Whisker Wednesday

February 2, 2011

Welcome to yet another wet, wild Whisker Wednesday! A lot has happened so far this week in Eagles Nation – including the completely unsurprising news that Michael Vick will receive the team’s Franchise Tag and Kevin Kolb will be shopped (more on this later today). Also, the Eagles made an actual Public Relations move, choosing to not raise ticket prices for next season (though if they made it further in the playoffs that probably would have been a different story). For now, let’s get right into it…

The David Akers Drama
A lot has been made this week about Andy Reid’s handling of David Akers in the aftermath of the playoff loss to the Packers, particularly since it was revealed that Akers’ six-year-old daughter was undergoing surgery to remove a potentially cancerous cyst. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Akers family.

For what it’s worth, Andy Reid shouldn’t be criticized for “throwing Akers under the bus.”

Yes, he made specific comments about the kicking game in both the press conference following the game and his day-after conference – offhandedly making a comment about only losing by five while leaving six points on the field. But if anyone should be blamed for the way the kicker performed on Sunday, January 9, it should be the Head Coach.

Forget about Akers’ missed 41-yarder in the first quarter – or his track-record of inconsistency kicking in the Linc – Reid should never have put his kicking team on the field for the play in question in the first place. The Eagles had a fourth-and-one at Green Bay’s 16 yard-line, down eleven points with about ten minutes to play. They were averaging 3.9 yards per carry and were actually succeeding in short-yardage situations… But still chose to kick. Even if Akers makes the field goal, the Eagles still trail by eight and are playing to tie, not to win. Guess who gets the blame for that?

Reid put Akers in a position to fail. Sure, a case could be made that Akers should have held himself out of the game, but what professional athlete (aside from Jay Cutler) does that? If Andy Reid had a Championship-mentality, he would have pounded the ball up the middle on that fourth-and-1 play and stuck it to the Packers. Instead, he sent a reeling David Akers onto the field and rest is history.

Should Akers be criticized for his performance? Not necessarily. He was dealing with deep personal feelings, and even if you’ve experienced something similar, you have no idea how those thoughts affected him. Some players thrive on tragedy (see: Favre, Brett and Reed, Ed). Others don’t. Should Reid have been more sensitive? Maybe. But we don’t know what really happened behind-closed-doors leading up to the game.

Again, if Andy had gone for the kill, rather than playing for the tie, maybe this whole point would be moot.

And the Defensive Coaching Clusterfuck Continues…
Joe Woods. Jon Hoke. At this point the Eagles Defensive Coordinator position comes down to Plans F and G.

Not a good start to drastically rebuilding a defense that gave up a franchise-record 31 touchdowns through the air. Though I’m still holding out hope for Darren Perry – the only Defensive Backs Coach the Eagles haven’t interviewed yet and a guy I singled out weeks ago (along with the Jets’ Mark Carrier) – this is becoming ridiculous.

One of the strengths of Andy Reid over the course of the past 13 years has been his ability to go into an offseason with a plan in place and execute that plan. Whether it has been big Free Agent targets, coaching moves, draft strategy – the Front Office typically gets their business settled early and easily (though the outcomes haven’t had the same consistency).  But this offseason so far has been a complete mess…

Firing and hiring coaches with no rhyme or reason. Interviewing any defensive coaching name they can get their hands on. They’re scrambling and it’s noticeably uncharacteristic. Clearly the plan was to simply install Dick Jauron at Coordinator, making for a seamless transition in a very uncertain offseason, but that blew up in their face. Now the team is stuck with whatever coach is willing to take the job.

ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio made a very interesting point yesterday on Mike Missanelli’s show on 97.5 The Fanatic… There is uncertainty in the league and with the Eagles. Coaches with good jobs, working for good organizations, won’t be so quick to uproot their families and move, partially due to the CBA issues, but mostly because they don’t want to take a job with a Head Coach that might not be there after this next season.

Now Sal Pal has mentioned his belief that this will be Andy’s last year in Philadelphia, barring a Super Bowl(*). But this goes deeper. Would coaches really not try to advance their careers solely because Andy Reid’s future may be in doubt? I find that hard to believe. If you’re a Defensive Coordinator in the NFL and you lose your job because of the Head Coach, chances are you’re getting another gig on the same level. Hell, even Sean McDermutt is still a Defensive Coordinator(**). And it’s not like they’d be taking a bad job. The Eagles (as much as it pains me to say it) are one of the top organizations in the league, the Offense has the ability to be fantastic, and the Defense can only improve, especially on a talent-level. That should be a sought-after job.

