Eagles face uncertain offseason after 8-8 season

From the moment Vince Young uttered the words ”Dream Team,”

the Philadelphia Eagles had to live up to that regrettable

label.

They were way overhyped.

The Eagles struggled early and never recovered. A four-game

winning streak at the end came too late and they finished 8-8,

missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and just the

fourth time in coach Andy Reid’s 13 seasons.

”It’s going to motivate us to work harder,” quarterback

Michael Vick said Monday. ”It’s very disappointing.”

After an offseason spending spree brought several accomplished

players to Philadelphia and added to a roster that already featured

Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles were the talk of

the NFL. They were defending NFC East champions and seemingly on

the rise.

So when Young compared his new teammates to the Miami Heat, some

people scoffed but most expected the Eagles to make a serious run

at the first championship since 1960. Even team president Joe

Banner declared the Eagles ”all-in” and called this a Super

Bowl-or-bust year.

But the team quickly imploded.

”There were definitely red flags,” said defensive tackle

Cullen Jenkins, who won the Super Bowl with Green Bay last season.

”A lot of people see Super Bowl, or I think they let the fact that

the Super Bowl is there, and so many people talk about it right

away. You can hear people nowadays, they come out of the draft

talking about Super Bowl and I think it kind of gets thrown around

too loosely now.

”It’s obviously the ultimate goal in where you want to get to,

but you have to understand that you have to work hard. It’s

something that is a process and you have to take it each step at a

time to get to it and I think a lot of time people just want to

jump from preseason to the Super Bowl without doing what it takes

in between.”

Various factors contributed to a four-game losing streak that

dropped the Eagles to 1-4 and doomed them from the beginning. Vick

couldn’t finish two games in September because of injuries, the

offense made critical turnovers and the defense struggled mightily

as new players tried to adjust to new defensive coordinator Juan

Castillo’s system.

Finishing games was a problem, too. The Eagles lost five games

in which they led in the fourth quarter. One play could’ve made the

difference in a season where the division was mediocre. The Eagles

weren’t eliminated from playoff contention until right before their

next-to-last game kicked off and they ended up second behind the

New York Giants (9-7).

”It will be tough to sit at home and watch the playoffs, but we

have to maintain a positive outlook about what we could be and go

into the offseason knowing that we can play with the best teams in

the league,” wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. ”Philly is not

used to not being in the playoffs. I think guys will be hungry.

This offseason will be very critical for us and I think it will be

good.”

It’s uncertain whether the team will make major changes. Reid

was criticized heavily this season and many fans want him gone.

They chanted ”Fire Andy!” during a loss to New England. Reid

refused to discuss his future after Sunday’s game and wasn’t

available to reporters on Monday. He’s expected to return, but his

coaching staff may look different.

Castillo seemed completely overmatched in his first season

coaching defense after 13 years teaching the offensive linemen.

Reid’s decision to promote Castillo defied logic and was intensely

scrutinized throughout the year. Castillo’s defense played well

during the final four games, but it came against lesser

competition. The quarterbacks the Eagles beat were Matt Moore, Mark

Sanchez, Stephen McGee and Rex Grossman.

”I think he did a nice job,” Reid said. ”The defense played

strong, and I thought he was proud of his coaches and players. They

all played well and coached well.”

That’s hardly an endorsement.

Rumors already are swirling that the Eagles will hire Steve

Spagnuolo to replace Castillo. Spagnuolo was fired Monday after

going 10-38 as the head coach in St. Louis. He was an assistant

under longtime Eagles coordinator Jim Johnson and was defensive

coordinator for the New York Giants when they beat Tom Brady and

the previously undefeated New England Patriots in the 2008 Super

Bowl.

For now, it’s just speculation. Reid isn’t talking and neither

is management.

As for personnel changes, the Eagles may not be too far off.

They were the only team in the league whose offense (fourth) and

defense (eighth) ranked in the Top 10.

Jackson and cornerback Asante Samuel are the biggest names that

may not return. Jackson heads into free agency after a tumultuous

year. He held out for a new contract in training camp, was

deactivated for a game for disciplinary reasons and had his

production slipped.

”I think I have learned a lot about how this is a business and

professionally how to come to work and not let things affect me,”

Jackson said. ”I can admit to certain things affecting me during

the season. I just want to apologize. I could have handled things a

little differently. Now, sitting here after the season is over, I

can sit here and say I was able to put things behind me and fight

for my teammates and this organization. I know that something good

will come out of this situation. I was able to get to that and move

forward. We will see how it plays out.”

Samuel was the odd man out after the Eagles acquired Nnamdi

Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The trio didn’t mesh

together. Samuel criticized management in October and likely will

be gone.

Unless Reid or Castillo join him on the way out, fans won’t be

happy.