and poor play-calling, but this team has far better weapons than the 2002, 2003, and 2006 offenses that consistently moved the ball and won the NFC East.

The division is obviously out of reach, but with Washington's loss, the Eagles are right in the thick of things despite their short-yardage ineptitude, so let's hold off on talking about our two first round picks in this year's draft, and about who should stay and who should go until after the season.

Of course, even if the Eagles completely open up the play book, it might not work, but with six games left in a crowded playoff race, the season isn't over yet.

I know it seems hopeless after a tie with the Bengals, but the Eagles' losses are all by less than a touchdown, so a little creativity could turn the season around, but it needs to happen, and it needs to start this week against the Baltimore Ravens.

Like the "On the Edge" Blog? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show, where, this week, we will recap the bungle versus the Bengals, and look ahead to the Eagles/Ravens battle. The Kahuna and I will also analyze all of baseball's offseason wheelings, dealings and rumors.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ray Lewis calls out Eagles

On ESPN's NFL Countdown this morning, Rachel Nichols reported that Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis called out the Eagles for giving the Giants' running backs "big gaping holes," and he is exactly correct. The Eagles' defense was pushed around by the Giants' offensive line, and their linebackers were trying to make arm tackles against a 260-pound running back.

This week, the defense needs to get back to basics, and work on filling their gaps against a bad Cincinnati team.

On offense, the Eagles need to focus on running the ball on a consistent basis, and figure out how to get the offense clicking early in the first quarter. To do that, Andy Reid might want to forget about the first-quarter script, and give Donovan McNabb some freedom to improvise early in the game.

Prediction: The Eagles tame the Bengals 31-10, and give a glimmer of (possibly false) hope to their fans before a battle with Ray Lewis' Baltimore Ravens next week.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"On the Edge" on WBCB this afternoon!

Like the “On the Edge” Blog? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show, where, this week, we will talk more about the Eagles’ uninspired loss to the Giants, and focus on where this team is heading.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Time to cut the cord on Andy

Maybe after 10 years of teams that were good, but not great, it is time for the Eagles to cut their losses with Head Coach Andy Reid.

If you look back through my previous columns, I have been a big supporter of Reid based on his record, our division titles, and the incompetent leaders who came before him, but I think his time in Philadelphia should be coming to a close.

Heading into this season, things were looking good for the Birds as Donovan McNabb was now two years removed from knee surgery, Brian Westbrook was happy with his new contract extension, DeSean Jackson was looking like a draft-day steal, and the defense had playmakers at every position. Needless to say, I had pretty high hopes for the Eagles.

Everything was lining up for great season, except Andy Reid. He has become a complete hindrance to a team that, based on talent alone, should be in the upper echelon of the NFL. We saw it during the losses to the Redskins and the Bears, but the final straw was the 36-31 loss to the New York Giants.

I sat dumbfounded as I watched Reid make bad decision after bad decision against the Giants, and I’m not even talking about his two pointless challenges.

Out of the gate, Reid showed some nice creativity as Jackson scored a rushing touchdown out of the “Wildcat” formation. But, just like in prior weeks, Reid’s play-calling became more conservative, and by the end of the game, it was downright predictable.

I have said this before, but if I can tell you what play the Eagles are about to run on offense, then the defensive coordinator, who spent an entire week studying film about the Eagles, definitely knows what play is about to be run.

Just so you know I’m not joking, when you see McNabb under center and Westbrook behind him to the right, you know it is going to be an inside run, because they haven’t run the halfback wheel (where Westbrook starts in the backfield, runs toward the sideline and then goes deep) in more than a year. If you see that formation on Sunday against the Bengals, bet the person next to you that you know what play is coming.

The play-calling got so conservative that it took 52 minutes for the Eagles to take a shot downfield, which was caught by Jackson for a 32-yard gain. The Eagles receivers are speed guys, not slow route-runners, so throw the deep ball! If your receivers are just running 10-yard routes, no one can get open because the corners, linebackers and safeties are able to surround them. Plus, their defense wouldn’t have been able to stack the line of scrimmage, which allowed them to hold Westbrook to just 2 yards-per-carry.

