I think the Eagles will look back on this season as a wonderful opportunity blown.
The NFC East has never been more winnable. A team the Eagles know they can beat - the Cowboys or Giants - is going to end up winning it. (Yes, yes, I know the Birds head to Miami this weekend technically alive; please, spare me.)
Maybe the unbeaten Packers really would be unbeatable in the playoffs, but ever since I watched David Tyree trap that pass against his helmet 4 years ago, I have been skeptical of the notion that any team really is unbeatable. The Packers are beatable by somebody. Who knows if you'd even have to play them to get to the Super Bowl?
The Eagles used to frustrate us by waiting until the NFC Championship Game to blow their chance at a Lombardi Trophy. Ah, those were the days. Such clarity. Now, we're going to postmortem the season arguing about which was worse, blowing a 23-3 lead to the 49ers back on Oct. 2, or committing five turnovers at Buffalo on Oct. 9?
Andy Reid has been beating the drum for how young the Eagles are the past week or so, which is the kind of thing you say when you'd like to keep your job amid colossal failure. As others have pointed out, it's sort of true, sort of not true. Michael Vick turns 32 in June; Trent Cole is 30 next October; Jason Babin is 32 in May. Many of those young guys Reid talks about - Kurt Coleman, Jamar Chaney, Brandon Graham, Nate Allen - haven't proved they are starting-quality NFL players yet, which they will have to do to make their ages at all relevant.
Young, old, whatever. The chances are finite, for all of us, and the Eagles have tossed one away, as carelessly as Vince Young throws a pick-6. They have the overall talent to be in the playoffs, to be a factor in January, regardless of how flawed a mixture their talent has produced. Instead, they are going to be sitting at home wondering whether the whole coaching staff gets fired, or just Juan Castillo.
Vick, who spent a year-and-a-half in federal prison, knows a few things about lost chances.
"You don't necessarily feel like your time is running out, but you want to take advantage of every opportunity, because each year that passes is a year that, if you don't get it done, that's gone, and you can't get back," the Eagles quarterback said. "And I know that I'm not going to play forever, so, you know, I think it's paramount that things happen in an expedited fashion for me. But . . . this is the ultimate team game, and one or two players can't control the outcome of a game."
Vick said that during his 3-week rib-injury absence, he watched tape of every game he has played this season, in which he has just 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
"Just turnovers," Vick said when asked what he saw in his review. "We just turned the ball over. We were always in a position to win the games, and we played good football, a lot of good football, but we just didn't make some plays that we normally make. And doing that, the outcome of the game was different, whether it was determined by our offensive play, defensive play or special-teams play. We just didn't get it done."
Corner Nnamdi Asomugha told reporters his knee problem is a mild MCL sprain. Expected to play a role in the coverage of big, physical Miami wideout Brandon Marshall, he said he often lined up against Marshall when Asomugha was a Raider and Marshall was a Bronco.
"We went at it a lot when we were both in the AFC West. I would just follow him across the field," Asomugha recalled. "He's a really good player, big challenge . . . He likes to grab at the line; they never call it. You see it on film. I used to hate that . . . He gets away with it sometimes, but that's his thing, to be physical, like a [Larry] Fitzgerald."
The Eagles being the Eagles, we don't know that Asomugha is going to get a chance to match up with Marshall all over the field. If the past is a reliable indicator, Asomugha will be on Marshall in some situations, not in others. The Birds rarely play complete man-to-man coverage.
Casey at the bat
Eagles coach Andy Reid said rookie linebacker Casey Matthews has "earned the right to get back in there" in the nickel package.
"He's done well when given the opportunity on short-yardage/goal-line; he's done well on the scout team . . . he's done well in the classroom," Reid said. "Like some of the other guys that took a step back to take a step forward, that's what we're doing with Casey."
Reid said his linebackers are a young group that is getting better, especially in pass coverage. Asked if he wishes he had brought in a veteran early in the process, Reid indicated he didn't think regrets were worthwhile.
"I don't do that," Reid said. "We're teaching them; they're listening, learning and getting better, so that's what it is."