Big Picture Questions

Posted: November 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 124 Comments »

Any time you are expected to be a playoff team and you sit a 4-6 there are going to be lots of questions about what is going on and what needs to be done. Let’s address a few.

Coach Chip Kelly – Adam Schefter said on Tuesday that he thinks Chip could be gone at the end of the year. A lot of people took this as a rumor, but this was strictly opinion. Honestly, his comments turned incredibly bizarre after that initial line. Jimmy Bama has the transcript.

I think both sides are sick of each other. I think the fans are tired of him. I think he’s tired of the situation there. (That’s) just my read, from afar. That stadium began emptying early in the fourth quarter. It was an ugly scene.

Schefter says both “sides” are sick of each other and then talks about the fans and Kelly. Does he mean the management is tired of Kelly or the fanbase? And Kelly doesn’t like public scrutiny, but no coach anywhere does. No coach sits and smiles through press conferences when their team is losing. As for the stadium being empty…that happens in most cities during a blowout loss.

I’m really confused by all of this. Schefter has great connections. Is he telling us something he’s heard or is he just speculating based on a crappy couple of games and the fact there is a lot of tension in Philly right now? The fact this wasn’t a special report for ESPN but rather comments on some radio show makes me lean toward this being more of the speculation variety. We all know how ESPN treasures every scoop and rumor in the world. They’d be furious at him for “breaking news” on some radio show and not SportsCenter or the website.

The fact is that there is a lot of tension now. That’s what happens when you go 4-6 and lose in embarrassing fashion to a rookie QB. The performance of Chip’s team this year has created a situation where it is now reasonable to speculate about his future.

My take?

He’s not going anywhere. Let’s talk about the college angle, since a lot of people seem to think he’s tired of the NFL and will jump right back to the safety of Saturday football. Not gonna happen. Chip hates boosters. Hated dealing with them at Oregon, which has pretty tame boosters compared to most football factories. LSU is seriously considering firing Les Miles, the most successful coach in school history. His sin, he’s not Nick Saban. The boosters don’t care Miles has won a national title for them. They don’t care that he averages 10 wins a year. The team has been up and down the last couple of years and they want more titles. Now.

There are no boosters in the NFL. Chip has to deal with an owner and team president. That’s it. He can meet with them a few times a year to discuss what is going on or what needs to be done. No booster meetings. No fundraising. None of the stuff he hates.

If Chip ever does go back to college, I think he’ll choose an odd job rather than an obvious one. Go coach Boston College. Or Army. Or New Hampshire. He wants to coach, not do all the handshaking and butt-kissing that big time college coaches have to do.

If Chip could leave the Eagles for a different NFL job, that might change things. He can’t do that. The Eagles could trade him to another team. Or Lurie could fire him, which brings us to…

Will Jeff Lurie want him back? Yes. Lurie isn’t one to make knee-jerk decisions. He saw how good Chip was the first two years. As long as Chip can explain ideas for solving this year’s issues in a way that makes sense to Lurie, I don’t see him getting fired.

There is also the fact that the organization is built around Chip’s ideas. The personnel department looks for his kind of players. The scouts know what he is looking for. If you replace Chip, do you have to fire Ed Marynowitz? Could you just keep him as GM and hire an outside coach? If you decide to go in a different direction, that would mean a lot of change. Would you be looking at a year or two of rebuilding the team and organization? Is it worth it to do that?

If this team goes 5-11 or 6-10, maybe. I think this group will bounce back and win some games. This team has been frustrating all year, but Sunday is the only game where the Eagles go flat out whipped. That was a bad game. I think the veteran leaders and coaches will get this team back on track. If they don’t, then maybe change is needed. We need to see how the season plays out. What is the team’s final record? Beyond that, how did they play in those games?

Once the season is over, Chip needs to sit down and evaluate everything. Something isn’t working with this team. Good teams find ways to win games. Think of the Pats beating the Giants or the Panthers beating the Seahawks in tough games. This Eagles team seems to find ways to lose.

As for personality, this could definitely be an issue, but I’m not sure a strong enough one to lead to a firing. Chip at times is a very likable guy. He jokes with the media at times and is interesting to listen to. Other times he goes into Belichick mode. And Chip does some things that I don’t get. He meets with the trainers after the media. Why not meet with them before and pass along updates? That makes life easier for everyone involved.

