I’m a Philadelphia Eagles apologist. Bring me lemons and I’ll give you the sweetest lemonade. At 1-4, the Eagles have been written off and left for dead. Allow me to encourage you to hold on just a tad longer.
I know, I know, I know. You’re thinking: Why? What have the Eagles done to earn my continued interest? They’ve been horrible. Andy Reid has been awful.
All valid points. I’m not here to argue the Eagles haven’t completely sucked. In fact, I would argue they’ve been one of the worst coached, least disciplined teams in the first quarter of the NFL season. However, and this may shock you, the Eagles’ issues are fixable. All of them. I repeat, fixable.
The Eagles are losing games on their own accord. It’s one thing to lose because you’re flat out not good enough. It’s a whole different story to lose because you’re not playing up to the level you’re capable of. A lack of talent or inability cannot be fixed. The Jaguars, Dolphins, and Colts can’t drastically improve. They’re losing because they’re not good enough. The Eagles have talent. They have the tools. They’re losing because they haven’t figured out how that talent works most effectively. They’re losing because they can’t get out of their own way.
Tell me, would you rather have an offense that can’t move the ball, can’t score, and is devoid of talent, or, an offense bursting with talent suffering from a turnover problem? Turnover problems can be fixed. Whether or not they will be fixed remains to be seen, but it’s a fixable issue nonetheless.
At 1-4, the Eagles are short stacked and long odds against. It’ll take nothing short of a miracle for them to reach the postseason. But miracles happen. In fact, that miracle is already taking shape. Take a look at the NFC landscape right now. There are three clear division winners (Packers, Saints, 49ers) and a clear-cut Wildcard favorite (Lions). After that, there’s muck, and a lot of it. The Giants and Buccaneers are 3-2. The Cowboys 2-2. The Bears, Falcons and Seahawks stand at 2-3. The Eagles are far from finished. Do any of the aforementioned teams look unbeatable? The Giants just lost to the Seahawks at home. The Bucs were clobbered by San Francisco and the Bears can’t keep Jay Cutler off his rear end. The NFC is a mess right now. That final Wildcard berth is completely up for grabs. It wouldn’t surprise me if it went to a 9-7 team. However, just as the NFC Wildcard isn’t running away from the Eagles, neither is the NFC East.
The truth is, the Eagles may not even have to fight for a Wildcard spot. The division is still ripe for the picking. Washington currently leads the division at 3-1. The Redskins are good, but are they really that good? I don’t think so. The Giants are clearly flawed and the Cowboys, like the Eagles, haven’t figured out how to get out of their own way. The Eagles, right now at least, aren’t any better than any of their three division foes. But with five intra-division games remaining, there is plenty of time to turn this thing around and flip the script.
Now here’s where my dad says, “Yeh, so what. What makes you believe the Eagles will figure out a way to win nine or ten games?” My response: Andy Reid.
As much as we hate him for his continued failures as a game manager and his complete ignorance, his teams have always improved as the season progresses, even in 2005 under Mike McMahon. More importantly, his players play for him. They’ve never given up. Read some quotes from the Eagles over the past two days:
“We’ve got to keep coming to work, working hard and doing the things that we need to do. There are 11 weeks left. As far as time, we’ve got plenty of time, man. That’s not the issue; our time is figuring it out on our watch. There are plenty of games left.” DeSean Jackson
“I think at this point it’s out of the coaches’ hands. I think it’s the (fault) of the players because we’re the ones out there. The coaches can stress things like ball security all they want, but they are not out there in the moment. We’ve got to take control of this as players.” Michael Vick
Does that sound like a team ready to roll over and die? Does that sound like a team that’s quit on its coach? We may have, but they sure haven’t. And that’s what’s important. With the talent on this team, all it takes is one moment for it all to click. Where, in one instant, the Eagles go from a struggling, jumbled mess of superstar talent to cohesive, unstoppable machine. They may never get there, but that possibility remains. They have the right coach to do it. They certainly have the talent and heart to do it.
If they were the Phillies, the Eagles would lie down and die. The Phillies lost the fight that made them so successful in 2008 and 2009. The Eagles still have that fight, and mostly because of Vick. Vick is a fighter through and through. You can see losing is causing him more pain and discomfort than all the hits he’s absorbed this season put together. When your best player keeps chugging, keeps pushing, keeps fighting like Vick keeps fighting, your team can’t be written off until the mathematicians say you’re done.
Enter the Eagles’ remaining schedule. Once thought to be a gauntlet of playoff teams, their schedule now appears ideal for a late season revival. Aside from the New England Patriots, there isn’t one game the Eagles are guaranteed to lose. Are they guaranteed to win any? No way. Not right now. But like I keep preaching, all it takes is that single moment for it all to click.
The Miami Heat found it when they destroyed the Cavaliers in LeBron’s return to Cleveland. Similarly, a little something clicked in that 4th quarter in Buffalo. You could feel it, ever so slightly. The Eagles scored on every 2nd half possession that Jason Avant didn’t turn the ball over. In the 4th quarter, when Philadelphia desperately needed stops, the defense held Buffalo’s offense to two first downs before the epic Juqua Parker brain fart. The Eagles still lost, but something definitely clicked in that 4th quarter.
Let’s also not forget the situation the NFL lockout placed the Eagles in. Defenses all over the NFL have struggled and continue to struggle in the early part of the season. Add an abbreviated offseason to a slew of new players and an entirely new scheme, and it’s somewhat understandable why the Eagle defense has been this horrible. (Nothing accounts for the poor tackling, I can’t defend that.) As the season progresses, the defense will improve. The only question is will they improve in enough time. With an average or even bad defense, the Eagles are 3-2 right now. Unfortunately, the Eagle defense has been atrocious. So bad in fact, their stink has consumed the freshness of the NFL’s 3rd ranked offense. (And top rushing offense, by the way.)
Obviously, it’s not all roses with the Eagles. Change wouldn’t hurt. I’m all for the Eagles firing Juan Castillo or bringing in a “defensive consultant” as is being reported. I argued after Sunday’s loss that Reid should cut Parker to send a message. In fact, I’d prefer if Jeffrey Lurie went to Reid with an ultimatum; Fire Castillo or fire himself. Then tell Reid it’s the Superbowl or unemployment for him. Firing Reid doesn’t accomplish anything this year. It’s equivalent to lighting $100 million on fire (or paying Ryan Howard, whichever analogy you prefer).
There’s no denying the Eagles are a mess. There’s no assurance they’ll find their way out, either. Their issues are fixable, though. If they can be fixed quickly enough, the season is far from lost. Just keep that in mind. And remember who told you to step back from the ledge when the Eagles win the NFC East in January.
And no, Dad. I haven’t been drinking.