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2011 Philadelphia Eagles: A New Low

After an atrocious and inexcusable loss to the woeful Cardinals, the mentally feeble Eagles sit at 3-6 and are virtually assured a seat on the couch for the playoffs. The head coach has no answers and incomprehensibly refuses to utilize his best offensive weapon, while the defense looks like it's being directed by a former offensive line coach who has no idea what he's doing. Yeah, they're done.

What do you want me to say? Seriously. That I saw this coming three months ago while the majority of fans and media were readying the parade route down Broad Street? That not once did I let this "team" fool me into thinking 2011 was different from any other season? That you can sign all the free agents you want, but it doesn't fix the fundamental problems with an organization (see: Dan Snyder era Redskins)? Because I'm at a loss for words, and I do not like repeating myself over and over. You saw the game on Sunday. The Cardinals, a two-touchdown underdog, were a better TEAM than the Eagles. Period. It's really not even an argument. That vaunted Eagles offense managed a pathetic 289 total yards -- 128 passing on 34 attempts (3.8 yards per attempt average, which is as awful as it gets)! -- of offense against one of the league's worst defenses. Not to be outdone, the Eagles defense allowed 370 total yards to one of the league's worst offenses, which was being directed by a second-year backup quarterback who played collegiately at football powerhouse Fordham. Dysfunctional would be a nice way of describing this Eagles "team," but I prefer to call it a muddled abortion of incompetence.

It's over. The season, that is. Andy Reid's tenure as head coach of the Eagles is not, much to the chagrin of Eagles fans everywhere, and I don't think it will be regardless of what happens the rest of this season. Even if the Eagles don't win another game, I doubt Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner fire the man who made their football team -- and exceptionally profitable business venture -- relevant again. They will give him until the end of his current contract, which runs through 2013, to win the Super Bowl. So, um, enjoy. Whatever the case, some kind of change is sorely needed, and the players' efforts on the field reflect that, regardless of the empty lip service they give to reporters in the locker room. You can talk about loving and respecting your head coach all you want, but the proof needs to be in the pudding.

I was at the game, and, trust me, it was worse in person than on TV. Just a complete and utter disgrace, which is an apt description of this "team" and franchise at the moment. I drove up from Washington, D.C., paid $25 to park and $60 for a standing room ticket. Three friends and I settled on a platform four or five flights of stairs above the ground, on the south side of the stadium, adjacent to the endzone the Cardinals twice graced with their presence in the fourth quarter. It was nearly the perfect vantage point, a sort of bastardized version of the overhead view captured by the cameras that birth the "All-22" game tape. I could see every single play unfold, which offered me a unique perspective and an analytical opportunity not possible when watching on TV. It was an enlightening experience, one that offered ample chance to witness the Eagles' epic discombobulation.

By the way, that $85 represents the last cents I'll spend on the Eagles for a while. Feel free to do the same, but only if you're tired of taking it up the ass every year. I'm just angry I left my "Same Shit, Different Season" sign at home.

The Good

Nothing. Ok, fine, Shady, who scored a touchdown in his ninth straight game, a new Eagles team record. It's just a shame his head coach is a stubborn jackass and offensive coordinator a maladroit minion, but I'll get to that in the next section.

Edit: Also, special teams were fantastic, especially covering punts and containing the lethal Patrick Peterson. Colt Anderson is playing at a Pro Bowl level.

I actually also liked the play of Jaiquawn Jarrett. He had a number of nice tackles and even got himself into position to make an interception but let the ball slip through his hands... and right into Larry Fitzgerald's. Plus, it's not Jarrett's fault he was somehow left on an island to cover Fitzgerald on that fateful 3rd and 10 during the Cardinals' final touchdown drive. Juan Castillo's response when asked about that debacle: "No comment." I have a comment, Juan: You're hopelessly clueless and overmatched. How is that kind of unconscionable breakdown even allowed to happen? How is Nnamdi Asomugha -- or Bbambi Asomugha, if you're a particularly disgruntled Eagles fan by the name of Bobby Samuels -- not lined up on Fitzgerald in that spot? Especially after essentially shutting him down the whole first half (and as a Raider last season)? Is it because the Cardinals moved Fitzgerald all over the place, and Asante Samuel refuses to play anywhere other than the left side of the field? Jesus, Juan, grow a pair, sack up, and tell that punk bitch nancy boy he doesn't run the show. You run the fucking show... right?

