Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 Philadelphia Eagles in Review

Well, it was another great regular season for Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles.

With the emphasis on the word "regular".

Once again, Andy Reid pulled a rabbit out of a hat in the 2010 regular season, in a year in which he traded away his longtime starting quarterback -- within the division no less, for nothing but a couple of middle-round draft picks -- and then saw his new Quarterback of the Future go down with an injury in the first half of the first game of the season this year. Fastg forward four months, though, and the Eagles had finished the year 10-6, not trying or playing most of the starters in the meaningless last game of the season as it is, and claiming the team's first NFC East title in four years, but the sixth divisional crown in Andy Reid's 12-year tenure as the head man in Philadelphia (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2010). Six titles in 12 years in the toughest division in football is an amazing feat if you think about it, and the job Reid did in the regular season this year given the way things started off is right up there with the best performances of his head coaching career the way I see it.

There were a couple of specific highlights to the 2010 regular season in Philadelphia. First and foremost of course is Mike Vick, whose resurgence became clear to all this year as he put up 3000 yards, a 62% completion percentage, 21 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions over just 12 games. If you extend that out to a full season, it looks like a 4000-yard year with 28 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions. It was a great year for Vick, who came back from the depths to become in my view the second-best quarterback in the league all things considered. Sure a guy like Manning is a better pure thrower, Phillip Rivers was more productive through the air, but those guys just did not strap their teams on their back and lead them to victory quite like Mike Vick did in 2010. Combined with all that passing production, Vick also rushed for 676 yards in those 12 games, and tacked on another nine touchdowns on the ground. Again, you extend these figures out to a full season, and Vick would be looking at over 4000 yards passing, 900 more yards rushing, 28 passing touchdowns, 8 inteceptions, and 12 rushing touchdowns on top. 4900 yards of production plus 40 touchdowns on the season, and only 8 picks. Of course it's never as easy as just extrapolating from 12 games to 16, and certainly Vick's numbers trailed off a bit as the season wore to an end, but the point is, this was a truly remarkable season for Mike Vick, one that many people don't seem to grasp. But you wonder why he's going to finish in second in the league's MVP voting, over guys like Manning and Rivers whose pure passing numbers exceeded Vick's own? Those total production numbers above are why. Rivers' final 2010 numbers were a nearly identical 101 passer rating, 4700 yards passing, 52 yards rushing, 30 total touchdowns (all passing), 13 INTs, and his team was inconsistent and missed the playoffs, going 8-8 overall. Rivers is an awesome quarterback, but Vick's year was better when you look at everything as a whole. And Manning's 2010 numbers tell a similar story: Qb rating of 91.8, 4700 yards passing and just 18 yards and zero td's on the ground, 33 passing touchdowns, and 17 costly interceptions, and his team also had a down year just like the Chargers. You give me the choice, and I'll take Vick's season over either of those guys hands down. Vick is not close to Tom Brady (111 QB rating, 3600 yards, 37 touchdowns -- one of them rushing -- and just 4 interceptions, in 16 games), but otherwise, Vick's performance in 2010 was the highlight of the Eagles' season bar none, and the guy is hands-down deserving of 2nd place in the MVP voting based on the above.

The other extreme highlight of the Eagles' 2010 season -- unfortunately the high point for the year for the Iggles -- was the incredible comeback against the hated Giants in Week 15. Down 31-10 with under 8 minutes to go in the game, Mike Vick not only led the Eagles to tie the game over about six minutes of play with three beautiful drives, but the team even managed to win in regulation when DeSean Jackson took the final-seconds punt from the Giants back 60-some yards for the last-second touchdown and a 38-31 victory in what turned out to be the single biggest game of either team's regular season. As exciting as that game was itself, and the amazing comeback and even more amazing last-second runback, the reason this proved to be such a big highlight for the Eagles' regular season -- other than how poorly we performed in the post-season -- was that this game proved to utterly crush the spirit of the Giants and completely ruin what was at that point on its way to looking like a great year for New York. Coming in to that game, the Giants were 9-4, looking in good shape to win the East with the game being at their home stadium in New Jersey York, and easily in position to nab the first wildcard spot as they were the only team not from Atlanta with fewer than five losses on the season at the time. But after DeSean Jackson ran back that touchdown to complete the miraculous, inexplicable comeback in Week 13, the next week saw the Giants face off against the Packers -- the team that would go on to steal the Giants' playoff spot, which they knew coming in to that game -- and the Giants just laid down like girls, giving up 45 points and getting absolutely crushed by the superior Green Bay squad on the road. From there the season was suddenly over, and even a final-week victory over the hapless Redskins could not get the Giants back into the playoffs. So, while it's sad that the Eagles have to look to regular season games which enabled them to keep their rivals out of the post-season for their own highlights on the year, that Giants win proved to be far and away the most memorable single moment of the year for Philadelphia, and is probably not something that will be forgotten for a long time to come by the fans in the city of brotherly shove.

