LANDOVER, Md. - Last week, Washington's Jim Zorn said he felt like "the worst coach in America" after his team lost to the Cincinnati Bengals. Yesterday, Zorn beat Andy Reid, completing a sweep of the two-game series with the Eagles.
Does that make Reid the worst coach in America? Of course not. He's the winningest coach in Eagles history. You can't just discount that. To pin this loss on Reid, you'd have to take a close look at how this 10-3 abomination came to pass.
And pass and pass and pass and pass.
The focus will be on the final 12 seconds, that final oh-so-close completion to Reggie Brown. But it should be on the preceding 59 minutes, 48 seconds, when Reid's offense was bullied and intimidated into its most embarrassing performance in a season full of contenders for that honor.
The Eagles started a three-game winning streak by running the ball more than Reid prefers, taking pressure off the slumping Donovan McNabb and giving his offensive line a chance to dictate the action for a change.
Now with a playoff berth there for the taking, Reid got back to his familiar balanced approach: He called passes as well as throws.
This topic has become as tiresome to write about as it is to watch on Sundays. It's half-tempting to cut-and-paste from the dozens of previous columns addressing the same point. But this game deserves special attention, because of the stakes and because of the sheer bullheadedness exhibited by Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
Consider these numbers: The Eagles called a total of 18 running plays and 29 passes compared to 44 runs and 31 throws by Washington. As a result, Washington dominated the game's time of possession, holding the ball 34 minutes, 45 seconds to the Eagles' 25:15. Washington had more first downs (22 to 14) and much better third-down success (11 of 19, to 5 for 12 for the Eagles).
Shocking? What if I told you those were the numbers from Washington's 23-17 victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia on Oct. 5?
Having lost to Washington 11 weeks ago by refusing to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage, Reid quite logically and rationally came into the rematch refusing to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage. It must have come as a huge shock to Reid and his offensive staff that the same result occurred.
Take away the two junk runs at the end of the first half and the Eagles called just 12 runs while attempting 48 passes (not counting two McNabb spikes). That's an 80/20 split, if you're interested in percentages. That's just stupid, if you're interested in adjective.
"Coach, I'm assuming he saw something that dictated we should pass the ball," running back Brian Westbrook said.
No doubt. The question is whether that something was in the videotape of Washington's defense or inside the coach's head. Washington lost each of its previous three games. The Giants ran the ball 35 times and won. Baltimore ran it 39 times and won. Cincinnati ran it 33 times and won.
The Eagles ran it 14 times - we'll throw in the two time-killers in the second quarter just to be charitable - and scored a total of 3 points and lost.
Fred Smoot, whose heads-up play kept Reggie Brown from scoring the tying touchdown as time ran out, was grateful. He looks over and sees Westbrook and that big offensive line and wonders why the Eagles don't run the ball more.
"To me, it shocks me," Smoot said. "Especially having a guy like 36 back there. My goodness. If I was a coach, I wouldn't have a game where he didn't touch the ball 25 times. I make sure I put the ball in his hands."
The game was well within the Eagles' reach throughout the fourth quarter. They had four possessions before the one that ended on the 1-inch line. Yes, they had bad field position each time. That's partly due to Washington punter Ryan Plackemeier, but it's also due to the Eagles' abject failure to move the ball enough to give themselves some space.
All four possessions: three pass plays and a punt.
"That's them," Smoot said. "When they're backed up, they throw their way out."
Smoot, his defensive teammates, and coordinator Greg Blache all knew that. They all knew they didn't have to bother defending against the run. Blache responded with a contained pass rush and dropped seven players into coverage.
It was that easy to smother Reid's offense and, in turn, the Eagles' progress toward a playoff berth.
Worst of all, it was that easy because Reid made it that easy. He repeated the mistakes that lost one game against Washington and gave this must-win game away. Reid managed to make the self-proclaimed "worst coach in America" the second-worst coach on the field.