AT THE EFFECTIVE end of an upside-down season, it only made sense that the phrase that crystallized the debacle fell from the lips of the player most marginalized during it.

"You've got to be mentally checked in at all times," said third-string, $40 million running back DeMarco Murray.

This was a response to a question about how a team with monumental personnel changes might be expected to succeed. Murray's opinion: complete, universal focus.

The Eagles went 10-6 in 2014 . . . then changed their quarterback, two running backs, their top receiver, two offensive linemen, one outside linebacker and four defensive backs, and added an inside linebacker to their rotation. That's 12 new players among the core 25 - almost half the team.

Checked in? With that much turnover, you'd be lucky if the whole team checked into the right hotel.

Not once did this team seem mentally checked in. Not in any area. Too many dropped passes, too many penalties and botched assignments along the offensive line, too many miscommunications on the second and third levels of the defense.

The most egregious example of the entire campaign came from its head coach during the very death throes of the season.

The Eagles trailed visiting Washington by 21 points with less than 8 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. They needed three touchdowns to tie. They would have to go for it on fourth down every possession.

So, on fourth-and-2 from their own 28 . . . Kelly sent out the punt team.

It was a gargantuan error. Kelly was forced to call a timeout to rectify it (a timeout saved by a Washington injury that stopped the clock anyway). The Eagles went for it, made it, and eventually scored a touchdown . . . after Kelly mistakenly, reflexively, sent in the punt team.

Mentally checked in? Nope.

Earlier, after Murray carried the Eagles on a touchdown drive that cut the lead to six points late in the third quarter, Kelly called for a pitch to Murray on third-and-2 at the Eagles' 29.

Sam Bradford never had a proper grip on the ball. His pitch to Murray was short by a few deadly centimeters. Murray lifted his eyes before the ball reached him.

But the blame lay at the boss' feet.

"Yeah, that's on me," Kelly said. "That's on me. Not a good call. It's 100 percent on me. I made the call. Not a good call."

Why?

Because Murray had just blasted up the middle for 8 yards. Because Murray had proved for 14 games he was nearly incapable of running outside the tackles.

"I just took my eyes off of it," Murray admitted. "I was trying to get going too fast and I have to secure the ball. It was just a bad play by me."

Mentally checked in? Within a touchdown of an atrocious road team (Washington was 1-5 on the road) that was on its heels late in the game?

Checked in? Not close.

So many, many issues can be attributed to Murray's honest and damning quote.

Bradford has been outstanding as he developed sea legs after missing almost 2 years to knee injuries. In his first seven games - 10 interceptions, a laughable 6.5 yards per attempt - he wasn't even in the lobby, much less checked in.

Eagles receivers dropped six passes Saturday night. One would have been a touchdown; another, a 40-yard gain.

Eagles linebackers still lunge on play-action like lions at raw steak. Play-action allowed Kirk Cousins to throw the first of his four TD passes.

These are not errors in execution. These are sins of concentration; failures of focus.

These are issues of men who are not mentally checked in.

Not all of them. Not all of the time.

As Murray so succinctly put it, there can be no half measures when you remake yourself by half.

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: phillynews.com/Eaglesblog