Tag Archives: Jeffrey Lurie

Can Doug Pederson Rescue the Eagles?

22 Jan
pedersonphoto.

Doug Pederson, who served as an assistant under former Eagles head coach Andy Reid, will try to put the Birds on the right track as the team’s head coach.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

The Philadelphia Eagles began the transition from the Chip Kelly era to the Doug Pederson era when they introduced him as the team’s new head coach on Tuesday.
But before the ink was even allowed to dry on his contract, jaded Birds fans were looking at the new coach with a side-eye that suggested that they’d already been down this particular road.

Because Pederson’s last job was Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City, Eagles fans on social media were having flashbacks to Super Bowl XXXIX when the Birds offense moved with no urgency even though they were down 10 with about six minutes left in the game.

Those flashbacks weren’t triggered by Pederson’s presence on the podium with team Jeffrey Lurie on Tuesday, but by his last game as the Chiefs offensive coordinator, a playoff game against the New England Patriots that raised a few eyebrows with some “say-whats” and some “what the entire hells” throw in for good measure.

In the Patriots game, the Chiefs were down by two touchdowns late and got the ball back with about six minutes left in the game. Instead of acting like they were down two scores and needed to get points quickly, the Chiefs took nearly all of the 6:29 remaining to get one touchdown and lost 27-20.

When Pederson was asked about that drive, he gave an answer that probably raised even more questions.

“It took us time because number one, we did not want to give Tom Brady the ball back,” he said. “We knew we were going to score and we knew we had timeouts and the time. We were also limited with the number of receivers we had. Jeremy Maclin was out of the game.”

The Chiefs scored with just 1:13 left and three timeouts, but the onside kick failed and the Patriots ran out the clock. If the Eagles get into a clock management situation during the 2016 season and they lose, fans will revisit this. Count on it.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that Pederson did call plays in the second half of games during the Chiefs 11-game winning streak that got them into the playoffs and led quarterback Alex Smith to his best year as a pro.

Smith passed for a career-high 3,486 yards and had a career-high 498 yards running the football. He threw 20 touchdown passes and during the Chiefs 11 game-winning streak, had a run where he threw 312 passes without an interception.

During the news conference, Pederson said that he believes Eagles starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who will become a free agent in March, is a good fit for the offense he wants to run, something that probably resembles the West coast offense. Bradford passed for 3.725 yards with 19 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.

“I think Sam’s a quality quarterback. I think he’s a top notch quarterback,” Pederson said. “Look at what he did the last half of the season, the numbers he was able to put up, I feel like he’s a quarterback that would fit perfectly into the system that I’m going to bring.”

You would think Pederson as the head coach would also bode well for running back DeMarco Murray. In Kansas City, Jamaal Charles and the running game thrived under Pederson and Reid. Charles gained over thousand yards in 2013 and 2014.

Pederson said he thinks that Murray is also good fit for his offense in the way that Charles did with the Chiefs.

“I think there’s a unique style with him. When you look at his tape in Dallas, I think there’s some great opportunities with him. He’s more of a downhill guy, a physical running back,” Pederson said.

Breaking it Down: Did Eagles Free Agents Moves Put Them in the Right Direction?

21 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

DeMarco Murray will don the Eagles green jersey for the next five years. The Birds signed him to a five-year-deal worth $42 million ($18 million guaranteed).

DeMarco Murray will don the Eagles green jersey for the next five years. The Birds signed him to a five-year-deal worth $42 million ($18 million guaranteed).

PHILALDELPHIA—When the Eagles traded running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, Eagles fans began pulling out their collective hair.

When the team didn’t re-sign free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who was coming off his best year as an NFL wide receiver, and said good-bye to fan favorites like defensive end Trent Cole, many fans started combing the want ads in search of a general manager to put to put Coach Chip Kelly’s baser impulses in check.

Was he giving away the farm so he could draft his old Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota? Or was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith correct in wondering if Kelly was just thinning his herd of Black players?

