Just when you think the Eagles’ rapidly-decomposing season
couldn’t take any more unexpected turns, the team announces on Tuesday they’ve
parted ways with a high-profile veteran with five games remaining. That Jason
Babin will not be in Philadelphia in 2013 was not the surprise here though. Actually,
that much was probably inevitable.
Babin was signed last summer for two reasons and two reasons
First, Brandon Graham tore his ACL toward the end of his
rookie season, which it turned out required microfracture surgery to repair. He
was predictably limited in ‘11, able to appear in only three games. Babin was the
insurance policy. Even if Graham never fully recovered, never met the
expectations placed on a defensive end taken with the 13th overall
pick in the draft, the Eagles could squeeze some production out of Babin for
Along the way, Babin happened to have an 18-sack season. Sure,
he was a liability against the run, but coaches will look the other way on a
lot with totals like those.
One year later, the gaudy numbers haven’t been replicated,
and we still don’t really know if Graham can play. However, that’s not
necessarily why Babin wouldn’t have returned for a third season with the Birds
in all likelihood. The reason he wasn’t coming back is the same as the second
reason that brought him here in the first place.
When Andy Reid goes, Jim Washburn goes with him. And when
Wash goes, the wide-9 goes with him.
And when the wide-9 goes, Babin’s usefulness goes with it.
In nine years in the NFL, Babin has only ever achieved
success in the wide-9. He played in a 3-4 alignment, he played in a standard 4-3.
He played for Houston, for Seattle, for Kansas City, he even played here for a year.
Through the first six seasons of Babin’s career before his breakout campaign in
Tennessee, he accumulated a combined 16.5 sacks – one-and-a-half fewer than he managed
over 16 games one year ago.
It’s highly improbable the next head coach of the Eagles is
going to employ a wide-9, as few teams do. And there is almost zero chance whoever
it is would retain Washburn, the defensive line coach for whom Babin has a
great affinity for, a man whose reputation is stained in Philly. For that
matter, I seem to recall Washburn promising to quit if his unit didn’t top
their 46 sacks from last season, so it’s a non-issue.
Once the front office, whoever they're comprised of, started pouring over the roster this
offseason, they were going to see a 33-year-old defensive end coming off of a
down season, earning $5 million per year, no longer a scheme fit. As you can
see, it was elementary.
Of course, that still does not entirely explain Babin’s
mid-season termination. It’s highly unusual for any team to release a two-time
Pro Bowler, a player who is at least minimally productive, with any number of
games left on the slate.
There is undoubtedly some element of truth to the statement
Andy Reid gave along with Babin’s release, that it would give their young players
more opportunities to get on the field. Graham is certainly one of them, as is
second-round pick Vinny Curry, who was finally activated for the first time on
That being said, obviously there was a sense Babin would
serve as a disruption if he was moved to the bench or deactivated altogether.
And assuming that is in fact the case, it speaks to a broader problem there. We
can’t speak to what exactly, but rest assured this story is not over yet. More
will come out. Tidbits have already begun to leak.
Not that many Eagles fans are really shedding tears over
Babin’s departure. His one-trick-pony style of play never endeared him to this
town, he’s had a colossal bust of a season – which by the way, he’s spent the
better part of the year defending – plus his eccentric personality never took,
either. And it’s not like this team is going anywhere anyway.
In case you were concerned though, you don’t have to worry
that Babin was the one that got away. He already had one foot out the door.
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