Jim Washburn Hire Was Andy Reids Greatest Mistake

Jim Washburn Hire Was Andy Reids Greatest Mistake

A few weeks back, we pondered where it all went wrong for
the Eagles. It feels like eons ago, but even heading into October this looked
like a playoff squad. Now they’ve lost eight straight, and have a shot at the
number one pick in April’s draft. How in the world did we get from Point A to
Point Z so quickly?

In reality, there probably isn’t any one transaction to
blame for the team’s decline. Great players got old, and were replaced through
a combination of ineffective drafting and a recent over-reliance on free
agents. Nearer to the top of the food chain, the quarterback situation went
from stable to complete mess in a single offseason’s time (2010), and a legendary
defensive coach passed away. It’s all been building up, conspiring to the end
of the Andy Reid era for awhile.

But like a Jenga tower, there is always that one misplaced
block that finally brings the entire weakened structure to the ground. In
Philadelphia, it’s beginning to look like Jim Washburn was what made the damn
thing collapse, at least that’s what we are led to believe based on the last
couple of weeks.

When Jason Babin was released out of the blue last Tuesday, the
defensive end Pro Football Weekly’s Ed Edholm describes as “the wide-9-iest of
the wide-9-ers,”
you knew right away something was up. This wasn’t a cash-cutting move, or
even purely to clear a roster spot for second-rounder Vinny Curry – the Eagles
went with 52 players last week rather than the traditional 53. They could have
stashed Babin on the bench or deactivated him for the rest of the year, but
obviously that would have caused problems.

Sure enough, reports surfaced Washburn was not happy his favorite
student got the axe. We don’t know what happened next, but we do know the
defensive line coach was pushed out the door just six days later.

With their exits, we are starting to develop a picture of just
how divisive Washburn was. He reportedly frustrated Trent Cole to the point where the veteran
walked out of a meeting, yet coddled Babin during a sack drought that lasted
over a month. He disrespected his colleagues, whether they were in public, like
the time he and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg got into a shouting
match on the sidelines
during a game; or behind closed doors, where he apparently
referred to Juan Castillo – supposedly his boss – as “Juanita” in front of
their players.

By all accounts, Washburn seems like pretty much of a colossal prick. However, that’s not the sole reason
why he was the worst thing that ever happened to Reid, nor is it because he brought with him the now universally-despised Wide-9.

In theory, the Wide-9 wasn’t a bad thing. It was extremely
successful in Tennessee, where Washburn was employed by head coach Jeff Fisher
for 12 years. The Titans routinely finished in the top-5-or-10 in sacks, and
the system constantly churned out Pro Bowlers, sometimes reviving careers like
Babin’s. If the Eagles could pressure opposing quarterbacks primarily using
just their front four rather than rely on the frequent blitzing that had become
stale after Sean McDermott stepped in for Jim Johnson, and players like Brian
Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter had left the organization or retired, it could
open up new doors schematically.

And it worked for awhile, to a degree. The Eagles tied for
the league-lead in sacks last season with 50, a whopping 46 of those coming
from the line alone. Babin finished with 18, briefly making a run at the
all-time record, and earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl in the process.
Never mind the rest of the personnel didn’t fit – they had one of the worst,
most inexperienced linebacker groups is recent memory, and the back end was a
mess. What they were doing up front was working. Why it suddenly sputtered out
this year actually remains a bit of a mystery.

Even installing a wide-9 front under a leaky roof wasn’t
Reid’s worst call though. Hiring a defensive line coach before hiring a new
defensive coordinator after McDermott was not retained will go down as the most
misguided decision of Reid’s career.

It seemed to everyone like an unusual thing to do at the
time back in 2010, and the perception is that was why the Eagles couldn’t land
a legitimate defensive coordinator. That’s how Castillo eventually wound up
with the job in February as the list of candidates dried up, most without ever
bothering to interview in Philadelphia.

Promoting Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive
coordinator might have been a mistake either way. The fact is, we may never
know. But not only did Reid saddle himself with a first-year coordinator who
had been coaching offense since the 80’s, he created an unhealthy, unmanageable
situation for himself. Washburn clearly ran roughshod over Castillo, clearly
discredited him not only in front of his own unit, but to the defense as a
whole. How was Castillo supposed to do his job with a rogue position coach
running amok in the locker room?

Washburn wanted to be a defensive coordinator, only without
the accountability. For that, Castillo took the fall rather unnecessarily in
October, while Washburn was allowed to stick around and keep playing house
despite the fact that he was never picking up after himself. Meanwhile, that
lack of accountability seems to have trickled down to practically every member
of that defense, as evidenced by their performance since Week 6.

In retrospect, the decision to set up the staff in this
manner looks more foolhardy than ever. It was Reid’s greatest miscalculation,
the move that pushed this perennially steady franchise over the cliff. There is plenty of blame to go around for the fiasco that is
the Eagles’ 3-9 season, but nothing could be more bungled than this.

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NBA Notes: Chris Paul to undergo surgery for torn ligament in thumb

NBA Notes: Chris Paul to undergo surgery for torn ligament in thumb

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

The Clippers said Tuesday that their All-Star guard will continue to undergo treatment and evaluation by the club's medical staff.

