Jim Washburn Hire Was Andy Reids Greatest Mistake

Jim Washburn Hire Was Andy Reids Greatest Mistake

A few weeks back, we pondered where it all went wrong for
the Eagles. It feels like eons ago, but even heading into October this looked
like a playoff squad. Now they’ve lost eight straight, and have a shot at the
number one pick in April’s draft. How in the world did we get from Point A to
Point Z so quickly?

In reality, there probably isn’t any one transaction to
blame for the team’s decline. Great players got old, and were replaced through
a combination of ineffective drafting and a recent over-reliance on free
agents. Nearer to the top of the food chain, the quarterback situation went
from stable to complete mess in a single offseason’s time (2010), and a legendary
defensive coach passed away. It’s all been building up, conspiring to the end
of the Andy Reid era for awhile.

But like a Jenga tower, there is always that one misplaced
block that finally brings the entire weakened structure to the ground. In
Philadelphia, it’s beginning to look like Jim Washburn was what made the damn
thing collapse, at least that’s what we are led to believe based on the last
couple of weeks.

When Jason Babin was released out of the blue last Tuesday, the
defensive end Pro Football Weekly’s Ed Edholm describes as “the wide-9-iest of
the wide-9-ers,”
you knew right away something was up. This wasn’t a cash-cutting move, or
even purely to clear a roster spot for second-rounder Vinny Curry – the Eagles
went with 52 players last week rather than the traditional 53. They could have
stashed Babin on the bench or deactivated him for the rest of the year, but
obviously that would have caused problems.

Sure enough, reports surfaced Washburn was not happy his favorite
student got the axe. We don’t know what happened next, but we do know the
defensive line coach was pushed out the door just six days later.

With their exits, we are starting to develop a picture of just
how divisive Washburn was. He reportedly frustrated Trent Cole to the point where the veteran
walked out of a meeting, yet coddled Babin during a sack drought that lasted
over a month. He disrespected his colleagues, whether they were in public, like
the time he and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg got into a shouting
match on the sidelines
during a game; or behind closed doors, where he apparently
referred to Juan Castillo – supposedly his boss – as “Juanita” in front of
their players.

By all accounts, Washburn seems like pretty much of a colossal prick. However, that’s not the sole reason
why he was the worst thing that ever happened to Reid, nor is it because he brought with him the now universally-despised Wide-9.

In theory, the Wide-9 wasn’t a bad thing. It was extremely
successful in Tennessee, where Washburn was employed by head coach Jeff Fisher
for 12 years. The Titans routinely finished in the top-5-or-10 in sacks, and
the system constantly churned out Pro Bowlers, sometimes reviving careers like
Babin’s. If the Eagles could pressure opposing quarterbacks primarily using
just their front four rather than rely on the frequent blitzing that had become
stale after Sean McDermott stepped in for Jim Johnson, and players like Brian
Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter had left the organization or retired, it could
open up new doors schematically.

And it worked for awhile, to a degree. The Eagles tied for
the league-lead in sacks last season with 50, a whopping 46 of those coming
from the line alone. Babin finished with 18, briefly making a run at the
all-time record, and earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl in the process.
Never mind the rest of the personnel didn’t fit – they had one of the worst,
most inexperienced linebacker groups is recent memory, and the back end was a
mess. What they were doing up front was working. Why it suddenly sputtered out
this year actually remains a bit of a mystery.

Even installing a wide-9 front under a leaky roof wasn’t
Reid’s worst call though. Hiring a defensive line coach before hiring a new
defensive coordinator after McDermott was not retained will go down as the most
misguided decision of Reid’s career.

It seemed to everyone like an unusual thing to do at the
time back in 2010, and the perception is that was why the Eagles couldn’t land
a legitimate defensive coordinator. That’s how Castillo eventually wound up
with the job in February as the list of candidates dried up, most without ever
bothering to interview in Philadelphia.

Promoting Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive
coordinator might have been a mistake either way. The fact is, we may never
know. But not only did Reid saddle himself with a first-year coordinator who
had been coaching offense since the 80’s, he created an unhealthy, unmanageable
situation for himself. Washburn clearly ran roughshod over Castillo, clearly
discredited him not only in front of his own unit, but to the defense as a
whole. How was Castillo supposed to do his job with a rogue position coach
running amok in the locker room?

Washburn wanted to be a defensive coordinator, only without
the accountability. For that, Castillo took the fall rather unnecessarily in
October, while Washburn was allowed to stick around and keep playing house
despite the fact that he was never picking up after himself. Meanwhile, that
lack of accountability seems to have trickled down to practically every member
of that defense, as evidenced by their performance since Week 6.

In retrospect, the decision to set up the staff in this
manner looks more foolhardy than ever. It was Reid’s greatest miscalculation,
the move that pushed this perennially steady franchise over the cliff. There is plenty of blame to go around for the fiasco that is
the Eagles’ 3-9 season, but nothing could be more bungled than this.

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Nico Hischier recounts meteoric rise in draft stock as Flyers do their homework

Nico Hischier recounts meteoric rise in draft stock as Flyers do their homework

WINDSOR, Ontario -- Ever since the Flyers shot up the selection order at last month’s NHL draft lottery, prospect and Halifax Mooseheads center Nico Hischier has been familiarizing himself with the Flyers' organization.

