I really don't care if guys in my locker room don't like each other, as long as we are winning…
Heck, I've been on winning teams where half the guys either didn't trust or didn't like the other half… And take a look at the great Oakland Athletics teams of the '70's—those guys were at each others' throats.
But when you're on a 4-12 team, like the 2012 Eagles, locker room unrest becomes significant.
Well, Jeremy Maclin has just revealed to us via Sheil Kapadia and Tim McManus what many of us have suspected— the Eagles of 2012 were a very fragmented and disgruntled bunch.
For weeks, the Eagles locker room remained relatively empty during the media session before practice.
The same group of guys showed up, met with reporters and answered the same questions. They said the team hadn’t quit. They said they still supported Andy Reid. They said they wished they could provide answers for the blown coverages on defense and the turnovers on offense.
But Monday was different. The players had just found out their coach had been fired. They were on the receiving end of a 42-7 pounding the day before. It was time to clean out their lockers, begin the offseason and look ahead to 2013.
It was also a time for reflection. LeSean McCoy looked visibly upset that he would no longer be playing for Reid. As one of the building blocks going forward, he spoke up and said some of his teammates made too many excuses.
And then there was Jeremy Maclin, the former first-round pick who was in the same draft class as McCoy. Maclin’s career began with consecutive trips to the playoffs, but he’s never been part of a team that advanced past the first round.
“I think change needs to come from everywhere,” Maclin said, when asked if the Eagles’ problem had more to do with personnel or attitude. “I think we’re definitely a talented group of guys individually. I think the team unity probably wasn’t there this year. I think we’ve got to respect each other. If you respect somebody, you’re more willing to go out there and play for that person or play for a purpose. I think the lack of respect that maybe some guys have for other guys definitely hurt us."
Maclin stopped short of saying the team quit, but he suggested that the roster Reid, Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie had assembled had a serious chemistry problem.
God, I hate that word "chemistry" when applied to sports. Chemistry is something that happens when you bake a cake. It has no real analogy to getting 53 individual guys on a roster working together or liking each other. I guess the better word would be "synergy"— you know, a bunch of different ingredients co-existing in a beneficial way for all. But I digress…
“I do think the lack of…call it synergy, I guess, how everybody viewed each other,” Maclin said. “I don’t think everybody viewed each other like a team should."
“It wasn’t anything to the point where it was killing us, but you can tell amongst players, there may have been a lack of respect for some players by other players. And it may be like that all across the league. I’m pretty sure there’s guys that don’t like each other on football teams. I get that. Respecting is a different story.”
Was the lack of respect different from the previous Eagles teams he had been on?
“There’s always going to be guys that don’t like each other, but I think they were willing to still go out there and play for each other,” Maclin said. “This year, I’m not really sure.”
Maclin didn’t want to name names, but he couldn’t hide his frustration.
“It’s just something that you get a feel about in the locker room,” Maclin said. “It’s nothing that you see people disrespecting each other. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about, you can kind of get the vibe that ‘Ok, he doesn’t like him and they’re in the same room or their lockers are next to each other.’ That’s the kind of vibe I'm talking about. It happens."
“I’m talking about guys who have been in this league and should understand how to be a pro, I feel like, weren’t acting that way. Period. And that’s all I’m going to say about it. That’s what it was. Guys I felt like should have been pro's, have been in this league and understand how things go, and wasn’t acting like it.”
An uncomfortable environment… Guys not on the same page, unwilling to play for one another… Conflicting personalities.
Maclin loved Reid. After Sunday’s loss, he talked about opening up to his coach when he went through his health scare two offseasons ago. But Maclin indirectly helped explain how bad things had gotten for the coach in his 14th season.
“If this doesn’t open your eyes, I don’t know what will,” Maclin said. “If they’re going to fire the head coach, then there’s a lot of players’ jobs that they can get rid of too as well. You’ve just got to understand that this is not a game, this is a business. And if you don’t come to work and do your job, then there’s a chance that you may not have a job.”
Okay, not earth-shattering revelations from Jeremy Maclin, but certainly an indication that this assemblage of personalities had a lot of conflicting agendas.
Of course, you're going to get this kind of fall-out from a 4-12 team. The real question is, at what point in the season did the personal conflicts in the locker room become toxic? Was it the 3-6 point, the 4-8 marker?
We'll never really know.
But Maclin's comments surely give us pause to consider how important the emotions and feelings of teammates in the locker room are relative to the ability of a team to fight through adversity. Obviously this Eagles team lost its will to fight. Key guys on this team were just going through the motions in the second half of the season, and left the rest of their teammates stranded on an island of futility. I think this is what Jeremy Maclin is trying to tell us.
If true, that goes back on Andy Reid. He may have lost touch with the morale of his troops. That usually is a death knell for any military organization. It surely applies to the success or failure of a football team.