(*)And Fire The Walrus Nation rejoices!

(**)By the way… Somebody asked me: What happens if McDermutt succeeds in Denver? Well, it would prove that the personnel on this Eagles team is definitely below-average; that Jim Johnson really does produce top-notch coaching talent; and that Andy Reid is at fault, once and for all.

Speaking of Mike Missanelli
I want to give a special thank you to Mikey Miss for plugging our little space on the interwebs yesterday and discussing Monday’s piece on Andy Reid’s regular season record splits (hopefully audio of it is uploaded soon at 975TheFanatic.com).

Yesterday was a record-setting day here at FireTheWalrus.com and we welcome all of the new members of Fire The Walrus Nation! You won’t be disappointed… at least until the 2011 season ends with an interception and no Super Bowl.

Another wet Whisker Wednesday is just getting started. Check back later today for more icy fun!

Whisker Wednesday

January 26, 2011

Happy Snowy Whisker Wednesday Eagles fans! While we shovel off the Andy Reid effigy out front, enjoy today’s upperlip-follicles of fun.

  • It’s great that “Offensive Coordinator” Marty Mornhinweg is down at the Senior Bowl scouting talent to improve an already potent, high-powered offense – as opposed to scrambling for a job with another team. But besides a Guard or two, a Tackle and possibly a Quarterback-of-the-future, what does the number two ranked Offense really need? Ray Didinger (a man who has forgotten more about football than anyone of else will ever know), makes a great and simple suggestion for fixing the line – which includes signing a “blue chip” Free Agent Guard like Logan Mankins (if he’s available) and moving the other pieces into their natural positions (Right Tackle for Herremans; Right Guard for McGlynn). The only issue is banking on Jamaal Jackson’s health.

    Regardless, wouldn’t the Eagles be much more inclined to be scouting talent for the Defense – considering they only need to fill spots at every position, including two, if not three new Linebackers. But I guess that’s hard to do when you don’t even know who the coach will end up being.

    Speaking of which…

  • Another week gone by, still no Defensive Coordinator. Not that that’s surprising though. For those keeping score, that’s now Jim Mora, Jr., Dick Jauron and Dennis Allen all declined; Rob Ryan and Bill Davis were never given a real chance; Dick Lebeau and Mike Pettine, Jr. are pipedreams. But no need to worry… It’s clear that the next Eagles Defensive Coordinator will be coming from either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Green Bay Packers – the two Super Bowl teams who’s Defenses rank 2nd and 5th, respectively.

    I’ve already pointed out Packers’ Secondary Coach Darren Perry and Jets’ Line Coach Mark Carrier – whom the Eagles should certainly give a look – and Daily News Sports Columnist Paul Domowitch adds a few more names to that list, including one that’s been mentioned more and more the past two weeks: Mike Trgovac, Packer’s Defensive Line Coach. Unfortunately, like Pettine in New York, Trgovac doesn’t seem inclined to leave his current post. But you never know.

Coming later today – besides your Whisker Wednesday Poll, of course – we’ll take an in-depth look at how the old saying, “Defense Wins Championships,” holds up in the modern NFL. Stay warm. Stay safe. Stay furious (at Andy Reid).

Whisker Wednesday

January 19, 2011

  • Mike Missanelli hosted an Eagles Wrap-up Roundtable yesterday on 97.5 The Fanatic(*), featuring former-Eagles/current-Philadelphia media personality Vai Sikahema, ESPN Senior NFL Reporter (and South Philly native) Sal Paolantonio and Tim McManus, Eagles beat reporter for The Fanatic and phillysportsdaily.com (which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already).(*)And will broadcast live with Mike Vick today at 3:30 p.m.

    The general consensus of the discussion leaned towards two conclusions: With the offseason in limbo, the Eagles will likely stick with the 4-3 defense, meaning Dick Jauron is the easy answer to the question “Who’s the next DC?”; and, it’s time for Andy Reid to go.

    To further that point, Sal Pal – who is well-known to be a lifelong Eagles fan and has been favorable of Reid in the past – openly ripped the Eagles management, even saying (to my delight) that The Billionaire Lurie and The Devil Banner are more concerned with counting their money than winning championships! Hmmmm… where have we heard that before?
    Missanelli also mentioned a comment made by Mark Schlereth, ESPN NFL analyst and three-time Super Bowl Champion. Per Schlereth, Andy Reid’s style of football will never win a championship. A member of the back-to-back champion-Denver Broncos, he points to controlling the game by effectively running the ball and playing a brand of smashmouth defense. Shit, maybe the Birds should just hire Schlereth.

