- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Philadelphia Eagles began the day with a 7:10 am ET announcement that they'd relieved defensive line coach Jim Washburn of his duties with four games left in his second season on the job. Odd timing, both today and in the greater scheme of things, and it obviously makes you think there's something behind the move other than trying to make the team play better over the season's final four games.
Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Washburn's "act had gotten tired":
Washburn had become a "cancer" around the team, according to one Eagles source, the situation becoming worse when defensive end Jason Babin was released last week.
And Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com reported via Twitter that Washburn had become "disruptive and difficult," and that things had worsened last week after the release of Babin, who was something of a pet project for Washburn.
So there's your answer to "What's the point of doing something like this now?" If a guy's disruptive and difficult, a guy can get fired. In any line of work. Things are ugly and tense enough around the 3-9 Eagles these days without everybody having to worry whether the defensive line coach is going to pitch a fit about roster decisions.
Eagles head coach Andy Reid brought in Washburn at the start of 2011 as part of a series of high-profile coaching changes. Washburn came in with the reputation as being one of the best defensive line coaches in the league, and he installed the "Wide 9" defense, in which the ends line up extremely wide and pursue the passer with abandon. The Eagles tied for the league lead with 50 sacks in 2011, and Babin had 18 of them. And while the defense was too leaky in the middle, the Eagles believed they'd fixed that problem this year by adding middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and streamlining their coverage schemes.
None of it worked. The coverage has been terrible, the safeties unqualified to support the Wide-9 front. Ryans has been very good, but defensive ends such as Babin and Trent Cole, who thrived in Washburn's system in 2011, have struggled to produce in 2012. Babin was cut last week because he wasn't playing well and the team wanted to give his playing time to 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham. Babin's career as a pass-rusher took off in 2010, when he played for Washburn in Tennessee, and he followed Washburn to Philadelphia in 2011. The two are close, and Washburn is proud of the production he was able to get out of Babin in those two seasons. Cutting Babin appeared to be a public admission that the Wide 9 had failed in Philadelphia, and it appears Washburn took exception to that.
So he's out, and replaced with Tommy Brasher, who held this same role with the Eagles in 1985 and from 1999-2005. With Reid himself all but certain to be fired at the end of this terribly disappointing season, Brasher is a caretaker. The new coach, whoever he is, will pick his staff. Washburn wasn't likely to be a part of it anyway. And yeah, he could have ridden out the season with the rest of them, but apparently his mere presence around the team had become too much to bear.