The phone call came Tuesday afternoon when Jason Babin was hanging out with possibly his best friend on the team and hunting buddy Trent Cole, in Cole’s garage as the pair have done several times since Babin signed with the Eagles in August 2011. Andy Reid called the defensive end with 5.5 sacks this season and informed him that his services were no longer required.
“I happened to be with him when they released him,” Cole said. “He was at my house. I was surprised. He said, ‘Yeah they just released me.’ I thought he was playing around, but it’s real.”
And with that, a shot was fired across the bow of the Eagles locker room.
Many veterans denied that cutting Babin now, with five games remaining sent any sort of message to the rest of the locker room that seems to be stuck in a general malaise during a Reid era worst seven game losing streak.
“It happens,” DeMeco Ryans said. “Nothing surprises me anymore, it doesn’t send any messages. It’s unfortunate for Jason, but that’s his situation.”
The Head Coach said in a release announcing Babin’s release that the move was made in order to give the Eagles the opportunity to play younger players. However, you don’t necessarily need to cut a player in order to give the young guys a chance to see the field, you could simply bench them.
However, regardless of what the players say, this move was about sending a message not necessarily to the veterans who have been through the battles and are a part of the culture that has been created by an 11-16 record in the last 27 games and four year playoff win drought. It was about showing the youth movement on this team that the results simply are unacceptable.
“It’s getting serious. It’s serious,” Brandon Graham said Wednesday when asked to give his take on the move. “It made me look and say, ‘Now it’s your shot, man. Don’t blow it.’ People come and go all the time, now I have to make sure I take full advantage. I promise I’m going to do that.”
Graham now is the staring left defensive end, literally filling the void left by Babin who was claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars off waivers on Wednesday evening.
Moreover, besides releasing Babin to play the young players, the front office made it explicitly clear that nobody’s job on this team is safe. The result could be seen as early as Sunday night in Dallas in the form of a greater sense of urgency than has been seen all season.
“I promise it sent a message,” Eagles great Seth Joyner said via Twitter. “There’s some nervousness in that locker room right now and rightfully so. They’ll play better because the Babin release scared the locker room. Not only for the rest of the season but the upcoming year as well.”
Joyner’s locker room’s of the early 1990′s Eagles certainly did not lack leadership as this group seems to. Not with the presence of Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons, Andre Waters and Joyner among them.
So, in the short term the Eagles that take the field on Sunday will be markedly different. Graham and rookie Vinny Curry who made his debut on Monday night against the Panthers will see more playing time. It wouldn’t be surprising in the least to see Nnamdi Asomugha’s playing time cut in favor of Curtis Marsh nor Kurt Coleman’s to give time to evaluate safety David Sims. Asomugha is due $15 million if he’s on the roster next season so anything is possible as far as his job is concerned as this season winds down.
But, in reality, the question is, who exactly was behind the move to release Babin midseason?
Was it Reid, desperately trying to rattle the sabers of a team that clearly has tuned him out amid intense speculation that there are just 38 days remaining in his 14-year tenure in Philadelphia? Or the front office, as a mandate to begin extensive talent evaluation and to strike a chord with the players likely to remain on the roster moving forward?
If you listen intently and watch close enough, Reid truly appears to be a man who has come to grips with his fate and is just going through the motions to close out his most disastrous year both professionally and personally.
It is entirely possible that Reid already has been assured by owner Jeffrey Lurie that out of loyalty to the job Reid has done taking this franchise to not before seen heights, will be allowed to finish the season and then exit stage right. The Head Coach simply looks like a shell of himself and on the field has begun to make moves that are completely out of character such as going for a two point conversion following a second quarter touchdown, down 14-6.
Lurie, of course, said that a second consecutive 8-8 finish was unacceptable and the Eagles now can do no better than that.
After talking with several sources Wednesday, you get the sense that the organization is preparing itself to move on from Reid at season’s end and that football personnel decisions are no longer being made by him. After Babin’s release, and the recent firings of Tim McDermott and Rob Zeiger from their front office posts, this franchise seems to be in full fledged purge mode, on the verge of pressing the reset button this offseason.
What happens with Reid remains to be seen, but Babin’s release likely goes far beyond the tangible results on the field, as he led the Eagles with 5.5 sacks. With Reid’s assistant coaches presumably gone at season’s end, Roseman and the football personnel all but guaranteed that defensive line coach Jim Washburn and his wide nine scheme will be scrapped by season’s end by axing the Wiley ball coach’s favorite protege.
Make no mistake about it, Babin’s release was intended to send a message throughout the football operations side of the Eagles organization. In all likelihood, though, the messenger was not the man on the other end of Babin’s phone in Babin’s garage on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.