Time for the Eagles to Start Over?

Time for the Eagles to Start Over?

There is plenty of noise coming from the "Fire Andy Reid" camp, and their numbers are climbing. This is Philadelphia, and Reid is rapidly closing in on his 13th season without producing a Super Bowl championship, so it's safe to chalk this up as the natural course of things. Even Reid's most vocal supporters have to see the writing on the wall, particularly as this season spirals out of control.

Criticism of Reid has been building for years, and it's reached a point where it's hard to imagine him surviving a 5-11 or 6-10 finish. The blame ultimately falls on the head coach, and the public outcry would be unbearable.

Barring some kind of incredible turnaround, your wish should soon be granted.

But what surprises me is where the accountability seems to stop. It extends to his staff, especially Juan Castillo, who was thrust into a no-win situation after his promotion from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator. It moves up the chain of command to Howie Roseman, who became the organization's head talent evaluator after two years in the personnel department. Heck, it goes all the way to the top, right to Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie, despite the fact that all the owner did was open his pockets so the team could sign every available Pro Bowler this off-season.

That's it? Fire Andy Reid, and Castillo along with him, and this operation is fixed. Kick Howie the accountant out of personnel, and finally, put Banner and Lurie on the first train out of town, and we the fans can start counting the Lombardi Trophies.

It sounds all well and good... but what about these players? You know, the guys who have been bumbling about the field, committing stupid penalty after stupid penalty, turning the ball over repeatedly, dropping perfect passes like this is a game of hot potato, and taking every opportunity to run their mouths in the media or all over their Twitter accounts -- shouldn't we fire most of them, too?

And it's not just the Vince Youngs and Steve Smiths, extraneous parts the Eagles could rid themselves of in a heartbeat without thinking twice. Nor is it simply the Kurt Colemans or Brian Rolles, developing players pressed into action basically because the team couldn't come up with any better alternatives.

It's DeSean Jackson. It's Jeremy Maclin. It's Nnamdi Asomugha. It's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. It's Michael friggin Vick. It's many of the very players who are supposed to be the core of this team -- they are supposed to be STARS.

What you really need to be asking yourself is whether or not this franchise needs to almost completely rebuild.

The time has come to start sorting out who needs to stay and who should go, because it might not be as easy as dumping Reid. A new head coach may not be able to turn this thing around. Bill Cowher isn't going to be the coach who gets the most out of Vick. Jon Gruden isn't going restore this defense and its personnel back to the days of Jim Johnson. Which coaching candidate has the patience to teach big-boy NFL players the pop-warner fundamentals of catching and securing a football?

Andy Reid's days are probably numbered. At this point, that's not too difficult to come to terms with. But then the front office better draft a quarterback this April. No coach in the NFL has gotten more out of quarterbacks from Vick to Donovan McNabb, and A.J. Feeley to Kevin Kolb over the past decade, so there is no reason to believe Vick's growth, which is already stunted in the first place, will continue under a new coach, new system, and new philosophies. The Eagles should start grooming his successor for 2013, when the front office can at least entertain the notion of getting out from under Vick's enormous contract.

They better slap the franchise tag on DeSean at this season's conclusion, and begin shopping him around for extra picks in this year's draft. They better trade Asante Samuel for real this time, because there are lots and lots of pieces that need replacing. They better stop messing around with Jim Washburn's Wide Nines defensive front, unless they are going to miraculously come up with some linebackers who can shed blocks. They shouldn't be in too big of a rush to offer extensions to Maclin or DRC, either.

That may be only the tip of the iceberg. Very few things are working here.

What is working is LeSean McCoy, one of the best running backs in the league. What is making progress is Howard Mudd's offensive line that's opening huge holes for Shady, anchored by one of the best left tackles in football in Jason Peters. But sadly, somehow, that's all. A small number of individuals have consistently performed. A handful have shown promise, and maybe just need to be given a chance, or utilized in the right scheme.

Any way you look at it though, a new coach is going to want his guys. The Eagles might find themselves dumping young or quality players who wind up going on to have perfectly fine pro football careers, simply because they don't fit in the new system and new philosophies.

If you think Reid should go -- and honestly, who doesn't right now? -- realize that it might come at the cost of starting over. Obviously it's not impossible to find a head coach who can walk in and doesn't have to make drastic changes, such as installing a 3-4 defense that wouldn't fit the personnel, or drafting a quarterback in the first round when there are other options already on the roster.

But if you believe that can happen here, you are placing too much of the blame on Andy Reid, and only fooling yourself that this team has great players who are merely poorly coached. We were wrong about the level of talent inside that locker room. Make no mistake, these 53 players stink, with few exceptions -- and the Eagles, with or without Reid, are further than they've been from competing for a championship in a long, long time.

Snap counts: Dorial Green-Beckham's playing time continues to increase

Snap counts: Dorial Green-Beckham's playing time continues to increase

Wendell Smallwood played just seven snaps and had just three carries coming into Sunday's game against the Steelers. 

In his third game, the rookie fifth-rounder from West Virginia led the Eagles in snaps and rushing attempts. 

Smallwood carries 17 times on his 24 snaps — many as the Eagles worked to run out the clock. Smallwood rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown, impressing his teammates along the way (see story). It was the best rushing performance for an Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012. 

Smallwood and Sproles each had 24 snaps. Kenjon Barner had 12 and starter Ryan Mathews had just eight. After the game, head coach Doug Pederson said Mathews was being evaluated. The running back had an ankle injury not long ago. 

As far as the rest of the offense, the entire starting line and Carson Wentz played all 65 offensive snaps. 

Jordan Matthews led the way for the wide receivers with 55 snaps. Dorial Green-Beckham continues to be more involved, going from 32 percent to 46 percent to 49 percent of offensive snaps on Sunday. He appears to be ahead of Josh Huff in many cases. 

