By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
PHILADELPHIA–On the day that Andy Reid was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, it was a time of soul-searching for the players who, while cleaning out their lockers, put the blame on themselves for their 4-12 record in 2012.
“We could never stop the bleeding,” said Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. “If I had to point to one game where everything went downhill, I would say it was that Detroit Lions game. After that, Juan [Castillo] got fired and everything just went downhill from there.”
In that game against the Lions, the Eagles had a 23-13 lead with 5:18 left and allowed the Lions to score on their next three possessions including the overtime game-winning field goal. The Eagles season spiraled into a disastrous eight-game losing streak that ultimately destroyed their season.
After what was described as an emotional farewell to their former head coach on Monday, some Eagles players criticized their teammates for not making enough of an effort to win. Running back LeSean McCoy said players didn’t lay it on the line as much as they should have this season.
“I think guys mad e a lot of excuses,” said McCoy. “Guys weren’t playing up to par and wasn’t focused enough. There were guys making a certain amount of money and not putting out. I think guys looked for excuses.”
Quarterback Michael Vick, who’s not expected to return next year, said it ticked him off that players didn’t give enough effort throughout the season and didn’t buy into Reid’s system.
“Until you get guys who are willing to better themselves week in and week out and want to win, you ain’t gonna win,” Vick said. “It’s unfortunate for Coach that things turned out the way they did. It could have been a lot better and this locker room could have dictated that.”
Some of the players said there was a lack of leadership from their ranks. Eagles offensive lineman Evan Mathis said its time for the veteran players on the team to take a more active, more vocal role as team leaders.
“We need a lot more leaders,” Mathis said. “Guys like myself and other guys that have been around for awhile need to step up and take the reins and lead.”
Vick said he regrets not being more of a vocal leader. He said that his style of leadership was more about leading by example and that he did what he could to hold his teammates accountable.
“I should have done it [been more vocal]. I tried to take a modest approach and try to lead by example,” Vick said. “We had a time meeting to try to help guys to recommit. It was still the same thing over and over again. I’m not going to tell a grown man anything twice.
“The reason I ended up incarcerated was because people told me things over and over again and I didn’t listen,” Vick continued. “I feel like if you don’t learn on the first go-around, then you’re just disregarding it, so you have to deal with the consequences.”
On the field, players like Vick, McCoy or Maclin certainly made their share of mistakes this season. Vick threw 12 touchdown passes, but also threw 10 interceptions and had five fumbles. McCoy had three fumbles.
The Eagles defense, especially after former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was fired, couldn’t stop anybody. Free agents like cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha were major disappointments over the last two years.
In the aftermath of Reid’s firing, general manager Howie Roseman said the Eagles from a personnel standpoint have to get back to having a core group of players that they draft that believe in the system established by the new coaching staff and rely less on signing free agents.
“We have to get back to having a core group of guys that are Eagles, that bleed green, that are passionate about the city, that are passionate about playing here and really genuinely care,” Roseman said. “When you bring in players from other places, you think they’re good fits, but you don’t really know that until they’re here.
“It affects the chemistry and part of that is that we’ve been close for so long we were desperately trying to win a championship. You got to do it the right way, there’s no sacrifice for doing it the right,” Roseman said.