Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/31/12
2011 was a year of extreme disappointment for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Never before has a season that began with such promise crashed and burned the way the "Dream Team" did.  The circumstances of the lockout and the shortened free agent period inflated expectations and brought hope to a disenfranchised fan base.  The Eagles came out of the lockout with an aggressive free agent plan.  Their heart was in the right place when they signed Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins.  They filled needs and were considered very good or even elite at their positions.  Asomugha was considered the second best cornerback in the league to Darrelle Revis, so that signing alone was enough to reel the fans back in.  The Eagles were able to cash in an asset in Kevin Kolb, for a starting-caliber cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick.  Even with the shortened offseason, Michael Vick was afforded the luxury of being the undisputed starter at the beginning of training camp.
    
Andy Reid sensed the urgency of times by hiring two legendary assistant coaches: Howard Mudd and Jim Washburn.  Clearly, Reid wanted to give new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo as much help as he could with 2011 being his first year coaching defense in the NFL. There was one problem.  It lurked beneath the surface and no one knew if or when it would surface.  DeSean Jackson was in the last year of his rookie contract and had already held out for a short period of time before training camp.  Everyone closed their eyes and covered their ears, almost in denial about how this issue would manifest itself during the season.  With a revamped defense and stars all over the field, there were no excuses heading into the 2011 season.  Even the team president declared that the team was "all in" for this campaign.  Everything was in place for a deep postseason run.  
However, as we found out with the Miami Heat last June, there is so much more that goes into being successful than individual talent.  Football, of all sports, is more about the team, emotion, cohesion, and heart.  As the season unfolded, it became clear that the Philadelphia Eagles were lacking in all of these elements.
             
The first couple games of the season foreshadowed several issues that would aid in the derailment of their Super Bowl run.  The season began with a 31-13 win over the St. Louis Rams, but Steven Jackson was hurt in the first quarter after running through the Eagles' defense.  They would struggle the entire year defending the run.  Vick was injured in the second game against the Atlanta Falcons, setting the stage for yet another injury-ravaged season for the quarterback.  Following that game, the Eagles went on to lose 4 straight games, highlighted by blowing a 20-point second half lead against the San Francisco 49ers.  It was the second of five blown fourth quarter leads the Eagles would accumulate throughout the season.  Along with all the squandered leads, this team was near the bottom of the league with a -14 turnover margin.  Even though they outgained and outscored their opponents, turnovers are the great equalizer.  Their 3-5 home record was just another abysmal stat that helped illustrate the deplorable condition of the 2011 season.
  
It would not be a complete Eagles' season without a couple of teasers. They blew out the Cowboys on October 30, forcing Rob Ryan to eat his words after he blasted the Eagles in the preseason, calling them the all-hype team.  In the most unlikely outcome of the season, Vince Young led his team on an 18-play drive in the fourth quarter to beat the Giants 17-10 in the Meadowlands.  It's games like those that make the Eagles so frustrating to invest in. Despite the turnovers, blown leads, and their pathetic home record, they still found themselves in the Playoff hunt.  But every time they were in a game they had to win, they would invent ways to lose.  The most damning defeat was a brutal 21-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in which they allowed their only dangerous offensive player, Larry Fitzgerald, to run wild in the fourth quarter.  DeSean Jackson was suspended for this game because he was reportedly late for a special teams meeting.  This would not be the last time he was heard from.  It was yet another inexplicable blown fourth quarter lead at home.
    
Their true colors were revealed in consecutive non-competitive losses to the Patriots and Seahawks.  The loss to Tom Brady proved that they could not play with an elite team, as the Patriots blew them off the field.  They were outclassed in every way.  In that game, DeSean Jackson short-armed several catches and clearly played with extreme self-preservation.  Deep down, the Eagles knew this moment would come, but they ignored it, hoping that Jackson would act professionally.  It was a gross miscalculation by the front office.  Against Seattle, they lacked focus, heart, and execution.  Vince Young chucked an interception on his first pass and the defense allowed Marshawn Lynch to run roughshod all game long.  The expectations following these two losses were at an all-time low.  Most of the fan base wanted the team to collapse to 4-12 or 5-11 to force the owner to blow up the coaching staff and bring wholesale changes.  However, the stage was set for a glorious mirage.  With the pressure completely off and a near apathetic fan base, the Eagles won their last four games pretty convincingly.

Here are the quarterbacks they beat in those last four contests:  Matt Moore, Mark Sanchez, Stephen McGee and Rex Grossman.  The four-game winning streak was fraught with mediocre competition and paltry quarterback play.  Unfortunately for the Eagles, this fan base is way too smart to be conned into thinking that any momentum has been built up going into next year.
    
While the season did not come to ruins like many had hoped, 2012 is the year of reckoning for the coach and quarterback.  Owner Jeffery Lurie was not interested in extending Reid's contract and Vick's contract is much easier to get out of after next year.  This team still has so many issues going forward.  The defensive scheme is still too inflexible.  It is not built to play from behind.  The quarterback play was wildly inconsistent and his No. 1 receiving option, DeSean Jackson, probably will not be back next year.   Even though LeSean McCoy had an incredibly productive year, he was often underutilized.  He has emerged as their best offensive player and must be used accordingly in 2012.  

Reid just finished his 13th season as head coach and his message seems as stale as ever.  There is a reason that most NFL coaches do not last this long without winning anything.  He must produce next year or he should be fired.  2011 was a year of spectacular failure.  Every area of the team from the coach to the kick returner came up woefully short.  Going into next year, everyone will have a full offseason of OTAs and training camp to further jell and fit together.  Even though fans may despair in this coaching staff coming back almost fully intact, they can gain solace from the reality that if they don't get it done next year, changes will ensue.

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