When I watched the Eagles play Thursday night, I was reminded of the Yogi Berra quote, "You can see a lot by observing." And there was much to see, mostly bad in Philadelphia's 31-14 loss to the Seahawks. Thankfully for Eagles fans, this season is over in terms of making the playoffs, but painfully they still have four more games to observe.
All of the Eagles' problems were on full display in Seattle. They did not protect the football, they weren't consistent with their execution, they made numerous mental mistakes and they were unable to adjust to the game defensively. Thursday night was a microcosm of their season.
Everyone here in Philadelphia is calling for the firing of coach Andy Reid. Most Eagles fans feel they have seen enough of him, and any change would be good. But before letting Reid walk, fans should consider their team first. This team is built for Reid, modeled after his vision, so change would not be a step forward, but rather a step back.
Wouldn't it be easier to change Reid than to change the team?
Changing Reid might be difficult, but sometimes the best thing -- for anyone in the league or in the business world -- is to have a dose of reality slap them in the face. Change often comes from fear -- fear of losing your job or fear of failure -- and right now Reid must be fearful of both.
Now is the time for Reid to self-evaluate his coaching and team-building concepts. Yes, I realize he has won 122 regular-season games, but the great coaches always adjust and find new ways to improve. It is critical for any successful leader to redefine himself and keep from getting stale. Change is needed for Reid. And on the long flight home from Seattle early Friday morning, Reid should have realized this.
Reid has always been a finesse coach, as his offense has never been suited to punch its opponent in the mouth. Deception, rather than power, has always been the Reid way. He loves to throw the ball, which is understandable, but he fails to bring balance to his passing game -- from the players he assembles to the call sheet. If Reid added a power back, a tough inside non-nickel runner, he would not have to run a sprint right option on every third-and-2. If he had a tight end who could control the point of attack, he might be able to run a normal short-yardage and goal-line offense. Some might say the Eagles have a great running game, and they do between the 20-yard lines. But when the field shrinks, when football becomes a man-on-man game, the Eagles fail miserably.
At some point, the Eagles must develop physical toughness. Saints coach Sean Payton had the same issue with his team in 2008. They had always been able to throw the ball with anyone, but now the Saints can also out-tough any opponent and don't always have to throw on third-and-short. The Saints don't mind a fistfight in the trenches and Payton relishes the chance to show his team's physical toughness.
When opposing defenses play Philly, they know it is a nickel game because the Eagles have no ability in base or two-tight end sets. When the Jets tried to play nickel against the Patriots, they got a big dose of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and struggled to get off the field. It is critical for an offense to dictate terms, but Reid would rather be a fast-break team and doesn't care what personnel the opponent has on the field. Having versatility as an offense is what drives defenses insane.
Reid must also change his defense. He has to face reality that promoting Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator, under the premise that Castillo played linebacker in college and used to give former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson ideas on blitzes, has not worked at all. From the first preseason game to Thursday night, the defense has looked anything but coordinated. Castillo is a wonderful man and an extremely hard worker, but he does not have the experience to match wits with the likes of Tom Brady on Sunday, and the NFL is not the place to learn on the job. This decision has been a colossal failure and as much as Reid likes and respects Castillo, he must bring in a professional to run his defense. Admitting a mistake is part of change and Reid must own up to this one.
The Eagles are close, so close that if Reid is honest with himself, he can fix the problems. He must not think that every problem can be solved by adding more nickel players or more deception plays, but rather get back to being a tough-minded team capable of protecting the football. He needs to right the locker room, filling it with players passionate about winning, not about their next contract or the huge deal they just got.
Berra also said, "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going because you might not get there." Reid better know where he is going or else these problems won't get fixed and he won't get there -- to a championship.
The First 15
1. Donovan McNabb's release does not surprise me, but what does are people thinking McNabb will get a chance to be a starter in 2012. What world are they living in? McNabb had one starting opportunity this season. This offseason, he'll have none and must decide if he is willing to be a backup or pursue a television career. There won't be any suitors for his services as a starter, this I know for sure.