Then the Birds traded Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford.  For some diehard fans, that the Eagles were content with remaining the champs of the “Salary Cap Bowl.”

But when the dust settled, Kelly may have had the last laugh when the Birds landed the biggest prize of the March free-agent period, former Dallas Cowboys running DeMarco Murray.

“We felt like when the opportunity with LeSean came up and it was offered, you’ve got an outstanding  young linebacker at a position that we had a huge need at,” Kelly said. “Really the biggest factor with LeSean, it was LeSean and the money and what could that get us.”

Kelly even took time to dispel any notion that he was still going after Mariota in the upcoming NFL Draft. Although, you probably shouldn’t put it past him given what has transpired thus far.

“I think Marcus is the best quarterback in the draft,” Kelly said at a recent press conference. “We will never mortgage our future to go all the way up to get somebody like that because we have too many other holes that we are going to take care of.”

Former Eagles linebacker and WIP Radio host Garry Cobb said the only way Kelly would be able to pick up Mariota if he’s not picked in the top five.

“I think the longer he’s on there and he gets to 10, I think it’s going to be difficult for Chip not to make a move to get him,” Cobb said.

The Eagles signed Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, to a five-year contract for $42-million ($18-milion guaranteed). The Birds had offered a three-year deal to former San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, but he changed his mind and signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

The main caveat with both Murray and Bradford is that they both have had their share of injuries. Bradford missed all of last season and part of the 2013 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Dating back to his college days at Oklahoma, Murray has had seven injuries in his legs-knee injuries, ankle injuries and hamstring ailments.

That reality made Cobb question the wisdom of the Eagles giving Murray so much money.

“The whole thing is you’ve got stay healthy,” Cobb said. “I don’t think it’s a frugal or wise thing to do to put all that money into a running back knowing that running backs do get hurt and you’re going to guarantee him $18-21 million.  That’s high for a running back …and it’s the same thing for the quarterback. A lot of times availability is better than ability.  If they don’t stay healthy all bets are off.”

Last season, Murray ran for a league-leading 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns while leading the Cowboys to their first NFC East crown since 2009.  The former Oklahoma star said he likes the Birds chances of making it to the Super Bowl and winning it.

“I felt this was a great opportunity for me to win a Super Bowl at the end of the day,” Murray said. “It wasn’t about financial security or anything like that.  I think the Eagles have a great chance to win the Super Bowl. It’s not going to be easy. I know there’s a lot of hard work to be done. It’s easy to stand up here and say that, but we got to get to work.”

The Eagles also signed former San Diego Chargers star running back Ryan Matthews, who will get a few carries to take the burden off Murray.

The Eagles offense wasn’t the only beneficiary of Kelly’s bold moves. The team’s much-maligned secondary got a huge boost with the signing of former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell.

As a key of member of the Seahawks famed “Legion of Boom” secondary, Maxwell led his team in passes defended because teams refused to throw toward his teammate cornerback Richard Sherman.  While he is definitely better than what the Eagles had last season, Maxwell has a lot to prove in his first year without arguably the best shutdown corner in the game playing alongside him.

According to Pro Football Focus.com, Maxwell was targeted once for every 5.8 cover snaps, allowing just one touchdown and holding passers to a 78.5 quarterback rating. Only three other corners in the league who were targeted as often Maxwell were better than him.  In 2014, he had a pair of interceptions and defended 12 passes.

“Without a doubt I think (Maxwell) has the opportunity to be an outstanding cornerback,” Cobb said. “He did have a lot of heat on him last year playing opposite of Richard Sherman and they’re throwing at you every down. Anytime your guy is open, they’re looking for your guy by them staying away from Sherman. That’s a lot of pressure.”

Even with Murray and Maxwell, the Eagles still need to pick up a wide receiver and a safety via the draft or the next wave of free agency in June.

“We are trying to accumulate as many good football players as we can,” Kelly said.

