The 2009 season is over. A long and winding road that began in late July reached a dead end in Dallas. Weeks of finger-pointing and blame games are sure to follow. Hey, it’s healthy to vent, but I prefer to leave emotions aside when attempting to discuss how the Eagles can improve from now until training camp.
It’s simple to say “trade this guy” and “fire that coach” but that’s not going to solve all the problems that surfaced throughout the season. Some tough questions need to be answered and some difficult decisions must be made. In other words, it’s pretty much like every other offseason in the City of Brotherly Love.
So, what has to be done? How will the brain trust reshape the Birds into legit Super Bowl contenders? Time will tell. Here are a few of the more pressing issues which I feel are the most important ones to address:
- A new GM – Word is Tom Heckert is off to Cleveland. Presumably, he’ll be given more power, although Mike Holmgren is running the show. Whatever. It’s Cleveland. Good luck, Tom. Does the promotion of Banner buddy Howie Roseman to GM mean anything? To be determined. If Heckert had influence on draft day, then it could be significant. I don’t know much about Roseman, except that’s he’s a lawyer. Last time I checked, a law degree was not a prerequisite to evaluate talent.
- Who’s the quarterback? – Naturally, the postgame meme quickly escalated into “Donovan Must Go.” The final two performances really raised the temperature on a guy who has been firmly planted in the hot seat for eleven years. He deserves criticism and it’s logical to wonder if he’s capable of leading this team back to the Big Game. His backers will say he’s not the only one deserving of blame, and they’d be correct. However, this is the NFL, this is Philadelphia. The guy under center makes for a very large target. Will he return? I say yes. Remember back to when he inked his “restructured” deal. The theme that day was he and the Eagles have TWO years to capture the elusive Lombardi Trophy. Two years, not one. After that, anything is fair game. Well, one year is in the books. That leaves one more. Agree or not, Don isn’t going to be traded while under contract. Not gonna happen as long as Reid is in charge. With the young playmakers assured to mature, McNabb is the best option. Now, 2011 is a whole other story.
- Westbrook’s last stand – Westy is also still under contract. I personally feel he’s finished as an elite player. They are not obligated to invite him back. Especially when Shady appears ready and willing to be handed the featured back keys. What will Reid do? Provided Brian doesn’t hang ‘em up, and he has not once hinted of retirement, I would expect Reid to monitor the next few months closely. If Westy makes it to August without going under the knife or suffering post-concussion symptoms, he’ll probably be offered a spot on the training camp roster. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll make the team. Although cutting him outright would be harsh, even for the Eagles.
- The specter of Dawkins lingers – You know who suffered most from Dawk’s absence? Quintin Mikell. It took me a couple months to figure it out, but right around the time they lost to the Cowboys in week 9, I started to notice Q making a lot of mistakes. Poor tackling, bad angles, wrong reads. The increased responsibilities clearly took their toll by late in the season. The previous couple years, Q was basically an in-the-box safety asked to play the run and occasionally cover a tight end or back. In ’09, he was asked to do everything Dawk did. Problem is, he’s not as talented. He’s a hard working player with a good football IQ, but expecting him to make all the secondary calls, play the run, cover tight ends, backs and wide receivers the same way Dawkins did was unrealistic. The dude looked overwhelmed at times. Getting little to no support from the other safeties didn’t help matters. At first glance, I thought the defense didn’t really miss Weapon X. I was wrong.
- Even when Bradley returns… – This linebacking corps is still a jumbled mess. Gaither and Gocong are likely goners. Akeem Jordan fell apart after injuring his knee. Trotter was, well… old and slow, but what the hell did we expect? Moise Fokou is an enigma. His spotty play in the first half on Saturday night got him benched. He’s young, but you have to wonder if he’s the real deal or was he simply the last resort on a defense desperate for any and all help. Spoon should be serviceable at WIL, even though he’s showing some age. Tracy White flashed at times, but I think McDermott put him situations where he wouldn’t fail. He’s a solid player, but not starter material. Relying on bargain basement backers is getting tiresome. They need a serious influx of quality talent. A high draft pick should be considered.
- Ditch the dead weight – Let’s say bye, bye to these fellas, shall we: Clemons, Abiamiri, Laws, Demps, Reggie Brown, Curtis and Shawn Andrews. I heard Stacy say his brother will be ready come training camp. Ready for what? Another back surgery? Just cut the Big Kid loose already. As for Stacy… if 18 months isn’t enough recovery time for his knee, then he’s a major bust.
- Help for Celek – I would love to believe that Cornelius Ingram will be healthy after two surgeries to repair the same ACL, but that would be beyond wishful thinking. Alex Smith was a stopgap; decent blocker but offered little in the passing game. I keep hearing rave reviews about Martin Rucker, but until he actually plays in a real game, it’s all conjecture. Draft or free agency, take your pick. Just get another tight end.
- The biggest need – Is a stud left defensive end. Juqua Parker is not a starter. Did you see how the Cowboys ran right at him the last two games for huge yardage? Parker has one move: a bull rush. He’s not stout enough to anchor the left side of the line. As a third down change of pace, he’s okay. I will be very surprised if a defensive end is not targeted in the first round of April’s draft. While I’m on the subject, a pocket collapsing tackle is also needed. Bunk and Patterson are designated run stuffers. Neither can get to the quarterback. Which is precisely why the Cowboys ran left and right, not up the middle.
- Contract talk – I’m not even going to broach the subject of a no salary cap 2010. Both Weaver and Avant will likely be retained due to the restricted/unrestricted free agent stipulations. I would like to see both get long-term deals. Again, the pesky CBA throws many flies in the proverbial ointment.
- Here we go again – Who the f**k is going to return kicks in ’10? I doubt Hobbs will be back. Macho sucks. Demps is a waste. Maclin is not the answer. I suggest giving Buckley a shot in training camp.
- McDermott’s Madness – As the season progressed, and injuries mounted, Little Red holed up in his laboratory devising many an odd concoction. Most of which didn’t work. I really hope he eschews the cute shit and goes back to basics. A physical, attacking style is what made Eagles defenses under JJ great. I realize it’s unfair to compare the two styles, but these are Jim Johnson players. Unless you do a complete overhaul, scaling things back seems like the smartest thing to do. Dallas identified all the weak spots in McD’s defense and exploited each and every one. Unless McD tweaks his philosophy, we could be in for a lot of 45-38 games next season.
That’s enough for now. You would think the Birds finished 5-11, not 11-5. The ’09 team overcame lots of setbacks, but once again failed to achieve their ultimate goal. Thus begins another offseason of hand-wringing and nail biting.
Never a dull moment in Eagles Nation.