Paul was injured on a first-half play involving Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook in Monday night's victory over the Thunder. Paul didn't return in the second half.

The Clippers are 26-9 in 36 games with Paul in the lineup this season. He is averaging 17.5 points, 9.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds, and leads the NBA with 2.25 steals per game (see full story).

Knicks: Anthony tells Jackson he wants to stay in New York
NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony still believes the Knicks can win and still wants to be in New York when they do.

Another January collapse makes it easier to wonder if either will happen.

The Knicks have fallen off the playoff pace, again proving they can win headlines but not games. It seems like the same old story in New York, even though Anthony still thinks they can change the ending.

"Yeah, we will," he said. "I still believe."

He reiterated that Tuesday in a meeting with Phil Jackson, telling the Knicks president of basketball operations that he wanted to remain with the team, according to a person with knowledge of the discussion.

The question is how much Jackson still wants him.

A Fanragsports.com piece by Charley Rosen last week was heavily critical of Anthony, saying his legs are "going, going, almost gone" and that "the only sure thing is that Carmelo Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York."

Criticism of Anthony is nothing new, but this came from a longtime confidant and former assistant coach of Jackson, leading to speculation that those were the same thoughts as the Knicks executive (see full story).

Hornets: Clifford blames poor defense for Hornets' losing streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hornets coach Steve Clifford points to one factor when explaining his team's five-game losing streak -- a lack of defense.

Charlotte went 0-5 on its recent road trip, surrendering an uncharacteristic 109.6 points per game during that span. The Hornets return home Wednesday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers, part of a stretch of five-game home stand which Clifford hopes will help turn things around.

But Charlotte's fourth-year coach said nothing will get better until the Hornets start playing better man-to-man defense.

"It starts with our ability to guard our guy," Clifford said. "When you get blown by a lot on the perimeter where you are constantly in need of help, then you are going to give up 3s -- and that's what is happening."

The Hornets raced to a 14-9 start this season and were third-best in the league in points allowed through 23 games.

Since then, things have steadily fallen apart, culminating with Charlotte giving up at least 100 points in eight straight games. The Hornets have since dropped to 12th overall in points allowed (see full story).

Kings: F Omri Casspi out for up to 2 weeks with calf injury
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi will miss up to two weeks with an injured right calf.

The team said Tuesday that an MRI showed Casspi strained a tendon in his calf during practice on Monday.

Casspi is averaging 5.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game this season.

Another injury, another opportunity as Sixers' PG merry-go-round continues

Another injury, another opportunity as Sixers' PG merry-go-round continues

CAMDEN, N.J. — The camouflaged tape wrapped around T.J. McConnell’s right wrist couldn’t disguise the latest hit to the Sixers’ backcourt. 

McConnell suffered a sprain on Saturday in a play against John Wall and was in a splint on Tuesday. He did not participate in practice and is listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game against the Raptors (see story)

“[I’m] trying to keep it stable and not move it around a lot. I should be good to go very soon,” McConnell said. “I’m leaving [when I play] up to the medical staff. I’ll just tell them how I feel. It’s getting a lot better each day.”

Add McConnell to the list of point guards who have battled injuries this season. Let’s start at training camp: Jerryd Bayless suffered a left wrist ligament injury that ended up requiring season-ending surgery. His absence bumped Sergio Rodriguez into the starting lineup, until Rodriguez sprained his left ankle in late December and missed three games.

That left McConnell as the team’s only healthy true point guard at that point. McConnell played so well as a starter while Rodriguez was sidelined that he remained in the lineup when Rodriguez returned. 

“I obviously want to get back quick, but I know me and my teammates won’t lose that cohesion together,” McConnell said.  

This time around, the Sixers are better equipped to handle the injury of a point guard. They signed Chasson Randle from the Westchester Knicks (NBA Development League) to a 10-day contract on Jan. 10. The team liked Randle for his combo skills that would allow him to play shooting guard in practices and give Gerald Henderson an opportunity to rest. Turns out, they need him at the one spot the most. 

Randle played 16 minutes off the bench in Monday’s win over the Bucks. He scored 10 points (3 for 6 from the field, 2 for 4 from three, 2 for 2 from the line) with two rebounds, an assist and five fouls. Randle took his first shot just 23 seconds after checking in for Rodriguez and made his first NBA bucket, a three. 

“He did a great job,” Rodriguez said. “He stepped up in the game, he made some shots, he got the rhythm of the team going. For us, it’s amazing … he’s just here for a few days and he’s talented and he showed [Monday].”

Now Randle could be the latest point guard to maximize an opportunity created by injury. The Sixers have been impressed by what Stanford’s all-time leading scorer can do on both sides of the court. 

“When you start looking at what we have access to, the physical measurements, his wingspan is elite,” Brett Brown said. “You sit him in a stance and he spreads out, he uncoils. He really can cover some ground with his width, his length, albeit from a point guard position. Some of the deflections he got and defensive plays he made, I thought were outstanding.”