Chip isn’t a ruthless dictator that drives everyone around him crazy, but he’s not Mr. Rogers either. When he’s winning, I think his personality is a non-issue. When he’s losing, it has to be factored in.

GM Chip Kelly – A lot of people hate this guy. He cut DeSean (not GM but his move). He traded away Shady. He traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford. He went through a bizarre situation with Evan Mathis and ended up cutting him. The Boykin situation was strange, although to be honest it has gotten much stranger since he went to Pittsburgh. I still don’t know what’s going on with him.

Evaluating this side of things is far more complicated than Chip the coach. I still have faith in the coach. Chip the GM I am still trying to figure out. I think his general ideas are sound, but somewhere between concept and execution, something went wrong.

My guess is that he will retain control of the team, but Lurie will scrutinize moves more this year. I doubt you’ll see any over the top moves (cutting DeSean, trading Shady). I also think Lurie might tell Chip to focus more on mid-level free agents.

The Sam Bradford deal gets a ton of scrutiny and that’s fair, but something had to be done at QB. The Eagles did not have a realistic shot at getting Marcus Mariota. I know there were rumors of possible deals, but I’m not sure the Titans would have actually made any trade. They desperately needed a franchise QB.

There weren’t great choices. Chip rolled the dice on Sam Bradford, hoping he could hit it big. The move failed. It will end up being a waste of time, money and resources, but Chip had to try something. This year the Eagles will have more choices. There could be a QB or two in the draft that the team could go for.

Or they could go for RG3 or Colin Kaepernick. Drew Brees might be available. Matt Stafford might be available. Peyton Manning? There will be some interesting veteran QBs on the market. They all will be flawed (like Bradford…that’s why they’re available), but you need the right guy for the right situation. The very best QBs don’t go anywhere.

Chip the GM will need to convince Lurie he’s got a plan at QB.

What should the Eagles do at QB? – I don’t have a solid opinion right now. There are some guys in the draft who could be of interest. You can’t always count on a rookie QB starting so even if the Eagles draft one, they might need to bring in a veteran regardless.

The player who fascinates me the most is RG3. He was dominant as a rookie. We can talk about why and whether that is sustainable, but the bottom line is that he was great for a year. All of that ability isn’t gone. Kaepernick had some great games, but wasn’t a consistently great QB.

Could the light ever go on for Sam Bradford? It doesn’t feel like it at this point.

The Eagles need a long term solution at QB. They need to look long and hard for one. They need to keep an open mind. Cam Newton was #1 overall. Aaron Rodgers was pick 20. Tom Brady was pick 199. The Cardinals got Carson Palmer after he was bad for the Raiders and looked possibly washed up. There is no definitive way to find the right QB, but you need to have one if you want to win big in the NFL.

Is Bill Davis good enough at DC? – This is a complicated question. Davis ran the SF defense for 2 years. He later ran the ARZ defense for 2 years. That’s not much of a track record. This is the first place he’s gotten a 3rd year. And until recently, it looked like the defense had taken another step forward. As with Chip, we need to see how the whole season plays out.

Part of the complication with Davis is not knowing what he wants to do. When hired, we all expected him to run the 4-3 Under. Instead, he’s running the 3-4 with 2-gapping up front. Is this his choice or Chip’s, since this is what Chip ran at Oregon.

The Eagles don’t come up with a lot of complex defensive gameplans. Is this Davis or Chip? The offense is simple and based on tempo and execution. The defense mixes in some complicated looks, but isn’t nearly as complex as some other 3-4 teams. Davis blitzes less than most 3-4 DCs. Is this him or Chip? Davis worked with Dick LeBeau, Wade Phillips and Dom Capers. Those guys have run great blitz schemes over the years.

The biggest problem I see on defense seems to be zone coverage. I don’t know if that is due to scheme, teaching or talent.

I don’t see Davis as such a problem that he needs to get fired, but the inability to stop teams on 3rd/long is incredibly frustrating. That has to get solved in a hurry. More games like Sunday and Davis won’t be getting a 4th season with the Eagles.


Rage Against the Machine

Posted: November 23rd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 434 Comments »

The Eagles lost on Sunday in embarrassing fashion. Everyone who watched that slopfest was upset with the team. I certainly wasn’t happy with what I saw. So why didn’t I come on here and rip the team more on Sunday?

Some of you are upset that I wasn’t upset enough.

