On a 1-3 Start for Andy Reid's Eagles

On a 1-3 Start for Andy Reid's Eagles

These are trying times for a so-called Eagles apologist. Does one simply swallow their pride, admit they were wrong about this organization, and join the "Fire Andy Reid" mob?

For the first time since I began contributing to T7L, I am speechless. This team truly defies explanation. The defense blows fourth quarter leads, but is fairly solid in the second and third. The offense gains tons of yards, but couldn't find the end zone with a GPS and a bus to carry them there. Special teams giveth, and special teams taketh away.

Their deficiencies are numerable and plain to see, but even supposed areas of strength look suspiciously like weaknesses. Pro Bowl-caliber players come up small in clutch situations. Expensive free agent additions are exposed. The quarterback can't stay healthy, and the coaching staff doesn't have a clue.

The result: the Birds are 1-3. The club has lost six of its last seven games that counted. They've dropped fourth quarter leads for three consecutive weeks. Philadelphia resides in last place in a weak NFC East.

By and large, people are fed up. A few of us are racking our brains for answers, while others are content to bury their heads in the sand. There isn't a soul sticking up for Andy Reid though -- as there shouldn't be -- and a quick poll would undoubtedly reveal the overwhelming majority no longer expect the Eagles to make the playoffs.

It's hard to blame anyone for losing faith. The first four weeks of the season have deteriorated past the point of the wildest worst case scenarios, and it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what the head coach needs to do to get his squad ready to play.

And yet, are we to believe this season is already over?

***

A lot of our readers probably don't realize or remember (or care) I haven't always been one to give Andy Reid a pass. For the most part, I've remained a fan of his work, but between the 07-08 seasons, I too flirted with the idea he was no longer the right head coach for the job.

Donovan McNabb was recovering from a torn ACL, and Andy seemingly had him dropping back to pass 100 plays per game. Clearly rusty and his athleticism diminished, McNabb was incapable of executing the offense at that volume. It appeared Reid was trying to get his quarterback killed, perhaps to make the impending decision about Donovan's future easier.

Not that there is any truth to that, but the front office could have sold Kevin Kolb to even his most jaded detractors if Donovan had his legs sheered off by Osi Umenyiora.

Of course, he survived, and the team even went on a little winning streak to close out their 8-8 season. It was just enough to keep the dogs at bay.

Then 2008 picked up where Bad Andy left off, with the Eagles digging the grave where play-calling balance was almost laid to rest. The slow start culminated in an epic three-game winless streak that included a tie against the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, and finally resulted in McNabb being benched for the second half of a blowout at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.

Their record 5-5-1, the playoffs were a remote possibility... which naturally was when they suddenly figured some things out. The Birds won four out of their last five, and enough crap broke the right way for them to sneak into the postseason. They nearly made it all the way to the Super Bowl, long after most folks had given up on in November.

I admit, up until minutes before the 44-6 thrashing of the Cowboys to propel the Eagles into the dance, I half wished it would all shake out so that game meant nothing, and win or lose, we might see the last of Andy.

***

But those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

'08 was my first season "covering" the Eagles, and I learned a lot about not writing off teams or individuals too soon. We left that group for dead, then they appeared in the NFC Championship game, a destination that was in line with our expectations. Andy Reid was a buffoon who was accused of losing the locker room, but he made some adjustments and turned their season around.

If the Birds fail to reach the playoffs, by all means, Jeffrey Lurie should fire Reid. If they are eliminated in the first round, or don't make an otherwise convincing run, the front office most certainly should explore other options. The only excuse that's left is individual players and possibly coaches have been at the heart of many of this club's damning mistakes, but since Andy chose the roster and his staff, that dog won't hunt.

Having said that, we would all do well to be reminded the date today is October 4, and the Eagles have 12 games to go. Realistically, they probably need to finish 9-3 to earn a spot in the playoffs -- give or take a win -- and as outlandish as that has to sound in light of what we witnessed through the first four weeks, it's not statistically impossible.

If they somehow make it into the bye at 3-3, how bad is the situation really? None of their rivals appear poised to run away with the division, or look incapable of falling into a three-game skid themselves. 10-6 or 9-7 could be enough to take the NFC East this year, and once a team is in the playoffs, there's no telling how far they can go.

Which is why the "Fire Reid" camp might as well take a break. Nobody is getting canned after four weeks, and after waiting 12 and a half years, you can surely wait the extra three months, since everybody is so thoroughly convinced there is no reversing the tailspin.

Without much physical evidence to the contrary, there is little choice but to agree with the doubters that this time Andy Reid may not be able to correct course enough to save this season, or his job. But what do the Eagles have left to lose in 2011 besides more games?

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Washington

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Washington

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jordan Weal participated in the Flyers' full practice Tuesday at Skate Zone, but will remain out of the lineup against Washington on Wednesday with an apparent concussion.

