There is one major flaw in the speculation that Andy Reid could fire defensive coordinator Sean McDermott at any point in the near future.
Simply put, Reid can't fire McDermott - not without inviting a lot of hard questions about Reid's judgment over the last couple of years. At the moment, Reid is not in a position to invite too many of those questions.
Back in January, after the Eagles announced the long-expected promotion of Howie Roseman to general manager, I wondered in a column if the organization had become too insulated. The big meeting room at the NovaCare Complex had become an echo chamber, with the same people thinking the same way for far too long.
So it was all too predictable that Reid would promote McDermott to replace the late Jim Johnson as his defensive coordinator. Reid has always considered it important to promote from within and sees his staff as a hierarchy, with young coaches working their way upward. This isn't entirely a conceit: Three of his former assistants are head coaches in the NFL and two others are coordinators.
That means Reid's approach works. But it also means there's a chance the cream has been skimmed off the top, leaving the less-talented behind.
There's no objective way to judge McDermott at this point. Last year, he was forced into the coordinator gig after Johnson's health failed. This year, he has a youngish team without many proven game-changers. The epic collapse against Tennessee last week was bad enough to raise real questions about the men wearing the headsets.
McDermott, like Roseman, is a product of the same Eagles culture that has been in place since Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner hired Reid in 1999. Over time, coaches and executives with significant outside experience and perspectives have vanished from the organization. It was a positive sign, then, when Roseman hired Phil Savage and Reid added veteran defensive coach Dick Jauron to his staff.
As a young coach, Reid hired Johnson for two reasons. He liked the aggressive zone-blitzing scheme Johnson ran, and he wanted some experience around him as he implemented his own program.
Johnson came to have a lot of respect for Reid. That was clear enough from numerous conversations over the years. But the relationship was fundamentally one between peers - an old-school defensive guy and a young up-and-comer with the offense-oriented approach attractive to NFL owners at the time. No matter how powerful Reid grew, that relationship remained the same.
McDermott learned Johnson's defensive schemes from the inside, but his relationship with Reid is completely different. That's not anybody's fault. McDermott is a young guy whose entire career has been spent inside that Eagles bubble.
Bottom line: Reid is responsible for McDermott's defense in a way he never was when Johnson was here. The buck always stops at the head coach, but there's a difference between turning the controls over to a veteran pilot like Johnson and putting a relative novice like McDermott in the cockpit.
If McDermott is not a race-ready NFL defensive coordinator, that's Reid's mistake. And if McDermott doesn't have the players needed to be successful, that's Reid's responsibility, too.
Ellis Hobbs, who got burned again and again by Kenny Britt last week in Nashville, was brought in last year to replace the disgruntled Sheldon Brown. Except he couldn't. Brown held on to his job and then got traded after the season. Hobbs sustained a serious injury, which meant he came into 2010 as damaged goods who couldn't beat out Brown before he got hurt.
And it's surprising to anyone that Hobbs is a weak link in the secondary?
Plenty of similarly questionable decisions affect this team. Mike Bell? Reggie Wells? Darryl Tapp? Let's not even start rehashing the expensive offensive-line gaffes or the Macho Harris experiment of last season. The point is, Reid's track record has not exactly been stellar the last couple of years.
His handling of the quarterback situation so far this season is the stuff of low comedy. Injuries have actually worked in Reid's favor there, keeping either Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick unavailable at any given time. But there's still plenty of season left for that to blow up.
But firing a coordinator? That's the last resort of desperate head coaches.
Back in 1998, Ray Rhodes smugly hired the only candidate he interviewed to replace Jon Gruden as his offensive coordinator. Within months, Rhodes was blaming Dana Bible for everything. It was deplorable, really. Rhodes brought in Bill Musgrave as a stealth coordinator, creating an even bigger mess.
The Eagles went 3-13 that year. Rhodes' attempt to scapegoat a guy he hired only showed how lost and how desperate he was.
It's hard to imagine Andy Reid is willing to admit he's either of those things.