Let me explain where I’m coming from. I was a typical sports fan as a kid. I lived and died with losses. Seeing my sports heroes lose a big game just devastated me. I would be crushed for days. I would stew with rage. I wanted coaches fired. Players benched. Some cut or traded. Typical post-loss emotions.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve changed. I still get upset with a bad loss, but I get it out of my system pretty quickly. I become more analytical than angry. Emotion doesn’t solve anything. It is fun to vent, but the satisfaction is temporary at best.

I love football coaches. I have ever since I read articles about Tom Landry and Buddy Ryan back in the early 1980s. I was fascinated by X’s and O’s, but also the philosophies behind coaching. Over the years I’ve read all kinds of books on coaches. I watch interviews and documentaries when I can. I listen to coaches shows on the radio. Heck, I enjoy listening to coaches from other sports.

Last night I went to the football coaches bible, Finding the Winning Edge by Bill Wash. I wanted to see what he had to say about tough losses. There is a section that deals with losing streaks. Walsh said a few interesting things:

  • Avoid gimmick solutions. If the gimmick doesn’t work, it just makes things worse. And most gimmicks don’t work.
  • The atmosphere on the field and in the facility should remain the same. Don’t make things tougher or more intense. You don’t solve problems with emotion.
  • Don’t plead with the team to play better. A coach must maintain the dignity and authority of his position.

Walsh built a team that sustained success over a long time. He did have some losing teams early on. The year after winning his first Super Bowl, SF went 3-6. The next year his team went 10-6 but had a terrible stretch in the middle of the season, losing 4 of 5 games.

Walsh never panicked after a bad loss or a losing streak. He stayed the course with his schemes and philosophies. He focused on fixing the problems that were hurting his team.

Chip Kelly could rant and rave about his team. That wouldn’t solve anything. I could rant and rave about Kelly and his team. That wouldn’t solve anything. And it just isn’t my style. There are plenty of people with blogs or Twitter accounts who rip the Eagles regularly. That’s not my thing.

This doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated with the team. I absolutely am. Even though I handle losses better these days, they still depress me. I want so desperately for this team to get back to being one of the best in the league. Seeing them miss the playoffs last year and then fall to 4-6 this year is frustrating and depressing.

Instead of staying depressed, I turn to the coaches I’ve listened to and read about for advice. Can this be fixed? How so? Where does this team go from here?

It is easy to say “Blow this team up. Fire ’em all…with extreme prejudice.” Might even be fun to do that. But what would Carolina be this year if the owner had fired Ron Rivera after their 3-8-1 start last year? Marvin Lewis went 4-11-1 in 2008 and 4-12 in 2010. Then he got Andy Dalton and the team has been winning ever since. Who knows what would have happened to that franchise if they fired Lewis.

To be fair, sometimes a team can wait too long. Norv Turner should have been fired after the 2011 season. The Chargers gave him a final year and he went 7-9. That wasted a season in the careers of Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle, two outstanding players. When you have a franchise QB like Rivers, you have to take advantage of it.

I’ll write a column on Tuesday with my thoughts on Chip Kelly’s future. The key is to make a decision based on the whole body of work and not the last game.

When you have a flat out bad coach, he has to go. He is clearly holding the team back. When you have a coach going through a bad season or bad part of a season, that is much more difficult to evaluate. Is this an anomaly or is it reality?

Chip Kelly said on Monday that he still believes in this team. That might sound insane to a lot of fans, but again…think about teams in the past that have had a bad record at this point and finished strong. Fans of those teams likely would have had the same angry answers when asked about their team.

Only time will tell how this season plays out. It is important to see what happens. That will give us some answers about the future of Kelly, his staff and the team.

Like everyone else, I’m desperate for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl. There is no magic formula. Bill Belichick won last year. He’s purely an NFL guy, but this is his second job. He was a failure in his first stop. Pete Carroll won before that. He came to the NFL from college after failing before that as an NFL coach. John Harbaugh won the title before him. He was a longtime NFL assistant with no head coaching experience. He was never even an offensive or defensive coordinator. Three different paths to NFL glory.

I wish I had the answers to what the Eagles need to do. I don’t. I’m constantly re-evaluating what I think and trying to figure out what is best for the team.

One thing I do know. I can’t wait to see how this team responds on Thursday. That will tell me a lot about these players and coaches. I’m not saying I have to see a win or else, or that the team can’t make any mistakes. I just need to see something that makes me believe in this group again. That was lacking on Sunday.

