- Ashley Fox
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NEW ORLEANS -- The Philadelphia Eagles as we have known them for more than a decade are no more. The big-play offense, the potent pass rush, the tight coverage, those building blocks that made the Eagles perennial playoff contenders are all gone. All that remains are remnants of a reputation and a head coach who after 14 mostly successful seasons is on the precipice of being cast aside before he can win the Super Bowl and deliver a Lombardi Trophy to the long-suffering Philadelphia fans.
No one is ready to admit it publicly, but the gig is up. The Eagles have underachieved for the past season and a half. They just got embarrassed on "Monday Night Football," losing to the New Orleans Saints 28-13 in a game that was competitive for a short spurt in the third quarter and really no more. At the midpoint of this season, after losing four straight and five of its past six, Philadelphia is 3-5, tied with the Dallas Cowboys for second in the NFC East only because every team in the division aside from the New York Giants is severely flawed.
A team that has been consistently inconsistent since loading up on pricey free agents a season ago must finish the season no worse than 6-2 to have a shot at making the playoffs and safely getting over owner Jeffrey Lurie's line for what is unacceptable. Finishing .500 isn't going to cut it. A 9-7 record might not either.
This team can't score points. It disappears in the red zone. It can't take big strikes. It can't rush the passer or get decent coverage from the secondary. It has zero depth. And it just might have lost its fourth starting offensive lineman depending on what an MRI exam reveals Tuesday about right tackle Todd Herremans' right ankle.
There are problems everywhere and plenty of blame to spread around. It starts with the owner, but he isn't firing himself. General manager Howie Roseman has not presided over wildly successful drafts. Reid has final say on personnel, and the personnel the Eagles have isn't as good as they thought. The Wide-9 defensive front hasn't worked. The quarterback is flawed. Turning Juan Castillo into the defensive coordinator after he'd spent more than a decade coaching the Eagles' offensive line was a mistake, but Castillo, who was fired a couple of weeks ago, clearly wasn't the problem.
The defense has played worse since Castillo was fired, and the offense hasn't helped out any. The Eagles haven't scored on an opening series in any game this season and have been outscored 47-7 in the first quarter. Philadelphia starts slow and then can't come back. And so, here we are, waiting for the inevitable fire sale and reboot.
Just look at what happened Monday night. The Eagles were playing against one of the worst defenses in the league, one that is on a historic pace for yards allowed. It hadn't held any team below 400 yards this season and had given up back-to-back 500-yard games. Worse yet, the defense ranked 30th in scoring, allowing 30.9 points per game. The Saints had struggled to get pressure or create turnovers.
And it all changed against Philadelphia.
Sure, the Eagles got their yards, 447 to be exact. But they were 0-for-5 in the red zone, with two turnovers and two field goals. They moved the ball but couldn't score, and against Drew Brees, that is a lethal combination.
Brees picked the Eagles apart, completing 21 of 27 passes to eight different receivers, with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Saints' defense held LeSean McCoy to 18 second-half rushing yards, sacked Vick seven times and forced two turnovers, including a pick-six by Patrick Robinson at the Saints' 1-yard line that gave New Orleans a 7-0 lead and a reason to breathe.
"We've got to score points in this league," Vick said afterward. "We're playing Drew Brees."
The Eagles haven't scored more than 24 points in a game this season, and they've been north of 20 only twice. It has been eight games, and the mistakes aren't improving. They aren't getting better. And the frustration is mounting.
After the game, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin sat for several minutes at his locker, his uniform still on, looking down. "Frustrating, man," he said.
Maclin isn't one to turn on his head coach, but that doesn't mean everyone will continue to back Reid. DeSean Jackson brought up the issue of play calling, and while he didn't necessarily question Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's play calling, he didn't really support it either.
It doesn't take but a few players to sour a locker room.
"I'm a Coach Reid guy," Maclin said. "I love coach Reid to death, and I'm behind him 110 percent."
Asked later if he is worried about his head coach, Maclin said no.
"He's probably one of the strongest individuals I've ever met, considering what all has happened over the last course of this offseason and then everything that went on with his family," Maclin said. "I'm pretty sure he can handle anything."
It will be another rough week in Philadelphia. Fans are apathetic about this season. They want a coaching change, even if that means Lurie will have to strike gold a second time. He is 1-1 at hiring successful head coaches, and with former president Joe Banner now running the Cleveland Browns, whose council would Lurie keep and how thorough would he clean house?
Reid said he would continue to do what he does, which is coach and teach. The problems, he said, are fixable. There is still time.
But it doesn't really feel like it. It feels like this team's fate is sealed, that it will simply play out a script that has been written in ink. Their remaining schedule, starting with a Sunday date with the 3-5 Cowboys, isn't particularly tough, but the Eagles can't get out of their own way right now.
"This next game is very, very, very, very important," wide receiver Jason Avant said as the Eagles locker room emptied late Monday night. "This game is to stay in it."
Maybe so, but it feels like it is just going to prolong the inevitable. It was a good run for Reid in Philly, but it really feels like it is almost over.
The Eagles' loss to the Saints showed why Andy Reid's days in Philly are winding down, writes Ashley Fox.