TAMPA, Fla. — Jalen Hurts has an oratory gift that is often abused to obfuscate the obvious.
Hurts paused his playoff postgame press conference Sunday to make this statement:
“This game does not define us. It does not define who we are.”
Of course it did. It defined the Eagles perfectly. It laid bare every deficiency. Hurts threw two inexcusable interceptions. Nick Sirianni called a lousy game and did not have his team ready to play. Tom Brady dissected defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon again: two touchdowns, no interceptions, 78.4% completion rate.
And Jalen Reagor? Ugh. Just, ugh. Three more botched punt returns. Three. Three. In a playoff game. Having Reagor on the roster is enough reason to fire general manager Howie Roseman. Having him on the field is enough to fire Sirianni.
The roster has more holes than a sunken pirate ship, and it’s going to get worse fast, because the best players are as old as Charlie Manuel’s shower shoes.
A football team spends six months preparing for one month, which is this month, and this is the month that defines all teams, and the Eagles lost to the Buccaneers, 31-15, in a game that didn’t warrant watching past the first hour.
Want to talk defining?
The Birds are the definition of a team that shouldn’t have seen the playoffs. They slid into the postseason with the No. 7 seed, the NFC’s bastard extra slot that exists only to fatten already obese wallets. This team is the argument, incarnate, against 13th and 14th playoff teams.
They fell behind, 31-0, after 40 minutes of play. The only reason the game didn’t end 51-0 was because the Bucs entered Protect Tom Brady Mode for the last 20 minutes.
Entering their wild-card playoff game, there was a legitimate question about the quality of this team. Were the Eagles the 2-5 garbage truck that began the season against stiff competition, or were they the 6-1 steamroller that destroyed bad teams late in the season?
Sunday was trash day.
Sirianni, coach and play-caller, had no answer for Tampa Bay’s defense. It was as if Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had the Spygate films that helped the Patriots beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. Sirianni tried to win with bubble screens and Power 5 college RPOs. Bowles chuckled, as he does, and said R-P-No.
If the Eagles hope to contend in future playoff games, then they need to find a No. 1 quarterback. Hurts’ last-minute end-zone interception at the end of the first half, rolling left and lazy, kept the game at 17-0 and essentially sealed the outcome. And this was not his worst pass of the day; that came late in the third quarter, when he jumped in the air and tried to lollipop one over the middle, like he was playing for St. Louis University in 1906.
Reagor allowed one punt to fly over his head, spoiling any chance at a late first-half field goal. He under-ran and dropped the next punt, which should have been a fair catch, anyway. He muffed a third, early in the fourth quarter. He was never replaced. Sirianni said his backup, Greg Ward, had back spasms. Fine. Put in Burt Ward.
As for Gannon, well, he did face the most successful quarterback in history, at home, after an MVP-worthy season, running an offense that he largely recruited, designed, and implemented. Still, if the Eagles hoped to leave Tampa with any self-respect, much less a win, Gannon needed to do better than touchdown-punt-touchdown-field goal in the first 20 minutes.
He didn’t. Brady compiled a 108.2 passer rating in his two games against the Eagles and completed 80% of his passes.
It is Hurts’ job, and Sirianni’s too, to spray perfume on the pile of manure they left at Raymond James Stadium, but they could only do so much.
Simply put, the raucous crowd and the tremendous stakes gutted the Eagles. Reagor, a first-round pick from 2020, dropped two punts. Dallas Goedert dropped an easy catch. Sirianni and Gannon showed all the improvisation of an Austrian school marm.
“I don’t want to say the moment got too big for them. We made some mistakes,” Sirianni said. “Coaching mistakes. There are some guys who are going to want some plays back.”
Hurts was more defiant. He considered himself, a second-year second-rounder who’d made just four NFL starts as a rookie; his remade offensive line; his rookie coach and defensive coordinator; and his rookie running mate, receiver DeVonta Smith, and he spun it hard.
“This season was far from a failure,” Hurts insisted. OK.
For Hurts, Sirianni, Reagor, and Gannon, Sunday was an abject failure.