Monday, January 17, 2011

Eagles Coaching Moves

Are the Eagles making the right coaching moves as the season wraps up, or are they just making their problems worse?

First, they sack defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. I've killed him numerous times during the season, and his faults are worth repeating in this post-mortem...there were too many unsound blitzes, especially on third-and-long. Too many times I watched defensive linemen helplessly attempt to keep up with wide receivers. Really, the Eagles blitzed a little too much in general. Teams would routinely beat them with screens, rollouts, or max-protect schemes to take advantage of the one-on-one matchups down the field. Part of the effectiveness of the blitz is surprise, and if the other team is never surprised, it is less effective. So did McDermott have some improvements to make schematically? Of course he did.

But he is a very young coach who was forced to fill a legend's shoes when Jim Johnson unexpectedly died. Too often I thought he was being overly creative with his schemes, possibly to prove that he belonged in the same breath as Johnson. But if he's a bright and hard-working as Andy constantly claimed, then surely he would have learned from his mistakes and made corrections in the fall, right? And any improvement in the personnel would surely make him look even better. The Eagles started 7 players who were seventh-round picks or undrafted free agents on defense in the playoffs, and still held the Packers to 21 points.

Why not have this conversation, instead of firing McDermott?

Andy: I think you blitzed a little too much this season. I'd like to see more coverage, especially on third-and-long. And when you do blitz, it has to be fundamentally sound.
Sean: Will do, boss.

If McDermott's unwilling to accept that criticism, or too stupid to implement those changes, then the real indictment goes to the guy who hired him. He's either a smart, hard-working guy who can learn from his mistakes...or he's an idiot that should have never had control of the defense to begin with.

It would be one thing if a brilliant 4-3 coach was available, but there isn't. The Eagles are scraping the bottom of the barrel, interviewing colossal coaching failures like Jim Mora Jr. and Dick Jauron to take McDermott's place. Seriously? With a lockout looming, the new coach won't even have a full offseason to implement his new scheme.

They've also fired defensive line coach Rory Segrest. I don't know enough about DL technique to give you an informed opinion about his effectiveness, but there is some logic to this move. Two Eagles castoffs - Chris Clemons and Jason Babin - had 10+ sacks with new teams. Of course, I thought Babin was a keeper and should have been re-signed, so that's more of a personnel failure (Andy) than a coaching one. Clemons was useless in Philly, though, so maybe the coach just wasn't able to get enough out of him.

Overall, this season was more about personnel failures. Trading Sheldon Brown for nothing and replacing him with an ineffective fourth-round draft pick. Oops! Having huge holes on the offensive line and spending zero out of thirteen picks to shore them up. Oops! Releasing Will Witherspoon, who played terrifically for Tennessee this year, and replacing him with a terrible Ernie Sims. Oops!

But if we are going to talk about coaching failures, how about the 16 points scored in a playoff game? The ridiculous ineptitude with the challenge flag? The constant FG attempts when the Eagles needed a TD instead? The bone-headed insistence on deep-drop play-action when teams blitz every down? The abandonment of a Pro Bowl running back on a weekly basis? Big Red needs to stop finding scapegoats and take a real hard look at his own stubborness. The worst gameday coach in the NFL needs to make changes to himself, not to his staff.


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