He was nailed in Edmonton by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba. The hit in the corner came at 13:57 of the opening period.

Video replays show Gryba sandwiched Weal hard on the boards with Weal striking his head and right shoulder, then falling to the ice. Actually, Gryba hit him earlier in the period, as well, but it was the second hit that seemed to go the most damage. 

Weal said both he and trainer Jim McCrossin agreed it was better to not return to the game after the second hit.

“He kind of drove me in pretty good there,” Weal said. “It’s a hockey play, though. Not much you can do.” 

The Flyers are being cautious with the head injury.

Coach Dave Hakstol was vague as to when Weal would re-enter the lineup. Weal had just been called up last week to replace Travis Konecny, who was placed on IR.

“I feel good,” said Weal, who took extra practice on Tuesday. “It definitely has been progressing every day ... I’m day-to-day and as soon as I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go.

“It’s one of those injuries you just have to take your time with. I think when I feel I’m ready to play, I’ll be in.

“It’s frustrating. But it’s part of the game. With these injuries, it’s tougher than if it was, say your finger or your shin or something where you could put ice on it and get it better. You just have to treat it right and get back as quick as I can.”

Gudas’ departure
Defenseman Radko Gudas left early during what was a brief but long-delayed 45-minute practice on Tuesday.

What was noteworthy about Gudas’ departure, however, was that he picked up his gear and headed back to the dressing room while both trainers remained on the bench.

So he wasn’t injured.

Immediate speculation was that he might have been traded. An hour later, general manager Ron Hextall announced Gudas had a dentist appointment to fix a broken tooth, incurred during the recent road trip.

Needless to say, Gudas’ leaving blew up Twitter with trade rumors.

Lower, lower body
Jake Voracek took a shot below the belt line and couldn't stand for a few minutes near the end of practice. He remained in obvious pain in the dressing room and did not talk … as if he could. 

Michael Del Zotto on trade watch as NHL deadline nears

Michael Del Zotto on trade watch as NHL deadline nears

VOORHEES, N.J. — Michael Del Zotto knows the score.

With the NHL trade deadline just a week away, this can be a very uncomfortable time of year for an unrestricted free-agent-to-be.

Players who are expecting a pay day on a club where there are at least two or three younger and far less expensive rookies anticipating a promotion, know what that implies.

They’re on trade watch.

“It happens every year,” Del Zotto said. “It’s not like it’s the first time. I’ve been traded before. It is what it is. It’s a business.

“You realize that pretty early in your career. I understand where I’m at as far as my contract, being a UFA this summer.

“Same thing with taking each game one day at a time. You take each day one day at a time. Go home, make dinner, get ready for tomorrow and whatever happens, happens.”

The 26-year-old Del Zotto was traded in 2013-14 from the New York Rangers to Nashville. That trade occurred in January, well before the deadline, during a season after which he was about to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time.

That same summer, Del Zotto signed a one-year deal with the Flyers for $1.3 million. His current deal pays him $3.875 million. He’d have to take a pay cut to stay here given the long line of prospects ready to step in at a first-year NHL salary and that fact he has struggled defensively this season.

Del Zotto averages 19:23 ice time. He has 10 points in 32 games and is second among Flyers defensemen with 113 hits. He’s missed a total of 22 games this season with two different injuries, one to his left knee, the other to his left leg.

If you had a chart ranking of Flyers likely to be dealt at next Wednesday’s deadline, Del Zotto would be No. 1, with Mark Streit and one of the Flyers’ two goalies right behind him.

If possible, general manager Ron Hextall would like to add draft picks at the deadline.

“It’s a business and these things are out of your control,” Del Zotto said.

When he was traded to Nashville a few years ago, Del Zotto said he saw it coming.

“Anytime it does happen, and for the first time, it hits you hard,” he said. “Being in New York, I had my brother and wife living with me, it made it extra tough. With our schedule being tough, you don’t get to see them very often, but with them living with me, it was pretty special.

“That’s what hurt the most. Leaving my family. I decided, it’s a business and you never know when it can or can’t happen ...”

The line behind him in Philadelphia includes Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, etc.  

Del Zotto laughed and admitted he’s aware of those waiting.

“That’s the part of the game that is out of my control,” he said. “That is why you have the GM and coaching staff. To make those decisions. My job is to come into work every day, give everything you have.

“That’s one thing. I can always look myself in the mirror. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I give everything I have every day. At the end of the day, if I can look myself in the mirror, I’m happy. That’s all I can control.”

The Flyers host Washington on Wednesday before going to Pittsburgh for their Stadium Series outdoor game this weekend.

"[Those] are huge four-point games for us," he said. "We can't overlook that. We know where we are in the standings."