But if they’re not as good as the ones he got rid of, Kelly may be heading back to Oregon sooner than he planned.

Eagles Badly Mishandled Release of DeSean Jackson

30 Mar

 

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Former Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been contacted by several teams since he was cut by the team on Friday.

Former Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been contacted by several teams since he was cut by the team on Friday.

PHILADELPHIA—In the previous column on DeSean Jackson’s unceremonious release from the Eagles, I refrained from outright criticizing the team’s handling of this situation because I wanted to hear it from them rather than rely on second-hand information or the speculation from other publications.

Instead of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly addressing the issue head-on and honestly, they chose not talk to the media that covers the team. Their silence allowed a NJ.com story to portray Jackson as a thug with ties to a Los Angeles street gang so they could come up with a convenient justification to cut him and not have to pay him.

The Los Angeles Police Department told the Philadelphia Daily News that they have never accused Jackson of being in a gang nor has he been tied to a crime committed by someone in a gang.

In aftermath of his release from the Eagles and the criminal implications that came with it, Jackson released a statement denying any involvement in gang activity:

“I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible. I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values.”

By not addressing the media, the Eagles not only put themselves in a position to be possibly sued by Jackson for defamation of character, they have created a public relations nightmare with their fans in the African-American community who see this as the team appealing to an ugly stereotype of Black men so they can justify releasing him.

On Facebook and Twitter, some African-American sports fans are wondering how is it that Riley Cooper can get away with making a racist remark while Jackson can get cut from the team for merely being suspected of having ties to a gang.

To be clear, I don’t believe Jeffrey Lurie or the Eagles organization is racist given their years of community involvement in a city that is mostly Black and Latino. Over the years, Lurie has been an owner who has more than shown that he is sensitive on issues pertaining to race.

How they’ve handled the “divorce” from their former star receiver was petty and underhanded. I can understand that Kelly and Roseman may not have liked Jackson’s attitude and felt that the former Cal star probably didn’t fit into the kind of the team that they wanted. If you don’t want a guy on your team, then cut him and be honest about why you did it.

Trying to tie Jackson to a gang, vilifying him as a person and possibly tainting his character is not a way to do business. It makes the team looks like they’re trying to run him out of the league for daring to act like a diva and wanting more money. That’s the only “crime” that Jackson committed here.

You can argue that Jackson shouldn’t have been tripping over his contract and moaning about it a day after your team was eliminated from the playoffs. It’s not like he was coming off like Terrell Owens in 2005 who divided the team in his efforts to get management to renegotiate his contract.

Outside of a being a bit of a diva, Jackson caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. His ability to stretch the defense made it possible for guys like Cooper, tight end Zach Ertz and running back LeSean McCoy to have career years.

With teams now clamoring for his services, Jackson’s release from Eagles is like the old African-American trickster tale of Brer Fox throwing Brer Rabbit into the briar patch. In other words, Jackson might have gotten the better end of the deal.

Now, the Birds have to find a receiver in the draft that better be as good as Jackson or they are going to struggle offensively and the fan base will not be happy. If the starting wide receiver becomes a weakness in this offense in 2014, Eagles fans will blame management for this debacle for years to come.

In street parlance the way the Eagles dealt with Jackson’s release was just downright “ratchet” and classless. Yes, the NFL is a cold-hearted business and players get cut all the time. But you don’t have to disparage a person’s character and rub their nose in it in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

Eagles Cut DeSean Jackson for Alleged Gang Ties and Bad Attitude

29 Mar

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Several teams are reportedly interested in former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson.

Several teams are reportedly interested in former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson.

PHILADELPHIA—After a month of shopping him around and apparently finding no takers, the Eagles cut ties with wide receiver DeSean Jackson on Friday.
As of this point, no one in Eagles management is saying anything to the media about why they parted ways with the former Cal star, but the speculation on social media as to why Jackson was cut is blowing up the internet.