Edit: Everyone needs to read this concerning Asante (and this about what happened on the play that led to Fitzgerald's backbreaking catch). Credit for the first link goes to commenter Turd.Ferguson at SB Nation. Andy, if you have any respect for yourself or the players you coach, you cut him. Now. Yesterday, actually. You said you suspended DeSean Jackson to illustrate that no one player is above the team. Well, if that's truly the case, you CUT Asante Samuel. I DO NOT CARE THAT HE HAD A PICK SIX IN THE GAME. I'd rather have lost 21-10, or even 27-10 (if Jay Feely doesn't miss two field goals). And I'd rather start Joselio Hanson Curtis Marsh next week.

Andy, you need to send the most stern message of all here about who's in charge. You've routinely been two-faced the last few years, so why not do it again with a player who so blatantly disrespects you and your hand-picked defensive coordinator? It's time to retake control of this "team" if you want any chance of retaining your job. This "team" currently has cancer. And, believe me, I don't invoke that comparison lightly or without serious consideration for the sensitivity of what I'm writing because it's a disease that has claimed the lives of loved ones. How can you expect to win when there are players concerned with their own situations first and the team second? How can you expect to win when two of the team's (supposedly) KEY players are not buying in? Asante Samuel and DeSean Jackson are, in effect, saying fuck you to the organization. Asante most of all -- he's even ripped the front office in the media with his fantasy football comments. The worst part is that he's right. He's an asshole, but he's right. Also, Asante Samuel isn't even that good. He can be a self-proclaimed future Hall of Famer all he wants, but at the end of the day, I'd rather play against him and run the ball right at him (we all know how he'd react), or pump and go his ass all game.

Asante Samuel plays for Asante Samuel, not the Philadelphia Eagles. He's a piece of shit teammate with zero respect for anyone other than himself, severely overrated as a player, and cannot be trusted on the field. The Reid-Banner-Roseman triumvirate should have traded Asante while it had the chance, instead of flippantly dangling his name and pissing him off. The front office surely understood the path it was going down with such an egotistical mercenary -- at least it should have -- and thus only has itself to blame for this mess. Personally, I thought Asante openly mocking Banner and Roseman's ability to construct a football team was going to be his one-way ticket out of town. Maybe it's the front office that's the real bitch here. Anyway, fix the problem -- which is just one of many with this "team" -- and excise this cancer. Immediately. It will be a step in the right direction, if nothing else. The organization has already said fuck you back to DeSean Jackson. Now I think it should say fuck you to Asante Samuel in the ultimate way. THIS HAS TO STOP.

The Bad

1. DeSean Jackson. He acted like a selfish, petulant child, embarrassed himself, and failed his teammates. When you say "as a man" as many times as DeSean did in his interviews with the media on Monday, it means you're not yet a man. Honestly, I don't even care what he says because actions speak louder than words. The spanking Andy administered to his most mercurial star is over and done with, and now it's time for Jackson to quit his pouty moping and focus on playing in a way that will help secure the contract he feels should be handed to him. For the record, I believe DeSean deserves a payday around or on par with what Santonio Holmes received. Acting in such an immature manner, however, does not bolster his case nor help his cause, and I understand the Eagles front office's reservations -- though I disagree with its handling of the situation -- about giving him that kind of money over a long-term deal.

By the way, I'm not buying DeSean's "innocent mistake/I slept through my alarm clock" bullshit excuse for missing the Saturday morning special teams meeting. Likeliest scenario: He was out partying all of Friday night. What kind of odds can I get that DeSean ended up fornicating with some hood rat and never even made it home?

