Is Andy Reid finally sitting on the hot seat?

What was owner Jeff Lurie thinking when his amazing new team was failing so spectacularly in Pittsburgh? Was there even one fleeting moment when Joe Banner wondered what the heck coach Andy Reid was doing?

I have no answers to the two big questions above, but I can tell you what I was thinking — and what many of you were thinking. We were questioning again whether Reid can lead this team to a championship. We couldn’t believe that a club this talented could play that badly.

Yes, it was only the second preseason game. There is no reason to panic. But if you shrugged at that disaster at Heinz Field, you are either a pie-eyed optimist or you are totally brain dead. Either way, you need to face some painful facts.

The defense was abysmal. The coordinator of that defense is a man who has never held that position, and coached like a novice in that game. Reid insisted that Juan Castillo would be terrific in that new role. Of course, Reid said the same thing about Sean McDermott. What if Reid is wrong?

The linebackers were an embarrassment. If Casey Matthews is going to lead the defense at middle linebacker, the rookie is going to need to know where to go and what to do when he gets there. He was steamrolled against the Steelers. Reid has always downplayed the value of the linebacker position. Will Reid’s bias against linebackers ruin this season?

Michael Vick looked exactly like the Michael Vick of five years ago, before his stint in prison and rebirth with the Eagles. Reid has gotten one media testimonial after another for his reshaping of Vick, and especially for bringing discipline to the quarterback’s game. After that disaster, is it fair to wonder whether Vick will revert to his old ways now that he’s no longer fighting for the starting job?

It isn’t just that Reid has never won a championship as a head coach; there is also the matter of his attitude when he doesn’t win. When someone asked a valid question about Matthews’ mistakes, Reid snapped, “Your question was about as good as we played.”

No, the question was actually much better. The only thing that was as bad as the Eagles’ performance last week was Reid’s insulting behavior after it. This is a new season, with hopes above and beyond any in Reid’s 13 seasons here. The stakes are higher now. The pressure is greater.

Let’s just hope Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner are asking the same tough questions about Andy Reid right now that we are.

Only one logical choice

The eyes have it. After an alarming weekend in D.C., the back end of the Phillies’ bullpen has become a muddle with three candidates for the closer role as the playoffs draw nearer.

At the moment, Ryan Madson has the job. He’s not the most experienced ninth-inning pitcher, and Madson hasn’t won it based on performance.

Madson isn’t the best choice for two reasons. First, his velocity is down. At his most effective, he throws the ball between 95 and 97 miles per hour. Right now, he’s in the low 90s, making his lethal changeup hittable. He’s an excellent setup man, nothing more.

Brad Lidge is done. He doesn’t trust his fastball, nor should he. It isn’t fast. His slider has been effective, but he doesn’t have the same control, or consistency, that he did three years ago. At best, he’s a seventh-inning guy — and maybe not even if Jose Contreras returns.

Which leaves Antonio Bastardo, who has allowed 19 hits in 49 innings (.119 average). After squandering his first save in nine attempts by permitting a game-tying homer Sunday, Bastardo came right back and blew away the next hitter. He’s unflappable. He’s the one pitcher in the Phillies’ bullpen that opponents don’t want to face.

Manager Charlie Manuel has six weeks to decide on a closer for the playoffs, but the answer should be obvious by now. All he has to do is use his eyes.

To tell the truth

Finally, we know the truth about Jeremy Maclin. He isn’t suffering from AIDS. And he doesn’t have lymphoma, or any other form of cancer. He has been fighting nothing more than a hard-to-shake virus.

So why has a cloud been hanging over him since March? What it all comes down to is privacy.

Maclin insisted that the medical tests being conducted be kept confidential, leaving the Eagles no choice but to dance around all questions until he and his family agreed to explain the situation.

My philosophy on secrets is a matter of public record. I think they’re stupid. With very few exceptions, the guy next door has the same issues that you have. The best way to end damaging speculation, and to build understanding, is simply to tell the truth.

In Maclin’s case, the rumors were far worse than the reality. Questions about his lifestyle and his future overshadowed the facts, and all because he felt the need to hide the nature of his illness.

What shame was there in the cancer scare Maclin was experiencing? What need was there to go mum in a city that is unfailingly compassionate in situations like this? Did Maclin think the fans would think less of him if he had cancer?

There was no good reason for Maclin to hide the secret of his medical crisis. With secrets, there almost never is.

– Angelo Cataldi is host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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