Monday, January 02, 2006
It's Time to Figure Out What's Next
At long last, the 2005 season is over for the Philadelphia Eagles. For many fans, it was a season that stirred up old memories- memories of past regimes. It stirred up memories of seasons led by inept coaches such as Ray Rhodes and Rich Kotite. It stirred up memories of days when wins were hard to come by and games like yesterday were the norm. The Eagles had every opportunity to beat the Redskins, but they made sure to grab defeat from the clutches of victory.
The obvious question is this: what’s next? How do the Eagles go about preparing for the 2006 campaign that will feature games against the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, Falcons, Panthers, Buccaneers, Jaguars, and Colts? Andy Reid should be given every opportunity this off-season to show that he deserves to keep his job. This is the first seasonal step backward since he arrived in 1999. But it is obvious that some changes need to be made. Most of these changes need to be made on only one side of the ball- and it isn’t the side that grabbed most of the attention this year.
The Eagles’ offense was poor for the second half of the season, but most of the feature positions were filled by backups. Donovan McNabb will come back healthy. There should be no problem with the starting quarterback. But this season showed that the Eagles do not have a backup quarterback that is capable of being reliable for an extended period of time. More than anything else, Mike McMahon showed Philadelphia why he was unable to succeed in Detroit. For every instance where he showed his talent and potential, he followed it up with an inexcusable mistake. Koy Detmer has also shown over time that he can be a useful backup, but he also is not going to be someone who will lead a team to the Super Bowl. The Eagles need to find a better second string quarterback.
The Eagles might be OK at running back. The combination of Brian Westbrook, Ryan Moats, and Bruce Perry could work. Moats is not a threat in the passing game, but his speed should be enough to serve as a role player. The Eagles are high on Perry, and his performance yesterday could be enough to land him a spot getting some important carries next year.
At wide receiver, the Eagles are obviously not as strong without Terrell Owens, but they do have more talent at the wideouts than they did before Owens’ arrival. Reggie Brown, Greg Lewis, and Todd Pinkston will most likely be the first three on the depth charge. These three are not likely to run freely from all the defenses they face, but they should be adequate.
Overall, the Eagles offensive line is in pretty good shape. Jon Runyan is a free agent, but the Eagles should seriously consider letting him go. His play has started to deteriorate and he has committed some costly penalties recently. Other than Runyan, the line should be OK for next year.
The defense, however, will require a great deal more work. Remember that the offense lost McNabb, Westbrook, Owens, center Hank Fraley, and Pinkston this year. That’s a heck of a lot to absorb. On the other side of the ball, however, the injuries were not as severe. Brian Dawkins, Sheldon Brown, Michael Lewis, and Jeremiah Trotter played all season. Lito Sheppard was around for most of the season. Week after week, the Eagles defense would give up big plays. These were the same guys that were all chosen for the Pro Bowl last year. What Reid needs to determine is whether the problems on defense stem from the players having lost a step or from a lack of defensive play calling by defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. Something went terribly wrong on defense this year. In order for the Eagles to reclaim a spot as one of the top teams in the NFC, that problem needs to be addressed first.
Except for Bill Cowher, all NFL coaches face a time when they need to show that they can handle adversity or they pay for it with their job. This is most likely that time for Andy Reid. It was only one bad season, but in this league and in this city, that is about the extent of a coaches’ margin for error.
2005 was a disaster. Andy, you better figure it out by next fall or else you might get a pink slip.