2. Offensive play-calling. "Fuck Andy Reid and fuck Marty Mornhinweg. Just fuck 'em," said the pissed off yet resigned to his fate Eagles fan standing behind me immediately following the red zone interception Michael Vick threw to Calais Campbell. He stood there with a half-finished beer in one hand, the other holding what was his third cigarette in fifteen minutes. There was a mixture of disgust and despair in his voice, but it was distinctly emphatic. Anyway, I agree with him. Let me get this straight, Andy/Marty: Your quarterback doesn't look like he has any clue what's going on, keeps throwing into double coverage or way over the receiver's head, and has been downright awful the whole game... and you continue to call pass plays? Meanwhile, you have this perfectly healthy -- oh, and phenomenal -- running back who's among the elite at his position, LEADS THE LEAGUE IN RUSHING, and averaging over five yards per carry for the season, yet you refuse to ride him? What the hell is wrong with our head coach and offensive coordinator? I swear to God, it's like they're trying to lose the game. Chew on this: With a little under five minutes to go in the third quarter, Shady got a handoff and scampered 29 yards for a first down. He didn't touch the ball again until there were six minutes and change left in the fourth quarter. Worse, he only got two carries in the final frame. That's just beyond illogical and inexcusable. What a joke. This was a game where the Eagles didn't have DeSean Jackson and lost Jeremy Maclin to injury for a few quarters. If ever there was a time to give Shady 30 carries, this was it. Instead, he got 14, and just 17 touches overall. Hold on, I have to go retrieve my laptop, which I just chucked across the room.

3. Michael Vick. It's a good thing the Eagles married themselves to Vick for the next five or six years at $80 or $100 million because he's not regressing, only getting better. Oh, wait. See, this is why patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to handing out gargantuan, potentially franchise-crippling contracts. The Eagles front office has no problem exercising such an approach when dealing with, say, DeSean Jackson, but they were more than ready to give Vick the keys to kingdom after a small sample size of games. I know, I know, quarterback is the most important and precious position, but that doesn't excuse forsaking rational judgment and losing all foresight when deciding how to address it. Vick was a great story last season and looked downright unstoppable for the first ten weeks, but this is the NFL, and there are a lot of smart coaches running defenses. They have game tape. They watch it. They study tendencies, pinpoint weaknesses, and formulate a plan of attack accordingly. It took some time for defensive coordinators to figure out how to attack the "new" Michael Vick, but they adjusted -- and Vick hasn't adjusted to those adjustments. All that remains to be seen is if he's terminally incapable of making the necessary changes in his game to counteract these confounding (I guess) defensive schemes. So far, not so good. Oh, Vick also leads the league with five -- or is it six? I've lost track -- red zone turnovers; he's lucky that number isn't one higher, but a defensive holding penalty negated an Adrian Wilson interception in the end zone (a pass Vick telegraphed and threw into double coverage). Here's really all you need to know:

Vick's first ten games as the Eagles' starting quarterback: 8-2 record, 62.9% completion, 19/5 TD/INT ratio

Vick's last eleven games as the Eagles' starting quarterback: 3-8, 57.0% completion, 13/13 TD/INT ratio

Now, tell me, which of those is the real Michael Vick? Is it the guy who burst onto the scene and took the league by surprise after two seasons out of a football and one as a seldom-used understudy to Donovan McNabb? Or is it the guy who, after defensive coordinators were able to study ten games' worth of film, has looked barely average over the course of his last eleven performances? Guess which answer I'm leaning towards. Falcons fans weren't just being bitter -- they were right.

We found out Monday that Vick suffered cracked ribs on the second play of the game. Now, that certainly can explain some of his errant throws and general inaccuracy, but it does NOT explain his boneheaded decisions to consistently throw into double coverage. While I admire his toughness and determination, I do blame Vick for not telling the coaches that he was hurt; maybe if Andy/Marty knew that, they wouldn't have called for him to keep dropping back to pass. I get that he's a proud guy who never wants to come out of the game. However, there comes a time when not only must a player realize there's no shame in admitting injury, but that his continued presence on the field is detrimental to his team.

