Did you ever think the Eagles would miss Tom Modrak this much?
There are many reasons why the Birds are 5-6, having lost four out of their last five games and are 11-16 over the last two seasons, a ship struggling to stay afloat in rocky waters.
Bad play-calling. Lack of effort. Stupid penalties. Dumb gameplans. Injuries. Poor execution.
And while those are all viable, and obvious, reasons for the Eagles’ fall from the NFL elite, they are but mere symptoms of a much larger problem afflicting this organization.
Horrendous drafts that have left them extremely short on quality NFL talent.
And all that falls on the feet of one man… the Big Enchilada… the Mormon Mound of Rebound… the Nova Care Complex Alpha Dog…
…Head Coach and President of Player Personnel Andy Reid.
While Tom Heckert officially holds the title of General Manager, everyone knows that he does not have final say on any player personnel moves made by the Birds. Every player on this roster has been brought to the Eagles’ nest at the behest of one man… Big Red.
And because Reid usually eschews free agency when it comes to bringing star-quality players into the fold (Terrell Owens, Jevon Kearse, and Darren Howard notwithstanding), the draft becomes a much more vital function of this team’s success.
Don’t get me wrong, building through the draft is the prudent way to build a successful NFL franchise. We’ve all seen how unsuccessful the Redskins’ way of building a team is. Constructing a squad from the ground-up, through the draft, is the best way to ensure continuity and chemistry for years to come.
When it’s done right. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they haven’t been doing it right for quite a little while now.
Offensively, the big guy has done OK. His most brilliant selection was obviously taking McNabb in ‘99, followed by the third-round steal of RB Brian Westbrook in 2002. More recently, TE L.J. Smith (2003, Rd. 2) OL Shawn Andrews (2004, Rd. 1) and WR Reggie Brown (2005, Rd. 2) all appear to be fine selections.
Less successful have been Reid’s selections on defense. While he did pluck some outstanding defensive players in the 2002 Draft, selecting CBs Lito Sheppard (1st round) and Sheldon Brown (2nd round) and former Pro-Bowl safety Michael Lewis (2nd round), the rest of his defensive selections have been abysmal.
No one said that predicting a college player’s ability to turn into a quality NFL player was easy to do. It’s a monumentally difficult challenge. However, for a man who believes that you build a winner through the draft, it’s pretty easy to see why the Eagles have been struggling so much over the last 15 months.
Below are the results of Reid’s drafts with my grade for each pick in paranthesis… starting with 2003…
Rd1. DE Jerome McDougle - Without question the biggest bust of the Andy Reid era. The Eagles moved up 15 spots to land him with the 15th pick with almost nothing to show for it. (F)
Rd2. TE L.J. Smith - A Pro-Bowl caliber pass-catching tight end. Can’t block to save his life, but can catch the rock and appears to be coming into his own. (B)
Rd3. WR Billy McMullen - A third-round pick on a guy who was never more than a #4 receiver with the Eagles. (F)
Rd4. DE Jamaal Green - McDougle’s teammate on the Hurricanes, never a contributor for the Birds. (F)
Rd6 & 7. OL Jeremy Bridges & S Norman Lejeune - Nobodies. (F)
Only one decent player in the entire draft.
Rd1. OL Shawn Andrews - Moved up 12 spots to grab him, a questionable draft pick at the time, but is looking to be like a brilliant selection for Reid. The kid will be a force on the offensive line for years to come. (A)
Rd3. CB Matt Ware - Never more than the Birds’ fourth-best cornerback, now toiling on the Arizona Cardinals. (D)
Rd4. S J.R. Reed - Would have been a great pick if he hadn’t ruined his career with a leg injury jumping over a chain-link fence. Had a long career as a kick returner ahead of him. Can’t blame Reid for this one. (C)
Rd4. OL Tony Darilek - If you’ve ever heard of this guy before, you’re a more informed man than I am. (F)
Rd5. RB Thomas Tapeh - Somehow this guy is our starting fullback. He can’t run the ball, has no speed, and is a mediocre run blocker. But not terrible value for a 5th-rounder. (C)
Rd6. QB Andy Hall - A project from the start. Project… aborted. (D)
Rd6. CB Dexter Wynn - The Birds’ number-four cornerback, recently demoted from his kick return duties. A decent cover guy, also not bad value in the 6th round. (C)
Rd7. OG Adrien Clarke, RB Bruce Perry, C Dominic Furio (D-)
Again, only one really productive NFL player in this draft.
