Babin's release by Eagles: Somebody's sending a message

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Former Eagles defensive end Jason Babin. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

In the Eagles' locker room Wednesday, there was much discussion about the release of Jason Babin, and what message it might send to his former teammates.

The only certain conclusion? Just because a message was sent, that doesn't mean it was received as intended.

"It doesn't send any message," middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "That's [Babin's situation]."

"There could be [a message] if you look at it that way," defensive tackle Mike Patterson said. "I only see it as a message if you're not playing well."

Obviously, there is and should be a message for players in the sudden firing of a highly paid starter. But the much more interesting message is about the dynamic inside the big offices at the NovaCare Complex. That one is just a little bit tougher to parse from the outside.

Here's what we know: Babin was signed to a big free-agent deal in 2011, reuniting him with defensive line coach Jim Washburn. The hiring of Washburn and the signing of Babin were coordinated moves to facilitate the switch to the wide-nine defensive-line scheme.

What we don't know for sure: Who was behind that switch? Reid certainly approved of the plan. There's no way that he, as head coach with full control of football operations, would have unwillingly gone ahead with a gimmicky defensive scheme that severely limited his options at defensive coordinator.

But where did general manager Howie Roseman come down on this? Roseman negotiated the contract that brought Babin here for five years and $28 million. Roseman also extended the contract of veteran defensive end Trent Cole after one season of "success" (there were a lot of sacks in 2011) in the scheme.

The release of Babin was very much a strong message sent from one office to another office. We're talking about shades of gray here, but that's where such intrigue is carried out.

If the wide nine was all Reid, the release of Babin was the most public repudiation yet of the head coach's decision-making. It could also be an encouraging sign about Roseman's ability to be an effective GM. Admitting your own mistakes isn't easy, but it's vital to building a successful team.

Pat Gillick wasn't perfect as architect of the 2008 Phillies, but he was strong-minded enough to admit mistakes - Adam Eaton, for instance - and correct them.

Ah, but if Roseman is the one who pushed for the switch to the wide nine, then the message here is very different. The release could very well be Reid's way of making sure the blame for this disastrous season is spread fairly among the perpetrators.

To wit: This drives home to Jeffrey Lurie that his GM committed about $12 million (the cap number for Babin and Cole) for 61/2 sacks and virtually no impact in run defense.

Whatever the full story between Reid and Roseman, the Babin move is clearly a strong message to Washburn. Babin is the equivalent of the horse's head from The Godfather, and Washburn is the guy who woke up bloody.

Reid said he wanted to get more playing time for younger guys, and that's surely part of the story. But one of those young guys is second-round pick Vinny Curry. He was unable to get on the field for Washburn until Monday night, even though the rest of the line was grossly underachieving.

That made Curry look like a bad draft choice, an indictment of Roseman and Reid. Until he played and acquitted himself well - now it just looks as if Washburn stymied the rookie in favor of his guys. Now Babin, his No. 1 guy, is gone. Worse yet for Babin, he's a Jacksonville Jaguar.

As for the players, well, the message sent was obvious. Was it received? That probably doesn't matter at this late stage. The secondary isn't suddenly going to become competent or physical because Babin got cut. The guys who play hard and care - such as Ryans and Cullen Jenkins - didn't need a message.

In the executive offices, though, you can bet the message was loud, clear, and still echoing.

 


Contact Phil Sheridan at psheridan@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @Sheridanscribe.