NJ.com reported that the Eagles were troubled by his off-field behavior and alleged affiliation with a gang before the team officially released him. It was also reported that Jackson didn’t have good chemistry with head coach Chip Kelly, was missing meetings and his friends were having a negative influence on his life.

ESPN.com reported that team owner Jeffrey Lurie, Kelly, and general manager Howie Roseman discussed the situation with the team’s lawyers and concluded that cutting him was the best option.

Shortly after Jackson was cut and received the word that NJ.com had written a story about his reported gang ties, he released a statement and said: “I am not a gang member.”
For the record, Jackson has never been arrested or linked to a crime. There are photos on Google Images of the former Eagles receiver posing in pictures flashing a gang sign.
Two days earlier at the NFL Owners meetings in Orlando, Kelly told the Philadelphia media that he liked Jackson and thought he did a good job for the team in 2013. On Tues, Jackson said he had a phone conversation with Kelly and came away with the impression that he was going to be staying with the Eagles.

But you have to wonder why a team would cut a 27-year-old receiver coming off the best season of his career and get nothing for him? The Eagles are also taking a $6 million salary cap hit.
Granted, it didn’t help things when Jackson talked about deserving to his contract renegotiated at his locker a day after the Eagles lost a playoff game to the New Orleans Saints. During a loss to the Minnesota Vikings in December, Jackson got into an argument with the team’s receivers coach on the sidelines.
With his reported ties to LA street gangs, the Eagles see getting rid of Jackson as their way of protecting their brand which means they think that Jackson must have done something or is involved with something egregious enough to warrant his departure.
As a journalist, I am not going to make any judgments of the team or Jackson until we hear from all the parties involved. I would rather have the facts before I lean either way on this issue. That the team was willing to take the salary cap hit does speak volumes on the urgency they had in unloading Jackson.
Another thing to look at here is how quickly Jackson lands with another team. Jackson’s agent Joel Segal said six teams called him 30 minutes after his client was released by the Eagles. Carolina head coach Ron Rivera told USA Today that he was interested in Jackson.

If Jackson signs with another team before the end of the weekend or the end of the week, then maybe his issues aren’t compelling enough to keep him out of the league. Teams that need a good, speedy wideout like the New York Jets or the San Francisco 49ers will be glad to have him if he doesn’t have too much baggage.

At this point, Eagles fans want an answer from Kelly and Roseman for why the team let their best wide receiver go for absolutely nothing. Was Jackson that big of a jerk and a disruption to team chemistry? Was his reported gang affiliation that troubling to the team?
More importantly, can the Eagles find a comparable replacement or better to make up for Jackson’s production that can play right away?

 

How Will Chip Kelly and GM Howie Roseman Rebuild the Eagles?

21 Jan

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

The Eagles will likely be rebuilt in Chip Kelly's image, but will it lead the Birds to a Super Bowl title. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The Eagles will likely be rebuilt in Chip Kelly’s image, but will it lead the Birds to a Super Bowl title. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA-At some point the newness of having Chip Kelly as the Eagles latest head coach is going to settle into what kind of team he and general manager Howie Roseman plan to put on the field.

That means the Eagles—namely Kelly and Roseman are going to be evaluating how guys like quarterbacks Nick Foles and Michael Vick will fit in the team’s plans for 2013 and beyond.

“I don’t want to have a preconceived notion when I turn the tape on. I want to see what the tape says,” Kelly said. “Not I know this about them because sometimes that can cloud your judgment. I think you’ve got to make a legitimate judgment of watching the film. There’s enough film of the guys on our roster to evaluate where we are.”

In Vick’s case, the team has until Feb. 6 or they will have to pay him $15.5 million. Considering his injury history and his penchant for turnovers, the Eagles will likely release Vick or get him to renegotiate his deal if they want him to stay.

According to the NFL Network, Vick has reportedly said he wants to stay in Philadelphia and would be willing to take a pay cut.