Unfortunately, that's all the good there is to say about this team's 2010 season, and the rest of the recap of the year is pretty much all negative. It has to be mentioned that Andy Reid took another higher-seeded team and lost to a 6-seed in the playoffs this year, playing another key post-season game at home against a team he was favored to beat, and lost. It's become an annual ritual in Philadelphia since the time Reid has been here, with Reid's career post-season record now sitting at an uninspiring 10-9, especially when you consider that the team has entered the playoffs as a division winner -- and not a wildcard -- in six of Reid's nine years in the post-season. In 2002 the team lost to the Buccaneers at home as the higher seeded team in the NFC Championship, a feat Reid equalled in 2003 at home against the Carolina Panthers. In 2008 the Eagles once again lost to a team they were favored to beat, falling to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game on the Cards' way to a tough Superbowl loss to the Steelers, and now here again in 2010, the loss to the packers as a 3-point favorite marks the fourth time in six playoff runs that Reid's Eagles teams have ended the season by losing to a team deemed inferior by the guys who are paid to really know such things. There was a lot of talk this year about how great this Packers team is, but come on now. The Pack had to scramble their way to a 10-6 record on the year, they had absolutely zero running game to speak of until they ran into the Eagles' porous defense in the playoffs (more on that in a minute), and this is a team that lost at Detroit 7-3 in an absolutely crucial game that team knew they needed to win in Week 14. But the Eagles sure made the team look good on Sunday night, didn't they? It's a story that Eagles fans just know all too well with Andy Reid's team at this point, and as long as Reid keeps performing in the regular season, it seems there is just never going to be an end to it in Philly.

And about that playoff game the other day for a minute, it's actually pretty amazing if you watched the game that the Eagles were in position to win it in the end. I mean, I watched every snap and it felt to me like the Eagles pretty much got beat down on, but look at what really happened. Philly lost by five points, 21-16, and were driving and within the Packers' 40-yard line in the final minute to try to pick up a late touchdown for the victory. And think about what happened in the game to get the teams to that point. For starters, idiot Eagles kicker David Akers, after a pretty fabulous regular season inj 2010, missed a barely-forgivable 41-yard field goal into the wind in the first quarter, but then compounded his epic failure by missing a 34-yarder in the fourth quarter with the wind at his back that I could have probably put through the uprights without too much trouble. Let's just chuck that first miss, which was a tougher kick than many people realize with the wind swirling as it was in that direction early in the game, but if Akers had just not choked and made the 34-yarder, then the Eagles would have been down 21-19, and with almost a full minute left and already inside the Packers' 40 at the end of the game, the Eagles would have had an easy field goal kick for Akers to win the matchup and advance. So even despite how poorly the Eagles played overall in the game, I would be remiss if I did not mention that those two missed field goals -- neither of them longer than 41 yards -- would have given the Eagles the outright victory in points scored at 22-21, and getting back even just the shorter, easier of the two kicks would have put the Eagles in position where they would have won the game 22-21 anyways in the final minutes, as Mike Vick would never have even considered throwing his ill-advised pass that got intercepted in the final seconds since he would have had no need whatsoever to even look at the end zone, instead of knowing that he needed a touchdown to win. Taking it a step further than that even, if Eagles' tight end Brent Celek does not idiotically step out of bounds before Mike Vick threw him the ball in the Eagles' two-point conversion after scoring their fourth-quarter touchdown, meaning that his nice catch on the conversion and his skill in landing both of his feet in bounds would have counted, then even then the score would have been 21-18 on that final drive, and once again Vick would not possibly have even looked to the end zone once already in field goal range to tie that game and send it in to overtime. So, while the Eagles -- typically for the Andy Reid era -- did not play a good game at all on Sunday against the Pack in their biggest game of the season, they were nothing more than just a few freak occurrences away from tying or putting that game into overtime. And this isn't me doing the stupid woulda-coulda-shoulda thing like saying "If only Jason Avant had caught that ball" or "if only Vick had seen DeSean Jackson wide open downfield on that one play", etc. This is about a guy whose heel inadvertently stepped out of bounds before the ball was thrown and before he caught the ball and landed both of his feet in bounds, and about a kicker who missed just two field goals all season long out of 31 attempts of 41 yards or less, missing two out of three such attempts in the game in easily the worst game he has had in a few seasons in Philadelphia. If he makes either one of those kicks as he did all season long, or if Celek doesn't touch the base line of the end zone with his heel before catching that 2-point conversion in bounds, the Eagles are advancing and I'm not writing this post for another week until we let the Falcons or Bears pass and run all over us to move to the NFC Championship game.