2. Speaking of starting opportunities, do you think any team will take a chance on Vince Young after his three-game stint as the starter of the Eagles? There is no chance. Young will have to try to land another job as a backup and prove to some team he is willing to invest his time and talents to improving his game. Young wanted to go to Philadelphia so that Reid could rehab his career, but the Eagles put too many passing demands on their quarterback. Volume of offense and Young do not go together. He needs an offense similar to the one in Tennessee, which highlighted the run and play-action. In Philly's offense, the risk for mistake is too great for Young.
3. How can the Eagles pay receiver DeSean Jackson after this season? He leads the team in drops, his effort is questionable and he has let his contract affect his play. It might be time to say goodbye to Jackson and let him move on. Yes, Jackson is talented, but creating the right chemistry in the locker room is just as important. Jackson has cost himself a ton of money this year.
4. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell questioned his unit's effort in New Orleans and issued a challenge to them this week against the Packers. When a team loses as badly as the Giants did to the Saints, no one is excused, including coaches and support staff. Teams win and lose together and nothing divides a team quicker than a coach blaming the players publically. What happens if the Giants lose to the Packers? What does Fewell say next week? I'm not a believer in public challenges; I prefer it done internally. But Fewell seems to have caught the Rex Ryan disease of speaking out loud. The Giants must win the game with their defensive front because if Fewell plays man-to-man against the Packers, this game will get as ugly as the Saints game. The Giants have been ravaged with injuries all season and won't have Justin Tuck at 100 percent, which will impact their defensive line.
5. The Colts have not done much well this year, but they are running the ball better than almost any time in the Peyton Manning era. In 2001, they averaged 4.5 yards per rush; this year, it's 4.4. That might be the only positive thing that has happened to the Colts this season.
6. Ndamukong Suh will struggle moving forward if he does not change. Teams will bait him into doing something stupid as now he is a prime target. Regardless of what happens on the field, Suh must walk away. Once he hears the whistle, he needs to just run back to the huddle. The Lions need to make sure someone on the field reminds Suh of this on every play.
7. One of the elements of Tim Tebow's game that goes unnoticed is that when he plays at home in the Mile High City, the altitude affects the opponents after spending three quarters chasing Tebow around. John Elway would wear out his opponents with his ability to move around, and Tebow does the same. They have different styles but the results are the same -- defenses get tired.
8. Joshua Cribbs vented his frustrations with losing this week and was asked about his role in the Browns offense. "Uh," he said, followed by a long pause. "I just won't answer that." This cannot sit well with Browns president Mike Holmgren or head coach Pat Shurmur. I wonder what the Browns will do this offseason if some team calls about Cribbs' availability. My sense is Cribbs could be had.
9. When I watch Aaron Hernandez play now that he is fully healed from his knee injury, I am amazed how fast he looks. He can fly and it won't be long before Hernandez will be a down-field target in the Patriots offense.
10. Darrelle Revis said before the Bills game that Stevie Johnson is one of the hardest players in the league for him to cover, in part because of his quickness and route-running ability. And based on last week's game, this proved to be right.
11. How important is protecting the ball? The 49ers average less per rushing attempt than the Rams but their records are dramatically different. The 49ers can protect the ball, run the ball and stop the run; meanwhile, the Rams can only run effectively. The Rams will find out how far away they are from being a team that can compete when they play the 49ers this weekend. And based on tape, they are really far away.
12. When Texans QB T.J. Yates played at North Carolina, he studied the Texans scheme with Carolina coordinator John Shoop. Shoop is an outstanding coach and knows the pro game, previously working in Chicago, Tampa and Oakland. Shoop loved Yates before the draft and believes he has starter talent in the NFL.
13. The Packers do a great job of finding talent, but they also are really good at developing it. With Chad Clifton injured, second-year player Marshall Newhouse has played well in his absence. In the past, when Clifton went down, so did the Packers offense. Newhouse looks good and has been able to beat out first-rounder Derek Sherrod for the left tackle spot.
14. Former University of Tampa and 49ers star receiver Freddie Solomon is fighting colon cancer and I want to wish his well. Solomon was one of my favorite Niners, as he always had a smile on his face. As a player, he had incredible quickness and might have been a Michael Vick type of quarterback had he kept playing that position in the league. Get well, Freddie.
15. I was so saddened to hear the news of the death of Chester McGlockton on Wednesday. McGlockton was one of the most dominating defensive linemen in the league. When he wanted to take over a game, he did. My condolences to his entire family.
Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi