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2012 Year In Review: Philadelphia Eagles

The last 12 months have been torturous as a Philadelphia Eagles fan. When the Eagles beat Washington on January 1st, 2012, Week 17 of the 2011-2012 NFL season, to improve to 8-8, everyone thought things were only going to get better. After a poor 4-8 start, the Eagles made some adjustments and finished the year strong at 8-8. With a strong offseason and lots of enthusiasm, several (misguided) pundits went as far as to predict the Eagles to make a Super Bowl run, but 16 weeks later, they’re back where they started. The trash heap.

Follow along as I chronicle some of the most important dates for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012:

January 30th – Eagles Hire Todd Bowles As Secondary Coach

Bowles hasn’t had much to smile about lately.

In what would end up be a fateful hiring, Andy Reid made former Dolphins interim head coach Todd Bowles the team’s secondary coach. It was quite a demotion for someone who was being considered for other head coaching and coordinator positions, but clearly he wasn’t here just to coach cornerbacks and safeties. He was here as a backup plan to defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.

The Bowles hiring, however, has blown up in Philadelphia’s face, with the secondary playing its worst football with him as their secondary coach and then the defense falling apart as a whole with him at defensive coordinator. In fact, since he’s been defensive coordinator, the defense has given up 29.2 points per game. Under Castillo, that number was only at 20.8.

March 14th – Re-sign DeSean Jackson

In an attempt to avoid the disastrous 2011 scenario where DeSean Jackson’s contract situation affected his on-field performance, the Eagles gave D-Jax the five-year, $51 million contract he’d been playing for. Foregoing the franchise tag was a smart move, with DeSean playing some of his most consistent football this season. This was also the start of a good trend, one that was for taking care of the Eagles’ own before overpaying for free agents.

March 18th – Re-sign Evan Mathis to 5-Year Deal

Via Getty Images.

This deal may have just been the smartest one the Eagles made all year. Mathis, a Pro Bowl left guard last season, was close to signing with the Baltimore Ravens before Howie Roseman swooped in and re-signed Mathis to a five-year, $25 million contract. Mathis has been the only reason Philadelphia’s makeshift offensive line has held up this season, and he’s put together a Pro Bowl-worthy campaign even if he didn’t get enough of the fan vote. Ranked the number one offensive guard by ProFootballFocus for the second straight year, Mathis has been worth the investment and then some.

March 20th – Trade for Texans’ LB DeMeco Ryans

Who doesn’t remember this day, when Andy Reid finally swallowed his pride and made the linebacker position a priority?

At a time when Stephen Tulloch and Curtis Lofton were the only ones on most fans’ radars, the Eagles were lucky enough to pluck DeMeco Ryans from the Texans and make him the cornerstone of the defense. He hasn’t disappointed, recording 111 tackles and 14 tackles for a loss. He’s had the best season of any Andy Reid linebacker apart from Jeremiah Trotter, and the linebacker position went from a weak spot to a strength this season thanks to him and Mychal Kendricks.

March 30th – Jason Peters Ruptures Achilles

In the midst of Andy Reid’s best offseason, Jason Peters just had to go and rupture his Achilles during a workout in Texas. Well, perhaps I’m being too hard on No. 71, but his injury (and subsequent re-injury that forced him to definitely miss the entire season) is what helped kick-start the team’s collapse. The Eagles truly are a healthy offensive line away from NFC competitiveness, and missing their All-Pro left tackle really hurt them throughout. Teams getting pressure on Michael Vick is what led to so many turnovers and three-and-outs, and it also put more pressure on guys like Mathis, Jason Kelce, and Todd Herremans, several of whom succumbed to injuries as well.

April 26th-28th – 2012 NFL Draft (Cox, Kendricks, Foles, Boykin, Brown)

Cox at the 2012 draft (via Getty Images).

Andy Reid has always been a horrific drafter, so it is no surprise that the one year Howie Roseman runs the board, the Eagles make some of the best picks they’ve made during Reid’s tenure here. Their wide variety of good picks has set up this young team well for the future.

Let’s start on the defensive side of the ball, where they selected DT Fletcher Cox (1st round), LB Mychal Kendricks (2nd round), and CB Brandon Boykin (4th round). Cox has put together a very solid season, recording 28 tackles and 4.5 sacks in his last nine games. He’s emerged as a force inside and looks like a future All-Pro. Kendricks has been similarly good, earning the starting role at strong-side ‘backer early in training camp. While he’s had a poor outing here or there, his 75 tackles and astonishingly-good pass coverage have put him on the track to the Pro Bowl by next season. Finally, there is Boykin, who won the nickel job from Joselio Hanson in the preseason and has been one of the team’s top defensive backs this season.

On offense, there is QB Nick Foles (3rd round) and RB Bryce Brown (7th round). Foles came in expecting to be the team’s third-stringer behind Michael Vick and Mike Kafka, but leapfrogged Kafka in the preseason and won the starting job seven weeks ago thanks to a Vick injury. He’s retained the job since, putting together a couple solid performances sandwiched by letdowns. While he isn’t a perfect specimen, he’s shown poise, good arm-strength, and a coachable attitude, three things any good young QB needs. Brown had his flashes of brilliance, to 150-yard-plus performances in his first two games as a starter. A seventh-round pick, he will form a solid RB tandem with LeSean McCoy next season.

May 17th – Extend LeSean McCoy on Five-Year Contract

Speaking of the devil—or angel, really—the Eagles signed LeSean McCoy to a well-deserved five-year extension worth $45 million. The All-Pro running back is arguably the best player on the team, and turns a talented offense into a truly dangerous one. If he had stayed healthy, the agile McCoy would have likely rushed for his third straight 1000-yard season.

June 7th – Joe Banner Ousted as President

Banner is not well-liked in Philadelphia.

In what seemed to be the result of a long-standing power struggle between himself and Andy Reid, president Joe Banner resigned as the team’s president before the training camp, relinquishing his tasks of the day-to-day operations of the team and contract/salary negotiations. A lightning rod for fan criticism here because of his apparent apathy, Banner has always taken a hard line against Eagles looking for lucrative extensions, whether fair or not.

This “power struggle”, one that severely reduced his power, may have been the reason for the Eagles’ terrific offseason, where they finally got down to taking care of their successful veterans. This move also seemed to mark the end of an era, but six months later, it’s apparent that the past fifteen years of Eagles football is represented by one man, and one man only: Andy Reid.

August 5th – Andy Reid’s Son Found Dead in Training Camp

In a sudden turn of events, Andy Reid’s life took a change for the worse. His son Garrett, a past abuser of drugs and alcohol, was found dead in his dorm room up at Lehigh University, where the Eagles’ training camp is held. Unlike in 2007, when Garrett was involved in a car crash and sent a woman to the hospital, Reid did not take a leave of absence from the team to deal with his personal issues. Instead, with his team rallying around him, he stayed on with the sadness weighing on him. Whether or not it affected his coaching this season, and I have a feeling it did, everyone must feel sympathy for what Reid has gone through this season, even if he continues to make ridiculous time management and play-calling decisions.

August 30th – Lurie: “8-8 Is Unacceptable”

One day before the official end of the preseason, Jeffrey Lurie could not have been more candid: 8-8 would be unacceptable; Andy Reid’s Eagles needed to improve in 2012. At that time, it seemed like a breath of fresh air, even if it did technically mean that 9-7 was okay. Finally, Lurie was ready to take a hard line and demand improvement from Andy Reid, not the continuation of mediocrity.

In retrospect, however, his words seem cheap. Records and such don’t mean anything to Lurie, because he’ll have an excuse to throw at people either way. Just look at this year’s four-win team; he said 8 wins wasn’t enough, but he seems on the verge of using injuries and other uncontrollable factors to justify bringing Andy back. If that does happen, Lurie will likely see what his legacy in Philadelphia truly has become: alienating what was once the most loyal fan base on the east coast.

September 9th – Eagles Open 2012 Campaign Against Cleveland

Clay Harbor celebrates game-winning TD (via CBS).

The Eagles “all-in” season started off pretty inauspiciously, with Michael Vick throwing four picks against the worst team from a year ago and the Eagles barely squeaking out a win against the Browns. In fact, if it weren’t for a dropped interception on the final drive, the Eagles would’ve been 0-1 with a lot of question marks instead of 1-0 with fewer question marks. That might’ve been better, considering changes would’ve been made early in the season that weren’t made until it was too late.

The Eagles learned four things from this game: DRC could play, the linebacking corps was now a strength, the wide receivers were going to have a bounce-back season, and Michael Vick was still regressing as a quarterback.

September 16th – Jason Kelce Lost for the Season

The loss of Jason Peters was a huge loss, but this injury, MCL and ACL tears against Baltimore, was truly catastrophic. That isn’t to say that Kelce is a better lineman, because clearly he is not, but his importance to the Eagles’ offensive success was too large to compensate for later in the year.

For one, he plays center. Losing your center is almost worse than losing your blind-side tackle. What exacerbated the problem is that under Howard Mudd’s schemes, Michael Vick didn’t know how to call out blocking assignments at the line of scrimmage so Andy Reid delegated that task to Kelce. With Kelce gone, Vick was forced to take up that task again, a task he struggled with time and time again, leading to free rushers landing big hits on No. 7. If there is any rationale for Lurie to vouch for Andy Reid, it would have to be the injury to Kelce: he was the glue that held the line together, and even with Evan Mathis healthy, things were never the same.

Setpember 30th – Eagles Beat Giants 19-17, Improve to 3-1

DRC picks off Eli in the end zone (via NBC).

In what was their best performance of the season, which is sad considering they only won by two points and were a Lawrence Tynes field goal away from losing, the Eagles outlasted the rival New York Giants to improve to 3-1. Even though they had a negative points for/points against mark, Eagles fans were overjoyed by the team’s early-season success. 2-1 had been nice, but a turnover-free game, their first of the season, coupled with a strong rushing attack, big day from DeSean Jackson, and great defensive performance, made it all that sweeter. Not to mention that it was a win over the Giants, which is always nice.

Unfortunately, the 3-1 record masked what the Eagles truly were: mediocre. They had a good running back and solid linebackers, but a porous offensive line, a turnover-prone quarterback, a struggling pass rush, and suspect defensive backs. This win would be their last for the next nine weeks or so, as they went on an eight-game losing streak, the longest of Reid’s career.

October 16th – Defensive Coordinator Juan Castillo Fired

Two weeks after they improved to 3-1, the Eagles had surrendered two straight fourth quarter leads and sat at 3-3 heading into the bye week. Many believed the big change would come at quarterback, where Michael Vick continued fumbling and throwing interceptions, but instead it came on the defensive side of the ball even though the Eagles were ranked in the top 12 in overall defense. Andy Reid fired Juan Castillo, thus admitting that he made a mistake in promoting the former offensive line coach to defensive coordinator the previous season.

While no one was a huge fan of Castillo, his firing opened the floodgates. His replacement, the aforementioned Todd Bowles, drove the defense into the ground and soon Castillo’s defense looked appealing to Eagles fans. Andy Reid clearly made a mistake in firing Castillo, and if he hadn’t, who knows how the season might have turned out.

November 11th – Nick Foles Era Begins, Michael Vick Injured

Foles took the reigns, for better or for worse.

November 11th, 2012 will always be an important date for the Philadelphia Eagles, because it is the date that the Nick Foles Era began. Thanks to a “serious” Michael Vick concussion, Foles had to come in cold and play against the resurgent Dallas Cowboys defense. Foles wasn’t bad, completing 22-of-32 (68.8%) passes for 219 yards, 1 touchdown, one fumble and one interception. That stat line included a 44-yard touchdown to Jeremy Maclin that won the Eagles crowd over early in the second half even if the team lost 38-23.

Vick had been playing well in that game up until his injury, and again, no one knows how things might’ve turned out if he had stayed healthy. But at least the Eagles got to see their rookie QB in action for seven weeks, a quarterback who, while he has some flaws, can continue to improve and be the team’s future starter.

November 27th – Cut Jason Babin

Jason Babin was a hero last season. With a franchise-record 18 sacks, he became the face of a newfound pass rush that led the league with 50 sacks. He was a star, the “big man on campus” in Philadelphia. All-Pro Jason Babin; it had a nice ring to it.

This season, however, was a completely different story; Babin’s effusive welcomes to Lincoln Financial Field were replaced by disparaging remarks everywhere, as the Eagles’ hit-or-miss defensive end started to “miss” more than he hit, with only 5.5 sacks through 11 games. This move would prove to be a smart one, with youngsters Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry finally getting some playing time and Babin’s confrontational personality finally leaving the locker room.

December 3rd – Jim Washburn, Wide Nine Out

An eight-game losing streak was apparently the final straw for Andy Reid; the wide nine needed to go. He’d laid the foundations for abolishing the system by releasing Jason Babin, a product of the wide nine, and he finished the job by firing defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Like Babin, Washburn was hailed as a savior last season when the Eagles’ pass rush helped the defense stay afloat all season long. In 2012, however, with the sacks few and far in between, the weaknesses of the wide nine emerged and Washburn was ridiculed. His apparent strangehold over defensive strategy had restricted the Eagles’ defense for long enough, and so Andy Reid decided to do away with the entire thing and bring in former defensive line coach Tommy Brasher.

That decision turned out well, with the Eagles pass rush flourishing under Brasher and guys like Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox emerging as defensive line studs.

December 9th – 8-Game Losing Streak Ends, Foles Gets 1st Win

Maclin catches the game-winning touchdown (via TBO).

It had been 70 days; seventy days since the Eagles had won a game. In fact, the Phillies had won more recently than the Eagles. This team’s eight-game losing streak was the longest under Andy Reid, and Nick Foles was now 0-3 as a starter (0-4 as a quarterback). Jersey sales were plummeting, home game attendance was at an all-time low, and fan enthusiasm was waning. It was the ultimate disaster for Lurie’s beloved Eagles.

And with 7:21 left in the fourth quarter, it seemed like that nightmare would continue. Down 21-10, the Eagles only had seven minutes to go down the field twice and score. They hadn’t scored a single point in the second half, let alone two touchdowns. Then Nick Foles showed something Michael Vick hadn’t: poise. Foles led his team down the field on consecutive with scoring drives, capping off both with touchdown passes to Clay Harbor and Jeremy Maclin. The latter came with no time remaining on the clock; it was Foles’ first game-winning drive and it came on a do-or-die 3rd and Goal from the 1-yard line. No matter that he would lose his next two games; his 381 yards, 2 passing touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown showed Eagles fans what they wanted/needed to see: Foles can be the future.

December 26th – No Eagles Make 2013 NFC Pro Bowl Roster

To add insult to injury, and believe me, a 4-11 season with an eight-game losing streak is definitely an injury, zero Eagles made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 15 years. Now, no one should be a big believer in the Pro Bowl, but just take that in: zero Eagles made the Pro Bowl this season. Even three made it last year when the team was a mediocre 8-8. That number shows how badly this team has hit rock-bottom.

Even though leaving Evan Mathis off the roster was a complete snub, this just shows how poorly these Eagles played. I mean, the last time no Eagles made the Pro Bowl, 1998, that team was 3-13 and head coach Ray Rhodes was fired. Could this prove to be similarly consequential for Andy Reid? For the Eagles’ sake, I sure hope so.

Please comment below with your notable moments of the 2012 Eagles season!

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Categories: Beat Writing, Eagles, Editorial

Author:Manav Khandelwal

I am the founder of Khandyman Sports, and follow all Philadelphia pro sports teams religiously. I also write for the Hoop76, covering the Sixers for ESPN, and am a credentialed Flyers reporter for Main Line Media News.

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