Meanwhile, Roseman said Kelly will be involved in the personnel process and the players they keep on the current roster and players selected through free agency or the draft will be defined by what the head coach deems as important to what he wants to do on the field.

“It’s very important for all of us to get a clear definition of what (Kelly) is looking for at every position,” Roseman said. “The more time we spend together and the more time we educate our staff, our scouts and our coaches about it, the easier it will be for us to do that.”

At this point, Roseman said he wants Kelly to go through the current roster to get a better idea of what he thinks about the personnel before he shares his perspective. The Birds general management made it clear that personnel decisions have to be defined by the needs of the head coach.

The one thing that Kelly was quick to make clear during his confabs with reporters this week about his offensive scheme was that whoever is under center for the Birds, they will not be running the ball from scrimmage as much as the running backs.

“That’s perception versus reality,” Kelly told reporters last Thursday. “My quarterback last year, Darron Thomas, who’s up in the CFL, he played in 14 games, he ran for 20 yards. But everybody is like well you run a running offense. Look at the statistics, we don’t run designed quarterback runs where we’re snapping the ball to him in the running quarterback power.

“We’ve run zone-read concepts, man-read concepts where it’s a mathematical game if there’s an extra defender in the box, the quarterback can control him by reading him. He’s basically blocking him.”

In Thomas’ last year (2011) at Oregon running Kelly’s offense, he ran the ball 56 times for 206 yards (3.7 yards per game) and three touchdowns.  Back in 2010, the year the Ducks played for the national championship, Thomas ran the ball 93 times for 486 yards and five touchdowns.

Thomas’ and Marcus Mariota’s passing numbers were more impressive than their rushing numbers in Kelly’s offense.  In his final year with the Ducks, Thomas completed 62. 7 percent of his passes and threw for 2,761 yards with 33 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

In Oregon’s loss to Auburn in the 2010 BCS National Championship game, Thomas completed 27-of-40 passes for 363 yards with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions.

Mariota, who started as a freshman, ran the ball 106 times for 752 yards and five touchdowns. As a passer, he threw the ball over 300 times and completed 68 percent of his passes with 32 touchdowns. He passed for 2,677 yards.

When Kelly was asked if he would bring in the 6-3, 215-pound Thomas for a tryout with the Eagles, his answer was non-committal, saying he had to evaluate the roster  He said he believes that Thomas would make a good quarterback in the NFL.

Perhaps the most important thing that Kelly will have to shore up with the Eagles is the defense. Last season, the defense was often the reason the Eagles lost games. There were definite weaknesses at linebacker and in the defensive backfield.

Kelly recently interviewed Giants linebacker coach Jim Herrmann for the defensive coordinator position. The new Eagles head coach made it clear that he wants the Eagles to be aggressive on his defense—something they haven’t been for the last couple of years.

“In terms of what we want to be, we’re going to be an attacking style defense. It’s going to be a group of people who dictates the tempo of the game,” Kelly said. “What that spacing is in terms of is it a 4-3 spacing or 3-4 spacing, I think it’s, again, looking at our roster and understanding who I have the opportunity to bring here.”

Rolling the Dice: Can the Eagles Win A Super Bowl with Chip Kelly?

17 Jan
Chip Kelly is hoping his up-tempo spread offense can take the Eagles to a Super Bowl title.

Chip Kelly is hoping his up-tempo spread offense can take the Eagles to a Super Bowl title.

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and The Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA—Perhaps the one question Eagles fans  have for Chip Kelly, the  Birds new head coach, is will his fast-paced, no-huddle, spread-option offense will be good enough to bring the franchise its first Super Bowl title?

Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie is hoping that Kelly can turn the Birds fortune’s around as quickly as he did during his four seasons at Oregon.  While with the Ducks, Kelly compiled a 46-7 record, which included a trip to the 2010 BCS National Championship game. He also served as the team’s offensive coordinator before taking the head coaching job.

“Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles,” said Lurie in a statement released by the team. “He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team.”

Kelly does have a tough act to follow after former Birds head coach Andy Reid, who finished his 14-year tenure as the winningest coach in Eagles history with nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five trips to the NFC title game and one conference title.

After interviewing with the Eagles for over nine hours in Arizona shortly after his team’s victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl two weeks ago, Kelly had originally opted to stay at Oregon. Why he apparently changed his mind is not known.

There is speculation that Oregon maybe facing NCAA sanctions because Kelly used a recruiting service. According to ESPN.com, Kelly said he wasn’t running away from anything and had been cooperating with the NCAA.

In four seasons at Oregon, Kelly’s up-tempo, spread offense averaged 44 points per game. Last season, the Ducks rolled up 49.6 points per game. The Oregon offense is run exclusively from the shotgun formation with the quarterback opting to run, pass or hand it off to a running back usually up the middle of a defense.

It is an offense that requires the quarterback to be mobile and would put him in situations where he would be hit by the defense.  Kelly’s challenge will be to make that offense work in a league where the defensive linemen and linebackers are as fast as some running backs. It’s not like the Eagles are going to be playing Washington State or Cal every week.

Several teams around the league use a version of the spread option offense including the Washington Redskins, the New England Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers, the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks.

“It’s starting to form more toward that offense. Anytime you have dual threat quarterback, it puts pressure on the defense that they can do numerous things throwing or running the ball,” said San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James, who played for Kelly at Oregon.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said he’s even learned a thing or two from Kelly’s uptempo offense.

“I was interested to hear how he did it. I would say he expanded it to a different level and it was very interesting to understand what he was doing,” Belichick said.  “Certainly I’ve learned a lot from talking to Chip about his experiences with it and how he does it and his procedure and all that.”

Perhaps the ideal quarterback to run Kelly’s version of the spread option could be Michael Vick, the Eagles starting quarterback until late in the season. The only problem is that Vick, while he is still a good runner, has been injury-prone and has committed a large amount of turnovers over the last two seasons.

It’s highly unlikely that the team will bring the 33-yea r-old Vick back simply because they would have to pay him $16 million. The former Virginia Tech’s age and history of injuries is definitely not an incentive for the team to shell out that kind of money.

Meanwhile, Nick Foles, who is your requisite NFL-style drop back quarterback, said he has never played in a read option-spread offense and would prefer to play in a more conventional style. Can Kelly adjust his coaching style to suit what Foles can do as a quarterback?  We’ll see.

“I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid’s a warrior. He’s as good as anyone in the country,” Kelly told a Tucson, Ariz. newspaper after his Ducks beat Arizona in 2011.

One quarterback from the collegiate ranks that could possibly fit Kelly’s system is West Virginia’s Geno Smith, who played in a spread-option offense. He has a strong arm and completed 71 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,205 yards and a career-high 42 touchdown passes during his senior year.

Another thing to consider here is will Kelly be smart enough to surround himself with a coaching staff that’s familiar with the NFL, especially on the defensive side of the ball? For the last two seasons, the Eagles defense has been from mediocre at best to downright awful, especially in the secondary.

Eagles players, via Twitter and the team’s website, are saying they are excited to have Kelly as the new head mentor.

“He’s a brilliant mind. We have a lot of weapons on the Eagles that kind of assimilates to what he was doing at Oregon,” Eagles center Jason Kelce.

If anything, Eagles fans are hoping Kelly can be as successful as a Jimmy Johnson who went from winning national championships at the collegiate level to winning Super Bowls as a pro coach.

The biggest fear is that he could flame out like collegiate coaches Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban, who had their shot in the NFL, but came up miserably short.