The Flyers entered the lottery with just a 2.2 percent shot at the first overall pick after finishing the season with a 39-33-10 record but climbed 11 spots from the 13th selection to No. 2 in the draft, which takes place June 23-24 in Chicago.

“I know it’s a sports city — they have the NHL, NBA and all those sports,” Hischier said Saturday at the Memorial Cup. “It’s a really nice city and I know Mark Streit played there and Jakub Voracek played in Halifax as well.”

The Flyers' brass has wasted no time familiarizing themselves with the 18 year old, who spent this season playing with the Mooseheads in the QMJHL.

“We had already a little meeting together, but I think at combine we’ll see each other again,” said Hischier, who is ranked second amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. “It was just that they want to know me better as a person. They asked me some personal questions and that’s about it.”

A native of Naters, Switzerland, Hischier grew up playing soccer. He was also an avid skier and snowboarder before his older brother, Luca, turned him on to hockey.

“I used to ski a lot,” Hischier said. “First skiing, and then snowboarding, but my brother played hockey, he’s four years older than me, then I just wanted to play hockey as well.”

Last season, Hischier followed his brother to Bern, where he played 15 games in the Swiss pro league with several former NHLers while he was coached by current Senators bench boss Guy Boucher.

The six-foot, 174-pound center registered one assist in his brief stint with the club but gained valuable experience in the process.

“I think that helped me a lot because they’re all older guys and they gave me some good tips, too,” he said. “I really could learn from them and it’s great that I could play with them.

“I think I learned a lot (from Boucher). He brought Canadian hockey to Switzerland, I think. His practices were hard and I could really learn from him.”

Halifax used the sixth selection at last year’s CHL import draft to pick Hischier, and after a little convincing, the lanky forward made the decision to make the move to North America.

“I just came to Canada to try to become a better hockey player and I worked hard,” he said. “I had great teammates, and Halifax is a great organization.”

Adjusting to the smaller rinks in North America admittedly took time for Hischier, but he adapted well leading all CHL rookies in scoring with 38 goals and 48 assists in 57 games. On Saturday, he was named the CHL’s rookie of the year (see story).

“I think I improved my game in the corners,” Hischier said. “You have to dump more pucks over here on North American ice, and chase the puck more behind the net. At the end, I would say my play in the corners (improved the most).”

Growing up, Hischier watched former Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk closely, trying to model his game after the Russian forward.

He spent time this season playing both the wing and center positions and isn’t afraid to go to the net hard despite his slender frame. His offensive talents coupled with his ability to play both ends of the ice is what caused his draft stock jump from 26th on ISS Hockey’s rankings in November to a top-three position in January.

Internationally, Hischier made a splash at this year’s Under-20 world junior tournament in Toronto and Montreal, scoring a team-leading four goals and seven points in five games.

The highlight came in the quarterfinals where Hischier nearly single-handedly upset the Americans, scoring two goals in a 3-2 loss.

The performance led to a glowing review from U.S. coach Bob Motzko.

“He was the best player we’ve seen in this tournament,” Motzko said following the game. “We tried all four lines against him and I thought he was playing every shift because every time he got out there, the ice was tilted. It was the first thing we said when we got into the locker room: ‘That’s the best player we’ve seen in the tournament.’”

After the Mooseheads' first-round playoff exit, Hischier once again donned his country’s colors, registering one assist in five games at the U-18 tournament.

However, he skipped out on an opportunity to represent Switzerland at the senior men’s tournament in favor of relaxation.

“It was really important (to recover),” he said. “I went a couple days away from Switzerland to the beach (in Italy) and just relaxed. It was really great. Had to refill my tank and it was just great.”

Hischier will get another opportunity to meet with the Flyers’ front office this week in Buffalo at the NHL’s scouting combine. It’s believed Hischier could make the jump to the NHL in the fall, but he knows he still has some work to do this summer to make his dream come true.

“Get some pounds on, I want to get stronger,” said Hischier. “I think that’s the most important thing and I work hard towards that.”

It looks like Fletcher Cox is back in Philly for Round 2 of Eagles OTAs

It looks like Fletcher Cox is back in Philly for Round 2 of Eagles OTAs

The optics weren't great last week when Fletcher Cox skipped Eagles' OTAs just a year after signing a $100 million contract. 

We'll all probably forget about it soon enough though. 

Cox on Sunday night posted a photo to Snapchat that indicated he was back in Philadelphia, presumably to join the team for voluntary OTAs, which pick back up on Tuesday morning. (Bleeding Green Nation noticed the photo first and alerted the world.) 

And here it is for your own visual proof: 

OK then. 

During last week, Cox's missing was a big story, partly because it didn't look great and partly because it's May and there's not a whole heckuva lot else going on. 

And partly because Doug Pederson didn't seem too thrilled his star defensive tackle wasn't there. After pointing out that OTAs are indeed voluntary, Pederson said this about Cox: "Fletcher is one of the leaders on the football team and guys like that, you do expect to be here, but I get the rules, we abide by the rules and he's one of the guys too, at the end of the day, I'm gonna hang my hat on and go to war with."

Cox's return to Philadelphia jives with what ESPN's Tim McManus reported last week, that Cox was with family and was expected to be back this week.

Ultimately, Cox's absence probably won't mean much at all. The three other players missing last week were Jason Peters, Donnie Jones and Marcus Smith. 

This round of OTAs goes from May 30-June 1. Then June 5-6, 8-9. The mandatory minicamp is from June 12-15. Then there's a long break until training camp.