Last year, after the Eagles got out to a 3-6 start, I wrote an almost 3,000-word post on what was wrong with the team and organization as a whole. Almost all of it remains true today. Some details have changed, but the message is the same: the Eagles aren’t capable of winning a Super Bowl as constructed, Andy Reid needs to go, and the team needs an image refresh. Here is that post, originally on this site on November 16, 2011.
I’m not usually one to write knee-jerk Eagles posts. I think that for far too long, local print and radio outlets have fallen into the same lazy trap of pontificating every move the Eagles make, a practice that I find to be of little interest to a majority of Philadelphia sports fans (raise your hand if you run to the curb each morning to read Phil Sheridan's Eagles bloviations… looks around… no one, that’s what I thought). But that’s the person the local and national media often portray as the stereotypical Philly fan– the hardcore, fire Andy, McNabb sucks, snowball throwin’ dope who spells out E-A-G-L-E-S in his Alpha-Bits cereal each morning before grabbing his lunch pail and heading to work. And until recently – with the advent of blogs, a second sports talk radio station, and a dominant baseball team – we really didn’t have much of a choice but to be that guy, each morning awaking to listen to and read about the same endless Eagles debate.
Well, we’ve tried to fight that repetitive cycle here on CB. Realizing that there are three other major teams (four, if you count the Union), we’ve made a point of not falling into the same mundane trap of whining about the Eagles 24/7. But there comes a time when we must join in on the refrain: Fire Andy Reid! Blow the whole thing up. Start over. And give us back our football team.
The Eagles aren’t cool anymore
Sports fandom in this city is cyclical. During the mid and late-nineties, the Flyers were Philly’s favorite team. It was a time when the Sixers were awful, the Phillies stunk, and the Eagles were average, at best.
From roughly 1995-2000, Eric Lindros was in the prime of his career and, for three of those years, the center on the Legion of Doom, hockey’s most dominating line. The Flyers went to three Eastern Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Final. They never won the whole thing, but they were undoubtedly at the top of the Philly food chain.
For the next seven years, until 2007, it was the Eagles’ turn. You know their accomplishments– four straight conference championship games, one Super Bowl appearance, and the most feared defense in the NFL. It was a period of sustained success matched by few teams in the history of Philly sports.
Since 2007, it’s been the Phillies, for reasons I don’t need to explain.
But the success of the Phillies is not the only reason why the Eagles are no longer atop the Philly food chain. At some point between the day the Eagles lost the Super Bowl and today, they’ve lost us. They’ve lost their cool factor.
Sure, they still fill the stadium and get fantastic local ratings. But why wouldn’t they? They’re the NFL team in one of the country’s largest markets. Of course we’re still going to show up and watch every Sunday. We love football, too. So no matter how bad or hilarious it gets, we’re going to root for our team, have orgasmic explosions (figurative, mostly) when they sign the best available free agents, and celebrate like only Philadelphians know how when they pull off a historic comeback against the Giants.
Unfortunately, however, those moments have been few and far between over the last few seasons. Now some of us are actively rooting for the Eagles to lose. We watch games not to cheer, but to laugh at the inevitable fuck up. Just stop by Twitter or Facebook during an Eagles game– you’ll see what I’m talking about.
What you’ll find are not the cries of fans who ache at the thought of a loss… you’ll find people getting joy (or at least dark humor) out of seeing their team being humiliated every week. Hell, my favorite pastime is watching Andy Reid’s press conference after a loss. I just love how the media takes on a pack mentality and gets pleasure out of watching Andy fume. I swear Les Bowen carries a pitchfork into those things.
That doesn’t happen to cool teams. Cool teams’ fans don’t take pleasure in watching the coach suffer. Cool teams don’t have what I’d imagine is a sleep-deprived Grilled Reuben Frank eating burritos and crunching statistics about how awful they are.*
*For real, check out Roob’s Twitter timeline sometime, it’s as though he wired-in like the dorks in The Social Network and isn’t coming up for air until he finds the perfect stat to explain how mind-bogglingly awful Andy Reid is. And I actually enjoy it.
But why?! Why are the Eagles no longer cool? And how do we change that?
A top-down cleansing of the entire organization.
Fire Andy Reid
How in the world do you get a rookie safety covering Larry Fitzgerald in the final moments of a close game?
When you have an offensive line coach as your defensive coordinator– that’s how.
When Reid hired Juan Castillo to be his defensive coordinator earlier this year, it was clear to most paying attention that this move would either make or break Big Red. If it worked out, the move would have been pure genius– what an outside-the-box way of thinking, this guy is a genius! If it didn’t work out, however (which it’s not)… then Reid should be fired.
It’s the same old shit. You know this. How many times must the Eagles throw two yards short of the first down marker on crucial third and fourth downs? Yeah, I know, Steve Smith deserved some of the blame on Sunday, but. this. keeps. happening.
And then there are all those wasted timeouts and challenges.
