Coach Andy Reid dismissed the abrasive Washburn just hours after the team's eighth straight loss, 38-33 at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. Former defensive line coach Tommy Brasher will replace Washburn.
This was the third major move on defence in seven weeks. Defensive co-ordinator Juan Castillo was fired on Oct. 16. Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin was released last week.
The Eagles (3-9) are mired in their worst losing streak since 1968 and searching for answers after opening the season with Super Bowl aspirations.
"I think it's the best thing for the Philadelphia Eagles and this football team that I made that move," Reid said. "This was a move that I made. Nobody else made this move. This isn't a move to save my job. This is a move that I think needed to be done now, and so I did it now."
Reid is assured of just his third losing season in 14 years, and could be coaching his final games in Philadelphia. Owner Jeffrey Lurie already said the Eagles needed to make "substantial improvement" after going 8-8 last year and that a similar record would be "unacceptable."
Regardless, Reid has one year left on his contract and is proceeding with important decisions. After firing Washburn, Reid said rookie Nick Foles would be the starting quarterback the rest of the season, even when Michael Vick returns from a concussion.
Washburn's dismissal wasn't entirely a surprise. Washburn was known for having a strong personality and being confrontational with other coaches. He had to be separated from offensive co-ordinator Marty Mornhinweg on the sideline during a game against New England last November.
One player, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Washburn often was "disrespectful" to other staff members, particularly Castillo.
"I would just tell you that there were things that I was disappointed in and as time went on I just thought it was the right thing to do right now for this football team," Reid said. "It was just something that I had been pondering and working through."
Washburn was hired on Jan. 19, 2011 after 12 seasons in Tennessee where he earned a reputation as one of the top positions coaches in the NFL. The Eagles hoped his wide-nine defensive line alignment would produce plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. It did at first. The scheme helped the Eagles tie for the league lead with 50 sacks last season, but has resulted in only 20 so far this year.
Washburn's linemen accounted for 46 of those 50 sacks in 2011, including 18 from Babin and 11 from Trent Cole. But Babin had 5 1/2 this year before he was cut last Tuesday, just 1 1/2 years into a $28 million, five-year contract. Babin was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Washburn wasn't pleased with the decision to part with Babin and reportedly threatened to quit. So Reid fired him.
"I don't want to see anybody get fired, but I kind of think from the inside looking out you knew they wanted to do that, especially after our bye week there," Babin told reporters in Jacksonville. "I mean Coach Reid got rid of our refrigerator and our coffee maker in our room. So I could tell there was some feelings between Coach and Wash that were on the surface. You could kind of feel the tension a little bit. I mean, get rid of a guy's refrigerator and coffee maker? I think everybody knew that he probably wasn't going to be here next year anyway."
Reid said he cut Babin to give more playing time to younger players. Brandon Graham, a 2010 first-round pick, started in Babin's spot and had 1 1/2 sacks against Dallas.
Overall, the line's inability to pressure quarterbacks has made it disastrous for the pass defence. Quarterbacks have picked apart the secondary, especially in the six games since Todd Bowles replaced Castillo.
Tony Romo finished 22 for 27 for 303 yards and three touchdowns for the Cowboys, becoming the sixth straight quarterback to post a passer rating of at least 120.0 against the Eagles. The defence has allowed 16 touchdown passes and has zero interceptions in the last six games.
Reid, though, made it clear the loss to Dallas didn't factor into Washburn's departure.
"It wasn't all about this game," he said. "He's a good football coach and I think it was just maybe a give and take. He's had a great career and he's going to have a great career. That just didn't quite work the way I wanted it to work."
Brasher served as Philadelphia's defensive line coach in 1985 and from 1999-2005. He worked under co-ordinator Jim Johnson in his second stint. The Eagles had an outstanding defence during that stretch, which included four straight trips to the NFC championship game and one Super Bowl appearance.
"Having Tommy Brasher back here again brings back a very loyal, loyal assistant coach that I've had here for a number of years, who understands exactly what I'm about and what I'm trying to get done with a young defensive line," Reid said.
The Eagles visit Tampa Bay (6-6) next Sunday.
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Jacksonville, Fla., contributed to this report
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