Up in Western New York, Rex Ryan is out as the head coach for good and Tyrod Taylor is out as the starting quarterback for at least this week and probably longer and the Buffalo Bills are continuing their two-decade-long descent to the ninth circle of NFL hell. They haven't made the playoffs since 1999. They've had two winning seasons over the last 17 years. Their front office reportedly decided weeks ago that Ryan - the team's third head coach in five years - would be fired, and according to the Buffalo News, members of the organization had been leaking the news anonymously since. The Bills are the franchise no one else in the league wants to be.
And here, it's been exactly one year since Jeffrey Lurie fired Chip Kelly.
Since then, because of everything that has happened to the Eagles and everything that they have brought upon themselves, it's easy to forget what a thunderbolt Kelly's dismissal was. And because the Eagles drafted Carson Wentz and Wentz appears to be a bona fide franchise quarterback in the making, it's even easier to forget the chaos that Lurie courted and risked continuing with the move. But understand: The huzzahs and hope that Wentz has inspired this season don't change the Eagles' hard recent history and the task they have before them.
They haven't won a playoff game since 2008. They've had two winning seasons over the last six years. Doug Pederson is their third head coach in five years. They're closer to being the Buffalo Bills than they'd like to admit, and if Wentz's development doesn't accelerate under Pederson next season, Lurie is going to evaluate and judge Pederson based on that stagnancy, and perhaps judge him harshly.
"I guess that's probably a natural thing that will happen," Wentz said. "I don't know if that's always right or wrong. . . . It's just a natural thing that'll happen."
It is, as Wentz suggested, the nature of the relationship between a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. Their fortunes are intertwined and have been from the moment the Eagles leapfrogged those 11 teams in this year's draft to acquire the No. 2 pick and select Wentz. But it's also the nature of the NFL now. The notion that a franchise will grant either a young quarterback or a novice head coach an extended grace period - the notion that someone can grow into either of those important positions - is passe. Free agency and the salary cap have hastened roster turnover and made a quick rebuilding project possible and, to some owners, expected.
"Everything happens a lot faster," said defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, himself a head coach for five years with the Detroit Lions. "There's no five-year building plan. That doesn't exist."
It won't exist for Pederson, either, all public assurances from Lurie to the contrary and despite the impediments already in his path. Remember: The Eagles are one of four teams, according to the database OverTheCap.com, that are projected to be over the 2017 salary cap, and they have less projected space under the 2018 cap than any other team. The changes ahead for this roster will be significant, and there's no guarantee they will improve the team (even with Wentz here), which means there's no guarantee that Pederson will be allowed to ride out the effects of those changes.
The three best things that Pederson has going for him at the moment are 1) that Wentz has met all reasonable expectations so far; 2) that he, Pederson, is not Chip Kelly; and 3) that he's apparently willing to have his input on player-personnel decisions kept to a minimum. But 2) is fast approaching the expiration date of its relevance, and if 1) stops being true, 3) won't matter so much. Pederson seems a realist about this.
"It starts with the support of your owner," he said. "I think that's where it starts: with Jeffrey and the support that he has of me. He understands where we are as a football team. He was on board with everything, the decision that was made to go out and get Carson this spring. He felt like in order to have success in this league, you've got to have a quarterback. So it started there: a young quarterback of the future. If you don't have that type of support, it makes it a little more difficult because the pressure really is to win from day one. Sometimes, maybe you're not built that way because you're coming in, and you're changing schemes. . . .
"But having that support from the top down gives you a little bit of time - not a lot of time, but a little bit of time to get this thing going in the right direction."
The pressure is to win from day one . . . Not a lot of time, but a little bit of time. . . . That's a natural thing that will happen.
Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz aren't even a full season into their tenure together, and already they can recognize what's at stake, how little time they and the Eagles really have to get this right, how fast everything can fall apart and stay destroyed in the NFL. One change begets another, which begets another, and before long, you can look up and see a succession of bad decisions and bad football stretching across a generation. As they know too well in Buffalo, that's a hell from which it's hard to escape. The Eagles teeter there still.