…But the Eagles Might Still Miss the Playoffs
Read Larry Mendte break down the numbers showing Chip Kelly is one of the bestter second-year coaches in the NFL.
The Eagles might likely miss the NFL playoffs this year, and the legend of the fall might be the very same guy who built the team into a playoff contender.
Such is life in the NFL, where one can be riding high one week, then shot down with one loss on a chilly Sunday night. And that loss, against the hated Dallas Cowboys, at home no less, has had such a chilling effect on the fan base; it may as well be the Ice Age around here.
Miracles do happen, however. If the Eagles win their last two games, they would be 11-5 – a better regular season record than last year, by the way. And they could very well get lucky with a few well timed losses amongst the other contenders. But until that happens, fans are left in a stew of blame. How could a team that, for an entire season, carried such hopes for greatness, fall so flat at the end? And who is most responsible?
Let’s start with the legend himself, Chip Kelly. For most of the season, Kelly continued to foster his reputation as the NFL’s newest resident innovator. His fast paced offense continued to rack up the points and his proclamation of “culture beats scheme” seemed to ring true.
After all, the Birds were winning without that incorrigible wide receiver DeSean Jackson, dispatched to the netherworld in Washington, DC. But by A.D. (after Dallas), the prospect of missing the playoffs revealed some flaws in Chip’s system. The Eagles continued to turn the ball over (their minus-9 turnover ratio for the season was amongst the bottom feeders), they continued to be heavily penalized, and their offense stagnated. Of all the games Kelly’s teams played this year, they really had only two big wins over good teams – the Colts and once over the Cowboys.
With the season not over til its over (but we all know it’s really over), let’s ponder some important issues, shall we?
• Did the Eagles blow it by releasing Jackson? Who knows whether D-Jacc would have eventually blown apart the Eagles locker room? The bottom line is that they missed his production on the field. It turned out that Darren Sproles was not an adequate replacement in the offense – hell, they hardly even use Sproles in the offense anymore. I haven’t seen a wheel route to Sproles all season, and flair passes to the flat and screen passes have been few and far between. When you can’t game plan to throw to one side of the field – the side that Riley Cooper’s on – because that receiver stinks, then your offense isn’t going to be balanced. On the DeSean Jackson thing, Chip Kelly gambled … and lost.
• The cornerback dilemma. Why did the Eagles think that Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, as starters, would be good enough? Again, the coach’s personnel decisiona must be called into question. I know that the Eagles felt burned when they dumped $10 mil a year on the lap of Nnamdi Asomugha, and vowed not to do it again. But by the end of the season, the Eagles starting corners couldn’t cut mustard. And it killed the team. In addition, their prized free agent acquisition, Malcolm Jenkins, by the end of the season regressed into just an average player.
• The draft. I don’t know what happens from this point on, so far as the dynamic between Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman, but something has to change. This year was a disaster. The Eagles got exactly ONE contributor – receiver Jordan Matthews. How bad can your judgment on players be when your first round pick, Marcus Smith, drafted as an outside rushing linebacker, was so bad that they had to move him to inside linebacker, where he also doesn’t play. Wow.
• The quarterback. I don’t know if the Eagles can make a sweet enough deal to move up in the draft to get Marcus Mariota. I know they have to try. Neither Mark Sanchez, nor Nick Foles, is good enough to bring this team a title. Period.
Has this story been a little picky? Certainly. Truth is, the Eagles not being in the playoffs with an 11-5 record is an aberration, an oddity where more teams this year had outstanding records than usual.
But sitting home, watching everybody else on TV in January is going to hurt.
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