FLASH BACK to September. You're sitting on the Broad Street Line en route to the Eagles' season opener against the Browns. A mystical-looking man sits down next to you and asks you where you're from.
"Philadelphia," you say. "How about you?"
He leans in close, puts a hand on your shoulder.
"The future," he whispers.
"No kidding," you respond. "How'd the Eagles do against Green Bay?"
He shakes his head.
"No, I was shaking my head at your question."
"It's just a plot device."
"Oh, OK," he says. "Well, you tell me how you think they did. Allen Barbre played every snap at right tackle. Stefen Wisniewski and Isaac Seumalo played every snap at guard. Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner accounted for 115 of the 139 snaps at wide receiver.
"What about Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff? You know, the starters?"
"Matthews hurt, Agholor inactive, Huff, you don't want to know."
"What about the defense? How many sacks did Vinny Curry have?"
"One-and-a-half . . . "
Your spirits rise.
"See!" you exclaim, interrupting your visitor. "I knew it. Friggin' Bill Davis. Been sayin' it for three years. You wanna stop a QB like Aaron Rodgers, you gotta . . . "
The man waves his hand and shakes his head, cutting you off in midsentence.
"One-and-a-half sacks on the season, I meant. Against the Packers, he played 31 snaps. It was a slow game, though. Beau Allen only had 25."
"What about Kendricks?"
"Thirteen!" you exclaim in disbelief.
"Hey, two more than Marcus Smith got."
"So who the hell's playing for this team?"
"Well, Jaylen Watkins played 82 percent of the defensive snaps."
"What happened to Jenkins and McLeod?"
"Nothing. They used three safeties."
"Jalen Mills was in on 69 percent of the plays."
You take out a piece of paper and a No. 2 pencil and you start scribbling down numbers as if it's Will Hunting's blackboard.
"So you're telling me that a seventh-round rookie and a second-year player the Eagles cut last year combined for more than half of the snaps in front of Jenkins and McLeod?"
"Sounds about right."
"Against Aaron Rodgers? And Jordy Nelson? And Randall Cobb?"
"Good God," you say as you sink back into your seat.
For a few moments, the only sound in the car is the rattle of steel on steel. You summon your nerve.
"So," you say, "How bad is it?"
"How bad is what?"
You bolt up in your seat and look at him with a confused expression.
"They've won five games?"
"I know, tell me about it. People are starting to lose patience. Brandon Graham jumped offsides. Fletcher Cox roughed the quarterback. And don't even get me started on the alignment of their cornerbacks."
You try to interject, but the man isn't looking at you. He's standing now, pacing up and down the subway car, brow furrowed, hands flashing through the air in wild gesticulations.
"Schwartz won't even talk to the press after games. And don't get me started on the head coach. Actually, you already did get me started. Blew a fourth-quarter lead in Dallas. Wasted a challenge against the Packers. Can't seem to figure out who he wants to be on fourth down. I'm telling you, this guy's the next Andy Reid."
"Andy Reid went to four NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl."
"And what's he ever won?"
"So I guess he hasn't been able to do much with the rookie quarterback then, huh?"
"Actually, the kid's been fine. I mean, as fine as a kid can be when he's handing the ball off to a fifth-round rookie and throwing the ball to the practice squad. He's gonna be great. Strong arm, keeps his eyes downfield, doesn't fixate on the pass rush."
Again, the confusion leaves you speechless.
"I thought you said . . . "
"You thought I said what?"
"Pederson. The head coach. You said the town's losing patience."
"But then who's calling the plays?"
Now it's your visitor's turn to look confused.
"The plays the quarterback is running. You said they beat the Steelers, and the Vikings, and the Falcons. You said they took the Cowboys to overtime in Dallas."
"I didn't say any of that. You must've forgotten a plot device. But, yes, they did do all of those things."
"You said they've won five games. I've got them down for four at the moment."
"They should've won more."
You look down at the floor of the subway car and try to make sense of everything that you've heard.
"It sure as hell doesn't sound like they should've," you mutter as the train slows to a stop.
The man moves toward the exit.
"Hey, Future Man!" you shout.
He pauses in the doorway and turns his head over his shoulder.
"How'd the presidential campaign turn out?" you ask him.
He steps out of the car and onto the platform.
"Son," he says through the closing doors, "why do you think I came back here?"