Speaking of Brian Westbrook, how is it possible that he had only eight touches during the second half of the biggest game of the season, and only three catches all game? Wouldn’t you assume that getting him a little more involved in the passing game would have opened things up for the rest of our offense?

If that wasn’t bad enough, the defense decided that they would prefer to let Eli Manning have plenty of time in the pocket instead of blitzing him and forcing him to make bad decisions. The Eagles’ defense is built for blitzing, and Manning, like most quarterbacks, is better standing upright compared to when he is picking turf out of his helmet.

As a result, New York’s offensive line was never back on its heels, and they pushed around our defense, which surrendered 219 rushing yards to the Giants’ version of the three-headed monster.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the Eagles can’t rebound from this loss, win five of their next seven games, and make the playoffs, but does it really matter? The Eagles had a chance to pull within one game of the Giants in the division, while placing a firm grasp on a playoff spot, but the coaches didn’t show up with a gameplan to top the defending Super Bowl champions. In the key moments of the big games, this coaching staff just doesn’t put its players in the right position to win.

Don’t get me wrong, Reid has definitely built a good foundation, but I think it will take a new coach and a new scheme to get this team over the hump. That type of thing happens all the time in sports. Urban Meyer led the Florida Gators to the BCS National Championship in 2007 while using Ron Zook’s players, and Jon Gruden led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory using Tony Dungy’s players. Why can’t that happen here?

I really believe that we have the players to get to the top of the mountain, but as long as Andy Reid is coaching the Eagles, “almost there” will be all we can expect, and with each failure, this city will bleed a little less green.


Like the “On the Edge” Blog? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show, where, this week, we will talk more about the Eagles’ uninspired loss to the Giants, and focus on where this team is heading.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Eagles/Giants preview

With the exception of the Cowboys game, the biggest game at the Linc each year is when the Giants come to town, except this year, the Giants game just might be a little bit bigger.

This year, the Giants come to town at 7-1, while the Eagles sit lurking at 5-3. The only problem for each team is that their records might be a little bloated, especially the Giants.

I know that the haters of this blog are going to say that I’m biased and just ripping on the Giants because I’m an Eagles fan, but which of their seven wins is the most impressive? Is it the Steelers game, in which Willie Parker was hurt? Is it the Cowboys game sans Tony Romo? What about the overtime struggle with the Bengals? The only marginally impressive win was the 16-7 victory over the Redskins, but in that game, neither team looked like they knew the preseason was over.

Clearly, a team can only beat the teams that appear on their schedule, and the Giants certainly have done that in the first eight games of the season, but now comes the tough part of their schedule, and that starts in Philadelphia on Sunday night! For the Giants, there are no easy games the rest of the way, as the Vikings, at 4-4 are the weakest team remaining on their schedule.

But, obviously, the most important game in the Giants’ stretch run is the first one, and it is going to be a good ol’ fashioned slobberknocker!

Both of these teams can score, both can force turnovers, and both certainly can put the opposing quarterback in a world of hurt.

For Eagles, the key will be stopping, or at least slowing down, the Giants’ rushing attack, as Brandon Jacobs’ 680 rushing yards are more than Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter combined. But, sadly for Jim Johnson’s defense, Jacobs isn’t a lonely man in that backfield, as Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw have contributed an additional 604 yards, and each member of the trio averages more than five yards per carry.

If the Eagles’ defense can step up and slow down the Giants’ backfield trifecta, it will force Eli Manning to win the game, and I’ll take my chances with Asante Samuel, Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown…as long as Brown isn’t covering Plaxico Burress.

On offense, it seems obvious, but the Eagles have to protect Donovan McNabb from the Giants’ blitzing defense, which has registered 30 sacks in its first eight games. To do that, the Eagles have to stay balanced, and that includes throwing a few screen passes into the game plan to help counter that blitz. Once the blitz is neutralized by the screen game, it will give Donovan McNabb time to attack the Giants’ secondary, which is the most vulnerable part of the team.

Prediction: On Friday afternoon’s Coffee with Kahuna on WBCB 1490, I said the Eagles would win 23-20, and I’m sticking with it. For the record, the Kahuna predicts a 24-17 victory for the Birds.
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Name: Matthew Fleishman, Yardley News Editor
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