Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
Phase One: Determine what kind of identity the Eagles will work toward going forward. Phase Two: Find a head coach who can make it happen.
Think Monday night's game was rock bottom? Who knows, maybe this Eagles team is looking to redefine the phrase. It sucks, it's terrible, it's humiliating. But listen, sometimes you have to reach this nadir in order to understand the gravity of the situation, to cut the cord and start anew. Maybe a total implosion and widespread public ridicule is what it had to take for the insanity to finally end.
Looking at the division is a scary proposition since every other team is set at quarterback for at least the next five years. Eli will finish his going-to-be-Hall-of-Fame career with the Giants, Robert Griffin III is about to turn the Skins into the NFC East's new version of the early-2000's Eagles, and Tony Romo will continue to be Tony Romo for those wonderful Cowboys. Who, exactly, is the Eagles quarterback for 2013? Yikes. I know the general feeling amongst the populace is to look at the franchise's current situation with feelings of dread and uncertainty, that the future is irrevocably doomed. I don't necessarily see it that way. Rather, I see opportunity. I see a chance for change, for resurrection. To make the Eagles a team that Philadelphia can love again. That Philadelphia wants to love. Basically, the kind of team that died for good in 2009, first when Brian Dawkins wasn't signed to end his career as an Eagle, and then again months later when Jim Johnson lost his battle with cancer. Because, let me tell you, the fans hate -- so thoroughly loathe -- these Eagles, and that's not how anyone wants to feel. That's not how it should be, and it breaks my heart. Ask ten people for one word to describe the 2012 Eagles, and I wager at least half would say "unlikeable." That's unacceptable.
I get excited when I think about the blank canvas that is the Eagles' future, and I hope to be a part of it in some capacity. The Eagles are approaching what has to be considered the most pivotal time in franchise history. What happens directly post-Andy Reid will (likely) define the next decade of football in Philadelphia. It will define the second half of Jeffrey Lurie's legacy as Eagles owner. Lurie and Howie Roseman can't afford to screw up this head coaching hire, but somehow I get the feeling they already know that. For the fans, it's open season on suggesting potential head coaches and looking ahead to the offseason, free agency and draft.
I'm not going to talk about what happened against the Panthers because there isn't much I need to say... but I'll say something anyway. You understand what we are witnessing, right? This Eagles secondary, which was fairly excellent the first six games of 2012, has devolved into the worst in NFL history. It's mind-blowing. I'd say it's unbelievable, but these are the Eagles we're talking about. Nothing is unbelievable. I wonder if there was some kind of seismic shock that facilitated the collapse. I'm sure there was, just can't seem to put my finger on it. Oh well.
On the plus side, Bryce "Jim" Brown is super legit and delivered on the promise anyone who's seen him play football before knew was there. Brian Baldinger invoked a Bo Jackson comparison while reviewing the game film. If you remember, LeSean McCoy made the same comparison before the season even began. Yes, Brown showed his inexperience by carrying the ball carelessly and fumbling twice (he's lucky that was it). We're talking about a player who hadn't received 15 touches in a game since high school. How to correctly and safely protect the football is a skill that can be taught, but Bryce Brown's rare blend of size, speed and power cannot. What we need now is a head coach committed to building the offense around Shady and Brown, around a run game that can physically devastate opposing defenses. Dare to dream, I guess. I mean, it's kinda simple, right? What you have here are two unique talents at running back, both of whom are still young and entering their primes. They also just so happen to complement each other harmoniously and could certainly be the best one-two punch in the league. How do you not build the offense around them? Am I crazy, or is this not what logic dictates?
Brown wasn't the only rookie to shine in the loss to Carolina. Vinny Curry made keeping him inactive the first ten games look positively foolish. Who was responsible for that decision? Yeah, fire him. Curry played with passion and had an impact nearly every time on the field, including a tackle on the first snap of his NFL career. However, it was the hustle play he made to tackle Cam Newton at the line of scrimmage after falling down and missing him the backfield at first that tells you the kind of player Vinny Curry is. We so desperately need more of his caliber and attitude. With the merciful and overdue release of Jason Babin -- probably THE poster child for the Eagles' unlikeableness, whom I detested even last season because he's an insufferable and self-important douche who plays a bitch brand of football (have fun in Jacksonville!) -- we can finally see younger players who are hungry. Who have something to prove. Who play for more than just themselves. Who haven't already checked out.