And I’m not talking about effort. People who say the team quit are nuts. This is the NFL. Guys play hard, with very few exceptions. Effort is a given. Besides, if that’s what I’m focused on, I’ll watch small school football. Those kids play for the love of the game.

I’m talking about execution. NFL players are paid to make plays, not to almost make them. Make some friggin’ plays. Is that too much to ask for?

Of course, a 45-0 shutout of the Lions would be acceptable as well.


Calmer Thoughts

Posted: November 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 438 Comments »

Today was miserable. There was so much on the line and the team came up so small.

As expected, reaction to the loss is loud and angry. Among the ideas out there:

* Fire Chip Kelly
* Let Kelly stay as coach, but strip his GM power
* Cut Mark Sanchez
* Fire Bill Davis
* Bench multiple players

Someone called for Jeff Lurie to address the media and offer his thoughts.

Have we lost perspective? The Eagles got their butts kicked today. They got blown out last year. It also happened in 2013. And 2012. And 2011. And so on.

This one is especially painful because the Eagles lost to a rookie and it happened in a game that the team absolutely needed to win. Trust me, I was screaming at the TV today with a level of anger I’ve not had in a while. Still, bad games happen. This is part of life in the NFL.

The Pats lost 41-14 last year, but went on to win the Super Bowl. Bill Belichick didn’t panic. He fixed mistakes and got his team to play good football. They won 7 games in a row right after that debacle.

Obviously there are huge differences in that team and this Eagles team. I’m not saying Chip Kelly is going to fix the Eagles and have this team suddenly start winning games left and right. But Kelly was absolutely right when he talked about the need for a short memory in the postgame PC.

You never want to make too much of a game, good or bad. A big win today wouldn’t have helped with Thursday’s game. A bad loss can be put aside if the team is able to compartmentalize. Will this team do that? I have no idea.

I realize that part of the anger with this team goes beyond today. Last week was a bad loss as well. The whole season has been sloppy and very frustrating. Still, we’re in the middle of the season. There aren’t any big moves that are going to magically fix major problems.

The Eagles have to focus on fixing the problems that they can. Venting is fine for fans and the media, but Kelly, his coaching staff and the players need to get ready for Thursday. Learn what you can from the Bucs game and move on to the Lions.

I know plenty of people are now saying the season is over. It isn’t. There are 6 games left to go. I’m not here to preach to you about what can happen. My point is that the team has to keep grinding. There are only 16 games in a season. The team isn’t out of it until they are mathematically eliminated. And even then the team has to keep doing everything they can to win.

I don’t know how the season will play out. I never expected this team to be 4-6 so honestly, nothing is out of the question at this point. About the only thing I feel pretty sure about is that the team won’t go 10-6.

The defense played very well against the Dolphins. They limited Miami to one long TD drive. The other TD came after the blocked punt. The 3rd down defense was good (5-15). I thought for sure the defense would have a strong showing against the Bucs. I for sure thought the Eagles would control the run game. Mike Evans was the one guy who really scared me. I also thought Jameis Winston might make a play or two with his legs.

Instead, the defense was dreadful.

Every time I think I have a bit of a feel for this team, I find out I’m dead wrong.

I was pretty frustrated with the Eagles having to play on Thanksgiving. Now it may turn out to be a blessing. The best thing for this team, and everyone who follows them, is to move on to the next game.

I mean, there’s no way the Eagles lose to a crappy team like the Lions.




Posted: November 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 250 Comments »

The Eagles played their worst game of the year. Tampa played their best. That’s how you get a 45-17 result.

The defense was horrible. Just horrible. Tampa had 355 yards at halftime and then went on a 9:47 drive to open the 3rd quarter. They did whatever they wanted. Very disappointing since the D had played so well this season.

The offense started great, but then stalled. Once the score got out of hand, Sanchez had no chance.

The Eagles are now 4-6.

Since getting out to a good lead last week the team has been outscored 62-20.



2nd Half – TB 28 , PHI 14

Posted: November 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 372 Comments »

I did not see this happening. The Bucs have 355 yards of offense in the 1st half. They are 6 for 9 on 3rd downs and the Red Zone hasn’t slowed them down at all.

The Eagles continue to be the kings of the “close doesn’t count” brigade. 2 almost INTs. One almost FR. A few almost pass completions. And so on.

All that means nothing.

Tampa is making plays.

Other than that, things are great.

Tampa has blown big leads before. The Eagles have made comebacks. So we’ll see what happens. But it sure doesn’t feel good right now.