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.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Red Wings' Vanek, Nielsen score in 6-5 SO win over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski lead Sharks past rival LA Kings, 3-2
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in overtime to lead Oilers past Panthers 4-3
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers weren’t supposed to beat the Raptors, were they? This was going to be an “easy” game for the visiting team, which was coming to Philadelphia on a back-to-back that started in Brooklyn. The Raptors are a playoff team, and second in the Eastern Conference at that. Not to mention, they had defeated the Sixers in their last 14 meetings.

Maybe easy would have been the case the last time the two teams played back in mid-December. For the Sixers, though, things have changed since then and a 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday proved this recent success is not fleeting (see Instant Replay).

“I don’t think it’s a fluke,” Joel Embiid said. “We’re competing. We’re winning games. We’re playing great defense. We finally found what we’ve been looking for.”

The Sixers had been missing clearly-defined roles and a defensive identity (see story). Now that Brett Brown has whittled down his roster to 10 players and laid out a starting five and second unit, the team has been gelling in those two aspects. The Sixers have won seven out of their last nine games, with the Raptors being the highest caliber of competition.

The Raptors entered the game averaging 111.5 points per game, first in the East and third in the NBA behind only the Warriors and Rockets. They had scored less than 100 points in just seven games this season. Additionally, the Raptors had been held to under 90 points by a single opponent: the Spurs. Not bad company to be in. 

Embiid led all players with 26 points (including 12 for 14 from the free throw line) to go with nine rebounds (see highlights). The Sixers staved off 25 points (11 for 21 from the field), six assists and three rebounds from DeMar DeRozan and 24 points (11 for 16 from the line), four rebounds, four assists and five steals from Kyle Lowry, who fouled out. The Raptors shot 25 percent from three and 65.2 percent at the free throw line.  

“We’re playing with a spirit, we’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief within each other amongst the team that is the best that it’s been since I’ve been here.”

The Sixers' winning stretch began against subpar teams, opponents who earlier in the season some would look at the schedule and say, the Sixers could probably take that one, as they tried to project a batch of victories. The Sixers turned those wins over the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Nets into momentum and carried it into a matchup against the Knicks.

Even though the Knicks are looking lost this season, they still have veteran offensive firepower that can take over a game against a struggling opponent. The Sixers made noise by beating them at the buzzer, then escalated their performance against the postseason-hungry Hornets and Bucks. 

The Raptors are different, though. There is no questioning their success and potential to make a deep playoff run … again. Nonetheless, the Sixers handled this well-seasoned opponent with composure and confidence down the stretch. 

They stayed together when DeRozan hit a jumper with 1:53 to play to give the Raptors their first lead since the second quarter. The Sixers responded to the one-point deficit with a 7-0 run to push the edge up to six points with 20.7 seconds to go.

“I think it says we’re for real. It shows our consistency that we’ve built throughout the year,” Nerlens Noel said. “We’re relentless. We have a young group of guys that know how to play the game and play it the right way and will come out there and compete against anybody in this league. I think the perception should be a whole different one now.”

The Sixers showed they can compete with top talent. Their wins aren't just coming from teams at the bottom of the standings. 

"That gives us a lot of confidence," Embiid said. "Coming into the game, we had a lot of confidence. Winning against the second-best team in the East is just amazing. We’re going to keep on working."