PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Don't you just hate it when football coaches start talking in ultra-technical football jargon and expect us all to understand it as though we're in the meeting rooms with them every day? Like Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid this morning at the NFL owners meetings, explaining what went wrong on defense with his team last year.
"I goofed on that one," Reid said.
This is a new one on me, this "goofed." I'm not sure I've studied enough football to truly understand the complexities of this analysis. Let's back it all the way out and examine the full quote from which this one was plucked.
"The plan I had, I didn't execute it very well, right?" Reid said. "I goofed on that one. I expected the young guys on defense to get where they were getting towards the end of the season sooner, particularly the guys in the middle of the defense -- the linebackers and safeties."
So "goofed," then, appears to have something to do with a plan gone awry. The Eagles loaded up last year at cornerback and on the defensive line, brought in a new defensive line coach, converted their offensive line coach to defensive coordinator and believed their strengths -- on defense and on offense -- would overcome their deficiencies. Instead, the defensive deficiencies were a big part of what did the Eagles in during a 1-4 start from which they were unable to recover. Their "Wide 9" defensive front was very good at getting to the quarterback, but when teams attacked the middle of their defense with the run or were able to give their quarterbacks enough time to throw, those teams found major weaknesses at the linebacker and safety spots that were charged with protecting the middle part of the field.
"I expected the offense to carry it through, and that part didn't take place," Reid said. "But yeah, your linebackers -- the more gaps you open up, the more physical they have to be."
The Eagles patched the linebacker corps together with unprepared late-round rookies like Casey Matthews and Brian Rolle and second-year man Jamar Chaney, and it showed. Reid said the group demonstrated improvement and played well late in the year, when the Eagles won their final four games. But the weakness was still glaring enough that the team decided it needed to make a trade for veteran middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans last week, and it's possible they could still look to add at that position this offseason.
Listening to Reid talk Wednesday morning, the thing that seemed to bother him the most about the 2011 season was the high number of turnovers his offense committed. The 25 interceptions the Eagles threw in 2011 led the league, and when you add in their 13 fumbles, it brings their total number of 2011 giveaways to 38, which was second-highest in the league behind Tampa Bay. So no matter what happens on defense, the Eagles will need to make far fewer "goofs" on offense next year in order to get where they need to go.
But with an entire season under the belts of last year's new players and coaches, the addition of Ryans and a full offseason with which to prepare, the Eagles will enter 2012 with high hope that the "goofs" of 2011 are a thing of the past. Reid answered in the affirmative when asked if he believed he had a Super Bowl contender.
"That's what makes it exciting," Reid said. "We have a good group coming back. Every year is different, I understand that. But we've got to take that momentum that we finished with and build on it an continue to get better."