LANDOVER, Md. - There are different levels of bad, as the Eagles are learning now on a weekly basis. They look different, and they smell different, and they come with different sets of consequences. And this is the fear:
That things are getting so bad, the team is not going to be able to get a good reading on rookie quarterback Nick Foles by the end of this lost season.
The Eagles are a certified disaster - 3-7, losers of six in a row, certified - and there is no turning back, not now. The injury-wracked offensive line has made offense difficult - and at least there is an explanation for that. The defense, though, has completely fallen apart. The result is that the Eagles were mauled Sunday by the six-loss Washington Redskins, 31-6. The truth is that history has recorded neater volcanic eruptions than this mess.
That Andy Reid is not surviving as the team's head coach is a given. That there will be many new coaches and many new players in 2013 will follow the Reid decision like the ka-boom follows the lowering of the plunger. That is hard for the people involved - because they are people, believe it or not - but there is nothing anybody can or should do about it. It is time and everybody knows it.
But there is one piece of business that needs to be accomplished in the final six games of the season: the assessment of Foles, the rookie out of Arizona with the floppy hair and the big arm and the classic size and the, well, what?
Is he the quarterback whom the next coach is going to be asked to build around, or is he Bobby Hoying?
But how do you answer that question if the team has completely fallen apart around him?
Because that is what happened Sunday at FedEx Field. Foles was not good and the team around him was worse. In his first NFL start, Foles was intercepted twice, one of them on a ball that deflected off the hands of - who else? - tight end Brent Celek. He was a little skittish sometimes, somewhat inaccurate, unable to find wide receivers DeSean Jackson (two catches, 5 yards) and Jeremy Maclin (0 catches, 0 yards, not a misprint).
There were a couple of nice throws, at least one solid audible into a good play, and a pretty consistent rediscovery of the team's screen game. The overall numbers went like this: 21-for-46 for 204 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, four sacks. Yes, that was 46 pass attempts in Foles' maiden voyage - and welcome aboard, Nick. He wasn't good and they weren't good.
And when asked what he envisioned as he fell asleep on Saturday night, Foles said, "Not that. Obviously, not that."
None of us really knows Foles very well. But we do know the position, and we know the demands of the position, both on the field and off. Everybody will be watching Foles very closely amid this massacre. It is good that Foles seems to know that. As he said, "Guys look at how you respond to adverse situations."
Listening to him talk after the game, he seemed to wander a couple of times with his answers. A couple of other times, though, his voice did get stronger as he talked his way into recognizing that his words would have import here, and that everyone was listening.
And so, he said, when asked if it was possible to tell what kind of quarterback he is based upon that game:
"If you want to evaluate off of one game . . . I don't think so. Me, as a player, I didn't play well at all. I know that. But I know me, as a person, I'm going to work hard and learn from it and I'm going to get better for it."
"If I struggle, I'm going to get better. That's how I've always been. That's how I was raised. I'm going to continue to fight. I'm going to continue to learn. It's one game. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is an opportunity to get better and I will get better. I know that. And I know everybody on our team is going to get better."
He kind of sounded as if he believed it. But Foles is nowhere near the end of his troubles. There is reason to wonder now exactly how low this Eagles team can go. And if they drag Foles down with them, what then? The wrong answer to the quarterback question could set the franchise back a year or 2, or it could result in a promising career being discarded with all of the rest of the wreckage of 2012.
The point is, we do not know. And for the people who want Reid fired immediately, here is the reply: Even with everything, the best chance they have of finding out about Foles is with the current staff in place and intact.
Because that evaluation is everything now. Anybody who is worried about anything else is wasting energy.