Sunday was not much fun, to put it mildly. Losing to a mediocre Dolphins team really hurt. The Eagles were up 16-3 and were in position to add more. Caleb Sturgis missed a chip shot FG and the whole team fell apart after that.
Needless to say, the frustration level with this team is pretty high right now.
The two most common complaints are that the team is either poorly coached or doesn’t have enough talent. The problem with those complaints is that they are generic and fit plenty of NFL teams. Heck, all kinds of sports teams. Generic complaints are good for venting, but don’t always mean anything.
The Eagles STs were a mess yesterday. There was the missed FG. There was a blocked punt. There were multiple bad snaps. There was a penalty that negated a good return. And so on. So was this bad coaching or bad talent?
The Eagles had the best STs unit in the league last year. They were pretty good in 2013. There are plenty of talented STers, from cover guys to blockers to returners. Dave Fipp didn’t suddenly forget how to coach.
There are going to be bad days. A defense with Reggie, Clyde, Jerome, Seth, Byron, Wes, Andre and Eric once let Gerald Riggs run for 221 yards. An offense with Donovan, TO and Westy once won a game 12-7.
I understand the complaints about talent and coaching extend to the whole team. My point is just to show that playing the blame game doesn’t always solve anything. There are times when it is completely clear that change is needed. Rob Ryan did an awful job with the Saints defense last year. They are on pace to be one of the worst defenses in NFL history this season. That is an extreme and obvious example where the coaching wasn’t anywhere close to being good enough. And that has cost Rob Ryan his job.
There are plenty of people who don’t like Chip Kelly as coach. Some hate him as the GM. Some dislike him in both roles. That’s fine. I’m still a believer in Chip and his ideas. Does that mean I agree with everything he does? Heck no. Does that mean he can’t have bad days? Of course not.
Would you rather have John Harbaugh or Pete Carroll as the coach right now? Both have Super Bowl wins on their resume. Harbaugh’s team is 2-7 right now and lost yesterday in incredibly embarrassing fashion. They are having a nightmare season. Injuries are a big reason, but that team is also making a lot of dumb mistakes. The Seahawks have the same record as the Eagles, 4-5. They have blown leads in all 5 losses. You can’t say that team lacks emotion or intensity. They’re making critical mistakes and it is killing them.
What about talent? Imagine having Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb on this team. Those two guys have lost 3 games in a row and yesterday scored 16 points against the #31 scoring defense in the league. Drew Brees only put up 14 points on the Skins and their questionable secondary. Dallas has a trio of talented WRs, a Hall of Fame TE, a solid RB and a strong OL. They put up 6 points on Tampa. 6!!!
The NFL is the ultimate grind, from year to year, from week to week and sometimes from quarter to quarter. You are only as good as your last play or your last game. The challenge is to play well on a regular basis and fight through those tough times that come around.
Look at the Dolphins. They had lost 2 games in a row and were down 16-3. That team didn’t mail it in. They kept grinding and suddenly things started to go their way. Next thing you know they’ve got a hard-fought win and there is life in their playoff hopes.
That’s life in the NFL.
This Eagles team has shown that it can battler. They were down big to the Falcons and Skins and then took late leads in those games, only to give them up and lose. The Eagles make a lot of mistakes during the course of a game. That puts them in a situation where they are playing from behind or have a smaller lead than they should.
And then when it comes to winning time, something goes wrong. The only close win was the one in Dallas. The Eagles might have won that game simply due to winning the coin toss.
Think about the tight losses. There are missed FGs in all 3 of them. There are crucial penalties, on offense and defense. There were dropped passes. Missed blocks. Missed tackles. Poor coverage. You name it, it was seemingly a problem.
The Eagles are talented enough to be in position to win these games.
But they don’t.
The mistakes happen and the team loses.
Is there something the coaching staff could do differently? That’s a tougher question. Look at Jason Kelce for example. He’s having a wildly inconsistent year. Some people talk about him being awful. No, not even close. Kelce is making mistakes, and crucial ones at that, but he is still above average most of the time. I’ve been an Eagles fan for more than 20 years. Awful OL get benched because they aren’t functional.
We’ve never seen Kelce have these kind of issues beyond the odd game here or there. Jeff Stoutland has coached him for 3 years now. He’s gotten Kelce to play at a very high level. Some have the theory that the new OGs have hurt Kelce since he’s trying to do too much. I don’t think that is the case because Kelce has some games where he looks just fine. His issues seem to come and go. This is some kind of a mental thing.
What should Stoutland and Chip do with Kelce? You don’t want to tell him not to have bad snaps. Then you’re just planting the idea in his head. The logical thing to do is stress fundamentals and hope the issues go away. I’m sure Stout and Chip have done that. Kelce was coming off a pair of good games before yesterday’s sloppiness.
This team has shown it can play well here and there. The next step is to play well consistently. That hasn’t happened yet. It can, but there are no guarantees.
The 2008 Eagles were 5-5-1. They went 4-1 down the stretch and then almost made the Super Bowl. The 1999 Eagles started 3-11 before winning their final 2 games, which helped set the tone for the next season. There are also teams that never put it together.
Obviously you would love a repeat of 2008. At the least, you’d like something like 1999 where a bad season had a silver lining to it. This team is impossible for me to figure out right now so I have no idea what to expect. The only thing that would shock me is for the team to fall apart and finish 5-11 or 6-10. Beyond that, just about everything else is on the table.
I know some people would rather the team fall apart to help them get a better draft pick. If you can’t win big this year, then lose, benefit and be better next year. I understand the thinking, but disagree. There are no guarantees in the draft. I’d rather have the team win games, even if they end up with a mediocre record. I’m a believer that young players can learn from those wins.
Carolina won their division last year with a record of 7-8-1. This year that team is 9-0.
The Eagles shouldn’t give up on this season. The NFC East is a mess and the Eagles are only a half-game out of first place. Keep grinding. Keep working on eliminating mistakes. Maybe the issues go away. Maybe they don’t. The future is unwritten. I’m still hoping for a happy ending. With this team, we could be looking at Requiem for a Dream or The Deer Hunter.
Remember the trees?