ABOUT A MONTH ago, there was optimism all about the Eagles. Though they had more acne than a 15-year-old kid, things still looked rosy after Jordan Matthews' 41-yard touchdown beat the Cowboys in overtime.
A bright light shined at the NovaCare Complex. Who knew it was an oncoming train?
Three consecutive losses have dropped the Eagles to 4-7. Still, postseason hopes continue to flicker because the only team that seems interested in making a run at the NFC East title is Washington. Both the Redskins and the Giants, who have lost three of the last four, are only one game ahead of the Eagles.
As the losses pile up, so too does the speculation that Chip Kelly will bolt back to college. Kelly is a lot of things: arrogant to some, engaging to others.
Two things cannot be disputed: The Eagles are 5-10 in their last 15 games and Kelly insists the ship can be righted. A date Sunday at New England feels more like the Titanic hitting the iceberg than the Love Boat docking in Puerto Vallarta. The Eagles are 9 1/2-point underdogs.
For many of the prominent coaches who have gone into the NFL from college, the third season has been critical. Some won big. Some continued the building process. Some quit before even reaching it. Here's a look at a few of those guys.
First three seasons: 2010: 7-9; 2011: 7-9; 2012: 11-5, won a playoff game.
Carroll had extensive NFL experience, including four seasons as a head coach, before he held the USC job from 2001-09. He left Southern Cal (and a murky froth of NCAA infractions in his wake) to return to the NFL and, by his third year, had the Seahawks in the playoffs. They won the Super Bowl in his fourth season.
Quotable: After the Seahawks lost to Atlanta in the playoffs in 2012, with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson nearly engineering a miraculous comeback, Carroll observed, "Everything is lined up for us."
First three seasons: 2011: 13-3, lost NFC title game; 2012: 11-4-1, won NFC title game; 2013: 12-4, lost NFC title game.
Harbaugh, who had been the coach at Stanford, took the 49ers to the NFC title game in each of his first three seasons (and the Super Bowl in his second year). San Fran hadn't had a winning season since 2002 and was 6-10 under Mike Singletary and Jim Tomsula the year before he arrived. In the middle of the 2012 season, Colin Kaepernick replaced Alex Smith as the starting quarterback. Things soured toward the end of Harbaugh's fourth year and he returned to college in 2015 as the head coach at Michigan, his alma mater.
Notable: Harbaugh is 9-3 in his first season at Michigan. The 49ers are 3-8 with Tomsula back in charge.
First three seasons: 1989: 1-15; 1990: 7-9; 1991: 11-5, won a playoff game.
Johnson made an extremely successful transition from college to the NFL by winning two Super Bowls and laying the groundwork for Barry Switzer to win a third. The Cowboys were a massive wreck when Johnson was hired by new owner (and college buddy) Jerry Jones. They were 1-15 his first season, but improved to 11-5 by Year 3. They signed Charles Haley following the 1991 season, a move that took their defense from good to elite.
Quotable: "Everybody's a little bummed right now, but that will pass," Michael Irvin said following Dallas' 38-6 playoff loss at Detroit in Johnson's third season. "Nothing that happened can take away from the fact that we had a real nice year. We'll be back."
First three seasons: 2013: 10-6, lost a playoff game; 10-6, no playoffs; 2015: 4-7.
Kelly was given full control of the roster following the 2014 season and made a number of dramatic changes, most notably trading quarterback Nick Foles to St. Louis for QB Sam Bradford and running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso. The Eagles, after a pair of blowout losses to Tampa Bay and Detroit, head into a difficult December stretch of games with a 4-7 record.
Quotable: "Forty-five points put up on you back-to-back, that's disgusting. We've really got to figure out what the problem is and just correct it, because I can't continue to take an embarrassment like that. Me, personally, that was disgusting. National television, Thanksgiving Day, and you get embarrassed like this." - Eagles nose tackle Bennie Logan after the team's most recent loss.
First two seasons: 2005: 9-7; 2006: 6-10, resigned afterward.
Saban was the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns before he enjoyed head-coaching success at Michigan State and LSU. He lasted two seasons as the head man for the Dolphins before going back to the collegiate ranks and building a dynasty at Alabama.
Notable: The Crimson Tide is in position to win its fourth title in the last seven years under Saban. The Dolphins have had four head coaches in that span.
