Eagles' window: Coaches and the offseason

Six of Andy Reid's assistants have become head coaches in the NFL. (David Maialetti/Staff file photo)

On Monday, I took a look at the Eagles' personnel and examined whether this team is built to win now.

In part two, the focus shifts to the coaching staff and offseason moves.


This section, of course, begins with Andy Reid. He's been running the show for 12 seasons, and you know the numbers by now. Nine playoff berths, seven NFC East titles, five NFC championship appearances, one Super Bowl berth and zero Lombardi Trophies.

Reid's current contract runs through 2013. He was 41 when he coached his first season here in 1999. And he'll be 55 by the time this contract is up.

If Reid and the Eagles fail to win a Super Bowl in the next three seasons, it'll have been a 15-year marriage.

It's difficult to know what would happen if that scenario plays out. Under normal circumstances, you'd think it would be a natural time for the two sides to go their separate ways. Much of the talk this week has been about whether the Eagles would want Reid back. But the other side is worth examining also. Maybe Reid would want to take a year off and then take another shot with another team in another city.

Then again, maybe the Eagles win a few playoff games in the next couple of seasons, and he decides to stay the course. It's not inconceivable that the Eagles would give Reid another contract even without a Super Bowl.

There's more to examine here than just Reid though. The Eagles completely overhauled their coaching staff this offseason. They will go into next season with 11 coaches that are either new or have different titles from 2010. Four of them were not with the organization a year ago.

The biggest moves were Juan Castillo, Jim Washburn and Howard Mudd. Others have made the point that promoting Castillo signals that Reid feels very secure in his position, and I'd agree with that. 

You could make the argument that if the Eagles are really trying to win now, perhaps they should have hired someone who had been a defensive coordinator before. It would seem reasonable to assume that Castillo might take a year or two to learn on the job.

But I don't think that's how Reid sees it. Remember what he said when the Eagles introduced Castillo?

"With the CBA, the terminology will really remain the same to answer your question," Reid said. "Juan knows the terminology as well or better than anybody that we've used here. It's not that we have to change that as we make this change."

Many of the other candidates that were available were better-versed in 3-4 schemes, but the Eagles made it clear they were not interested in introducing a brand-new system. A system that might take a couple seasons for the players to learn. So while the Castillo promotion might not appear like a win-now move to you and me, I really believe Reid looked at it as his best option to do just that.

Meanwhile, Washburn and Mudd appear to be in the final stages of their careers. Washburn is 61, and Mudd is 69. Check out what Mudd told The Sporting News last year after he retired from the Colts:

"At some point, you just know. Some of it has to do with physical things. You're more fatigued, and things like that. The part that makes it difficult is the feeling you have after victories. I've been saying this for three or four years: How am I going to replace that? Victories are really, really hard to get, and we've had a lot of them."

Reid has explained that he wasn't willing to move Castillo unless he could find an adequate replacement to coach the offensive line. He got that in Mudd, but it's impossible to know how long Mudd will want to stick around.

Looking at the coaching staff overall, it seems clear that Reid was looking at the immediate future. He knows he has a talented core on offensive players and is likely convinced that this team has a chance to make a Super Bowl run in the next two-to-three seasons before his contract is up.


More than any other area I've discussed, this is probably the one that will tell us the most about the direction the Eagles are headed in.

Joe Banner has hinted recently that the Eagles are prepared to make a splash in free agency, when/if the opportunity arises. And I believe him. The Birds need playmakers on defense - at linebacker, in the secondary and on the defensive line.

What they're banking on is that players who were either injured or inexperienced last year will be able to play at a high level in 2011. Think about how many guys fit into that category: Brandon Graham, Nate Allen, Stewart Bradley (if he's re-signed), JaMar Chaney and Kurt Coleman. Four of those five are rookies that saw significant playing time in 2010 to varying degrees of effectiveness. The Eagles are in a similar position with Bradley that they were in a year ago. He returned from injury in 2010 but was inconsistent.

Meanwhile, the splash could come in free agency or a draft that once again may have to focus on the defensive side of the ball. As I explained in part one, there are not a lot of openings on offense. The starters are set at eight of 11 positions, with the exceptions being center, right guard and right tackle. Even at those three spots, I wouldn't be shocked if the Eagles went with players who are already on the roster.

Will they target difference-makers on defense and pursue them aggressively like they did with Asante Samuel a few years ago? It sure sounds that way. Last offseason, the free-agent options were limited. But as Banner said, this offseason could provide opportunities, depending on how things play out with the CBA.

The other decision to monitor is what the Eagles decide to do with Kevin Kolb. If 2011 was marked as the final year in the history of the NFL, and the Eagles had one last chance to win a Super Bowl, the move would likely be to keep Kolb. Given Michael Vick's style of play, the Birds could very well need their backup to start multiple games. With Kolb, the transition is smooth. He knows the offense and has proven he can play at a high level while leading the Birds to victories.

Then again, he has value. For teams looking at quarterbacks this offseason, there are not a ton of options. The smart move for the Eagles could be to deal Kolb and find a backup elsewhere. Will the new guy be just as good if he has to fill in for Vick? I doubt it. But if they hold on to Kolb, he's almost certain to leave as a free agent before 2012.

The other aspect to look at is compensation. If there is no CBA resolution by the time the draft rolls around, and the Eagles want picks in return for Kolb, they'd be looking at selections in 2012. That would mean a scenario where they'd be trading a capable backup quarterback and not getting anything in return right away. But if they're looking at this as a three-year window, draft picks in 2012 could be valuable.

And while I know Banner talked about how player-for-player deals are difficult, I'm not ready to rule that out either.

The coming months will provide more clues about what direction this team is going in. But from what we've seen so far - with the coaching moves and the contract situations of their core players - the Eagles should be set up to make a run in the next two seasons, provided they are successful in adding talent on the defensive side of the ball. After 2012, they might need to make a decision on Reid, who would be entering the final year of his deal.

If you missed part one of this analysis, which focused on the Eagles' core players, click here.

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