Why are the Eagles so bad? Start with the roster
Chip Kelly has fewer difference-makers on this Eagles team than he had when he got here.
ALL AROUND the Eagles' locker room Thursday evening at Ford Field, players were saying they hadn't quit on their coaches.
I'm willing to take them at their word. Maybe a few have quit, or at least have gotten very discouraged, but I think there is a better overall explanation for a 4-7 team that never came together the way it was envisioned, and now seems completely hapless.
They aren't very good, overall, and once they realized that, they plummeted, like Wile E. Coyote running on air.
I'll put it another way: If Chip Kelly is indeed replaced, I'll be amazed if the next coach can come in and transform this team into a 10-6 division champ in one season, the way Kelly did in 2013. There are fewer difference-makers on the roster now than three seasons ago.
This season, the quarterbacking has been below average. The offensive line is below average, especially at guard, which might affect the team's ability to run inside with marquee back DeMarco Murray.
Murray is a plodder with no home-run juice. The money the Eagles spent on him could have been spent on or saved for so many more important things.
The wideout corps has gotten less impressive each year of Kelly's tenure. His prioritizing of blocking ahead of getting open or catching passes has wreaked disaster.
When Kelly the new GM looked at last year's 10-6 team and made the clear-eyed decision that it wasn't just a few tweaks or bounces away from being championship-caliber, I was impressed. He was right. But many of the steps he has taken since have been completely wrong, which ought to make chairman Jeffrey Lurie cautious about keeping Kelly in charge when this offseason comes around.
I don't really blame Kelly for Sam Bradford. Bradford probably is better than Nick Foles in the long run, even if Bradford isn't really good enough. I do blame Kelly for sending along that second-round draft choice to St. Louis in the trade. The Rams wanted Foles. They might have soured on him now, but they made him their starter and gave him a new contract. They didn't have that many suitors for Bradford. If they wouldn't have taken, say, a fourth-rounder and Foles instead, I would not have done the deal, would have let Foles and Mark Sanchez battle it out, maybe drafted a Brett Hundley-type.
As we look at what the Eagles need, losing that second-round pick in 2016 is egregious. It could fall in the 35 to 40 range overall. It could be a difference-making pass rusher, a Pro Bowl-level guard, yet another wideout (maybe one whose blocking and character are subsidiary to game-breaking skills this time), a good young safety, or maybe even the next Russell Wilson or Derek Carr. Instead, it will be a St. Louis Ram, and I suspect that's because the guy doing the deal from the Eagles' end hadn't made many NFL trades.
The Eagles are bad because they haven't drafted very well over the past decade, a problem Kelly inherited and has only made worse by getting rid of just about the only real stars they have drafted in that span. DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and Trent Cole are all gone, and all the Eagles have to show for it is Kiko Alonso. Yes, there were good reasons for this move or that move - Cole was used up - but, as we've said before here, you need to replace the guys you get rid of with equal or better talent.
The good players they have drafted the past several years tend not to play crucial positions - Fletcher Cox rarely changes games as a 3-4 defensive end, and Lane Johnson is a right tackle who might or might not develop into a really good left tackle. In an ideal world, you'd like to see more impact from a No. 4 overall pick.
The 2014 Marcus Smith first-round pick is a disaster; when Cole got old and was sent away in free agency, the Eagles became a below-average pass-rush team.
The Eagles keep signing cornerbacks from other teams who disappoint because they haven't drafted and developed any good ones since Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown in 2002.
Maybe Bradford, Alonso and Mychal Kendricks are different players next season, after healthy offseasons. That would sure help, but so much more has to happen - whatever the 2016 coach's name is.
Developing story lines
* The Eagles made it official, putting Nolan Carroll on IR with a broken ankle Friday and bringing back 2014 fourth-round draftee Jaylen Watkins, who had been languishing on the Bills' practice squad.
* It's just amazing how many times Josh Huff gets hurt, as little as he plays.
* Opponents have discovered that, with Jordan Hicks gone, the middle of the field is wide open. Mychal Kendricks once was good in coverage, isn't this season; watch him frozen in place on the TD throw to Theo Riddick Thursday. Kiko Alonso is a traffic pylon. Walt Thurmond is wearing down.
* I think repetitive play-calling is a minor problem that becomes a big problem when the players running the repetitive plays can't win their one-on-one matchups.
* Once again, the Eagles' only big-yardage play came early, Trey Burton's 43-yard catch and run on the TD drive that ended right after the second quarter began.
* Didn't realize until I rewatched that Calvin Johnson didn't have any of his eight catches until the Eagles lost Carroll in the second quarter. Starting raw rookie Eric Rowe will make a shaky secondary even more suspect.
* Detroit's Golden Tate, working inside, caught eight of nine targets, with the only incompletion being a drop.
* Two sacks in only 15 snaps for Vinny Curry. Curry got two more snaps than Marcus Smith, who didn't get any sacks. Or tackles.
* Detroit's Ziggy Ansah managed his 3.5 sacks of Mark Sanchez in only 30 snaps.
Having the coach, still new to the NFL, also be the GM was a terrible idea?
Wait, turns out a lot of us did. So never mind.
On Twitter: @LesBowen