What you witnessed during the 2011 season did not happen. The Eagles did not squander five fourth-quarter leads in a devastating 8-8 season. The defense was not pitiful in the red zone under novice defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. There is absolutely no reason for change.
Stubborn to the very end, Andy Reid said all of the above yesterday when he decided to bring Castillo back to run the defense – to be joined by a far better defensive coach, Todd Bowles, working with the secondary. It was one final insult to every Eagles fan who suffered through last season, one last gasp of arrogance by the man who thinks he invented football.
The bad news is that the Eagles will underachieve again next season, falling far short of owner Jeff Lurie’s open demand to make it to the Super Bowl. The good news is that Reid sealed his doom yesterday, unless you happen to believe Castillo can suddenly run a championship-level defense. And if you believe that, seek mental-health aid immediately. You have misplaced your mind.
Reid will finally break his silence today, and – if the suspense is killing you – here’s exactly what he will say at his first news conference in a month: Castillo really grew into the job as the season went along. The last four games showed what he can do. His work ethic and enthusiasm are the perfect recipe for success in the NFL. Blah, blah, blah.
What Reid won’t say – because his massive ego is blocking his view – is that Castillo got better only when the opposing quarterbacks got worse. The last four wins came against Matt Moore, Mark Sanchez, Stephen McGee and Rex Grossman. The two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady and Eli Manning, destroyed Castillo’s defenses for 1,069 yards and 77 points in three games. You can expect more of that in 2012.
Andy Reid is never happy unless he mixes in a sweet little twist, and his hiring of former Temple star Bowles was a master stroke. You see, Bowles went 2-1 as the interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins last season after Tony Sparano was fired. Bowles has interviewed for five head-coaching jobs in the NFL and has been a defensive coach for 15 years in the NFL. Castillo has coached defense for one year, and has never interviewed for a head job. And now Bowles will work for Castillo. Perfect.
In the course of 10 hours last Friday, I was greeted by a card dealer in a casino and by the GM of a fine restaurant with the exact same unsolicited message: “Fire Andy Reid,” they said. So have literally hundreds of fans calling into my WIP radio show in the past few months.
Well, there’s no need to worry anymore. Because yesterday, Andy Reid fired himself.
Brad Lidge, the World Series hero who slammed the door on opponents 48 consecutive times in 2008, got the rudest of sendoffs last week. In fact, he got the door slammed in his face this time, by a Phillies team with a cold heart.
Now please don’t interpret the above words as a lament that the Phils didn’t re-sign their closer of the past three-and-a-half seasons. Lidge has lost his fastball, and with it his effectiveness. Even at the $1-million figure he accepted in Washington, he is a luxury the Phillies had no reason to indulge.
The issue here is not what GM Ruben Amaro did in saying goodbye to the most likeable and accessible Phillies player in this current era of unrivaled prosperity. The issue is the way Amaro dumped him, with a broken promise.
According to Lidge, Amaro told him there would be a place for him on the Phillies if the pitcher couldn’t find a closer’s job in the free-agent market. It is hardly a secret that the Phils no longer value Lidge’s declining talents. The honest and fair thing to do was to tell Lidge the truth, right then. Instead, Amaro strung him along for close to three months, and then reneged on his original pledge.
If Lidge didn’t deserve better treatment than that, who does? The Phillies have won two championships in their history, and he was directly responsible for one of them. He was also the player who best understood the fans, absorbing their criticism with grace and dignity throughout the past three frustrating seasons.
Even in this instant-gratification world, there has to be room for someone who did something so spectacular – and in such an engaging way – that he elevates himself beyond the numbers on a budget sheet or an age on a birth certificate. Brad Lidge was that man.
Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball, and he was relieved 24 times last season. Ilya Bryzgalov is most definitely NOT the best goaltender in hockey, so why is it so terrible to replace him in shootouts?
I know, I know. Baseball is not hockey. Pitchers are not goalies. I get it. But none of those lazy generalities address the simple proposition that the Flyers have the best chance to win overtime games – and improve their playoff seeding – by removing a totally inept shootout goaltender and installing an exceptional one, Sergei Bobrovsky.
Don’t take my word for it. Just listen to Claude Giroux, by far the best shootout scorer in Flyers history. He said last week that, in practice, Bobrovsky is impossible to beat in a breakaway or on a penalty shot. The Flyers had just won the last game before the All-Star break after the backup goalie had stoned Florida on all three shootout attempts.
“Yου saw hοw gοοd hе іѕ,” Giroux said after that victory.
Yes, we did – and we have seen how terrible Bryzgalov is, too. The goalie was undressed twice in a loss last week to Colorado, making him 0 for 5 in shootout attempts this season. Right now a Bernie Parent statue would have a better chance of stopping the puck.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is just the kind of independent thinker to name Bobrovsky his shootout goalie, despite the potential emotional blow to Bryzgalov. My best advice to Bryzgalov is to study all of the big numbers on his overly generous $51-million contract. If that doesn’t end his depression, nothing will.
Idle thoughts . . . .
• Will Smith sitting courtside last Friday night was more proof that the Sixers are back. Not only is Smith a part-owner of the team, but he’s a way bigger star these days than Knicks mascot Spike Lee or even Lakers stalwart Jack Nicholson. Now all we need is some of that star power on the court.
• Am I the only fan who believes the best part of the Sixers season just ended? The next five games are against Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, the Lakers and San Antonio. Oh, well. It was nice while it lasted.
• There is no hope left for all-star games. The NFL is at an all-time high in popularity, and the Pro Bowl Sunday still inspired only sleep. The NHL has some amazing stars, but its showcase was another dud. The players are just trying not to get hurt, and the fans don’t care who wins. What’s the point?
• As we all wait with bated breath for Andy Reid to speak later today, one jarring thought just occurred to me. When is the last time he talked and we were satisfied? This news conference might be a really bad idea, after all.
• Against all odds, the final goodbye to Joe Paterno was pretty close to perfect. His former players were eloquent in explaining his profound impact on their lives, and all of the rhetoric over the scandal was quieted, at least for a week. Finally, Happy Valley got it right.