Good morning, Eagles fans! A season of lows hit its nadir — maybe — with Sunday’s 37-31 loss at the Dolphins. While most fans seem to be turning the page on the 2019 Eagles, there are still four games to play and the NFC East crown is still within reach. The 5-7 Birds have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL, and the 6-6 Cowboys have to travel to the 6-6 Bears Thursday night before hosting the 7-5 Rams the following week.
Anything is possible. The Eagles had an extra day of rest with their next game not until Monday night. The 2-10 New York Giants haven’t won a game since September and their head coach and general manager could be lame ducks. The 3-9 Redskins follow the next week, although they’ve saved some face by winning their last two games. Nevertheless, as the Miami defeat showed, nothing is guaranteed. But two straight wins will at least set up a showdown with the Cowboys on Dec. 22 with some meaning.
The Eagles begin the workweek Wednesday and will begin preparations for Monday night in earnest on Thursday.
— Jeff McLane (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Few would argue with the Eagles’ decision to release wide receiver Mack Hollins on Tuesday. He played 204 snaps on offense over eight games and recorded zero catches. Zero. Of course, the ball was thrown in his direction only five times during that span.
Hollins’ snaps had decreased over the last three games as rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside assumed a greater role. But he played a remarkable number of snaps despite his lack of production, a percentage that would suggest he might have some staying power.
Anyone who had watched him closely, though, knew that wasn’t the case.
Hollins became just the latest Eagle to play more than 40 percent of snaps on either side of the ball when he was active to be released this season. Six players — six! — have fallen under that knife: Linebacker Zach Brown (276 of 405 snaps or 68%), cornerback Orlando Scandrick (84 of 200, 42%), defensive tackle Akeem Spence (203 of 411, 49%), safety Andrew Sendejo (241 of 582, 41%), receiver Jordan Matthews (137 of 151, 91%), and Hollins (403 of 871, 46%).
Injuries have certainly played a factor in some of the additions and sudden subtractions, particularly with Scandrick, Spence and Matthews. But taken as a whole, the large number speaks to the overall struggles of the Eagles.
But it also suggests two other possible narratives: No. 1, the front office has done a poor job in bottom-of-the-roster evaluations. And No. 2, there is a disconnect between the personnel department and the coaching staff.
It’s hard to dispute the first proposition. Brown and Sendejo were signed in the spring to fill holes at linebacker and safety. Neither was expected to be a full-time player, but they ended up playing about the amount most had expected.
Brown was fine against the run, poor in coverage. He didn’t help himself when he publicly dissed Kirk Cousins days before the Vikings quarterback would torch the Eagles. But if he was playing well, he would have been given another chance. And yet, he was on the field two-thirds of the time.
Sendejo got off to a rocky start, but had settled down by the time his release came along. It wasn’t enough to offset what the Eagles would gain in a compensatory draft pick — a possible fourth-rounder — so he was waived before a Nov. 9 deadline. Some players, though, were shocked by the move and it didn’t go over well in the locker room.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would say after both releases that it was his job only to coach the players he has. But for someone with great sway in personnel decisions, it would seem odd if he were to play both so much one week only to want them gone days later.
Scandrick had an instant impact in the win over the New York Jets, but he didn’t perform well two weeks later at the Cowboys. The eventual return of Avonte Maddox precipitated his release, but Scandrick publicly criticized the Eagles shortly thereafter, a suggestion that all might not have been well behind the scenes.
Spence and Matthews were likely only holding down spots until injured players like defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and receiver Alshon Jeffery returned. And yet, both played a lot, didn’t have much production, and were ultimately useless signings.
Hollins was given a long cord even though it was clear in training camp that he wasn’t the same player following two core-muscle surgeries. Draft picks typically get the benefit of the doubt. But Eagles coaches, for some reason, had him playing ahead of Arcega-Whiteside for weeks even though Hollins had become a liability.
The coaches had said, in defending their use of Hollins, that Arcega-Whiteside knew only one receiver position. But why did it take so long to teach him the others? We’re not talking about quantum physics here. Nevertheless, Hollins is gone, just the latest in a series of weird moves in an even weirder season.
If the season finishes like it seems like it’s going to, is this bad enough for Lurie to consider sweeping changes? And by changes I don’t necessarily mean firings, but maybe bringing someone in to have final say over personnel above Howie, while Howie deals with contracts, etc? — Mike #GrohMustGo (@Boston__Sucks) via Twitter
Mike, I know that’s not your name — maybe — but I think we know where you stand in relation to a certain offensive coordinator (and a certain city to the north of Philadelphia). Nevertheless, I like your question and will attempt to answer it here.
Sweeping changes, of course, would be that either the head coach or general manager or both were fired. I don’t think either will happen this offseason for obvious reasons. While both Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman certainly deserve to be held accountable for this season, they’re only two years removed from a Super Bowl win and a year removed from advancing into the second round of the playoffs. Something catastrophic or unforeseen would have to happen for either to be sent packing.
That being said, I do believe that both staffs could stand to be put under a fine-tooth comb. And in the case of Roseman, to the point where a relinquishing of some personnel authority is under consideration. As long as Lurie is the owner, and Pederson is the head coach, however, I don’t foresee Roseman losing final say. The hiring of Pederson was done, in part, because he wouldn’t likely usurp the GM as Chip Kelly had previously done.
Roseman is one of the better GMs in the NFL, believe it or not, which says a little about his competition. It’s a tough job. But he has done a solid job with managing the salary cap, negotiating contracts and maneuvering trades. In terms of player evaluation, however, Roseman’s record is dubious, and has been for more a decade.
The Eagles brought in Joe Douglas as VP of player personnel over three years ago to calm some public nerves about Roseman’s returning to personnel. Douglas made an immediate impact as the Eagles would go on to win a title. His three drafts, however, have been suspect, although the jury is still out on some of the picks.
Roseman, though, has final say. He makes the staffing hires. Everything ultimately falls on his shoulders. He replaced Douglas, who left for the Jets, by promoting Andy Weidl. I’d imagine the Eagles want to give him a full offseason to prove his bona fides. There are other senior advisers in personnel, like Tom Donahoe. And Andrew Berry was brought in to provide some new blood. But it wouldn’t hurt to hire someone with some pedigree to bring a new perspective to evaluations.