Nick Foles' best moments of the game were when he recognized the blitz and audibled to a run at the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, his play was far below encouraging. Fine, it was bad. Hopefully Foles gets a few more games to start because I want to see if he progresses at all. Right now it seems he has only regressed since taking over for Vick in the Cowboys game, and that's a troubling trend.
Wait, I said I wasn't going to write about the game. Damnit, my bad. Anyway, at the end of the season (only five weeks left!), Lurie and Roseman will have to make a critical determination: What kind of team do they want the Eagles to be? What kind of identity do they want to forge? What's their vision for the future? I've already written at length about what kind of team I want, but it's not up to me. In my ideal world, the Eagles are based on the current 49ers model. Mean, physical, imposing, badass you-know-whats. A team built on the solid foundational principles of football, that values strong defense and powerful rushing over finesse, glitz and gimmickry. Call me old school or antiquated, but that's how I want to see my team play, especially when my team doesn't have an elite or even efficient passer at the quarterback position. I want to make it very clear, however, for the people who mistakenly interpret my pleas as a romanticization of the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense. I just want fucking balance. That's all I've ever asked for. Some discipline, some intuitiveness, some adaptability, understanding the ebbs and flows of a game. I delight in watching an explosive aerial attack -- when it's capable of success and executed properly. Hell, I'd be lying if I said I don't enjoy Patriots' games and watching Tom Brady orchestrate the offense's surgical, immaculate precision. It's a thing of beauty. Andy Reid made his bastardized version of the West Coast Offense painfully beautiful for a time with Donovan McNabb, but failed to find the successor he needed to complete a second term in Philadelphia.
You've already heard the first rumor linking Chip Kelly to the Eagles, and I'm sure it won't be the last. This circus is just getting started, so do yourself a favor and take nothing too seriously. That said, I'm casting all my initial support behind Greg Roman, offensive coordinator for the 49ers. He profiles as the perfect candidate to lead the Eagles into a new era. Roman is someone who has more than earned the opportunity and is highly regarded around the league. Read that linked article and tell me you don't find the guy endearing.
Now, look at the offense Roman has created in San Francisco, where he's part of an exemplary group of coaches that's taking the league by storm. It's only natural to expect Jim Harbaugh's staff will get raided at some point. Speaking of which, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will also be in demand on the head coaching market. I actually suggested him at the end of last season. Chatter is that Lurie will go after an offensive mind, so that's why I zeroed in on Roman. He will need to choose a quarterback from an underwhelming talent pool but can nonetheless come in here and immediately implement his philosophy, blessed with LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown to jump start the operation. Roman, a Ventnor City native and Eagles fan as a youth (I think?), would also appeal emotionally to a fan base starving to feel a connection with its football team and coach. Listen to one of his press conferences and tell me it's not a breath of fresh air. He's articulate, insightful and forthright. Sure, Roman throws some general cliches in there, but it's not all cliches, which is what we've endured from Andy Reid. About the only thing these two have in common is their appearance -- sans walrus 'stache. Greg Roman was once described as an "athletically challenged 5-foot-8, 255-pound nose guard" (FROM: John Carroll). I feel obligated to inform you of the rest of that quote: "... [who] earned a 3.5 GPA and had a consulting job during his final semester of college." Smart, if interestingly shaped, fella.
For the abortion that is this defense, we could only hope Roman manages to lure some of the 49ers' defensive staff with him. I doubt that will be easy, especially if Fangio gets a head coaching job elsewhere. But just for shits and giggles: Maybe Roman brings Jim Leavitt (yes, the former South Florida coach who was fired for this unfortunate incident). I'm desperate enough to say his old, gruff face reminds me of Jim Johnson. I'm not desperate enough to say he appeals to me more than defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Tomsula cut his teeth as a defensive assistant in NFL Europe before becoming head coach of the mighty Rhein Fire in 2006. He joined the 49ers in 2007, survived the purge of Mike Singletary's coaching staff and sports a pristine 1-0 record as a head coach in the NFL. Undefeated! Add in Tomsula's fiery personality and, sure, I could see him fitting in just fine with our city. Of course, all this conjecture is but one of infinite coaching scenarios; I imagine everyone will have, and be eager to share, their own opinions and desires regarding the matter.
I'll leave you with this final thought: Yeah, the season is over, but, come on, FUCK Dallas. Go Eagles, provide a sweet moment while we ingest the shit sandwich that is 2012 by effectively ending the Cowboys' season. And hey, if Bryce Brown could win me my fantasy matchup for a second week in a row, I would certainly appreciate it.