Reid has earned one more year to get Eagles turned around

PHILADELPHIA

— Though coach Andy Reid is mostly to blame for the mess that was the 2011 Eagles' season and it is doubtful he will ever get this team over the top, he definitely deserves the one more year owner Jeffrey Lurie essentially gave him last Tuesday to prove his growing list of critics wrong.

Reid already has demonstrated a willingness to make many of the tweaks necessary to turn the Eagles from a perennial playoff team into a championship squad, such as changing the way the offensive line blocks, the way the defensive line attacks and going to a more balanced offense.

Sometimes, as Reid likes to say about young players, you have to take a step back to go forward, and the coach should be given the benefit of the doubt that this past season was a speed bump that was impossible to avoid.

Reid miscalculated on a number of critical issues.

Juan Castillo failed to get a comfortable feel calling plays in his first year as the new defensive coordinator, after spending the previous 14 seasons coaching the offensive line. He seemed much better in tune by the end of the season. But by then it was too late.

The long labor stoppage that Reid had to know wasn't going to end until mid-summer at the earliest affected the timely implementation of Castillo's, new defensive line coach Jim Washburn's and new offensive line coach Howard Mudd's changes, contributing to the team's 1-4 start.

In reshaping what was a deficient roster with more personnel additions and subtractions than ever in his 13-year reign, the voices of new leadership were prevented from emerging in time to make a difference in times of crisis. Never was this more apparent than when petulant wide receiver DeSean Jackson was deactivated for disciplinary reasons before a home game against the Arizona Cardinals that proved to be the season-defining flashpoint.

The lethargic Eagles lost that game by blowing their fifth fourth-quarter lead of the season to fall to 3-6. Jackson apologized, but his words rang hollow, just as they did when he apologized again at the end of the season for apparently failing to live up to the terms of his first apology.

Despite all that added on to a disastrous regression by quarterback Michael Vick (and backups Vince Young and Mike Kafka) in which they were victimized by 25 interceptions and 38 total turnovers, the Eagles finished just one win shy of the playoffs.

By giving Reid just one year to clean all of this up, Lurie is making the right call, showing the exact proper amount of restraint. He senses, like most others who follow this team, that this group can make a bona fide run toward toward the organization's first Lombardi Trophy with a full offseason in which the newer players can take the all-important step forward and the older ones, like Vick, can take a step back toward 2010, when he terrorized the league with his left arm and both of his legs.

Actually, the process has already begun with the announcement on Saturday that the Eagles have fired secondary coach Johnnie Lynn, the only other person on the staff besides Castillo to have run an entire defense at the pro level.

It is almost certainly a prelude to more coaching changes designed to get their underachieving linebackers and secondary pointed in the same direction by the start of 2012, not the middle of it.

Reid, Lurie reasoned, has a better chance of getting it turned around in time for next season than anyone from the outside.

No argument here.

Then, if Reid fails one more time, he would need to be gone, which is was not said but certainly implied when Lurie said he did not see a contract extension for Reid, who is signed through 2013, in the immediate future.

"Amidst all the anger and frustration, I'm really excited about this team," Lurie said. "I've been around the players every year, and this is a special group. It's a talented group and it's a group where we brought in a lot of good, talented players. The payoff wasn't this year, but the payoff has a chance to come soon and be really great.

"... Every year the goal is to win the Super Bowl. I think we'll let the process play out. There's no fear on my part with engaging in a change in a coaching search. That's nothing that I'm afraid of. You know I like taking risks and it's not out of the question. But there is such a build-up of understanding where this man comes from, what he has with the team at this moment in time and what the potential is for next year, that there was no need to kind of go to the brink and say, yeah there is really about to be a change about to be made, not the case."

Again, no argument here, and not buying any lame-duck theories, either.

By doing what he did Tuesday, Lurie put equal amounts of pressure on the coaches and the players who know things might not be as good for them if Reid is pushed out the door.

One year is right. One year is reasonable. One year is acceptable.

Reid has earned that much for having brought the Eagles this far without too many steps backward in his 13 seasons.

nick.fierro@mcall.com

610-778-2243
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