WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Andy Reid said that he "goofed" when he didn't have the proper personnel in the middle of his defense to contend with the Eagles' new wide-nine scheme up front last season.
The Eagles defense was torched early last year on the ground when a group of young linebackers and safeties -- led by first-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo -- had difficulty adjusting to a scheme that spread out the defensive ends and had the defensive tackles focused on the pass rush. The Eagles opened the season 1-4 and never recovered from the slow start.
"We had young guys there, and so I knew that going in," Reid said Wednesday at the start of an hour-long interview at the NFL owners meetings (click here for the full transcript). "The plan that I had I didn't execute it very well. Right? That's my responsibility. I goofed on that one, right? I expected the young guys on defense to get where they're getting by the end of the season sooner, particularly the middle of the defense -- linebackers and safeties.
"I expected the offense to carry it through. So that part didn't take place. But to tell you, yeah, your linebackers -- the more gaps you open up, the more physical they have to be. That's how it is."
Reid has often been criticized for what some have called his devaluing of the linebacker and safety positions. He was asked if it was a blind spot that contributed to not having the right players in place at the start of last season.
"Well, we ended up being OK," Reid said. "Now we mixed and matched and did that whole deal. So it ended up working out OK at the end."
Still, the Eagles felt as if they needed to upgrade at the position, so this off-season they traded for middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, an acknowledgment that Reid, as he said, "goofed." The Eagles also locked up a number of their own players to contracts, extending tackle Todd Herremans and defensive end Trent Cole and giving receiver DeSean Jackson a new deal.
Reid pointed to the Eagles' four-game winning streak to close the season as reason why he believed his team could compete for a championship this coming season.
"Yes, I'd tell you, yes," Reid said. "And that's what makes it exciting. I think we have a good group coming back and as long as we build on what we did last year -- which I think is important in this case. Every year is different, I understand that, but you got to take the momentum that you finished with and build on it and continue to get better."
Reid, once again, denied a Los Angeles Times report that there was a rift in the Eagles front office and that he had threatened to quit if he was not given more control over personnel.
"I've had final say for a number of years," Reid said. "I think one of our strengths has always been that we work well as a front office. I'm very into doing it as a team. So that's how we go about things. We share ideas. Open communication. People do have input and I welcome that. And I make that final decision. And I have great people doing it with me."
Reid also refuted a report from Howard Eskin that he had wanted to draft Jason Pierre-Paul two years ago and that general manager Howie Roseman and team president Joe Banner preferred Brandon Graham. The Eagles, of course, ended up choosing Graham two spots ahead of Pierre-Paul, who has developed into one of the game's best defensive ends. If true, the report would suggest that Reid did not have final say on football matters.
"That's not true," Reid said. "We all wanted Graham. We took Graham and unfortunately he got hurt. Fortunately, he's healthy now. We're expecting a good season from him."
Here are the other highlights from Reid's roundtable session with reporters at The Breakers Resort:
-- Reid did not deny that he had looked into the Eagles possibly acquiring quarterback Peyton Manning, but reiterated that he was "happy with Michael Vick -- that's what I mentioned about a month ago, that's how I feel today," he said.
-- When asked if the Eagles were hoping to extend running back LeSean McCoy and avoid a possible distraction like the one the team had last season with Jackson Reid said. "We'll jump in here and start working on that," Reid said. "He's a guy that we sure appreciate having on the team." The Eagles have actually been negotiating with McCoy since the end of last season.
-- Reid did not go as far as Roseman did yesterday in divulging the Eagles plans at cornerback. While Roseman did not say that Asante Samuel was on the trading block, it was clear from his comments that the Eagles have had discussions with other teams about the 31-year-old corner. "Asante is obviously on the team," Reid said. "We'll see how things go with the three of them. I said this last year, and I'd say it again -- It's a pretty good situation to have, if you could sit there and say you have the three of those corners. Asante and [Nnamdi Asomugha] are a little bit older, but both of them can still play and play at a high level."
-- Reid spoke at length about the need for Michael Vick to alter his playing style to avoid further injury. He said his parting message to the quarterback before he left for the off-season was: "You got to stay healthy." The Eagles can't work with Vick until April 16, per NFL rules, but Reid said Vick has been watching a lot of film in the effort to learn from last year's mistakes.
-- Defensive tackle Mike Patterson hasn't had any setbacks from AVM surgery, Reid said. Patterson is expected to be back in time by the start of training camp, but his recovery could affect how the Eagles approach the defensive tackle position in the draft.
-- Reid said that Mike Kafka was Vick's backup heading into spring practices. The Eagles added Trent Edwards in February and he will have the opportunity to compete, but Reid sounded as if he wanted to give Kafka every opportunity to win the job. That being said, some believe the Eagles will be in the market for a quarterback in the draft. "We're looking at that spot," Reid admitted before he added that the Eagles look at every position pre-draft.
-- Wide receiver Plaxico Burress has openly campaigned for the Eagles to sign him. Reid said that he was a fan of the 34-year old, but that "right now that's not where we're at."
-- With guard Evan Mathis now under contract, the Eagles' entire offensive line is signed through the 2014 season. Reid said this was as confident as he's felt about the line since before tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas left before the 2009 season.