Sunday’s drubbing at the hands of the Saints exposed something that could save the Eagles season. All they have to do is see it. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
We’ve discussed this before, but let’s circle back anyway… Doug Pederson was adamant during the summer about 2017’s success being the “new normal” for the Eagles. Doug was half right. His “new normal” is certainly different than what the Eagles had done in the past. In fact, it’s been worse.
The Eagles have been mostly underdogs throughout my 30ish years of fandom. This year they were the defending Super Bowl Champions. They returned the majority of the roster responsible for winning that title AND their 2017 MVP quarterback returned to the mix. The Eagles were favored in every game until this past Sunday. Their roster is significantly more talented (or so everyone thought) than those of the rest of the division. Yet here we are, 4-6, staring up at the Redskins and Cowboys with almost no hope of nabbing a Wildcard spot.
No one expected the Eagles to go into New Orleans and beat the Saints. But no one expected them to go in and lay down either. I don’t need the injury excuses, even if the defensive backfield is a bunch of zombies. This defense has been giving up big plays and blowing big leads all season. Sure, they’re worse now, but they weren’t good to begin with.
Jim Schwartz should be fired. Injuries will likely keep him employed. There was no pressure on Drew Brees Sunday. Brandon Graham’s last big play was in the Super Bowl. Chris Long and Michael Bennett could retire tomorrow and the Eagles wouldn’t miss them. Maybe the return of Tim Jernigan this week finally frees Fletcher Cox, but even he hasn’t been that good since September. The Eagles’ roster is bursting with underachievers. The one thing Philadelphia will not tolerate is an underachiever.
Pederson may not be to blame for the defense, but the 2018 offense has revealed that Frank Reich and/or John DeFilippo were the real geniuses behind that explosive unit in 2017. Pederson’s offense has stumbled all over itself this season. Even his scripted plays to begin a game have been a flat out disaster. The Eagles scored more than 24 points once this season. Through eleven games last season, they scored less than 24 only once. They’ve also dropped from a top 5 offense to an offense below the middle of the pack. You can find excuses and/or explanations if you want (injuries, Wentz’s rehab, etc…), but the majority of the offense has been relatively healthy.
Pederson’s offense isn’t even the worst of it. He’s clearly failed to motivate this team in 2018. Aside from their record and their ability to turn victories into losses, the Eagles have lacked discipline and urgency. Where’s the swagger? It took until Week 11 for players to start slamming their helmets in frustration. I was throwing my TV clicker to the floor five weeks ago. Thanks for finally joing me on the fed up bus, fellas. Malcolm Jenkins is supposed to be the leader of this team, but he’s been burnt in one-on-one coverage as much Jalen Mills. And if Jenkins is the locker room leader, why did it take this long for him to question the intensity and heart of this team?
Nothing was different about the Eagles effort or intensity in New Orleans, only the opponent. A superior opponent exposed the Eagles. This team has been lying to itself all season. On Sunday, the scales fell from their eyes. The Saints made them see the truth.
Will it change the destiny of their season? Who knows. The homer optimist in me thinks the embarrassment of that drubbing will ignite some kind of intensity in this team. Their playoff chances are very much alive. They even control their own destiny. None of that matters unless the pulse of the team changes. Every game remaining is literally a fight for their playoff lives. Are the Eagles everything they think they are? Are they everything they want us to believe they are; a team with pride and enough talent to beat anyone? Or are they the frauds the Saints exposed?