The current bookends to the Eagles season are games in which the defense allowed Case Keenum to throw for 380 yards in a narrow win over Washington, and Sunday’s debacle against the Dolphins when Ryan Fitzpatrick totaled 365 passing yards.
Neither quarterback has enjoyed a good year – Keenum has been benched since October – but both did just fine against the Eagles. There was an asterisk for the Keenum game, as the defense was still thinned by injury, but no punctuation necessary on Sunday, except the occasional exclamation point.
Not all of the team’s problems are on defense, perhaps not even most of them, but the above is an example of issues that presented themselves early in the season and everyone agreed had to be fixed or the consequences could be dire. And here we are.
The Eagles scored 31 points against Miami and that should be enough to win a football game against a 2-9 team whose front office put together a roster designed to yield a high draft pick in April. The offense also frittered away most of the second half and has been so ineffective in other games that it doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt this time. In fact, no one does.
While the season isn’t technically over for the Eagles, it effectively ended against the Dolphins. Teams that lose a game in those circumstances don’t deserve to make the playoffs and, even if they do by dint of playing in a poor division, their stay will be mercifully brief.
The postmortems must be constructed without help from the inside at the moment, because the owner, front office, coaches and players can ignore the death knell until the carcass has been officially lowered into the ground. From the outside, this season appears to be the product of an organization that, from the top down, believed itself to be smarter and better than it actually is.
Perhaps that’s the natural carryover from winning a championship two seasons ago – what Ray Rhodes liked to call “the Super Bowl glide” – but it is a dangerous mindset for any team. A lot of luck in involved in both success and failure. An organization that thinks it did a great thing all by itself is usually destined to experience the flip side of its success. The Eagles, so confident of their drafts, and signings, and schemes, are absorbing that lesson right now.
The question is what will be done. Owner Jeffrey Lurie has two real options: Blow up the current structure, or, with some cosmetic adjustments, give it another chance. The guess here is he will choose door number two.
Doug Pederson had at least one more foul to give, and, heaven knows, if Howie Roseman survived his lost battle with Chip Kelly, he can talk his way out of this mine collapse as well. That’s figuring on no additional cave-ins this season, though, and Sunday’s loss has the timbers creaking throughout the organization.
If the Eagles – oh, let’s go crazy here – win their final four games and ease past the Cowboys, Lurie can manufacture a semi-positive spin on the situation. There would still have to be sacrifices to the altar of losing taken from the roster, the coaching staff and the scouting department, but no pillars would fall.
An alternative ending would make that spin difficult, however, particularly if the Eagles not only fail in the Dallas rematch, but also cough up another hairball against the Giants or Redskins.
That would change the narrative for everyone, Pederson and Roseman included. It would flip the switch from “disappointing” to “disastrous”, and reveal a team that preferred to quit on itself, the coaches, and the whole organization. In that case, Lurie would be in a very tough spot.
Those are the stakes in the final four weeks, or, more specifically, in the three games that remain among the bottom-feeders. Pederson is arguably coaching for his job in those games, while the players’ performance will indicate whether they care whether he keeps it. Roseman, who had a large hand in this mess, can’t do more than watch.