And the unwillingness to stick to the run.
And the lack of accountability.
And now players are showing up late to meetings– a clear sign that you’re starting to lose the team.
Gov. said it best (really) on Postgame Live Sunday: This is why there are term limits in politics.
He’s right. Not only has has Reid lost the fans, he’s starting to lose his players.
But let’s talk about the fans for a second.
Reid represents everything that is soulless and wrong with the Eagles. He’s the figurehead for an organization that doesn’t understand its customers, Philadelphia, or the basics of putting together a championship-winning franchise.
He’s been here for 13 years and has yet to win a Super Bowl… but that’s not a fireable offense, in my mind. No, I would fire Andy Reid because, from a strict business standpoint, he makes people hate the product. As mentioned above, I look forward to watching him fume after a loss. Others laugh at his decisions. He’s hardly a likable figure, and now the results aren’t there, either.
For the first time this offseason, the Eagles did go all-in, assembling a “Dream Team” (hate myself) for Reid. What has he done with that talent? 3-6. Tells you all you need to know.
As a business owner, if someone is going to make people hate your product, they better be producing results.
Reid's not. Fire him.
Here’s what I think of when I see the Eagles’ current jerseys: Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins, and Jim Johnson.
Donovan McNabb is on a bench somewhere, Brian Dawkins has played for the Broncos the last three seasons, and Jim Johnson is dead.
The current iteration of uniform (complete with new color scheme) worked well for the late-nineties. It signaled a shift in ownership and direction of the team. And it meshed well with the product. The Eagles had relative success on the field, became the gold standard, and asserted themselves as Philly’s number one team for the better part of a decade. Their new look was synonymous with a winning product.
That’s no longer the case.
The Eagles jerseys are stale. They remind of Forman Mills sales, the Dirty Thirty, and post-season failures. To make matters worse, the Eagles have abandoned any semblance of variety. In years past, they wore alternate jerseys: black (perfect for that mid-2000s chic), yellow and blue (hideous, but I enjoyed them), and kelly green (one-year only anniversary jersey). But why nothing new? As our resident uniform expert Dan Fuller pointed out earlier this year, the Eagles will be wearing no alternates this season. Why? Who would that hurt? Fans like them, they look good, and – got your attention now, Mr. Lurie – they make money.
If the Eagles are going to go in a new direction by firing Reid (something most of us agree they should do), then they need to usher in a new era in uniforms, too. Whether that’s kelly green or the current shade, I don’t care. That’s for someone else to figure out.
Next year, Nike will take over the duties of providing NFL teams with jerseys. Why not use that as a chance to spice things up a little? They don’t need to go all Oregon on us (though I’m not totally against that*), but Nike can certainly help modernize the Eagles' look.
*The more I get into Euro soccer, the more I appreciate the way they have new kits every season. I used to be uber old skool (k, baby) in my uniform beliefs, but I’ve been converted: They’re sports. They’re supposed to be fun. Why not put out a new product, excite fans, and make a buck each year?
I’m indifferent on the logo itself. However, the old-style eagle does provide some more flexibility, I would think.
It’s the Mighty Ducks Effect: Do you remember that scene in DII where Jan gave the team new jerseys during intermission and they finally, um, flew together? Do that, Eagles.
While Sixers CEO Adam Aron is tying a weight to Hip Hop’s rabbit feet, perhaps he can throw a line around Swoop’s talons, and together the two can sink to the bottom of the sea of unnecessarily swollen mascots.
They can stay.
Make no mistake, this was a dumb contract. Sure, the Eagles only guaranteed roughly $35 million of the total $80 million (it’s not a $100 million contract– Vick has likely already voided that last year by playing in more than 35% of snaps this year), but the move was based on a very small sample size. I will once again reference what I wrote for the USA Today Football Preview this summer on why Vick wasn't an MVP candidate:
Through the first six games of 2010, Vick eclipsed a 100 QB rating four times. In the final six games? Just once.
In the first seven games of 2010, Vick didn’t throw one interception. He threw six in his final five games, plus one season ending pick in the playoffs.
Vick’s yards per attempt and completion percentage were also down in the second half of the season. And he was sacked more, too: 15 times in first six games, 19 in final six.
As you know, Vick has been nothing more than average this season.
Why is that? Well, for starters, he was never that good of a quarterback. Last year, when Kevin Kolb got hurt and the Eagles made Vick their starter, other teams in the league (looking at you, Redskins) were woefully underprepared for the new looks the Eagles were giving them. As a result, Vick tore up the league for a couple of months. Once game tapes piled up, however, teams were able to prepare and force Vick to be the helter-skelter, scrambling quarterback he is.
This tells you all you need to know: The Eagles were 8-2 beginning with Vick’s first start in Week 2 last season. Since beating the Giants in December? 3-8.
To make matters worse, because of his running style, Vick is fragile. He currently has two broken ribs.