First three seasons: 2002: 7-9; 2003: 5-11, resigned after the season.
Spurrier, who coached at Duke and Florida from 1987-2001, lasted only two seasons in Washington. He went 12-20 and used four starting quarterbacks. Spurrier and the Redskins won his first preseason game, 38-7, which Richard Justice, of the Houston Chronicle, cracked may have been the highlight of his tenure. Washington has had eight head coaches and has won one playoff game since Daniel Snyder bought the team in 1999.
Notable: Spurrier had signed a five-year, $25 million deal to become the Redskins coach, but was so burned out after two seasons that he walked away from $15 million. His final game was a 31-7 loss to the Eagles.
First three seasons: 1976: 4-10; 1977: 5-9; 1978: 9-7, lost a playoff game.
Vermeil came to the Eagles after leading UCLA to an upset over top-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl that followed the 1975 season. Vermeil had NFL experience as an assistant coach with the Rams before taking the UCLA job. The Eagles had one winning season from 1962 through 1977 (73-142-9 overall), but finally made it to the playoffs in 1978, Vermeil's third season. It was the franchise's first postseason appearance since winning the NFL title in 1960.
Notable: Aside from reaching the postseason, the other highlights of the '78 season included a win over the 6-0 Redskins and beating the Giants on the "Miracle of the Meadowlands" play.
First three seasons: 1979: 2-14; 1980: 6-10; 1981: 13-3, won Super Bowl.
Walsh had been an NFL assistant for 10 years before taking his first head-coaching job at Stanford (1977-78). The 49ers hadn't had much success since joining the league in 1950, but Walsh's hiring in 1979 led to a dynasty and perennial contention for two decades. Joe Montana, drafted the same year Walsh was hired, became the starter in 1980 and won the first of his three Super Bowl MVPs in Walsh's third season.
Notable: While the acquisitions of linebacker Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds and end Fred Dean helped solidify the defense, Walsh's decision to start three rookies in the secondary was a gamble that paid off. Ronnie Lott and Eric Wright started at cornerback and Carlton Williamson was a safety. The three combined for 14 interceptions. Dwight Hicks, a third-year safety from Pennsauken High School, had nine picks.
Lasted less than one season.
Holtz, who had been at North Carolina State, had no NFL experience before becoming the Jets coach in 1976. He went 3-10 and resigned before the season ended. Holtz returned to college and had his best success at Notre Dame (1986-96) . . . Petrino did have some NFL experience before he built Louisville into a top-10 team, but his one year (2007) in Atlanta was a similar disaster. He also went 3-10 and informed his players of his resignation by leaving a note at each locker.
Chip Kelly is one of several NFL coaches hired before the 2013 season. Here is how they are faring:
BRUCE ARIANS, ARIZONA
Previous job: Colts offensive coordinator/interim head coach
This season: The Cardinals are 9-2, have won five in a row and are Super Bowl contenders.
ANDY REID, KANSAS CITY
Previous job: Eagles head coach
This season: The Chiefs have won five in a row to climb out of a 1-5 start. Kansas City is 26-17 with
Reid as the head coach.
GUS BRADLEY, JACKSONVILLE
Previous job: Seahawks defensive coordinator
This season: The Jags, like the Eagles, are 4-7, except they may have their quarterback of the future in Blake Bortles. Jacksonville won only seven games combined in the first two seasons under Bradley, who nearly was hired as Eagles coach after Andy Reid was let go.
CHIP KELLY, EAGLES
Previous job: University of Oregon head coach
This season: Getting some heat after three consecutive losses, the last two by significant blowout, have dropped the Eagles to 4-7.
MIKE McCOY, SAN DIEGO
Previous job: Broncos offensive coordinator
This season: The Chargers are 3-8, having just stopped a six-game losing streak that has put McCoy's job in jeopardy.
DOUG MARRONE, BUFFALO
Previous job: Syracuse head coach
This season: Offensive line coach for Jacksonville after lasting only two seasons in Buffalo. Went 15-17 for the Bills.
MARC TRESTMAN, CHICAGO
Previous job: Head coach for Montreal of the CFL.
This season: Fired after two seasons with the Bears (13-19); currently the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator.
ROB CHUDZINSKI, CLEVELAND
Previous job: Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator
This season: Is the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts after spending only one season (4-12) with the Browns.