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The Andy Reid era died years ago, long before he left Philly for Kansas City. Long before he was fired by owner Jeffrey Lurie. Long before Reid coached that final game for the Eagles at MetLife Stadium last year on a cold, blustery day.
That’s one of the things we learned as the Eagles made their final cuts over the weekend and trimmed the regular season roster to 53 players (see story). If Chip Kelly and his handpicked charges represent the new period of Birds football, then the players who didn’t have a seat to sit in when the music stopped represent what used to be but no longer is. The Eagles didn’t just cut players on Friday and Saturday, they said goodbye to much of their recent history and moved forward without compunction.
Center Dallas Reynolds was in his fourth preseason with the Eagles. He started 14 games during last year’s disappointing campaign. He was cut this weekend. So was defensive lineman Antonio Dixon, who started 10 games for the 2010 team that made the playoffs. Offensive linemen Matt Tennant and Matt Kopa, who both served under Reid, were also let go. So was Trevard Lindley, a 2010 fourth-round draft pick who never looked like a capable NFL cornerback.
Tight end Clay Harbor is out of work, too. He was a fourth-round pick in 2010. During his time with the Eagles, Harbor caught 47 passes for 421 yards and scored three touchdowns.
And then there’s Danny Watkins. Like the others, he was handed a cardboard box and told to clean out his desk and hit the unemployment line. Watkins became the first Eagles first-round draft pick to be released after two years since Jon Harris (taken in the first round of the 1997 draft). It was a predictable development.
Watkins didn’t begin playing football until he was 22. It showed. He started 12 games as a rookie, but the Eagles clearly soured on him last season. A year ago, poor play and an injured ankle conspired to doom Watkins’ career. He started six games, none of which came after the bye week. In the end, Watkins was so low on the depth chart, he had to strain his neck to see Jake Scott, whom the Eagles grabbed off the discarded linemen scrap heap midway through the season.
There has been some debate about who -- Reid or general manager Howie Roseman -- made the regrettable decision to take a then-26-year-old Canadian firefighter with the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft. Roseman is still here. Reid is barbecuing pigskins in K.C. Make of that what you will, but as the blame game goes, the guy who remains gets to point the longest finger.
When asked who was ultimately responsible for drafting Watkins, Roseman offered an interesting, carefully-crafted answer.
“As you’ve seen here, a lot of the leadership positions and the responsibilities have changed in our organization,” Roseman said on Saturday. “When you have changes that are so drastic in an organization, there’s also going to be drastic changes on the field in the way you do things. We’ve obviously changed a lot of people in our personnel department.”
Changes to leadership and responsibilities. Drastic changes. Said the man who’s still here. Read into that what you will, and then think about this: The roster has been so significantly turned over that the current crop of players ought to wear “Hello my name is” tags to make identification easier. The Eagles have 19 players who are either rookies or have just one season of NFL experience.
All those years of pass-first/run-seldom football under Reid have been essentially wiped away. Only 10 players currently on the roster arrived before 2010: Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin (on injured reserve), Jason Avant, Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Brent Celek, and Jon Dorenbos. Countless others, close to half the roster, didn’t land in Philadelphia until 2012 or later. Whatever ties the Eagles had to Reid have been all but undone.
“We have 19 rookies or first year players,” Roseman said. “That’s exciting for us. We talk about building a program and taking steps and doing things the right way. I think that’s a group that can grow with us here and hopefully a lot of them are with us for a long time.”
Build a program. Do things the right way. Grow together. Stay together for a long time. Roseman was talking about the future, but he simultaneously managed to bury what was left of the past.