As the Eagles tumbled toward obscurity on Monday night, an adage at least 130 years old wormed its way into my brain. Many people are believed to have uttered some version; one possible originator is 19th century French writer Alphonse Karr.
“Some people,” Karr supposedly said, “are always finding fault with Nature for putting thorns on roses; I always thank her for having put roses on thorns.”
The history and wording of the quote is contended, but the sentiment remains clear. In most situations, there are two ways to look at things. One is to be discontent with negatives because of expected positives. The other is to be content with positives because of expected negatives. How you approach this dichotomy will decide how you feel as the Eagles play the final five games of this year.
Eagles fans, of course, were treated to a delightful first three weeks of the season, back in September when everyone was naive and everything was possible. The Eagles won three games and lost zero, and all of a sudden the expected positives were great.
Could Carson Wentz make the Eagles a playoff contender? Could they be… Super Bowl contenders?
These questions were asked. They probably weren’t smart, but they were asked because, at the time, everything was roses and nothing was thorns.
And then, as should have been expected, everything regressed to the mean. Those preseason expectations of six wins and a lot of work to do? They were correct. Wentz finally threw an interception. Jim Schwartz’s impenetrable defense proved fallible. Even Dave Fipp’s special teams unit, the best in the league, lost a matchup on Monday Night Football.
As the Inquirer’s Mike Sielski wrote in this morning’s paper, the Eagles are still very much learning who they are:
They need to learn more about which players ought to have a chance to grow with the two of them, because make no mistake: Neither Pederson nor Wentz is near being a finished product yet, and the longer the season has gone on, the more flaws they've shown.
I’ll take it one step further: the Eagles are not a very good football team right now, and that is okay. It might even be better than okay that they’re not a very good football team right now. Can you imagine the kinds of problems this team might create for itself if Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie were accidentally convinced they’d fixed the team by simply adding a rookie quarterback and trading for a guy like Dorial Green-Beckham?
There need to be clear goals for this offseason. Roseman and Lurie need to know what the Eagles are bad at if they want them to be consistently good for years to come. By losing games, and losing them in ways that highlight the roster’s shortcomings over and over again, we’re being shown a road map to improvement. It’s like being given a puzzle half-completed.
This puzzle’s holes are clear. Eagles desperately need wide receivers. They need cornerbacks, and they need a running back, and they need some offensive line depth. And those are fixable problems, through free agency and the draft.
And the pieces in place? Also clear. The Eagles have their quarterback of the future. They have talented linebackers, key to any team interested in defending the pass and the run equally well. Their safeties are stout and young.
So, to Eagles fans who got really angry last night as they failed to beat a Packers team which, while underperforming this year, is still quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers, I suggest you try to reel it in and save the anger over these next five weeks for something that matters.
This is the team we expected before the season began and, except for a very enjoyable first three weeks of the season, this is the team the Eagles always were, thorns both included. Just be glad for the roses.