Birdfeed: Vol. 23.15; Victory has Defeated You

It’s hard to put into words just how frustrating the 2023 Eagles have become, but heroes overcome. Allow me…

To start, I can’t remember a more frustrating defeat in recent years. The 2020 season was a mess from the start. 2021 was a rebuilding season so struggles and losses were expected. 2022 was a dream. The back-to-back losses this month to San Francisco and Dallas were awful but not shocking. 2019 was the last time I wanted to hurl something at my TV and curse the Eagles into oblivion. It was Week 13 and the Eagles just lost their 3rd straight after blowing a 28-14 2nd half lead to the miserable 2-9 Miami Dolphins. The Eagles dropped to 5-7 and their season was toast. At least that’s what we thought before Carson Wentz carried an injury depleted offense to four straight wins and into the postseason. It’s been four years since that loss.

Monday night was a total dumpster fire. The Eagles earned the loss and all the vitriol that comes with it. They survived the first 12 weeks of the season on luck and opponent incompetence and thought they were the best team in the NFL. Then reality smacked them in the face and they still haven’t gotten up off the mat. They are down for the count. I don’t think they’re getting up. Sure, they’ll make the playoffs but at this point, the 2023 Eagles are simply playing out the string. There is no life. There is no fire. The head coach is making panic moves. The players are divided. It’s excuses over accountability. There are so many issues with this team I can’t even put all of them into thoughtful composition. Instead, we’re going bullet points to ensure no one is pardoned…

• Jalen Hurts has reverted to 2021. He can’t read a defense. He gets locked into one idea and can’t step outside it. Whenever there’s single high safety he takes a shot even though the drag route is running free underneath. Hurts can’t take what the defense is surrendering. He forces everything. He too sensitive to the rush, abandons clean pockets and the ball almost always comes out late. We’re 14 games in. I don’t care about the excuses. Injured, sick, new coaches: I don’t care. You got paid $250 million. This level of play is inexcusable. The Eagles are 12-2 if Hurts doesn’t suck this season. He gave away the Jets game. He gave away the game in Seattle. The Eagles banked their future on 2022 Jalen Hurts. The 2023 model has the next five years of the franchise in real jeopardy. If you don’t think so, you’re lying to yourself.

• The Eagles whiffed horribly on both coordinators. Why would the organization allow an offensive coordinator who would not climb up Hurts’ rear end be the head of the offense? This is the same mistake the Eagles made with Carson Wentz after Frank Reich departed. Shane Steichen would challenge Hurts, get after him and demand production. Brian Johnson clearly can’t coach Hurts, can’t adjust during the game and has a play sheet of only half a dozen calls and none of them work.

• Speaking of repeating mistakes… We thought the 2017 offense was Doug Pederson’s masterpiece. It was Reich’s. We thought the 2022 offense was Nick Sirianni’s work of art. It was Steichen’s.

• Sirianni and the Eagles already made one panic move that reeked of desperation. Time to double down and make another. The offense needs new eyes. I said it after the Kansas City game weeks ago. A change must be made to salvage the season… if it’s not already too late. The Eagle offense can’t do anything outside of the scripted plays to start a game or out of the half. They can’t exploit a defense. They do what they do and hope the defense allows them to do it instead of attacking the defense and forcing them into mistakes. For example… the bubble screens. How many times have they almost been disastrous in recent weeks? Against Seattle, none of the three worked. Two were thrown horribly and all three looked like a pick-six was inevitable. Why not run a bubble go? Use what the defense knows against them.

• The offense has had multiple opportunities to close out games and failed. Last season, if the offense got the ball in the final eight minutes with the lead that was it. They were lights out. Not this year. Couldn’t close out New England, the Commanders, Jets, Commanders (again), Cowboys, Chiefs, Bills and now Seattle.

• The defense is a sinking ship. The Eagles’ pair of pro bowl corners fell off a cliff. Without coverage, the pass rush can’t get home. Without the pass rush, the corners are more exposed. Those two units work hand in hand more than any other on the football field. One cannot be great without the other being good (at the very least). Remember when Howie Roseman was praised for not paying CJ Gardner Johnson and directing that money to James Bradberry? Whoops. The Eagles invest a ton of money into the corners and defensive line. For those units to scuttle the defense over the last month has been shocking, to say the least. The Eagles needed a sack or a turnover last night and couldn’t get either. They’ve need them all season and have come up empty. The Eagles are 26th in takeaways and have only ten sacks on 3rd down this season compared to over 30 a year ago. Their 3rd down percentage is also the worst in the NFL.

• The team is splintered. Darius Slay took issue with fans calling him trash after the Dallas offense cut through the Eagle defense like a hot knife through butter. Slay said he played great even though the defense struggled? Uh, what? That’s not how this works. Look at some of the quotes after Monday night. “I don’t think we are all committed enough” – Jalen Hurts. “I don’t even know. The frustrations are everywhere. It’s everything.” – DeVonta Smith. “We try to make plays. Other than that, we can’t control none of that stuff.” – AJ Brown. Fletcher Cox talked about players believing in Sean Desai, yes the guy quietly fired as defensive coordinator even though he wasn’t fired. This is the state of the team. No one understands what’s happening. There is no cohesiveness. There’s a fire in the house and everyone is fighting to get out.

• I’ve watched 99.9% of NFL games this season. I’d say ~75% of teams get 40 yards in under 40 seconds with two timeouts. Not the Eagles. Instead of dumping the ball off for decent chunks, the Eagles are forcing the football 40 yards downfield. You’re down three. You have the most clutch kicker in the league. WHAT ARE WE DOING??! Kenny Gainwell was 10 feet from Hurts and would’ve run for 12-15 yards on Hurts’ final throw of the game. I don’t care that the interception should’ve been overturned. Brian Johnson probably would’ve punted.

Let me sum it up this way… In 2012, Christopher Nolan released the final chapter of his fantastic Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. In it, Batman goes to confront Bane. Bane tells Batman, “Victory has defeated you!” This is the 2023 Eagles season. Those early victories were all lies. Instead of losing and correcting issues, they thought they were clean and untouchable. They got lazy, stopped improving and didn’t see the need to correct their faults.

After telling Batman that peace has cost Batman his strength, Bane lifts Batman over is head, breaks his back and sends him into a pit across the world to die. The Eagles are Batman. Broken. Battered. Lost and alone in a cave with no way out, but unlike Batman, the Eagles are not climbing out of that cave. Victory has defeated them.

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