Don't trust anyone over 30…
At least that adage now applies to Philadelphia Eagles players making more than the veterans' minimum wage.
The purge of expensive older players has begun. Defensive end Jason Babin (age 32) was the first to go.
Babin's, release comes a day after a fairly impressive debut by rookie second-round draft pick Vinny Curry, who saw his first pro action in Monday night's 30-22 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Andy Reid hinted that Curry's good showing played a role in letting Babin go and relieving the Eagles of the $16 million they would have had to pay him over the next three seasons by taking a relatively minuscule salary cap hit of roughly $600,000 now.
"We appreciate everything that Jason has given this team over the last couple of years," Reid said. "We wish him all the best as he continues his career. By releasing him today, this gives us an opportunity to give more playing time to some of the younger guys in the defensive line rotation."
Reid also insisted on Tuesday that the possibility of losing his job is not an issue. "I'm coaching to get ready for the Dallas Cowboys," he said. "I don't go beyond that."
He might not be allowed to go beyond that by owner Jeffrey Lurie if the Eagles don't show some immediate signs of improvement. Reid's team has dropped seven in a row after winning three of its first four. Lurie has to know the public relations risk of keeping Reid through the rest of the season when an increasingly angry fan base wants Reid out immediately.
Although Babin had been a productive player in his second stint with the Eagles — getting 18 sacks and making his second straight Pro Bowl last season, and leading the team with 5.5 sacks this season — he had grown immensely unpopular with the fans after criticizing them for their behavior during games. Babin also had made it clear throughout his tenure here that the sport of football was merely a means to earn a living and that he never took his work home with him, which also was not a particularly endearing trait.
But the bottom line was that his production had slipped well below his pay level, and because almost all the guaranteed money in the free-agent contract he signed last year has already been paid, there was no sense keeping him around when there were so many other defensive ends on the team who could do his job for less.
Babin, in a phone interview with ESPN, reacted with surprising acceptance and a curious absence of disgust.
"Maybe it was the best thing for me," Babin said. "But I've learned in my life now to never judge any situation or any person or any action too quickly, because you never know what all the moving parts are. So I think [the players] really respect [Reid.] They … respect the heat he takes for the team."
Yet the move almost certainly was done in large part to send a message to the rest of the team as well that this is a performance-based business and the team will not wait until the offseason to start its anticipated personnel purge.
The announcement on Tuesday that the team had given up on trying to bring left tackle Jason Peters back this season also was significant in that it clearly signifies the team is looking to the future now more than the present. Peters, who was perhaps the best tackle in the NFL a year ago, twice tore an Achilles tendon in the offseason but had never been ruled out for the season until Tuesday.
Babin even admitted that Reid is "probably doing what's best for the team. It's giving the young guys a chance to play and see what we have for next year, whether he's going to be the coach or not. That's probably the most professional thing to do, I imagine … he's been there so long and he's done a lot and he doesn't want to go out on a sour note."
In the meantime, the Eagles must deal with other injury issues.
Wide receiver Jason Avant, who missed Monday night's game with a hamstring injury, might be able to return to practice today. But there's little chance of getting Vick and McCoy back in time for the Eagles' next game, which will be at Dallas next Sunday night.
Vick, who's further along in his recovery than McCoy, still hasn't passed neurological testing. "I want Mike to get healthy," Reid said. "If had to tell you today, you're probably going to see Nick again here."
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (tailbone), tackle King Dunlap (knee) and center Dallas Reynolds (ankle) also will miss today's practice. No decision has been made on fullback Stanley Havili (ankle).
Reid remains with the intent of carrying on as always and refuses to lean on injuries as an excuse for failure. "The next guy comes in and the next guy plays," he said. "… We went into that [last] game with those same [backup] players and we had an opportunity to win that football game. So there are no excuses."
For Reid, it's on to Dallas and another national telecast, for which the approach will be the same. "I deal with coaches and players man-to-man," Reid said. "I stand before you. I'm the head coach of this football team. It's my responsibility to make sure you've got to do your job, bottom line. It's my responsibility to deal with those players and coaches man-to-man. So I'm not going to change that during this time."
Reid continues to insist that the reasons the Eagles keep losing have nothing to do with lack of leadership, which is a growing perception even among his ex-players such as Ike Reese and Troy Vincent.
"Hopefully we have the character on this team," Reid said. "You saw last night, the way they were playing the game, they were playing to win the game. I think I have that type of locker room. It wasn't an effort thing, it hasn't been an effort thing. It's big plays and turnovers. Those have been the issues."
Purge up…carry on. Stay tuned for Extreme Makeover, Philly style…