The Eagles season hasn't officially concluded, but that doesn't mean conclusions haven't been reached yet. In fact, quite a few have.
It wasn't that many seasons ago, as Jeff Lurie fashioned an exit strategy for the Andy Reid era, that the owner dismissed brief late-season success as "fool's gold." Even if the Eagles somehow show an unexpected pulse in their remaining five games, the 2015 season is a failure on a grand scale. There is no getting away from the fact that Chip Kelly's third season was not just a step back but a repudiation of his entire methodology of team-building.
Here are 10 conclusions that won't change, regardless of what comes next:
1. Players Who Get Injured Always Get Injured. Kelly took on several important roster pieces despite their history of injuries. Perhaps he thought he'd get lucky. Perhaps he thought his sports science voodoo and superior conditioning program would change the courses of their careers. Sam Bradford, Kiko Alonso, Ryan Mathews, and DeMarco Murray were among that group. They've all missed time. Color me shocked.
2. Jordan Hicks Is the Greatest Player In NFL History. The rookie wouldn't have played a defensive down this season if inside linebackers Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, and Alonso had stayed healthy (see above). Instead, he was thrown into the fray and the Eagles were 4-1 in his five starts. If the others hadn't gotten injured, the Eagles might be 0-11.
3. Kelly Did Try Hard to Get Marcus Mariota. He said the neighborhood was too pricey and didn't even knock on the door, but how did he know it was too pricey? There's enough anecdotal evidence that has emerged from those around the fringes of the organization to suggest that Kelly believed Ken Whisenhunt, a traditional dropback coach, would prefer having Bradford and a windfall of players and draft picks, and would have traded Mariota. Maybe so, but the Tennessee owner wasn't buying it, and Kelly found himself with another quarterback unsuited for his system. Oops.
4. The Rams Are Pleased With Themselves. Nicky Foles didn't turn out to be the answer for them, either, but he was cheap and the second-round pick they got in the Bradford deal is looking more like a steal every week.
5. Kelly Didn't Graduate Enough Seniors. Diminished production from Ryans, Jason Peters, Connor Barwin, Jason Kelce, and Brent Celek has not helped things this season. As with other personnel decisions, Kelly looks incapable of knowing when to hold and when to fold. Yes, he moved past Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis (somewhat disastrously), along with Trent Cole, but he might have picked the wrong spots. And the four-year, $29 million contract extension for Kendricks? Yikes.
6. The Coach Will Be Back. Kelly, stubborn and pugnacious as ever, isn't going to admit failure - at least not yet - and Lurie has shown himself to be an owner who prefers to act a year too late than a year too early. This is the guy who kept a deposed general manager around as a glorified equipment department boss - and gave him a raise!
7. Talent Evaluation Ain't That Easy. Let's just use the cornerbacks as an example. Last season, Nolan Carroll couldn't get on the field ahead of Bradley Fletcher. This season, until he broke his ankle Thursday, he was a steady contributor. Opposite him, Byron Maxwell, signed to a $63 million free agent contract, was inconsistent and soft. The Eagles drafted Eric Rowe as a cornerback in the second round (even though most scouts think he's a safety) and expected him to beat out Carroll. They got that wrong, too. Rowe still isn't ready. As a bonus, their best slot cornerback, Walter Thurmond, has started at safety all season and been unremarkable.
8. Maybe Culture Beats Scheme, But Talent Beats Them Both. One of Kelly's rah-rah ideas was to put tackling dummies around the halls of the practice facility, each holding a football. Players were encouraged to swat at the ball as they passed, a reminder for the defense to attack and for the offense to protect. Veterans who look around the locker room and don't see enough talent to compete roll their eyes at that sort of happy horseshoes.
9. When Kelly Does Leave, He Can Use That Stuff Again. Because he'll be going back to college. His stint with the Eagles has dispelled any notion that his system would revolutionize the NFL. It would be a desperate or deluded team president who risked his own future on Kelly's right now. And that's largely because . . .
10. Going Fast Doesn't Surprise Defenses Any Longer. This league adjusts very quickly. The pace advantage the Eagles had in 2013 has now turned on them. Defenses are set and ready, often more than the offense. Take away that edge and Kelly's very basic system loses the element of surprise that gave it teeth.
There will be more individual conclusions in another five weeks, when the season itself does finally end, but those will do for now. It's impossible to know if the owner and coach will reach the same ones or what will be the ultimate result of this disaster. But a disaster it has been, and there's really nothing else to conclude. That part is for sure.