Philadelphia Eagles are losing with Washington Redskins’ old blueprint

Mike Wise
Columnist October 12, 2011

Somebody raise a glass to progress. Go ahead, toast professional growth. A small acknowledgement, at least, is due the man with the purse strings. The worst team money can buy is playing at FedEx Field on Sunday and — heraldic trumpets, please — it’s finally not Daniel Snyder’s.

The all-in Philadelphia Eagles are a loss away from the implosion of their season. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, the man who doled out his millions on the advice of his coach, Andy Reid, must feel like he’s in some bad reality show in which owners swap franchises and business practices.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

Philly’s offseason plan could read like an impulsive e-mail from Washington, replete with bullet points:

●Buy someone else’s stars, pay them handsomely and make the people who carry water for you beg for table scraps. We did this to Mike Sellers and Rock Cartwright, but you can try it with DeSean Jackson.

●Have national media declare you the Offseason Champion, until your own acquisitions marvel at all the talent.

●Lastly, crater within. Realize that money can’t buy happiness in the NFL. Don’t forget to appease the angry masses the only way you know how: Fire the coach.

Like the Redskins’ management of old, the Eagles even went out and got the most prized free agent in football and a defensive lineman from Tennessee — though, okay, Nnamdi Asomugha and Jason Babin combined didn’t cost the $100 million Washington paid for one dud of an Albert Haynesworth in 2009.

Funny, no? “Dream Team,” what quarterback Vince Young dubbed his new organization, was nearly the same thing said of the 2000 Redskins, who added Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Jeff George and a slew of new coaches to a 10-6 playoff team the year before. Picked to win the Super Bowl by many, they went splat, finishing 8-8 and proving chemistry, confidence and Lombardi trophies are not commodities for sale.

It’s still mind-boggling the Eagles, of all teams, went the checkbook athleticism route.

Heck, if only they had talked to one if their own, a guy who knew it was never about the money. Vince Papale, after all, was going to die happy the moment he made Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil’s roster in 1976 — a rookie at the age of 30.

“I don’t know whether it’s the scheme or what,” lamented Papale, whose surreal NFL journey was captured in the 2006 Disney movie “Invincible.” “But I don’t care whether it’s the million-dollar-a-year guy like DeSean Jackson or Asante Samuel, who got [$59] million to shore up the corner — nobody is reaching their potential right now. They’re lacking in leadership and identity.”

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Papale said he got $21,000 his rookie year with the Eagles, “plus a $2,000 roster bonus.” He added he has a motivational speaking engagement in Fairfax Friday, says he often texts Mark Wahlberg, the actor who played him in the film, that he actually teased Young a couple of months ago that “there is only one In-Vince-able in Philly.” He added he still bleeds Eagle green.

“But you sort of get the feeling just watching on the sideline there doesn’t seem to be that camaraderie or chemistry,” Papale said. “A lot of guys, you know, it’s a ‘Hey, look at me’ kind of a thing as opposed to of ‘Hey, look at us.’

“That’s one of the things Dick Vermeil did when he came in. He got rid of the ‘I’ attitude. He said there were no I’s in Eagle, there’s an E. It’s all about we. This team has to take a look at itself and stop being a group of individuals, and I think they play a little better as a team.”

You want delicious irony? Lurie, an old Hollywood guy, actually produced a movie that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary this past year. Partly detailing what happens when smart money people get stupid and take shortcuts, the film was titled, “The Inside Job.”

Could central casting do better with these Eagles, who can’t stop anybody and have only their quick-strike offense to boast of — and that’s when quarterback Michael Vick isn’t running for his life behind a patchwork offensive line Reid hardly addressed in the summer?

Of all the shockers in the NFL thus far — 4-1 Buffalo, 0-5 no-Peyton Manning Indianapolis, even the 3-1 Redskins — no team has stunned more than Philly.

Under siege at home, Reid needs Sunday’s game like no other regular season game in his 13 years as Eagles coach. He has to show more for all the millions of Lurie’s money he spent, to show the Eagles don’t have the same flawed offseason plan the Redskins thankfully have begun to move away from.

Notice that Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen, the team’s president and general manager, never got involved in the Asomugha sweepstakes; too rich. Cullen Jenkins? “We never even made a call on him,” Allen said in September.

That’s telling because Jenkins was the type of player that wooed Snyder in the past, a guy whose high sack total camouflaged the fact he had an injury-laden career and couldn’t be consistently counted upon. Also, he was 30 years old.

The Redskins pursued younger, less prominent and, yes, more economical players for their defensive line like Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield — players they felt had more upside that didn’t cost as much.

Classic fiscal responsibility, something Philadelphia might have done before it felt the need to take shortcuts after so many years of resolve and patience.

It’s still bizarre to think the Eagles out-Asomugha-ed the formerly impulsive people in Ashburn, who used to out-Archuleta everybody.

For Washington, that’s progress. That’s growth. That’s not an inside job.

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