Which leads me to my final few points about this 2010 Eagles team: even if we had beaten the Packers if these freak occurrences had not in fact occurred, this team was simply not Superbowl bound this year, as many had hypothesized about halfway through the season when Vick mania was just heating up. By the second half of the season, the Vikings (1 time) and the Giants (1.875 times) showed that they had figured out pretty clearly how to beat Mike Vick. Pressure, pressure and more pressure, take him out of his comfort zone, and make him roll to the right, and he is just not that great of a quarterback. After the Vikings blitzed Vick about 850 times in Week 15 and the Eagles made absolutely zero attempt to stop it or to provide additional protection in the backfield for Vick, and then the Packers brought a corner blitz and dropped Vick on the very first play of the Packers game, Eagles fans all threw up in their mouths a little bit. It's just so Andy Reid to be that kind of unprepared to fall victim to the exact same play that the Vikings and Giants used to neutralize Vick over 2.875 different games in the final weeks of the season, and it is really symptomatic of everything the Philly fans have come to dread about Andy Reid's teams once playoff time comes around. Once the Giants pretty much shut down Vick down for 112 minutes and 40 seconds of football, and the Vikings echoed the Giants' strategy in spades to a similar effect, a good deal of the steam was let out of this team's sails, and no good coach worth his salt was going to let a great team get beaten at home by the Eagles even if we did advance to play the truly good teams in the NFC in later rounds of the playoffs.

And one more point about the Eagles' inability to defend against the blitz. How many times have you ever seen Mike Vick read the defense at the line of scrimmage and make adjustments to get himself the protection he needs as a result? Zippo, that's exactly right. You watch Tom Brady or Peyton Manning quarterback their teams, and pretty much every single time they get to the line, they first stand up straight and look out at the defense. They look at the formation, and they look at who is leaning where, which linebackers are advancing towards the line of scrimmage, etc., and then they make adjustments. They call an audible. They tap their center and point to the guy they want him to pick up on a likely blitz. They move their runningback to the other side of their own offensive formation to be there to pick up the corner blitz. The truly smart quarterbacks assess the defense on every single play, then they adjust, and only then do they run their play, when they have changed things up adequately such that they have the confidence that they will be able to get their chosen play off in time to accomplish what their play is looking to accomplish. No, they don't get that first down or score a touchdown on every single play. But they're always going through the process of assessing and adjusting before every single play, and all the great, smart quarterbacks today do this the same way. But not Vick. I honestly do not ever recall seeing Vick point to a potential blitzer and ask his linemen to pick it up, not one single time all through the 2010 season. In fact, I'm not sure I can ever recall Vick really looking at the defense and trying to make any kind of a read at all prior to just hiking the ball and attempting to run the play that has been called. Vick just doesn't seem to have that kind of smarts, and frankly you could really see over the second half of the season this year how much that hurt him. The better the opponents you face, the more crucial it becomes to read a defense and adjust your play or at least your protection to counter what is coming at you. Vick simply does not do this, and with both him and Andy Reid being utterly powerless to adjust to the defenses on individual plays, this team was simply not going to go far in the playoffs even if they had beaten the Packers if the freak occurrences I mentioned above had not gone down.

