Originally posted on Buzz On Broad  |  Last updated 10/3/11

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 20: Andy Reid, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles yells from the sidelines during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field on September 20, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

For the last twelve seasons, the steady presence behind the Philadelphia Eagles has been none other than Andrew Walter Reid. From the infamous 1999 draft to the heights of success with Donovan McNabb, boring press conference after boring press conference, it was Reid who was the constant face of the championship-starved franchise. After Andy took the Eagles from a 3-13 team to consistent, 11-or-more win franchise, it seemed inevitable that he would eventually bring home a Lombardi Trophy.

So the Eagles fanbase watched and waited, putting up with his clock management and unbalanced offense while McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Terrell Owens took the team to the 2004 Super Bowl. They became reinvigorated when Michael Vick took over the reigns, and delirious when men like Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Vince Young signed on to be Eagles—in part, they said, because of the leadership of Andy Reid. Maybe now, they thought, could this Eagles team finally break through, now that they were no longer the choke artists led by Donovan McNabb.

Then suddenly, shockingly, inconceivably, the Eagles found themselves at just 1-3 in this 2011 season. That includes losses to the decimated New York Giants—who already have six players on Injured Reserve—in week three, and the “rebuilding” 49ers just yesterday.

Once again, the excuses started piling in. Juan Castillo was a mistake at defensive coordinator, and Jim Washburn’s “wide-nine” technique was hurting the defense as a whole. The offensive line wasn’t good enough to run the ball, so the Eagles were forced to throw again and again.

Part of the problem could very well be that Eagles fans just aren’t sure where exactly to place the blame. It’s easy enough to place it on the new faces in the franchise, the guys whose new style might seem to be clashing with what seemed sure to be a 12-win season.

You could blame new offensive line coach Howard Mudd, who went with a rookie center over the much more experienced Jamaal Jackson, and who wanted to start a rookie right guard before it was obvious that Danny Watkins was not ready for the NFL. Unfortunately, Andy Reid is more than a head coach—he’s also the Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

That title is really the key distinction about why Andy is more to blame than many of us have been willing to admit. He isn’t a head coach who has to play with the cards he’s dealt, backed into a corner by a poor front office or stingy ownership.

In fact, it’s been the opposite—Jeffery Lurie and Joe Banner have spent millions upon millions to try and get this city the Lombardi Trophy, bringing in players like Owens and Jevon Kearse before the 2004 season and numerous Pro Bowlers before this one. Instead, it's been Reid who put offensive line coach Juan Castillo at defensive coordinator and failed to give him the pieces he needs to run a successful defense.

I've heard people out there who want to blame Castillo for the defense's performance. On one hand, I can understand the frustration--it was the defense who collapsed, allowing three second-half touchdowns and forgetting how to tackle on far too many occassions. However, it's not Castillo's fault that the Eagles are starting three linebackers who would be backups for most NFL teams, and it wasn't Castillo's fault that the best linebacker on the team (Stewart Bradley) now plays in Arizona.

The biggest issue for Andy Reid has arguably been his drafts of the last five years. While they’ve had their good picks—LeSean McCoy and Todd Herremans have panned out pretty darn well—there have been many more failures than successes. A coach who prided himself on building teams from the lines out failed to put together an NFL offensive line, forced to pick from the scrap heap for players like Kyle DeVan and Evan Mathis just weeks before the season.

No matter how good skill players like McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are, their impact becomes dramatically lessened when the team’s first priority is making sure their quarterback stays healthy instead of scoring points. They become even less effective when it matters most, as none of them are able to get the space they need to work with in the red zone due to that struggling offensive line.

When the Eagles collapsed in the second half against the San Francisco 49ers this weekend, allowing a mediocre team to come from down 23-3 to win by a point on the road, it was more than just a loss. It was a microcosm of the career of Andy Reid—an incredibly promising start that hid multiple flaws, followed by those flaws emerging in the worst way possible.

If you think about it, this really is the worst-case scenario for Eagles fans. Preseason, Philadelphia was the talk of the sports world, with the Phillies marching towards the World Series while these Eagles signed big name after big name, day after day. It was expected, it was assumed, that we would be seeing the Green and White in the playoffs, especially given the schedule that loomed ahead. Instead, at 1-3 the playoffs are anything but a certainty, and this team has more questions than any one player improving slightly will help.

The worst part about it all is a feeling of total uncertainty, a complete change from the utter confidence felt just a month ago. The red zone offense is the first problem—this team can move the ball incredibly well between the 20s, and then completely fails once they get close to the end zone.

There are three issues here—first the lack of tall receivers, a poor offensive line and very questionable play-calling. The play calling is done by offensive coordinator Marty Mornihnweg, but one does wonder if he would run the same plays if he had an offensive line who could push defenses off the ball, or receivers who could catch a fade.

What Reid forgot was what wins championships—toughness, not flash. The Eagles of 2001-2004 were successful because of their dominant tackles (Tra Thomas and John Runyan), not because of their wide receivers (James Thrash and Todd Pinkston). This was not a team, aside from Freddie Mitchell, who did anything other than go out and intimidate opponents on the field. Right now, this Eagles team is more about showboating and flash than pushing their opponent off the ball and completely dictating the style of play

At this point, it’s becoming more obvious that it wasn’t just McNabb who kept the Eagles from winning it all. The same issues that plagued the Eagles when Donny ran the team have popped up again—time management issues, play calling and decision making. At this point, the press conferences where Reid continually blames himself no longer come across as the coach protecting his players, but instead just being brutally honest. At some point, change has to happen.

Josh Verlin is the lead columnist for BuzzOnBroad.com. He can be found on Twitter @jmverlin

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