PHILADELPHIA (AP) - When a team goes from Super Bowl contender to laughingstock in three months, there's plenty of blame to spread around.
So what went wrong with the Philadelphia Eagles?
Owner Jeffrey Lurie ultimately pinned the team's dramatic fall on Andy Reid because he fired him after 14 seasons as coach. But even Lurie explained it wasn't all Reid's fault, though he wouldn't single out any one else in the organization and absolved general manager Howie Roseman of any blame.
Some of the team's star players had no problem pointing fingers. Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy were extremely critical of their teammates' effort.
The Eagles were widely considered legitimate contenders to win the NFL title when the season began. It wasn't just players, coaches and front-office folks with high expectations, either.
Instead, the Eagles went 4-12. This came after starting off 2011 as a supposed ``Dream Team'' and then going 8-8.
``I think if you had to point to anything, it's when you had as much success as we had and are so close to winning a Super Bowl, at some stage you have an opportunity to think that the next move, even if it's not consistent with all of your previous moves, will be the one that gives you the chance to win the Lombardi Trophy,'' Lurie said. ``I think that in the last couple years, we've done things that have not been as consistent. They've been more scattered in terms of decision-making.''
Lurie obviously was referring to the team's big splash in free agency in 2011. They signed Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and several other big-name players. None really panned out except Cullen Jenkins.
There were also some questionable coaching moves before that season. The strangest one was Reid moving Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator, and doing it after Jim Washburn already was hired to be the defensive line coach. That combination turned out to be a disaster. Castillo was fired this past October and Washburn later in the season.
``You notice it with any organization that has had a lot of success,'' Lurie said, ``that you will start to reach thinking, `That's the player, that's the method, that's the mechanism, that's the coach, that's the thing that is going to put us over the top.'''
Lurie - and the rest of Philadelphia - hope this offseason results in finding that right ``thing'' this team needs. On Sunday, the Eagles will interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in Denver. McCoy, 40, engineered an offense around quarterback Peyton Manning this season. Denver went 13-3 this year, secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and has a bye this weekend. The Broncos ranked fourth in the league in total offense and second in scoring offense.
The Eagles, who finished in last place in the NFC East, have already interviewed Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, and also have interest in some college coaches, namely Oregon's Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien.
Though the team missed the postseason the last two years, as far as Lurie is concerned, the problems go back to 2009 and 2010, even though the Eagles reached the playoffs both seasons. They went to the NFC championship game in 2008 and lost to Arizona as a favorite on the road. Then they signed Michael Vick before the `09 season to be the No. 3 quarterback behind Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb. McNabb led them to the playoffs that year, but was traded after a loss in the wild card round.
``You're dealing with a franchise quarterback that was descending and therefore you're even more motivated before a player hits rock bottom or you're without a franchise quarterback, that you're going to reach and do certain things,'' he said of McNabb. ``So I think we lost some of the exact nature of the method that we've all shared that created the success, which was discipline, strategic thinking, and don't do necessarily what is popular, but do what's right. It's kind of a human thing and I take some responsibility for that because I was right out in the forefront: `Let's do anything we can to try to win a Super Bowl for the city and our fans.'''
Looking back, Lurie wishes the Eagles would've stuck to the philosophy of building from the draft and supplementing through free agency rather than trying to fill holes by spending the most money.
``At times, you probably had to be a little more self-disciplined and say, `Doing that and injecting that into the locker room, affecting the chemistry of the team maybe in some way, that's not the best thing to do,''' Lurie said. ``And yet, you're so able to do it because of whatever opportunities we had, maybe in free agency, that it's kind of like indigestion. You have the capability of ingesting more and more but there's a point of diminishing returns and indigestion.''
Changes in the organizational structure began when president Joe Banner stepped down. Banner, a longtime friend of Lurie, seemingly lost a power struggle to Reid and Roseman. Now Reid's gone and Roseman is the last man standing. Even though he's been the GM for the three years, Lurie almost gave him a clean slate.
``I decided to streamline the whole decision-making process for the 2012 draft and offseason and that's the first draft and offseason I hold Howie completely accountable for,'' Lurie said. ``The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie's evaluations and I think it was important for me to own up to the mistakes that were made and understand where they were coming from. And it was awfully clear.''
The drafts in 2010 and 2011 produced little talent. Only one of the four players picked in the first two rounds - 2010 first-round choice Brandon Graham - appears to not be a total bust.
Who made the picks and the others those years?
``I want to take a much higher road than that and just say that I've had to really go through exactly everyone's talent evaluations and realized that we needed a real streamlining of the process,'' Lurie said. ``I think the 2012 draft, it's promising. We'll know in three years how that is. I want everyone to understand: Howie is accountable, responsible and that's the way it is. But I'm looking at the 2012 draft and offseason as the beginning of when he was given enough responsibility to put his mark on the team in a very dramatic way.''
Banner and Reid may have different opinions.
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