This Eagles off-season is the strangest of the Andy Reid era, not least because we've learned a lot more about what was wrong in 2009 than about what could be right in 2010.
As recently as Week 16, the Eagles were a playoff-bound squad coming off an appearance in the NFC championship game a year earlier. Two consecutive humiliations in Dallas made it abundantly clear that the '09 Eagles weren't good enough to contend.
Two consecutive months of roster slashing have made it clear why. By their own reckoning, the men who built the 2009 Eagles paid $17 million and used nine roster spots for players who have now been flushed away. Fired. Released. Dumped.
Of that group, only one player, Brian Westbrook, had a great career and was simply on the decline because of injury and age. A couple, Shawn Andrews and Reggie Brown, were once promising draft picks who got big contracts and then vanished in their own very different ways. One, Darren Howard, was an ill-advised big-money free agent signing who wasn't as productive as expected.
Kevin Curtis was a solid player derailed by injuries. Will Witherspoon was a desperation move whose contract exceeded his contributions. Sean Jones was a mistake. And then there were depth guys like Chris Clemons and Jason Babin - the kinds of guys who are on every NFL roster.
All of them were purged. A few were given their release, the rest were simply allowed to walk away because their contracts were up. Clemons and Brown, improbably enough, were traded.
It is a good sign that the Eagles were willing to acknowledge the presence of so much deadwood. And it is handy that the NFL's looming labor strife created an environment in which they could clear that brush without salary-cap consequences.
It is not such a good sign that the next year's potentially bad contracts are being handed out by pretty much the same men who thought this March's deadwood was last September's rain forest. And this round of clear-cutting didn't address another $20 million or so for returning players who just weren't worth what they got paid in '09: Jason Peters, Stacy Andrews, Michael Vick, Ellis Hobbs, and Omar Gaither.
When a third of the players on the roster are mistakes of one kind or another, it becomes a lot easier to understand what happened against the Cowboys.
What hasn't become clear yet is how Reid, Howie Roseman, and Joe Banner intend to address the problems. Their concrete actions have been few and their words even fewer. In that vacuum, a kind of nagging dread has settled into the hearts and minds of Eagles fans.
Even if you like what you saw of LeSean McCoy in his rookie year, and if Mike Bell seems like a solid pickup, the loss of an all-time franchise great like Westbrook feels like a step backward.
Even if you weren't thrilled by Howard and his 61/2 sacks, the addition of Darryl Tapp and his 21/2 sacks isn't exactly inspiring. (Related question: If this off-season is all about the superb draft, why give up a fourth-round pick for Tapp?)
One of the biggest mistakes of '09 - failing to find an adequate replacement for the legendary Brian Dawkins at safety - hardly feels righted by the signing of Marlin Jackson, a cornerback who has had the ACLs in both knees surgically repaired.
The even bigger mistake - making Shawn Andrews the centerpiece of an offensive-line rebuild that included his brother Stacy and his friend Peters - was acknowledged by the release of the troubled former first-round pick last week. But the Eagles' offensive line, woefully overmatched against the Cowboys, remains a major problem. It's hard to believe Stacy Andrews or a rookie draft choice can fix it.
And the line situation is directly connected to the biggest question of this strange off-season: What about the quarterbacks?
Whatever else you think of Donovan McNabb, he has played, and played well, behind every kind of offensive line. Logic seemed to dictate that a transition to Kevin Kolb would require the kind of overhaul Reid attempted on the line last year - only, you know, a successful one. It is hard to imagine Kolb surviving the wretched protection witnessed in those season-ending disasters in Dallas.
So you'd expect more from One NovaCare Way than silence interrupted only by the occasional salary dump. There is still time for a bold move, of course. The trade for Peters hadn't happened yet by this point in the 2009 off-season. Draft weekend could see a trade of at least one of the three QBs.
It is fine and well to address past mistakes by shedding some of the deadweight of 2009. But the 2010 season is coming fast, and it could use a little attention.