Voice of Philly Sports Fan: Vick masking head coaches’ weaknesses

Andy Reid is a very lucky man. Lucky that the right foot of Lawrence Tynes isn’t just a little bit stronger, lucky that the regular refs believe in righting their wrongs and lucky that Mike Vick performs best when it matters the most.

Above all, the Eagles coach is lucky he still has a job after the near-disaster he presided over Sunday night. It is easy to laugh now that the Birds have a 19-17 thriller tucked away, but the sad truth is, Reid did everything he could to lose the most important game of the season.

His biggest mistake was the decision to freeze Tynes by calling timeout just before the game-winning, 54-yard field goal attempt hooked far left of the goalposts. How mindless was that decision? Tynes was already pressure-tested in two Super Bowl runs, but had never converted a field goal from that far. Reid’s generous offer of a free kick was insane.

But the NFL coaching manual called for Reid to flash the timeout signal just before the ball was snapped. When the ensuing celebration was cut short by the announcement that the coach had nullified the miss, all he could do was smile sheepishly. He later compared himself to Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn. Indeed.

What if? You will hear that question many times this week. What if … the second attempt had not fallen a yard short of the crossbar? What if … Reid had cost his team a game it had already won. What if … Vick’s censure of the move came after a horrific loss instead of a tenuous win?

Reid has never been adept at spontaneous decisions. In many ways, he is like his counterpart on the Phillies, manager Charlie Manuel, always looking for a formula that will make the choices for him. But nowadays he doesn’t need these shortcuts. He has Vick, who flourishes when the game is at stake. Sunday’s comeback win marked the third time this season that the quarterback has rallied the Eagles to a win on the final drive.

And this time Vick had to overcome some bizarre coaching to accomplish the feat. On second-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Reid called for Vick to hand the ball off — no, not to one of the best runners in the NFL, LeSean McCoy, who had brilliantly led his team down the field on the climactic drive, but to Bryce Brown, a rookie who had touched the ball three times all night. Brown was stuffed at the line. What a surprise.

The Eagles — and especially Reid — would have lost the game if the Giants hadn’t foolishly tried a deep pass down the right sideline that gave the refs, who had blown a pass-interference call earlier in the drive, a chance to rectify the injustice by pushing the Giants back 10 yards, which proved to be the difference on the final kick.

Andy Reid was able to smile again when the football fell short. Most of us knew better than to celebrate for very long. It’s hard to feel good when Andy Reid is coaching your football team.

Eagles should right all wrongs

The Eagles slathered Brian Dawkins with love and respect as they retired his No. 20 Sunday night at the Linc. The nightlong celebration was a rare combination of deep appreciation and unspoken regret.

There is so much to savor in both the career of one of the most ferocious players ever and in the person who bonded so perfectly with the fans. The Eagles were tireless in honoring every aspect of Dawkins’ brilliant 13 years in Philadelphia. Of course, Dawkins was a champion right to the end, every bit as impressive in his final appearance as he was in the 224 games that preceded it.

Unfortunately, only those with very short memories were able to savor the event without some misgivings. It was impossible to hear all of the breathless accolades and not recall coach Andy Reid refusing to answer questions in the immediate aftermath of Dawkins’ departure in 2009 and declaring it “Stacy Andrews Day.”

Now, if the Eagles are really sincere about righting all the wrongs associated with Dawkins, they need to call Dan Leone, apologize for their outrageous conduct and offer him his job back. Leone is the disabled security guard who was fired for posting his strongly worded (and completely understandable) disappointment on Facebook in the moments after Dawkins left.

If the Eagles proved anything, it was how right Dan Leone was about his favorite player, Brian Dawkins.

Blow up the Phils

Now that the Phillies have missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, it is time to face a painful reality. This era of unprecedented success is over.

Why such a dour forecast for a team that will still have three aces in the rotation, a healthy (we hope) Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, and a loyal fan base? Because the Phillies are a hodgepodge of aging veterans and unproven young players requiring far more creativity than their manager possesses.

For example, is there a team in baseball with a weaker hitting outfield than John Mayberry Jr., Dom Brown and Nate Schierholtz? Imagine how thrilled Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay are about the prospect of those three noodle-bats supporting them. And speaking of Lee and especially Halladay, what is a logical expectation for these two aging stars in 2013?

The Phillies, sad to say, are a mess — and no amount of roster manipulation is going to alter that fate. What they need to do is to look for the kind of salary dump the Red Sox accomplished. They need to see what young players are available for a Lee or Halladay. They have to find a new home for Jimmy Rollins.

Above all, they need to say goodbye to Charlie Manuel. The Phillies are not going to begin the journey back to contention until they stop trying to recapture a magic that is already long gone.

– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30-10 a.m.

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