Lastly, no recap of the Eagles' season would be complete without mentioned the team's defense. The Eagles' defense is utterly deplorable. There are just no other words to describe the shit that they string together and call a team defense. Even before our former defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson died of cancer a couple of years ago, the pass defense had become pretty well porous, but since he passed away and was replaced with Sean McDermott, the Philly defense has pretty much been a goddam sieve. And that's probably being kind. The Eagles cannot stop anyone on defense, in particular when it counts, and you could see it against the Giants in those crucial games this year, against the Vikings early in the team's Week 16 loss this year, and most definitely against the Packers in the wildcard game this past weekend that ended the team's 2010 campaign. They put up pretty much the sickest stat imaginable during the Packers game for all the viewers to see -- during 2010, despite scoring the most points in the NFC, the Eagles gave up more points than any team that had ever reached the Superbowl in NFL history. What's worse, on the year the Eagles were also dead last in the NFL in red zone defense, allowing opposing teams to score touchdowns in 47 out of 57 appearances in the red zone, including the playoff game. How sick is that? All you have to do is make it to the 20-yard line against the Eagles, and you're basically going score, almost every single time. And Aaron Rodgers showed the world just how it works, as on each of the two occasions when they managed to get inside the Eagles' red zone, he took exactly one play to punch it in, in both cases actually to absolutely wide fucking open receivers who made it look like they were completely forgotten by the Eagles players trying to make a stop. And let's not even mention the fact that the Eagles haven't had a real pass rusher on this team since the days of Reggie White and Jerome Brown, which amazingly was an entire generation ago at this point. Mike Mammula? O M G.

If there is one lesson the Eagles need to learn from the 2010 season, other than of course than Andy Reid simply cannot help but get out-coached in the post-season, even by another moron coach like Mike McCarthy -- it's that we need to fire our defensive coordinator, and just get a whole new defensive scheme in place in Philadelphia. With Mike Vick at the helm, and with the incredible young talent the team has all over the offense between Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, this offense is primed to be the best in the NFC for years to come. But while offense may get you to the post-season, just like everyone else we will need to have a strong defense if we expect to go far in the playoffs. It's nice to have beaten the Giants six times in a row now -- and don't get me wrong, it really is -- but it's time that this team and Andy Reid start to focus on building a team that can run deep in the playoffs, and not just win the NFC East every other year as it has during Reid's 12 years as head coach. Reid's incredible six divisional titles in this division in just twelve years at the helm is nothing at all to sneeze at, but when you're ending every one of those years by losing a game instead of winning -- most of the time to an inferior team on your home field -- then it's time to start figuring out what needs to be done to change things up and reverse that trend. Right now, that means getting an entirely new defensive scheme in place before the 2011 regular season, and working diligently with Mike Vick between now and then to teach him how to read defenses, and more importantly, how to react to them.

Labels: , , , , ,


Blogger l.e.s.ter said...

Eagles fans can't blame Donovan McNabb for this one. I assume Michael Vick gets re-signed, although that's a barrier to the bright offensive future in Philadelphia. Maybe Andy Reid should find a job out west, where lack of a short-yardage and general running game won't be such a liability.

1:16 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Btw I think the Eagles can slap the franchise tag on Vick and get him for one more year automatically, for the average of the top 5 players at his position. That would be somewhere around 20 mil I think, but personally I would do that in a heartbeat and take one more year to figure out if he is worth a five year deal with like 40 mil guaranteed.

Not much is happening I think until the CBA gets resolved. If it gets resolved.

1:51 AM  
Blogger APOSEC72 said...

I'm glad the Eagles are out of the way if for no other reason that I did NOT want to see the Eagles come into Atlanta in the Conference Championship game.

The Packers'Falcons game next week now determines the NFC rep for the Super Bowl. I cannot see an awful Seahawks team or Jay Cutler in the big one.

2:08 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home