Michael Vick and Andy Reid will take the field for the final time at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia for the final time on Sunday. Each played a large role in the Eagles decline in recent years and the road back to prominence likely won’t be easy for this franchise.
Regardless of the outcome, Sunday is all but certain to have a palpable sense of finality to it.
Win, lose, or tie, Andy Reid will walk off the Field at Lincoln Financial Field for the final time when the final buzzer sounds against the Washington Redskins. It is all but guaranteed that the 14-year Head Coach will not see a final go round in Philadelphia and so fans will have what amounts to their divorce settlement play out in one last 60 minute football game.
After five trips to the NFC Championship game, three anointed franchise quarterbacks and one lone Super Bowl loss this chapter of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise is about to end.
What follows, though, is a laundry list of questions and a road map back to prominence following a two year decline that’s resulted in a combined 12-18 record since the start of the 2011 season making Reid’s dismissal unavoidable and above all, necessary.
We all know how the Eagles arrived in their current state of disarray after failures on draft day in recent years, a failed marriage to a perennially inconsistent quarterback and general lack of locker room chemistry or faith in the Head Coach. That picture is clear. What is much muddier though, is the future of the organization.
Make no mistake about it, this is arguably the most important offseason in franchise history.
Unlike the era where Reid’s Eagles saw their most success and ascent to the top of the NFC, the NFC East is now one of the most balanced and competitive divisions in the NFL. The Giants, Redskins and Cowboys all have varying degrees of stability and strong play from the quarterback position that the Eagles have lacked for close to three seasons. As a result, those teams have left the Eagles in a distant fourth place both in this year’s standings and in their future outlook.
In Washington, Robert Griffin III has made a case not only to be named this season’s rookie of the year but has played his way into the MVP conversation with 2,902 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions to go with 748 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground in his rookie season while guiding the Redskins to a position to win the NFC East with two games remaining.
The Giants, of course, possess one of the truly elite quarterbacks in the league in Eli Manning who is one of seven players in league history to win two Super Bowl MVPs and has done so both times against the Bill Belichick, Tom Brady led Patriots. This season, Manning has thrown for 3,590 yards with 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while completing 60.4 percent of his passes.
Finally, the Cowboys swept the Eagles this season and have budding offensive talent around Tony Romo leads the division and is quietly having one of his career best seasons. The Dallas signal caller has already thrown for 4,269 yards, 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with a 66.7% completion percentage.
The stark reality is that in order to succeed in today’s NFL, there needs be a high level of consistency at both the Head Coach and quarterback position where for the moment the Eagles lack.
While Nick Foles has shown flashes in his rookie season, it’s entirely fair to question whether or not he actually has the makeup of a franchise or Super Bowl caliber quarterback in this league. However, unlike his counterparts Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, Griffin and Seattle’s Russell Wilson who all have their team in the playoff hunt, Foles was not handed the keys to the Eagles franchise or given first team practice reps until Michael Vick’s concussion knocked him from the November 11th loss to Dallas.
Foles has completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 1,356 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions in just over five games this season. He has the size at 6’6 243 and has shown tremendous arm strength and accuracy but it appears the game needs to slow down for him in order to make the leap to that next level of quarterbacks.
With that in mind, Jeffrey Lurie must make the right hire to replace Andy Reid if this team is to rebound from it’s recent malaise.
There certainly are no sure things when it comes to picking a Head Coach and there are not any sure thing, can’t miss prospects at the quarterback position in the upcoming draft. It is likely that the Eagles will address the quarterback position with a veteran free agent in the offseason to backup and mentor Foles moving forward. At couch though, the decision is much more crucial than that.
Lurie could choose to gamble and pluck a top tier college coach such as Chip Kelly or Nick Saban. He could pick up one of the hot young defensive minds in the league or, along with General Manager Howie Roseman could reach back and hire a retread candidate such as Jon Gruden to lead this team’s rebuilding efforts.
Even Sean Payton may be on the market as it was reported Monday that his return to New Orleans next season is anything but guaranteed after contract negotiations have hit a snag with the Saints.
Regardless of who Lurie intends to hire, the next Head Coach likely will have several questions for this organization during his job interview. The uncertain quarterback situation could be an attraction or a red flag for any potential Head Coach. Likewise the moves the organization has made this season involving firing two executives including Tim McDermott, brother of Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, the day before his brother returned to town to coach against the team and the handling of defensive tackle Mike Patterson’s situation late in the season.
It goes without saying that the Eagles other opponents in the NFC East will not be facing any of these questions for the foreseeable future.
Whoever the next Eagles coach is will not have the luxury of a down division with inconsistency littering the landscape that Reid walked into in 1999. During Reid’s tenure teams in the NFC East have had a total of 14 different Head Coaches and 38 quarterbacks.
The future currently remains in doubt, but what is all but guaranteed is that an era is about to end in Philadelphia and the road back to prosperity may not be an easy one to navigate.