 

ESPN.com and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Lurie Angry About 2011 Season, But Still Believes Andy Reid Can Turn it Around in 2012

5 Jan

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie addresses the media about the 2011 season.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

In a season of coulda, woulda, shoulda with a few ifs and buts sprinkled in for good measure, watching his Philadelphia Eagles falter to a mediocre 8-8 was something that didn’t sit too well with team owner Jeffrey Lurie.

“This season was without question the most disappointing since I’ve owned the team,” Lurie said during his press conference with the media on Tuesday.

. “The primary emotion is anger and frustration….You’re not thinking that if you’re aggressive in free agency, you make a trade for a Pro Bowl cornerback and you continue to improve the team with good, young players and Michael Vick coming off a year where he was second to Tom Brady as MVP of the league, there’s no way that anyone could have imagined that we could be sitting here with the season already ended.”.

All that said, Lurie said he was sticking with head coach Andy Reid, who did not give his regular Monday press conference. He said he believes the team has the talent to make a run for the title in 2012 and that Reid is the man to lead that talent.

“There is no doubt in my mind that if our focus is to win a championship next year, the best coach for that is Andy,” Lurie said. “Andy Reid not only has the love of the players and their respect, but he also the fire in his belly to be the best.”

Lurie said the future of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is something that Reid has to decide. Meanwhile, rumors are already circulating that recently fired St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, a former Eagles assistant coach, could be the Birds next defensive coordinator.

Before announcing that Reid, who has two years left on his contract, would be his guy, Lurie said that there were no legitimate excuses for the team’s demise in the first half of the year.

Blowing fourth quarter leads, the lack of minicamps and organized team activities because of the lockout, and rationalizations about the defense’s inability to gel and learn Castillo’s system during the first half of the season were things the Birds owner wasn’t trying to hear.

I thought the first half of the season for us – the only word I could use is maybe dismal,,” Lurie said. “Just unfathomable that we could have the record we have the first half of the season.”

And even though Lurie thought that the last four wins of the season against non-playoff teams were fool’s gold, he was apparently excited enough about them to bring Reid back.

“It’s a talented group and it’s a group where we brought in a lot of good, talented players,” Lurie said. “The pay off wasn’t this year, but the pay off has a chance to come soon and be really great.”

Eagles players attribute the failure of the 2011 season to not having offseason mini-camps and organized team activities (OTAs) because of the lockout.

That sentiment came mostly from the Birds much-maligned defense, which got pushed around to the point where it couldn’t hold leads late in games. Apparently, it wasn’t until the last four games of the season that the Eagles finally figured out Castillo’s defense given the influx of different players that came to the team via trades or free agency.

“Coming into camp, we got thrown into the fire early and so you have to learn as you go, said Eagles linebacker Brian Rolle.”

Learning on the fly was something that Castillo, last season’s offensive line coach, had to do. He definitely underwent some very severe growing paints this season as he watched his defense blow fourth quarter leads in a four-game losing streak after the Eagles beat the Rams on opening day.

For the record though, Castillo’s defense did finish the 2011 season ranked eighth in the NFL in total defense (10th against the pass, 16th against the run). They tied the last-place Minnesota Vikings for the team title in sacks with 50—18 from defensive end Jason Babin.

Rolle said the defense was eventually able to find themselves as a unit because some of the veteran players like cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha started making suggestions to Castillo and that he became more aggressive as a play caller.

Asomugha, who had a disappointing season after coming to Philly as a highly touted free agent, said Castillo got better at utilizing players individual abilities to help the defense.

“When I first got here, he didn’t really know me and he’ll tell you himself, he didn’t know what to take and what not to take,” Asomugha said. “But as the season went on, he figured out what helped us the most as a defense. The one thing about him is that he does listen and wants to get better. He started to show that.”

Like Rolle, Asomugha said having the full schedule of offseason workouts will help the Birds defense get better if Castillo is back as the defensive coordinator.

“Anytime you have more time to work on something, it’s going to help,” said Asomugha, who finished the year with three interceptions. “We didn’t have that time we will have now. We can be even better than we are right now.”