Expect same old Eagles next season
SOMEONE NEEDS to shoulder this blame. Just six wins? Gutted by the Cardinals in prime time at home? It's Bill Davis' fault. DeMarco Murray - he's a stiff. Chip Kelly's an arrogant, power-hungry know-it-all.
SOMEONE NEEDS to shoulder this blame.
Just six wins?
Gutted by the Cardinals in prime time at home?
It's Bill Davis' fault. DeMarco Murray - he's a stiff. Chip Kelly's an arrogant, power-hungry know-it-all.
Now, all of those accusations might be fact.
It simply is not realistic to expect significant change. Not two years in a row.
For any NFL team teetering at mediocrity or just below, Christmastime is, jarringly, the season of projecting rejection and unemployment. The prospect of major changes that bring about rapid improvement - well, that's just too attractive a prospect for football fans to ignore.
Unfortunately, quick results from those sorts of changes are about as realistic as flying reindeer.
The Eagles, of course, are just such a team. About a year ago they found themselves looking at regression, and they took major steps.
They reconfigured 75 percent of their defensive backfield, pushed LeSean McCoy, the best running back in team history, out of the door, along with franchise receiver Jeremy Maclin, Pro Bowl defensive end-turned-linebacker Trent Cole, guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. Most significantly, they moved general manager Howie Roseman across the complex, gave him an abacus and told him to shut up.
A year later their linebackers, receivers, running backs and offensive line are a mess. No one on the defensive staff except line coach Jerry Azzinaro should feel secure in his job; certainly, with significant upgrades, coordinator Billy Davis has to be feeling heat. Running-backs coach Duce Staley was given the keys to the team and went nowhere.
With six wins after 14 games, if Year 3 of the Chip Kelly Coaching Era has been a disappointment, then Year 1 of the Chip Kelly GM Era has been a disaster.
It stands to reason, then, that the Birds are due for a major reconstruction.
Rest assured: Reason will suspend itself for at least one more year. Significant changes would be an admission by Kelly that he made mistake after mistake after mistake after he sabotaged Roseman's career in January.
Kelly hates to admit when he's wrong.
Frankly, perhaps reason should suspend itself. First-round receiver Nelson Agholor, second-round corner Eric Rowe, quarterback Sam Bradford and running backs Murray and Ryan Mathews have just one season of experience in the Eagles' systems. The same is true of trade throw-in Kiko Alonso, who, like fellow inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, should not be expected to play at a top level until he is two years removed from a major injury.
Granted, Alonso might in fact be as atrocious as he has looked most of the season . . . or, he might be playing on one good wheel. After all, he missed five games this season due to complications with the same knee.
Ryans is a shell of his former self . . . but that was true in 2011, too, when he come back from rupturing his other Achilles' tendon (he also missed time with a hamstring injury this season). Ryans had excellent seasons in 2012 and 2013. Give him a year.
Agholor missed Games 6-8 with an ankle sprain that still bothers him. Rowe's rough preseason pushed him down the depth chart, but he is playing corner for just the second year; he was a safety his first three college seasons.
Davis' defense is built from the inside linebackers out, but the only fully healthy inside linebacker he ever had was rookie Jordan Hicks, who is hurt - again; Hicks had a startling injury history in college. Even Mychal Kendricks was hurt this season; those are delicate hamstrings he has.
Yes, Davis asked too much of free-agent cornerback Byron Maxwell in the first few games, but, considering the rash of injuries, what other mistakes has he made? You blame Davis that third-string defensive backs can't tackle? There's a reason they're third-string, you know.
No one expected Murray to be third-string; not after leading the NFL in rushing by 25 percent last season with the Cowboys. However, Murray nursed a hamstring injury all through training camp and missed the third game of the season with that injury. He has looked hurt all year. Murray went to consecutive Pro Bowls before signing with the Eagles.
Cutting or trading him not only would be salary-cap suicide, it would be an admission by Kelly that he didn't know what he was doing when he signed him.
So would firing Davis, whose hiring brought Kelly heat three years ago.
You might see a tweak here or there - left tackle Jason Peters and receiver Riley Cooper might be logical excisions - but massive changes don't make sense.
Not every year.
On Twitter: @inkstainedretch