Everyone take a deep breath. It’s still way too early to judge Nick Sirianni and the Eagles. | David Murphy
Things could get ugly for the Eagles. But every rookie coach is going to have a loss like the Eagles did in Dallas on Monday night. And the schedule shows how easily redemption could come.
Bring on the Lions!
No, seriously. Please. Now. Go buy Nick Sirianni a Rodney Peete graphic T-shirt and a 1995 Wild Card hat and lock him in a closet until Week 8. We’ll take the next four losses. Just don’t make us watch them!
That’s where we’re at, isn’t it? Andy Reid is coming back to Philly for the first time in eight years only to find the entire town is hunkering down for nuclear winter. We’re three weeks into the NFL season and the most optimistic thing anyone can say is that there are only 145 days until pitchers and catchers report. The coach has gone from Ted Lasso to Michael Scott. The quarterback has gone from Michael Vick to Johnny Manziel. The season has gone from you-forgot-about-us to please-forget-us.
My advice? Breathe. In through your nose, out through your mouth, exhale longer than the inhale. Try it from the back of your throat. Make it sound like the ocean. There, there. Good.
Sobriety is not a state that comes easily to Eagles fans, especially in the aftermath of a 20-point loss to the Cowboys. But let’s try to fake it ‘til we make it here. Is there a chance the Eagles are as bad as they looked on Monday night? Sure. There’s also a chance that they looked as bad as they did because everybody got suckered into thinking that they were better than they were. Compounding matters is every Eagles fan’s genetic predisposition toward believing that the Cowboys can’t possibly be good. Taken together, the result is a peculiar sort of amnesia that can lead an entire city to forget that the Eagles entered Monday only three games removed from their last 20-point loss at the Jerry Dome.
» READ MORE: Eagles-Cowboys: What We Learned: Jalen Hurts may not be the QB for this coach
Do you remember it now? It was Week 16 of last season, and it looked eerily similar to what we saw on Monday night. In a 37-17 loss to the Cowboys a couple of days after Christmas, the Eagles turned the ball over three times, committed 12 penalties for 135 yards, and allowed an astonishing 513 yards of total offense. The three biggest differences? One, it was Andy Dalton shredding the Eagles’ defense. Two, the season really was over. Three, the coach really did deserve to be fired.
Thought experiment: Instead of evaluating the Eagles based on their first three games of this season, try evaluating them on their last five regular-season games. You’d have a 37-17 loss to the Cowboys, a 20-14 loss to the Redskins, a 32-6 win over the Falcons, a 17-11 loss to the 49ers, and a 41-21 loss to the Cowboys. Within that frame of reference, do the things that we witnessed on Monday night really constitute a plot shift worthy of Beethoven’s 5th?
Dum-dum-dum-duhhhhh. . . . The Eagles weren’t a good football team in Week 16 of last season and they aren’t a good football team here in Week 4 of this season.
In fact, they’re mostly the same kind of bad. They are committing way too many penalties this season (35, most in the NFL), same as they did last season (107, tied for secondin the NFL). This season, they have no linebackers, which is the sort of thing that ends up costing them against teams with dynamic rushing attacks. Last season, they had the same group of glorified special-teamers lining up at the position. Last season, it cost them. This season, they were a couple of offensive-line injuries away from disaster. By the end of Monday night’s game, three-fifths of the starting offensive line was on the sideline and out of uniform. Disaster ensued, same as it did last season, when the same sort of injuries reduced their one strength into a huge weakness.
» READ MORE: Too many mistakes, not enough talent: The Eagles are in a scary place after this Cowboys loss | Mike Sielski
I don’t mean to suggest that people are overreacting to Monday night’s loss. Things could get even uglier between now and Detroit. The Eagles’ next four opponents are a combined 9-3. Two of those losses belong to the Chiefs, who are a slightly better 1-2 football team than the one they’ll be facing on Sunday. One-and-six is not out of the question. There’s a chance that Sirianni arrives in Las Vegas in Week 7 and goes full Nick Cage.
At the same time, there’s also a chance that Sirianni is where a lot of first-year coaches find themselves: struggling to make chicken salad out of the chicken feed they inherited. The only difference between Reid in Week 4 of 1999 and Sirianni in Week 4 of 2021 is Sirianni doesn’t have a Brian Finneran to offer as a human sacrifice. For what it’s worth, Reid’s third game as Eagles coach was a 26-0 loss to the Bills.
Sirianni might not turn out to be Reid. He might be as bad as he’s looked over his last five quarters of football. Point is, nothing that we’ve seen so far suggests that he won’t. All we’ve learned thus far is that he inherited a team that is miles away from being able to walk into Dallas and avoid embarrassment. If you want to point a finger, point it at the people who put that team together. In the meantime, give the guy a chance to figure out what Doug Pederson couldn’t, i.e., how to win with this roster.
All we know right now is that the guy who had two games of NFL head-coaching experience lost to the Cowboys by the same number as the guy who had five seasons of NFL head-coaching experience. The big question is where Sirianni and the Eagles go from here.
» READ MORE: Nick Sirianni’s game plan backfires in blowout loss to Cowboys
The answer is not going to be a game-by-game thing. It’s these next four weeks that will tell us more. The Raiders and Panthers might be undefeated, but they are also quarterbacked by Derek Carr and Sam Darnold. The 11 weeks after that will tell us something more, as the Eagles play six games against teams who are a combined 1-11. Four of them are against the Giants and Washington, both of whom looked every bit as bad as the Eagles in Week 3. They still have a game against the Jets, who might be the worst team in recent NFL history. And, of course, they have that Week 8 game against the Lions. If things aren’t looking better by the end of that one, feel free to implode. In the meantime, remember to breathe.