So where does that leave the Eagles? Well, they’re stuck with Vick through – at least – the end of next season. Releasing him earlier would force the team to take a major cap hit for the guaranteed portion of Vick’s contract (as best as I understand it).
This contract was dumb from the start. Vick is essentially Allen Iverson: fantastically talented, exciting to watch… but not going to win you a championship. Oh yeah, and that bad boy from Virginia thing, too.
Now the Eagles are stuck, at least for a little while, with a fragile, overpaid, running quarterback. The only solution is to draft a new one and cross fingers.
Fight song (and that whole blue collar aura)
Googling “Eagles pep band” returns the top results to their Angelfire-looking webpage and Myspace page. Myspace.
They have three featured songs listed on Myspace. In order:
Eagles Fight Song
Eagles Fight Song
Eagles Fight Song
By my estimation, based on no scientific evidence whatsoever, I’d say the pep band has performed Fly Eagles Fly roughly 35,002 times. That’s nine thousand and two too many. It’s time to move on.
Look, I don’t have a problem with Fly Eagles Fly – it’s been around since 1960 (according to Wikipedia) – but who in the Eagles marketing department believes that a bunch of blue collar guys with banjos appeals to the 6,930,000 in the Philly DMA who aren’t in attendance at the Linc on Sundays?
We discussed this on our radio show yesterday– the Eagles have Penn State Syndrome. Lurie sees tens of thousands of die-hards swarm to the Linc each Sunday during football season. To him, it looks like things are fine, like the Eagles are beloved. He’s wrong.
What he fails to recognize is that while he sees a relatively large group of supporters, they’re only a tiny fraction of his total audience (much the way many Penn Staters failed to see the national outrage at the Sandusky allegations). When you step outside the bubble, you get a much different view on happenings inside. The pep band and many other marketing tactics employed by the Eagles are stale and don’t appeal to the masses.
As John Miller pointed out on our show, the demographics of Philly are changing: the city is trying to become a destination for tech companies… the suburbs are chock full of fans who don’t give a rats’ ass about how awesome Vince Papale was… and, to some, Buddy Ryan is just Rex Ryan’s father. Basically, the hipster infusion is well underway, and it might make sense to appeal to those folks, too. Modernizing the banjo-laden rallying cry is a good place to start.
*It’s also worth noting that a recent ESPN study found that football fans are fans of the league, and baseball fans are fans of their team. Why? Fantasy football. The Eagles would be smart to expand upon the league-mandate to show stats on scoreboards, and cater to a wider audience.
I figured if I’m going to write 2,500 words about the Eagles, I might as well hate on Spuds a little bit.
He insults our intelligence by pretending to be an “insider reporter,” when, in reality, he’s a PR person for the Eagles.
There’s nothing wrong with teams producing their own content with their own talent. Hell, Scott Palmer does it well for the Phillies. But when you see him, you know what you’re getting: a team-produced puff piece– we’re OK with that. The Eagles, however, try to blur the lines and take it to another level with Spadaro, who’s a mouthpiece for Reid and hosts call-in radio shows on the Eagles website, which also boasts a CSN-alternative post-game show for folks who are OK with taking Neo’s blue pill.
Spadaro is actually very good at what he does (which is getting people riled up), but his presence is a lame attempt by the Eagles to control the message. And if you don’t think that’s their goal, know that I’m told a local off-peak sports talk radio guy was denied a credential because he was too hard on the team.
I mean, this is football, not an oppressive regime… right?
Andy is not dead [pic via Google images]
Blow it up
Reid had a good run. This era of Eagles football, while controversial, has been fun: five NFC Championship games, one Super Bowl, and many, many exciting Sunday afternoons.
It’s become clear, however, that the Eagles don’t have a shot of winning the Super Bowl this season. And probably not next season (because Vick isn’t the guy). And potentially not the season after that. So why keep the coach around? Repeating the same action and expecting a different result is the first sign of mental retardation.
Lurie has created a monster of a business. I’m not going to bash him for doing so. Nor am I go to bash him for the competitive every year thing– I think it’s a smart business and football tactic. But, as a business, the Eagles are showing signs of trouble: they are no longer winning, their most loyal customers are mad, everybody else doesn’t care, and with every public display of their product they’re turning off more and more people. It would be like if now that Steve Jobs is dead Apple started making shitty toys, ignored the cries of hipsters, announced products with terse press releases instead of inspiring stage presentations, and failed to promote their redundant creations to a mainstream audience.
That doesn't work in technology. And it doesn’t work in sports.
Some of you might think this is overreaction. But raise your hand if you get excited for Eagles games on Sundays.
Two of you, in the Peco jackets. Thanks.
Now, raise your hand if you say to yourself: “Why am I about to waste three hours on this crap?”
Holy sh– put your hands down! You’re at work and your boss is going to get mad. Jeez, I didn’t mean literally.
You see that, Jeffrey? You’ve lost your audience. Please give us a new football team, we don’t like this one anymore.