Well, it's sure a good thing they took down that Super Bowl champions sign from the locker room before the season started. Otherwise, the Eagles might not have the laser focus on the new task at hand that has carried them to where they are right now.
Of course, it might also be that saying the right stuff – and the right stuff always sounds so convincing – isn't nearly as vital as doing the right stuff on the football field. Funny how that works.
So, for every reminder that the Lombardi Trophy can't block or tackle for them, or that the only carryover from winning the Super Bowl is that every other team in the league circles them on the schedule, the fact is that all of it is just blah-blah compared with the reality of what takes place during the games.
"We just have to believe despite the evidence," tight end Zach Ertz said.
Good luck with that after Sunday night's loss to Dallas, the team's third straight home defeat, and a splash of cold water in their faces after beating Jacksonville and having two weeks to work on their rah-rah rhetoric.
"The evidence says we're 4-5 and we're not as good as we thought we were going to be coming into this year," Ertz said. "But we can't lose the faith of being brothers, playing for one another, and being a family."
OK, sounds great, but some of the family has just shown up for the first time at the dinner table. They might need name tags. The defensive backfield, for instance, isn't a Who's Who of football right now. It's more of a Who's That? The only Sullivan who didn't get in the game for Jim Schwartz on Sunday was Ed.
Tre Sullivan, who played some strong safety, had just eight defensive snaps previously this season and was on the practice squad for four weeks. Chandon Sullivan, who I'm pretty sure is a cornerback but I have to check, was on the practice squad the first seven weeks, then played two special-team snaps in London before getting into the rotation against the Cowboys.
Corey Graham was back out there at safety after taking just three snaps since September. Rasul Douglas was making his first start of the season, and Avonte Maddox, an afterthought when the season began, played more than 95 percent of the snaps for the fifth straight game.
It's just a mess, and what has happened to the defensive backfield because of injuries to Rodney McLeod, Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Graham, and now Ronald Darby won't be fixed by setting your jaw and saying, "It's gotta be a next-man-up mentality." There's a reason the next man up wasn't already up. He's not as good as the last man up.
Schwartz, who is a convenient punching bag, is in the position of having his scheme flexibility reduced to almost nothing. He can't be inventive and he can't take many chances, because his available players don't possess the physical gifts or the game experience necessary to improve the likelihood of those chances succeeding. He's playing vanilla coverages because that's the only flavor on the truck.
"If we all had superstars at our positions, coaching would be easy," Doug Pederson said Monday. "That's why we wear the 'C' on our hat, to coach everybody."
Again, sounds good, but Schwartz certainly didn't think "everybody" this season would include Cre'Von LeBlanc, Deiondre' Hall, and De'Vante Bausby. By the end of the year, the defensive backfield might lead the league in apostrophes, if nothing else.
Pederson allowed on Monday that he might need to change up his message to the team. So far, there's been a lot of "We'll be OK if we can just nail down a couple little things and execute just that much better." After Dallas, that's a tough sell.
"It's something I have to consider, quite frankly," Pederson said. "I don't know any other way than to look internally. I've got to look at myself."
He can start with the play-calling, and that goes beyond the dozen or so "scripted" plays that begin each game, with the script appearing to be written by Sleepy the Dwarf.
On Sunday, there were 48 passing plays and 14 running plays. (Carson Wentz scrambled twice to numerically add to the run total.) Some were run-pass options that ended up being passes, which they usually will with Wentz making that decision. Nevertheless, in a game the Eagles never trailed by more than a touchdown in the final 25 mintues, the offense was ridiculously predictable: Throw it to Zach Ertz.
This probably isn't the moment to ask again how much he misses Frank Reich and John DiFilippo. One of the few consistencies this season is that Pederson is pretty touchy about the perception that he was just one bulb in the offensive coaching candelabra last year and maybe not the brightest.
In the same way, the Eagles who returned are dealing with the growing league-wide notion that they are merely one-year wonders whose championship was a fluky aberration rather than an announcement of repeatable greatness. That's harsh, particularly given the injuries, but what happened Sunday night does not happen to good teams.
"I'm not going to stand up here and make excuses. We're just not getting it done right now," Pederson said. "I'm encouraged by what I saw from the guys at the end of the game, even though they were mad and disappointed, and they'll get it fixed."
Oh, my. If it's time to take solace in seeing the players do the right things after the game is over, then maybe it is even later than we think. The question is whether it's too late to re-hang that Super Bowl champions sign in the locker room. Playing without it hasn't gone as well as everyone insisted it would.
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