— By the time the 2012 season began to unravel for the Philadelphia Eagles a quarter of the way in, the players and coaches were pretty much powerless to stop it. The fuse for this time bomb had been activated long before by a perfect storm of ineptitude and awful luck.
By then, nothing could have prevented what ultimately went down Monday at the NovaCare Complex: the dismissal of head coach Andy Reid after a 4-12 record and an honest, stunning admission by general manager Howie Roseman that the talent and chemistry of their roster has been vastly overrated.
What we saw this season is the reality that most of us believed to be a fluke the year before: a squad that could not possibly succeed no matter what the talent level because it was a collection of players instead of a team; a quarterback who ultimately proved to be an extreme downgrade from Donovan McNabb, the starter in nine of Reid's 10 career playoff victories; a defense built with too many specialty players; a new staff of assistants who could not function well enough together; and the complete loss of vision that had this organization on the verge of greatness for so many years.
Every poor decision made by Reid and/or the front office over the past three years conspired to make the Eagles 4-12. Once the season began, only divine intervention could have helped this squad, and even that wouldn't have been a guarantee.
Reid took some extreme measures that we've never seen before, such as firing defensive coordinator Juan Castillo after just six games, three of them victories. All they did was make things worse.
By the time Castillo was jettisoned, he was more qualified to run a defense than the man (Todd Bowles) who replaced him.
Then again, the same was true of Sean McDermott when he was fired to make room for Castillo in 2011.
On and on it goes.
Starting with the decision to trade McNabb away at the end of the 2009 season, Reid and the front office have made a series of blunders, each seemingly worse than the last, in an effort to get back to the way they were when they advanced to five NFC Championship games in a span of eight seasons. They turned into compulsive gamblers who keep thinking they're one good bet away from winning it all back again, and then some.
Team owner Jeffrey Lurie explained it as clearly and candidly as possible during his news conference on Monday, admitting that he also was blinded at times by the intoxicating thrill of the success his team has enjoyed.
"I think if you had to point to anything," he said, "it's when you had as much success as we had and are so close to winning a Super Bowl, [that] at some stage you have an opportunity to think that the next move, even if it's not consistent with all of your previous moves, will be the one that gives you the chance to win the Lombardi Trophy. I think that in the last couple years we've done things that have not been as consistent. ...
"You notice it with any organization that has had a lot of success that you will start to reach, thinking: That's the thing that's going to get us going, that's the player, that's the method, that's the mechanism, that's the coach, that's the thing that is going to put us over the top. At the same time, you're dealing with a franchise quarterback that was descending, and therefore you're even more motivated before a player hits rock bottom or you're without a franchise quarterback, that you're going to reach and do certain things."
Everyone was guilty. Everyone played at least a small role.
"We lost some of the exact nature of the method that we've all shared that created the success, which was discipline, strategic thinking, and don't do necessarily what is popular but do what's right," Lurie said. "It's kind of a human thing, and I take some responsibility for that because I was right out in the forefront for: 'Let's do anything we can to try to win a Super Bowl for the city and our fans.'
"At times you probably had to be a little more self-disciplined and say, 'Doing that and injecting that into the locker room, affecting the chemistry of the team maybe in some way, that's not the best thing to do.' "
Doesn't matter that McNabb's career flamed out quickly in Washington, where he had zero offensive weaponry beyond a solid tight end, and Minnesota, where the Vikings proved to be much worse after benching him. The full complement of backs and receivers that Vick was given here would still have McNabb in an Eagles uniform — and perhaps a ring on one of his fingers.
Vick, after a phenomenal start to the 2010 season, has deteriorated into a turnover machine who is not capable of helping a team to a title in a starting role.
Following a 21-16 playoff loss to eventual Super Bowl champion and offensive juggernaut Green Bay in 2010, Reid made another panic move and cut loose McDermott. Never mind that David Akers missed two field goals that he was paid handsomely to make.
Perhaps because he never had any kind of defensive experience before becoming head coach, Reid then reasoned that he could mold longtime offensive line coach Juan Castillo into a championship replacement for McDermott, who was fired in large part because the unit's soft players complained he worked them too hard.