  • As the Coordinator Position Turns… Yes, the Eagles Defensive Coordinator position is still wide open – which I view as a good thing, because there are some great defensive minds who’s team are still currently playing – but some new names were thrown into the mix yesterday. NY Jets’ DC Mike Pettine, Jr.’s name was being floated around, but just as I had suspected when researching potential hires, he is not looking to leave Rex Ryan’s side anytime soon. It was also pointed out yesterday (by I believe Sal Pal) that Pettine has never called plays – an integral role for the Eagles Defensive Coordinator, as Reid’s defensive knowledge is on par with his dieting habits… nonexistent.Mike Trgovac, Green Bay’s Defensive Line Coach, is another name that gained some momentum in the last 24-hours. You may remember Trgovac as the Eagles’ D-Line Coach under Ray Rhodes. He also manned the Carolina Panthers’ Defense from 2003 to 2008 and was rather successful.

    Sources also claim that the Eagles’ are in talks to bring in long-tenured Tennessee Titans Defensive Line Coach, Jim Washburn… as D-Line Coach. You might think that’s a move that puts the cart before the horse – securing a Line Coach before a DC – but Washburn is one of the best in the business and has passed up numerous chances to be a coordinator. For him, it would be a lateral move. For us, he’d be the best defensive assistant since Ron Rivera was on the staff.

  • John (Gonzo) Gonzalez, Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist, wrote a brilliantly scathing article about The Walrus, his propensity for lying and his brand of comedy. Lying to the media is something that has never bothered me about Reid – he’s a football coach, that’s what they do – particularly about the status of players and coaches. Reid simply won’t throw people under the bus, and that’s admirable.Not to keep plugging Sal Paolantonio, but during that Fanatic Roundtable, he suggested that the move to fire McDermutt came from the very top, over Andy’s head. It would make sense, considering The Billionaire and The Devil needed a fall guy, and they clearly aren’t going to answer our prayers by firing The Walrus anytime soon.
  • You know how the Eagles are currently lacking in playmaking Linebackers? Yeah, that’s nothing new. Reuben Frank, Eagles Beat Writer for CSN Philly and Burlington Courier Times, dredges up the depressing history of the Linebacker position under the Andy Reid-regime.God, I miss the days of Willie T…

    Look for a new Whisker Wednesday Poll coming later today!

If Jim Johnson’s Shadow Is Too Large, Try Going Outside Of It

January 17, 2011

So, now that the Eagles have finally moved past the dark days of the Ginger McDermutt-era – but not yet those of The Walrus – there are a few names being circulated as to who will replace him as the Bird’s next Defensive Coordinator.

As you know, my cries of Rob Ryan (predictably) went unanswered and now we’ll have to deal with him twice a year  – and with DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff at his disposal. Wonderful. That’ll work out great for the Eagles (though fortunately, the Cowgirls don’t have a single defense back to fear). Other fans were chirping for former-49ers Head Coach Mike Singletary – who famously captained Buddy Ryan’s vaunted 46 defense during his playing days in Chicago – but he’s now coaching the linebackers for his former Bears-teammate Leslie Frazier in Minnesota.

Many sources have been touting Jim Mora, Jr. as the frontrunner for the gig, with Dick Jauron not far behind. I highly doubt that Jauron gets offered the job, considering the fact that Reid could have made the move to him at any point over the course of last season. It does seem strange that he hasn’t accepted the Cleveland Browns DC position yet, giving credence to the rumors that he may stay here, but it seems that Reid is intent on completely cleaning house defensively, cutting ties with longtime Defensive Line coach Rory Segrest. Bill Shuey, Linebackers coach, inexplicably still has a job…

As for Mora, sure, he comes from the Mike Holmgren coaching tree and has been a Head Coach (twice), but absolutely nothing remarkable jumps out from his coaching career… besides the time he called Mike Vick a coach killer! His numbers as a Defensive Coordinator (with the 49ers from 1999 to 2003) and Head Coach (with the Falcons from 2004 to 2006, and the Seahawks in 2009) are pretty bad. Sean McDermutt-bad.

