And in the 15th game of the season, approximately five months since the beginning of training camp, the Eagles offense was unable to snap the ball properly on Saturday night against the Washington Redskins.
Perhaps there is something more basic that an offense must do in order to perform efficiently, but not much. The Eagles were penalized three times for false starts, once for an illegal formation and once for an illegal shift. There were other penalties, but just consider those. After all the endless high-speed reps in all those scientifically controlled practices, the Eagles couldn't line up properly, couldn't motion properly and couldn't begin the play at the same time.
Also in the 15th game of the season, the Eagles weren't very good at catching the ball or at holding onto it. Again, there are many fundamentals of the game that need to be applied in professional football, but for offensive players who touch the ball regularly, those two things should be at the top of the to-do list.
"You've got to take care of the football. I don't know how you fix that," said receiver Riley Cooper, who accounted for one of the drops on a long third-quarter pass when the Eagles were driving to potentially retake the lead.
It's an honest answer, and the right one. The same one goes for the penalties, too, for that matter. Really good football players don't make many mistakes, and there is not any way to reliably fix the players who do.
Just to concentrate on the offense for the moment, since that has been the focus since Chip Kelly arrived in town and flipped the switch to 78 r.p.m's, the litany of blunders that short-circuited what could have been a season-salvaging win was lengthy.
The Eagles scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game and didn't get another touchdown until their 10th drive, late in the third quarter. Here's how the eight drives in between fell short or went backward: (1) false start, sack; (2) grounding; (3) sack, holding declined; (4) illegal formation, false start, overthrow; (5) false start, dropped pass; (6) fumble lost; (7) sack; (8) dropped pass, holding. I may have missed a drop or two in there, but you get the idea.
"You can't get penalties, you can't drop balls," said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. "When you fall victim to that, you get the results you get tonight."
Bad timing, bad players, bad karma, bad luck?
"You've got to create your own good luck," Shurmur said.
That takes good players and, unfortunately, the Eagles didn't have enough of them this season. Kelly decided the same thing a year ago and set out to revamp the roster, but he fell well short of his goal.
"You look at the roster and you look at every guy in this locker room and we've got guys who can play, but for whatever reason, as a cohesive unit, we're not that good," said safety Malcolm Jenkins. "Everybody in this organization has a hand in that. We just can't figure it out."
What the man at the top of the organization has to figure out is whether Kelly's methods just didn't work this time, or whether Kelly's methods just don't work at the NFL level. Jeff Lurie has some time to ponder that one. In all probability, he won't be giving a snappy answer after Sunday's game against the Giants as he did last season when he promised Howie Roseman would remain as general manager. Clearly, he can't be certain about anything this time.
It might be simplistic to think that the Eagles might not make as many mistakes if they slowed down a bit, and not just in the games. At practices, the premium is on maximizing reps within a time frame on the field and leaving the finer points of coaching, and of correcting mistakes, for the film room. Any parent can tell you that correcting a child today for pulling the dog's ears yesterday isn't going to stop the behavior and it won't do much for the dog, either.
That's what the Eagles do, though, and the jittery nature of the enterprise carries over into the games. They drop the ball, they make dumb mistakes, they run with the ball before catching the pitch, they jump the snap. They just look awkward. There was no starker comparison this season than the quiet, surgical dispatch employed by the Arizona Cardinals, who played as if they had descended from a higher league.
"Coming out, we had high expectations and we didn't live up to them," offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. "It sucks, and there's probably going to be a lot of changes next year."
Yes, but there were a lot of changes this year, too, and what didn't change was the results. In fact, the season was a lot worse. When you still can't begin a play properly, that makes ending one successfully very difficult.
"False starts, bad snaps, those are problems that we've had all season long," said center Jason Kelce. "Never got it corrected."
The head coach said the problems are 100 percent on his shoulders. He said the same thing a year ago. I'm starting to believe him.