The poor Eagles defense had to play 60 snaps on Sunday after two straight weeks with 52. Last year, the Eagles' defense averaged over 74 snaps per game. 

The Eagles have held the ball for 34-plus minutes in three consecutive games for the first time since 2008. 

What really stands out on the defensive snap counts is that Mychal Kendricks had just nine snaps on Sunday. Kendricks, who came into the game with a broken nose and a quad injury, is still a starter but has been demoted. He's no longer in the team's nickel package. 

Another interesting note is that while Vinny Curry began the spring practices as a starter, he was overtaken by Brandon Graham. Now Graham is playing so well it's hard to take him off the field. Connor Barwin led the defensive ends with 47 snaps on Sunday, followed by Graham's 42. Curry had just 26. Curry got a big contract in the offseason, but is clearly the third D-end. 

Through three games, here are the snap counts for the Eagles' top three defensive ends: 

Barwin — 124

Graham — 115

Curry — 74

Meanwhile, Destiny Vaeao picked up 19 snaps as he continues to show he's a solid depth piece. And Stephen Tulloch got 11 as Jim Schwartz continues a little rotation at linebacker. 

Here are full snap counts from Sunday's game: 

Offense

Allen Barbre: 65 snaps (100 percent)

Brandon Brooks: 65 (100)

Lane Johnson: 65 (100)

Jason Peters: 65 (100)

Jason Kelce: 65 (100)

Carson Wentz: 65 (100)

Jordan Matthews: 55 (85)

Nelson Agholor: 52 (80)

Brent Celek: 45 (80)

Trey Burton: 33 (51)

Dorial Green-Beckham: 32 (49)

Josh Huff: 26 (40)

Wendell Smallwood: 24 (37)

Darren Sproles: 24 (37)

Matt Tobin: 12 (18)

Kenjon Barner: 12 (18)

Ryan Mathews: 8 (12)

Beau Allen: 1 (2)

Stefen Wisniewski: 1 (2)

Defense

Malcolm Jenkins: 60 snaps (100 percent)

Rodney McLeod: 60 (100)

Nolan Carroll: 60 (100)

Ron Brooks: 58 (97)

Nigel Bradham: 56 (93)

Jalen Mills: 53 (88)

Jordan Hicks: 49 (82)

Connor Barwin: 47 (78)

Brandon Graham: 42 (70)

Fletcher Cox: 41 (68)

Bennie Logan: 29 (48)

Vinny Curry: 26 (43)

Destiny Vaeao: 19 (32)

Beau Allen: 17 (28)

Marcus Smith: 13 (22)

Stephen Tulloch: 11 (18)

Mychal Kendricks: 9 (15)

Steven Means: 6 (10)

Jaylen Watkins: 3 (5)

Najee Goode: 1 (2)

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

CHICAGO — Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler played with Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez when the two were growing up in Cuba. They traveled together to Venezuela for a youth tournament.

Soler said Fernandez's ability was obvious, right from the start.

"Since he was a child, since we were kids, I knew he had something," Soler said through a translator. "He had a talent. It was very impressive."

Fernandez's death in a boating accident at the age of 24 cast a dark shadow over the major leagues on Sunday. Miami's home game against Atlanta was canceled, and several ballparks observed moments of silence. Wrigley Field's iconic hand-operated scoreboard displayed Fernandez's No. 16 in its pitching column next to Miami.

But the loss of Fernandez was felt most acutely in baseball's growing Cuban community.

"He was one of those guys that everybody loved," St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena said. "He was one of those guys that everybody knew exactly what he meant to our community. For us, it's a big, big loss. It's one of those things where our thoughts and prayers are obviously with his family, the Marlins' organization and the fans. But it gets a little bit closer because he was part of our Cuban family."

There were 23 Cubans on opening-day major league rosters this year, an increase of five over last season and the most since the commissioner's office began releasing data in 1995. Many of the players share similar stories when it comes to their perilous journey from the communist country to the majors, and the difficulty of adjusting to life in the United States.

A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Fernandez was unsuccessful in his first three attempts to defect, and spent several months in prison. At 15, Fernandez and his mother finally made it to Mexico, and were reunited in Florida with his father, who had escaped from Cuba two years earlier.

He was drafted by the Marlins in 2011, and quickly turned into one of the majors' top pitchers.

"How he was on the mound was a reflection of him," Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "A guy who had a lot of fun, was himself. A very talkative guy, he would come into the room and you'd know he was in the room. Never big-leagued anyone, very professional. No matter what, he would talk to you about hitting, because he thought he was the best hitter, and he (would) talk to you about pitching, because he thought he was the best pitcher."

Alonso said Fernandez's death was "a big-time shock." Yasiel Puig used torn pieces of white athletic tape to display Fernandez's jersey on the wall in the home dugout at Dodger Stadium. Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz, who had known Fernandez since they were little kids, declined an interview request through a team spokeswoman.

"We Cuban players know each other well and all of us have a great relationship," Pena said. "For us, it's devastating news when we woke up. We were sending text messages to each other and we were showing support. It's something that obviously nobody expects."

Fernandez, who became a U.S. citizen last year, also was beloved for his stature in the Cuban community in Miami.

"He was a great humanitarian," Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman said through a translator. "He gave a lot to the community and I think that's why he got a lot of respect from the community in terms of what a great person he was and always giving, in terms of always willing to help out in whatever way he can to try to better and progress within the community someone that perhaps wasn't as fortunate as he was."

The 28-year-old Chapman lives in the Miami-area in the offseason. He said he spent some time with Fernandez while he was home.

"He would come by my house. I would go by his," Chapman said. "We would have long conversations. We would talk a lot. We spent a lot of good amount of time together. It was very special for me."