The Philadelphia Eagles finished the season at 7-9 after beating the New York Giants by a final score of 35 to 30 in the team's meaningless finale. Here are 10 things to be learned from this game. There is a lot to discuss, and it's the final edition of this post for the 2015 season, so let's get right to it. Since no one really cares much about the game itself, I'll try to mix in a long-term focus in this post.
1) The season is over
Thank God. This season felt like it was never going to end. It got really rough at times and overall it was just a flat out disappointing year. Expectations were high and the Birds fell way short. Now Chip Kelly is gone and the team will be looking for a new head coach, along with a new personnel chief. The Eagles can hope to leave the 2015 season in the past and build towards a brighter future moving forward. A long offseason is ahead. In the meantime, some things you need to know:
2) Sam Bradford finished the season on a high note
The Eagles' starting quarterback dominated a downright disastrous Giants defense. To his credit, it wasn't all just about the defense struggling. He made some really good throws. After getting off to a bad start this season, Bradford finished the year relatively strong. By the numbers:
Sam Bradford’s last 7 starts: 175/258 (67.9%), 1959 yards (7.6 y/a), 10 TD, 4 INT, 96.7 rating. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
Bradford’s 78.9% completion against NYG was the highest ever by an Eagles player with more than 30 attempts.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
Bradford’s 1,061 yards over his last 3 games is 2nd highest 3 game passing yardage total in Eagles history (McNabb 1st at 1,076 in 2005).— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
Bradford set #Eagles records in both completions (346) and completion percentage (65%). 4th most single-season passing yards (3,725).— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
Eagles QBs with five 300-yard games (team record) in a single season: Sonny Jurgensen (1961), Donovan McNabb (2004), Sam Bradford (2015).— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
It seems like a number of teammates want Bradford to come back. Jordan Matthews has been campaigning hard for his return. It'll be interesting to see how the quarterback situation plays out. Keeping Bradford won't be cheap. The new head coach might not even want him. The most ideal, but not necessarily realistic, option for the Eagles is to sign Bradford to some kind of short-term extension where the team also drafts a quarterback (or two). As I've said many times now and will continue to say, the Eagles can't afford to put all their eggs in the Bradford basket. He still hasn't proven he be the quarterback of a legitimate championship contender.
3) The Eagles own the Giants
The Eagles' win was annoying because it hurt their draft position, but at the very least the Birds might have ended Tom Coughlin's career with a loss. That's fitting because the Eagles own the Giants.
Eagles own the Giants. The Birds have won 13 of their last 16 games against NYG. They’re 8-1 in road games during that span.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
Yeah, yeah, I know, the Giants have more Super Bowl rings ... but still. That's domination.
4) Jordan Matthews is on pace to have a good Eagles career
Matthews didn't exactly have the dominating sophomore performance some may have expected, but the Eagles still got a lot of production out of him. He's on pace to be a pretty productive player.
Among Eagles players in their first 2 seasons, Jordan Matthews ranks: 1st in receptions (152) 2nd in yards (1,869) 2nd in touchdowns (16)— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
It would be very ideal if the Eagles can find a way to pair him up with some more dangerous receiving threats. Nelson Agholor, who had a really nice catch and run in the red zone against the Giants, can help by stepping up.
5) Zach Ertz dominated down the stretch
Ertz got off to a slow start this season since he was coming off core muscle surgery. He really showed up in the final quarter of the season, though.
Zach Ertz’s final 4 games: 48 targets, 35 receptions, 450 yards (12.9 average), 1 TD. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
Zach Ertz had 30 receptions over final 3 games, setting an #Eagles record for the most catches over a 3 game span.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
Two tight ends have had 450 yards over a four game span since 2013. Jimmy Graham and Zach Ertz.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
For what it's worth, Ertz also finished as the fourth best run blocking tight end as graded by Pro Football Focus. Ertz just might be the weapon people hoped he'd be.
6) Marcus Smith actually showed something!
Smith sacked Eli Manning! A real solo sack. He did it all by himself. Maybe he's not a total bust after all!?
7) Pat Shurmur did a nice job
Give interim head coach Shurmur for preparing this team to play despite the weird situation of Kelly being fired mid-week. The Eagles looked focused and the offense looked sharp. Some interesting notes here:
The narrative here is that a more "traditional" offense helped the Eagles have success. That might be true to some extent, but let's not forget New York's defense is just awful.
Still, Shurmur at least deserves an interview for the head coaching job. I doubt he'll get it but he earned some consideration.
8) Walter Thurmond is the ideal free agent signing
Kelly made a lot of poor personnel moves, which contributed to his ultimate downfall. One of his good moves, however, was signing Walter Thurmond to an inexpensive one-year deal. The safety isn't a star but he had a solid season. He has a knack for being around the ball and he did it once again by returning Eli Manning's fumble for a touchdown. Moving forward, Thurmond is the success story the Eagles need to remember when targeting players in free agency. The big names are always tempting but they can end up being expensive and disappointing (see: DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell). Thurmond is the kind of player the Eagles should be targeting. A guy with upside who won't break the bank.
9) Change is on the way
There are probably going to be a lot of changes this offseason. There's going to be a new head coach, which means there's going to be a new staff. There's going to be a new personnel chief. There might be a new (rookie?) quarterback in the mix, even if Bradford is retained. The Kelly era is over and it's time to turn the page. It's going to be one heck of an offseason yet again.
10) The BGN community is still the best
Thank you for your continued support of the site! The Eagles may have been disappointing but BGN community was awesome as always. Our community has grown so much over the years. I'm really proud of what we've built together. It wouldn't be possible without you and all the great writers here at BGN. There's a long offseason ahead and the future of this team is unclear. The only thing for certain is that we'll all be here to follow it together.