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Eagles' Coaching Changes Can’t Hide Lousy Personnel

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The rumblings started well before the Philadelphia Eagles  were bounced from this year’s NFL playoffs by the surging Green Bay Packers.

Ever since Sean McDermott replaced the late Jim Johnson as the Eagles’ Andy Reid Photo: AP Photo H. Rumph Jr.Defensive Coordinator, fans and analysts pointed out McDermott’s inability to devise the same types of diabolical game plans as his guru predecessor.

The criticism only intensified as the Eagles surrendered 31 passing touchdowns and posted the worst red zone defense in franchise history. Amid the frustration came reports that the front office also had concerns about McDermott’s schemes being too complex for the personnel that he was given.

So, as the Eagles entered another offseason via a first round playoff loss, the head coach and Executive Vice President of Football Operations (read: Andy Reid) began the process of addressing the team’s shortcomings by issuing McDermott’s walking papers. One day later, Reid cut ties with Rory Segrest, the coach of the team’s lackluster defensive line.

Now, in a turn of events that could only be described as vintage Philadelphia Eagles thinking, the coach of the team’s most glaring weakness (secondary coach Dick Jauron) now seems to be the front-runner for McDermott’s vacated defensive coordinator position.

Andy Reid, Joe Banner and Howie Roseman are nothing if not mysterious.

Unfortunately for the Eagles front office, a new batch of assistant coaches will have to do their prepping with the same inferior ingredients  that McDermott and company used. And the result will be just as upsetting to the stomachs of the Eagles fan base.

Anyone who has devoted a few hours of free time to the NFL playoffs can’t help but noticing that the level of talent among the teams who continue to advance is simply on a different level than that of the Eagles. There are dynamic players on both sides of the ball for each of the remaining contenders. Meanwhile, the Eagles continue to field a lineup that excites fantasy football GM’s (ripe with flashy, offensive skill position players), while proving that the team’s real-world front office has built a pretender.

The Eagles roster is similar to that of the Houston Texans, another favorite on fantasy football draft nights: lots of offensive skill position talent sprinkled within a team that lacks most of the components that actually produce wins (such as a defense that can hold an opponent to under 30 points).

Let’s be realistic, what would your season prediction be for a team with the following weaknesses?:

*Porous offensive line in an offense that passes on well over 60% of downs

*Undersized defensive line that generates minimal pass rush

*Slow, unathletic linebacking corps

*A secondary featuring one member that could start on a quality NFL team

That, by the way, was a quick overview of your very own Eagles. Now, raise your hand if your prediction was, “Super Bowl Contender”.

(Waiting)

The fact of the matter is that Andy Reid and company can continue to replace members of the coaching staff this offseason, but until the man whose weekly proclamation is, “I have to do a better job” starts backing it up with better decisions on player personnel, the assistant coaches will not be the determining factor in this team‘s success.

If the front office doesn’t find a way to undo the mess it has made of the team’s offensive line, it can not point to inferior position coaching as the problem there.

If the organizational philosophy continues to be one in which the stockpiling of late-round draft choices is the way to build a champion, then they better start evaluating talent more effectively. Without creating another column entirely, the Eagles draft day war room has squandered second-through-fourth round picks on the following players in the past five years: Trevor Laws, Bryan Smith, Quentin Demps, Victor Abiamiri, Tony Hunt, Winston Justice, Chris Gocong, Max-Jean Gilles, Reggie Brown, and Matt McCoy. While recognizing that the NFL draft can be a crap shoot at best, the Eagles seem to be finding the crap much more often than the Steelers and Patriots of the world.

If Andy Reid continues to hold firm on his belief that impact linebackers can be found in the later rounds of the draft, or via cheap off-season pickups, it will not matter who is diagramming the Eagles defensive schemes. The front office’s insistence (to the point of stubbornness) that players like Ray Lewis, Clay Matthews Jr. and Brian Urlacher  are not worth an investment of a high round pick or significant money becomes more ludicrous with every passing playoff weekend.

If the Eagles do not approach this offseason with the primary goal of improving the talent on the field, then the reorganization of the coaching staff will mean very little. This means that Reid will have to resist his primal urge to draft a 250-pound defensive end who will be rendered as useless as the other seven on the Eagles roster by whichever behemoth offensive tackle shoves him aside each week.

Perhaps the Eagles can choose a route they have used with some success over the years and sign a high-profile free agent such as All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha or All-Pro guard Logan Mankins. Or, they can find a way to get two impact players from the five picks they control in the draft’s first four rounds.

Unfortunately, they might just as easily try to convince us that more acquisitions like Darryl Tapp, Ernie Sims and Marlin Jackson will get them over that 50-year championship hump.

And then Andy Reid will have to find some more assistants to blame when that doesn’t work.

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

Andy Reid photo: H. Rumph Jr./AP