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Jarrett Bell of USA Today is a guy whom I really respect, and I get to talk to him once in a while via talk radio. Bell breaks down the current crop of fired head coaches and coordinators— the other resource of possible new Eagles head coach and coordinators— who are now out there and available.
As Bell says, they are strewn across the NFL landscape like fresh roadkill….Lovie Smith. Ken Whisenhunt. Norv Turner. Romeo Crennel. Chan Gailey. Pat Shurmur.
Those are just the head coaches who were kicked to the curb on Black Monday.
Most striking this time is that five general managers were forced to walk the plank, too. In three cases — with the Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns — the teams double-dipped and canned the coaches and GMs.
Goodbye, A.J. Smith, Rod Graves, Tom Heckert, Mike Tannenbaum and Gene Smith.
In another case, with the Tennessee Titans, neither the coach nor GM was fired (yet), but the football man above them, CEO Mike Reinfelt, was given his walking papers by owner Bud Adams.
And Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, in firing Crennel, will head the search for a coach, which leaves GM Scott Pioli on shaky ground.
The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Gene Smith, but first-year coach Mike Mularkey can hardly be assured he'll survive when the new GM arrives.
Gailey is out in Buffalo, but GM Buddy Nix, who spent more than $100 million in free agency to upgrade a defense that got worse, must still meet with owner Ralph Wilson.
The common thread in all of these cases is what you'd expect.
It's about winning. Fast and now.
And throw former Ravens' offensive coordinator Cam Cameron into that mix, too. Cam was blown away by John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome a couple of weeks ago in what I consider a panic move to unleash Joe Flacco from a conservative offensive game plan.
Personally, I would take Cam Cameron's game planning and play-calling over Marty Mornhinweg's… but that's just me, and no offense intended, Marty…
Hard-luck stories can be found in many outposts. Crennel got one season as Todd Haley's replacement, after players lobbied for him to get the job. He drew rave reviews for his handling of the team amid the murder-suicide tragedy involving linebacker Jovan Belcher.
But the Chiefs were 2-14. Gone.
A recent chat with ousted Chargers GM A.J. Smith comes to mind. The topic was job security.
"It's a bottom-line business," Smith said.
The Chargers have missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season. So Smith, who stumbled with recent high draft picks and didn't hang on to a few other talented producers, is out the door with Turner — fired as a head coach for the third time.
With so many GMs fired along with or instead of the coaches — as was the case with the New York Jets, who kept coach Rex Ryan and ran Tannenbaum out — the movement reflects increasing pressure upstairs.
Gone are the days, apparently, when GMs get to cycle through three or four head coaches. That was another generation.
In a salary-cap era flush with the biggest revenue in league history and with "football people" wielding less power, patience with GM tenures is waning.
What's evident now is that a GM had better get it right on the two most crucial hires — the head coach and the quarterback — or else.
And the GM might get just one crack at both — if that. New Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said Monday that in his new order, he'll hire the coach first.
A.J. Smith might have been an exception. He lasted 10 years in the GM seat for the Chargers and had a quarterback to build around in Philip Rivers.
Yet it still wasn't enough, given other blunders.
So many of the firings on Monday, though, were linked by the common denominator of poor quarterbacking. The Jaguars, who have had a series of draft-day blunders and a few glaring cases of free agency overspending, are floundering with Blaine Gabbert.
Buffalo re-upped with Ryan Fitzpatrick, and now Gailey is gone after three years.
The Cardinals? Whisenhunt won more playoff games than any other coach in franchise history and took Arizona to a Super Bowl when he had a legit quarterback in Kurt Warner. But injury-riddled Kevin Kolb has flopped, and the replacements were even less impressive. And after plummeting to a 5-11 finish following a 4-0 start, the Cardinals missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
Then again, Lovie Smith had a decent quarterback in Jay Cutler.
That quarterback, it turns out, played under three offensive coordinators and never seemed to have an offensive scheme that was consistent enough to win big.
So they'll start over again. Like Whisenhunt, Smith has a Super Bowl appearance on his resume. No matter. What he didn't have was enough victories, especially after the Bears faded from a 7-1 start to miss the playoffs. Would one more win have saved his job? Smith is the rare coach to get fired after a 10-win season.
Then again, Marty Schottenheimer was fired by the Chargers after the 2006 season after a 14-2 campaign resulted in an early playoff exit.
It's a cold business. Especially on Black Monday, which for many NFL coaches and GMs is the coldest day of the year.
But out of the cold may emerge dark-horse candidates for the next era of Eagles' coordinators and head coach. I will not be surprised to see some of these recently fired guys as integral parts of the Eagles organization in 2013. For some of them, the 4-12 Eagles will be the perfect opportunity to show what a difference they can make.