As my uncle Charlie Palermo would always say, "If you don't vote, you can't complain."
Alas, the only thing Philadelphia Eagles fans can do on this election day is complain, following Monday night's 28-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints. If they could vote on quarterback Michael Vick and coach Andy Reid, both would likely find themselves booted from office. But the fans will have to wait for owner Jeffrey Lurie to cast his ballot for change.
There is so much wrong with the 3-5 Eagles that it would be impossible for me to cover it all in one article, but let's start with their offseason philosophy. Under Reid's direction, the Eagles tried to create a more player-friendly culture. The team reworked many contracts, signing unhappy receiver DeSean Jackson to an extension and inking other players to additional extensions that would not have fit with the Eagles' past extension policy. Reid wanted to make sure his locker room was not affected by any contract disputes, and assumed the resulting happiness would result in a more unified team. The Eagles also did not add any significant free agents, believing that they were closer to being the "Dream Team" they were supposed to be in 2011, when their vaunted squad finished 8-8.
Both moves have backfired. The Eagles' locker room might be happy, but the talent level is far from dreamy, and the results on the field have looked a lot like those from last season.
Right now, the Eagles are not a good team, and they haven't been all year, injuries notwithstanding. Yes, losing All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters in May hurt, but every team deals with injuries. That shouldn't be an excuse, especially because Philadelphia's front office had most of the offseason to find a solution to the Peters problem.
The Eagles don't have an issue with injuries; they have an issue with talent -- specifically when it comes to judging their own. Correctly evaluating your own players is the hardest thing to do in the NFL. Most bad teams misjudge their players, counting on them to play well even if they're not capable of doing so. This is why teams often don't get better until they make major changes.
Philadelphia counted on Vick to play well consistently and refrain from turning the ball over. This was just one of the many huge miscalculations that the Eagles made. Vick's play has been extremely up-and-down since the end of the 2010 season. In 2011, he turned the ball over in the red zone and held the Eagles back with his inability to run the offense, make accurate throws and see the whole field. In short, he didn't do anything to make anyone believe he could stay healthy or protect the ball this season. Why would anyone think Vick could magically turn his play around?
Another miscalculation was believing in the offensive line, which, in fairness to Vick, has not played well. This is not a coaching issue; this is another talent issue. Guard Danny Watkins, a first-round draft pick in 2011, has been a flat-out bust; so has Demetress Bell, the former Buffalo Bill who was signed to help at left tackle. Right tackle Todd Herremans, who received one of those uncharacteristic extensions in what was likely an attempt to keep him happy, hasn't played well, either. This unit has been subpar since the first day of camp, and Vick takes some incredible hits. There's no such thing as a Dream Team with a bad offensive line.
Many might say that Reid deserves most of the blame for this mess, and in large part, he does. He's made many mistakes, from play calls to game management to, ultimately, believing former offensive line coach Juan Castillo could coordinate the defense. Mistakes are never fatal, but refusing to correct them can be; sticking with Castillo for almost one-and-a-half seasons compounded the effects of that decision. When Reid started this year with the same defensive coordinator, his 2012 campaign was doomed. Reid finally changed course heading into the Eagles' bye week, but it might have been too late.
The Eagles have also made mistakes with regard to player personnel. Reid and those in the Eagles' front office believed defensive end Brandon Graham was a better pass rusher than Jason Pierre-Paul, choosing Graham over the future New York Giants star in the 2010 NFL Draft -- a colossal error in judgment that will haunt Philadelphia for years to come. Put Pierre-Paul on this Eagles team, and things in the NFC East might be a little different.
Reid can't hide from his past three drafts; he's had 33 total picks, including seven in the first two rounds, but he hasn't made the right choices while acting as his own general manager. Reid has made it clear that he has final authority on all picks, so he has no one to blame but himself. In fairness to Reid, Nick Foles, a third-round pick in 2012, might prove to be the quarterback of the future, but even if he does, Foles likely will be playing for another coach.
With eight games to go, things don't look bright for Vick or Reid. Little has changed in the past year. The Eagles' defense fails to stop anyone at critical moments and fails to rush the passer with consistency. The offense is able to gain yards, but fails to put the ball in the end zone and score points.
Lurie has made it clear that he'll make significant changes if the Eagles don't advance into the playoffs. The owner believes his team has the talent to play at the highest level. Whether he's right or wrong, his vote is the only vote that counts.
THINGS I LOVED
I loved that Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin ran for 251 yardsagainst the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. I love what Martin has done all season for the Bucs, gaining more than five yards per carry behind an offensive line that's currently missing its two best players in guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph. During the draft process, Martin was compared to Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice. Like Rice, Martin excels in every area of the game, from pass protection to receiving to making big plays with his feet.
I loved that the Atlanta Falcons proved they can keep winning in the face of any obstacle. But what I've really loved has been their ability to handle their success; they don't let it affect their play on the field. Players are always focused after a loss, but teams can let up after a win. The 8-0 Falcons, however, are acting like a mature team that's focused on a Super Bowl mission.
I loved that Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson continued to make plays with his feet and his arm. Against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Wilson kept the Seahawks from having to win with their defense alone. The signal-caller has done a better job sliding in the pocket, finding windows to see and making throws. Seahawks opponents must have a solid plan to rush against Wilson, or he'll make plays unimpeded.
THINGS I HATED
I hated that the Washington Redskins lost at home yet again. They've won just five home games during the Mike Shanahan era. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is going to be a great player, but he'll need some help, and Shanahan must improve the talent level around him. That might be difficult to do, considering the Redskins are going to lose salary-cap space next year as a penalty for dumping prior contracts into the uncapped year of 2010. Washington also lacks first-round picks after trading a few to the St. Louis Rams for the second overall pick in 2012 (which the 'Skins used to acquire RG3).
I've hated how the Jacksonville Jaguars have played football all season, on offense and defense. The Jaguars have the look of a team that will be picking first overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Their loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday was never close. The Jaguars have appeared outmatched and out-manned by many teams in the NFL. Can Jacksonville win more than three games this year? I highly doubt it.
I hated the Tennessee Titans' giving mood. Tennessee turned the ball over repeatedly in a loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Owner Bud Adams then challenged his organization to improve or face changes. One must wonder if Adams is still mad that Peyton Manning couldn't be convinced to join the Titans. I doubt Tennessee would look this bad if Manning had signed on in March.
THINGS ON MY MIND
» I don't think Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton needs to be a jerk. I just think he needs to play better -- but I'm not sure he can. Dalton doesn't strike me as a player who can carry a team. Rather, he seems like someone who needs a team to carry him.
Rap Sheet Rundown: Hotlanta at 8-0
» The Pittsburgh Steelers' offense is becoming harder and harder to defend. When the Steelers learn to protect consistently up front -- which they're getting better at -- this team will be tough to stop. Based on the past few games, the Steelers' offense and defense are climbing again. Pittsburgh looks to be the best team in the AFC North.
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