Rd1. DT Mike Patterson - Recently signed to a ridiculous seven-year contract extension that makes him an Eagle through 2016, the second-year starter has just 1 1/2 sacks for the Birds in ‘06 and only 25 tackles through 11 games. It’s not too much to ask for a little impact from last year’s first-round pick. (C-)
Rd2. WR Reggie Brown - Has been a pretty decent wide receiver for the Eagles in his second year and should only get better. He has struggled to hold onto the ball and isn’t a playmaker, but he has shown to be a decent second-round selection. (B)
Rd2. LB Matt McCoy - Perhaps the prime example of why the Eagles are losing. This was a second-round pick??? Watching him get railroaded by Dallas Clark on Sunday night made me want to cut him right then and there. He stinks. (D)
Rd3. RB Ryan Moats - A waste of a draft pick. Why take a smallish running back when you already had Wesbrook? Wouldn’t a smarter move have been to draft a bigger back to complement B-West? Moats hasn’t seen the field in ‘06 and doesn’t look likely to see it anytime soon. (D+)
Rd4. S Sean Considine - Here’s another guy who has been getting thrown around the field like a rag doll lately, although that’s mainly because the linebackers have been so brutal. He seems like he could turn into a decent playmaker with time. Not a bad pick and the jury’s still out on him. (C+)
Rd4. OL Todd Herremans - A starting offensive lineman on one of the strongest offensive lines in football. A solid selection. (B+)
Rd5. DE Trent Cole - While he started out fast, he has slowed considerably since being made the starter. Still not sure whether he’s going to turn into a stud defensive end, but he’s shown enough promise to make you optimistic. Definitely good value here in round five. (C+)
Rd5. OL Scott Young - Never heard of him. (Incomplete)
Rd6. OL Calvin Armstrong - Why another offensive lineman here? (Incomplete)
Rd7. DT Keyonta Marshall & LB David Bergeron - Practice squad players. (Incomplete)
Six current starters are from this draft. The problem…, only one (Herremans) looks like a future Pro-Bowler, and only two others, (Brown & Cole) look like long-term solutions at their positions.
Rd1. DT Broderick Bunkley - It’s a sin that the 14th pick in the draft be so invisible. I know it’s his rookie season, but I think we deserve to expect more from a first-round pick, especially at a position like defensive tackle. A massive underachiever so far, but still far too soon to say he’s been a bust. But he’s well on his way. (C)
Rd2. OL Winston Justice - Again, the offensive line is stacked and for now, he’s right where he should be. As a back-up. (Incomplete)
Rd3. LB Chris Gocong - At a position of sever weakness, Gocong would have had an opportunity to show his stuff, but a neck injury ended his ‘06 season prematurely. (Incomplete)
Rd4. OL Max Jean-Gilles - Like Justice, waiting for his turn to fill in for an injured offensive lineman. (Incomplete)
Rd4. WR Jason Avant - While he has gotten a little playing time this year, the Andy Reid offensive scheme is too complicated for a rookie wide receiver to understand. (Incomplete)
Rd5. WR/KR Jeremy Bloom - You never like to hear about a speed guy with hamstring problems. On IR. (Incomplete)
Rd5. LB Omar Gaither - Perhaps best known as being the 12th man on the field in the final minutes of the New Orleans game, a penalty that cost the Birds one final shot at beating the Saints. Paying his dues on special teams now. (Incomplete)
Rd6. DT Lajuan Ramsey (Incomplete)
Not a single solitary player that is having an impact in ‘06. Simply inexcusable.
And let’s not forget two major defensive draft busts that Reid was a party to before 2003… LB Barry Gardner (’99, Rd.2), LB Quinton Caver (’01, Rd.2), and the one solid selection, 2005 sack leader DE Derrick Burgess (’01, Rd.3) who the Eagles let go the instant he became healthy and dominant. You don’t think he’d be a major help to a struggling Birds’ D-Line now?
Building a team through the draft is the smart way to go. But Reid’s refusal to acquire free agents at key positions of need, mainly defensive tackle and outside linebacker, and his reliance on unproven first and second-year players is a huge gamble that has not paid off over the last year and a half.
And why has Reid constructed an offensive and defensive system that is so complicated to understand that it is virtually impossible for a current-year draft pick to be productive? What kind of sense does that make?
The Eagles’ depth is atrocious. The Birds’ back-ups, mostly draft picks from past Reid drafts, have not done the job. And the high-round draft picks that are seeing significant playing time have underperformed.
The Eagles need someone who is an expert college talent evaluator. Someone who has a track record of compiling excellent drafts. Someone who does not have to worry about running a team at the same time.
It’s time for Andy Reid to turn over the GM reigns to someone who is, frankly, better at it.