In his eight combined years in charge of the defenses in San Francisco and Atlanta, Mora’s units had an average rank of 19th in total defense, never cracking the top-12 in any single season. Even McDermutt reached that mark. Similarly, Mora’s defensive scoring averaged 19th overall. In his three years in Seattle – two as Defensive Backs Coach – the defensive backfield ranked 27th overall in passing yards allowed per game, 18th in interceptions and 21st in passes defended. In short, Mora’s defensive units have been mediocre to bad to horrendous. And he’s going to be the Eagles next DC?!

Surprisingly – or I guess, not surprisingly, since his name has been mentioned for EVERY defensive coaching position available – Eric Mangini’s name was thrown into the mix. It’s definitely an intriguing name. Though he failed twice as a Head Coach, and has a reputation around football for being a huge prick, Mangini was an integral cog in Bill Belichick’s Super Bowl-winning defenses – though with the alleged use of video cameras (made by Mangini no less), who knows how effective Belichick’s defenses really were.

What’s enticing about Mangini – aside from the Super Bowl pedigree – is the fact that he solely runs a 3-4 defense. And in a constantly evolving game, the 3-4 is currently (and once again) king, with almost half of the teams in the NFL – 15 in all – utilizing some form of the 3-4 as their base defense. In fact five of the top-six defenses in 2010 run a base 3-4 (the Chargers, Steelers, Jets, Packers and Dolphins).

Is this Eagles defense equipped with the right personnel to make such a dramatic switch? Probably not. For one thing, they certainly don’t have the boulder-sized, beast-of-a-nose-tackle needed to anchor the 3-4. And on top of that, they jettisoned three guys last offseason who would have fit perfectly in that alignment (Chris Gocong, Chris Clemons and – Pro Bowler?! – Jason Babin).

But, as pointed out by NFL Network’s Mike Lombardi on Tony Bruno and Harry Mayes’ 97.5 The Fanatic midday show, in an offseason that could likely see a shortened training camp/pre-season (ie. Practice Time), it’s unlikely that the Eagles would drastically change their schemes and philosophy (you know, short of firing The Walrus and starting fresh).

Here are two names that that you haven’t heard of (at all), but should warrent some attention: Mark Carrier and Darren Perry.

Mark Carrier, current Defensive Line Coach for the New York Jets, followed Rex Ryan from Baltimore, where he was the Ravens’ Secondary Coach from 2006 to 2009. Carrier, a three-time Pro Bowl free safety with the Bears, Lions, Redskins from 1990 to 2000, heads a defensive front ranked 5th against the run, 11th versus the pass and 8th in total sacks (with no one player getting more than 4.5 for the year). That’s a really solid unit, who absolutely battered and mauled Tom Brady yesterday.

From 2005 to 2009, Carrier had the Ravens’ secondary consistently in the top-ten of every major category, with a four-year average of the 9th overall pass defense, 5th in interceptions (#1 overall twice) and 4th in passes defended (#1 in ’08).

Darren Perry, current Green Bay Packers’ Defensive Backs Coach, was also a safety in the NFL (with the Steelers, where he was paired with Rod Woodson, Chargers and Saints from 1992 to 2000) – and also broke some interception records at a certain school coached by one JoePa. Over the past two seasons, Perry has coached the Packers’ secondary to extraordinary numbers (5th overall in passing yards in 2009 and 2010; 1st in INT in 2009, 2nd in 2010; 1st in passes defended in 2009, 2nd in 2010), in large part to Charles Woodson. But Perry’s units have progressed nicely as he’s matured as a coach, having averaged 13th in pass yards, 11th in picks and 10th in passes defended with the Steelers from 2004 to 2006, and with the Raiders in 2007 and 2008, he averaged 9th, 10th and 17th, respectively. For his career, his unit’s average in the top-ten in each category. Shouldn’t this guy be a scorching hot Defensive Coordinator candidate? He has been at the tutelage of legendary Defensive Coordinators Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers… teams just haven’t noticed him?

Why not take a shot at one of these young, up-and-coming coaches? Sean McDermutt comes to mind. But why not? This defense is young and needs new blood. Dave Wannstedt is not new blood. Dick Jauron and Bill Davis aren’t new blood. Even Eric Mangini is used up and tainted by losing.

Perry and Carrier’s teams are still playing. Their defenses rank in the top-five in the league. I say The Walrus waits a week or two and tries to sink his tusks into one of these two.

If not, it’ll likely just be more of the same. And we’ll still be calling to Fire the Walrus.