Where Did It All Go Wrong for the Eagles?

Where Did It All Go Wrong for the Eagles?

Coming into this season, I thought the Eagles had a good team, and I was not alone. Prognosticators picked them to win 10 or 11. Vegas liked their odds to reach the Super Bowl. Even some skeptical fans were on board.

Yet here we are with eight games left in 2012, their fate already sealed it would seem. The Eagles are going to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row, and Andy Reid will be out the door as soon as it's over.

How did we get here? Where did it all go wrong?

Did firing Juan Castillo backfire, sending the Eagles into their current tailspin, or hiring him in the first place? Was this season doomed from the start when Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles during the offseason? Or were they never good enough in the first place because Reid hitched his wagon to Michael Vick?

Was it a bad draft or drafts? A chemistry issue stemming from the influx of free agents? Hiring coaches who require scheme-specific personnel? A power struggle in the front office?

Or were we simply fooled into believing this team could be on the verge of taking the next step?

The Eagles were building toward this season for four years. The youth movement began in 2009, and the front office had successfully purged most of the high-priced veterans from the roster one year later. They used that cash to sign a bevy of free agents in the summer of '11, then spent this past offseason adding the remaining missing pieces, or trimming the fat where necessary. All the while, they were drafting every April, just like any other front office in the NFL.

If this is the final result of all that retooling, how could anybody mess this up so bad, and how did so many people buy into what the Eagles were doing in the process?

To borrow a line, ESPN NFC East blogger Dan Graziano calls it a study in miscalculation. From where we are standing today with the Eagles' record at 3-5, it looks like practically every move they made to get to this point has been wrong.

And if that is in fact the case, we are almost forced to admit where it really went wrong was keeping Reid for this long. Unfortunately, it's not simply the last handful of years the Eagles lost on that gamble. In hindsight, Reid's blueprint may have set the organization back for years to come.

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”