Regardless, a simple point remains. Michael Vick got THOROUGHLY outplayed by John Skelton. One more time, just so it really sinks in. Michael Vick got THOROUGHLY outplayed by John Skelton. That's a sentence nobody ever thought would be typed. But, you know something, Skelton ain't so bad. In fact, I think he's better than Kevin Kolb. He's a big, strong guy with an absolute cannon for an arm. The thing that really struck me while watching Skelton is his underrated mobility in the pocket. He isn't a guy who's a serious threat to run for yards, but he surprised me with how he slid around and bought himself some extra time to make plays. Yes, Skelton made mistakes and threw a few picks, but he stuck with it and made some big time throws in the fourth quarter -- when he threw for 166 yards, 38 more than Vick had the entire game. I have nothing against Kolb, but I have a feeling you can find a growing number of people who believe the Cardinals hitched their wagon to the wrong quarterback.

4. Penalties. The Eagles committed eleven penalties for 97 yards, each seemingly more exasperating than the last. That's the mark of an undisciplined and stupid football team. I don't even feel like going through some of the most egregious mistakes (see: Asomugha lining up in the neutral zone on 3rd and 10 during the Cardinals' first touchdown drive of the fourth quarter) one-by-one because I might end up having an aneurysm. Does anybody else find it deliciously ironic and especially damning that on the day Andy attempted to deliver a stern message to his troops about discipline by benching DeSean Jackson, the "team" responded by looking incompetent as ever and committed the most penalties it had all season?

5. Fourth quarter. No heart, no backbone, no testicles, no fight, no brains, no nothing... same predictable result. Gotta hand it to the Eagles, when they commit to sucking, they don't hold anything back. For the first time in NFL history, a team has blown four fourth quarter leads at home in one season. The Eagles have played five home games (and blew another fourth quarter lead on the road in Atlanta, just for good measure). At the start of the fourth quarter, with the Eagles leading 14-7, I yelled out to no one in particular, "The Cardinals have us right where they want us!" I said it in my perpetually sarcastic tone, but I wasn't really kidding. Sure enough, after stifling Arizona's garbage offense for three quarters, Juan Castillo's band of spineless sieves allowed John Skelton to engineer touchdown drives of 89 and 87 yards. Meanwhile, the Eagles offense managed an abysmal 66 yards on four drives, including eight on three plays -- which led to an Alex Henery field goal -- after Asomugha picked off Skelton at the Cardinals' 26-yard line. Capitulation and a lack of motivation make for a dangerous cocktail of ineptitude.

Edit: For those of you keeping track, the Eagles have been outscored 74-27 in the fourth quarter this season. They are outscoring their opponents 193-129 in quarters one through three.

The Ugly

1. I've had a lot of people ask me if the stadium was really as quiet as it sounded on TV. It was. You could hear a pin drop for most of the game. Fans -- Philadelphia fans -- didn't even care enough to vocally show their displeasure. What does that tell you? Oh, sure, there was a smattering of boos here and there and maybe two or three instances where it was vociferous. But overall, the general mood at the Linc was one of apathy. People were too downtrodden and catatonic to waste energy booing that pile of shit they saw fester on the field Sunday afternoon. Scores of fans were heading for the exits in the third quarter, when the Eagles weren't even losing yet. It's like they knew what was going to happen and were only concerned with not having traffic on the way home. Smart.

2. For the second week in a row and the kajillionth time during the Andy Reid era, his offense failed to produce a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes. Because there's no sense of urgency with Andy's teams, ever. Not a single Eagles fan, anywhere, had faith that Vick was going to get the job done and win the game. Not one. And on the ugly interception that ended the game, he had twenty yards of open field to his left (where he threw the ball) and could have gotten at least close to the first down by using his legs. Instead, Vick lofted a chuck-and-pray pass to Steve Smith* that was a sure interception the moment it left his hand.

*He of the field awareness so poor that he fell to the ground one yard short of the first down marker on 3rd and 20 with something like 8:30 left in the in the fourth quarter. Maybe, despite what he says to the contrary, Smith was afraid of getting hit. That would actually make him a perfect fit for this "team."

Edit: In light of some not-so-intelligent/reading comprehension-challenged commenters attempting to take me to task about my claim that Andy Reid's teams have NEVER converted a game-winning TOUCHDOWN DRIVE (key words) in the final minutes, I decided to double-check to make sure I was correct. So I went back and looked at every single one of the 200 219 games (including the playoffs) for which Andy Reid has been the Eagles head coach. Turns out I was wrong -- doesn't really feel that way, though. There are only three -- THREE -- games in which his team, down more than three points and needing a touchdown drive to win in the final two minutes, prevailed. And just ONE of those game-winning touchdown drives concluded with under a minute left.

The first occurrence actually led to Andy's first win as Eagles head coach. It was the fifth game of the 1999 season; the Eagles defeated the Cowboys 13-10, thanks to a Charles Johnson touchdown catch from Doug Pederson with 1:07 left. You might also remember this game as the one in which folk hero Tim Hauck ended Michael Irvin's career and those evil, reprehensible mongoloids that call themselves Eagles fans cheered as he laid motionless on the ground.

The second happened on October 22, 2001, in the Meadowlands against the Giants, with the Eagles trailing 9-3. McNabb found James Thrash for a 16-yard touchdown with 1:56 left, and the Eagles won 10-3.

The third happened November 10, 2003, against the Packers in Lambeau. With the Eagles down 14-10, McNabb hit Todd Pinkston from six yards out with 27 seconds left to secure a 17-14 victory.

So, the last time the Eagles produced a game-winning touchdown drive was eight years ago (and it's not like any of those can be considered signature wins, either). Don't believe me? Do the research yourself.

Today, I'm ashamed to be an Eagles fan. This whole thing stinks, and it's a shamockery from the top down. Where's the accountability? Who's going to be made the scapegoat? Juan Castillo? Probably. DeSean Jackson, too. Great, that'll solve everything. There's one guy who's responsible for this mess, and it's the same guy who takes responsibility for every loss in his post-game press conferences. It's time for the owner and president to make sure Andy Reid actually is held responsible for once -- which means losing his job. It's now time to move on from this era and start over. Hey, Joe, are we insane yet?

The only question left to ask is if Andy has one last push left in him. One last tease left for the weary fans and media who have lost faith and are ready to see him go. The last time the Eagles found themselves three games under .500, the media vultures were swirling and fans were calling for Andy's head. That was a month ago, with the Eagles at 1-4 and the season hanging in the balance. The players rallied behind the head coach they profess to love so much and came out galvanized against a division rival. But, more importantly, after two weeks of not giving LeSean McCoy the ball, the Andy/Marty play-calling hydra of doom went into survival mode and, gasp, entrusted the game to their superstar running back. Once again, this Sunday those assholes will dial up the ground game and give Shady somewhere between 25 and 30 carries. He'll gain at least 150 yards and score a few touchdowns. If Vick can't go and Vince Young gets the start, that makes a run-heavy gameplan a virtual guarantee. The Eagles will pull together and put forth a gritty effort in a stadium that last season produced one of the most memorable moments in regular season history. They'll bring themselves back from the brink of death (seven losses) for a week, maybe they'll even toy with your emotions and get you believing a little bit. You might even allow yourself the thought that if they manage to beat the Patriots Thanksgiving weekend, the season once again might be momentarily salvaged. Perhaps the Eagles win that game and find themselves 5-6 going into the Thursday night tilt against the Seahawks in Seattle. But don't worry, there's absolutely zero doubt in my mind that's the game they lose to finally finish off the season for good. Come on, don't you think this team has one last spectacular gut-punch failure left in it?

PS - Warning: Non-football content. If you prefer not to waste your time watching the Eagles vomit all over themselves, allow me to offer a suggestion that may help cure some of your sports viewing woes: Do yourself a favor and tune in any chance you get to experience (and it's definitely an experience) Claude Giroux play hockey. It's a thing of beauty.