The Major League Baseball season is 162 games long. It is a marathon and, as an avowed baseball fan I will admit that it is far too lengthy. The NFL season, however, is just 16 games long. The difference between the two is notable, which makes comparisons between the two sports difficult.
But as the Eagles fell 37-10 to the Cowboys Sunday night, Philadelphia sports fans who watched the Phillies underachieve their way to an 81-81 record this summer couldn’t help but notice some similarities between them and their 3-4 football team.
Both teams came into the season with high expectations. Many (myself included) picked the Eagles to go to the Super Bowl. Many (myself included) picked the Phillies to win the National League East and compete for a World Series. The Phils fell far short of their goal, landing in 4th place and missing the postseason.
The Eagles are in danger of a similar fate.
They trail the Cowboys by a game in the standings, although with their head-to-head loss, the deficit is more like 1.5 games, and that half-game will be made up when the two teams meet in Week 16. But there are more similarities than just the potential to miss the postseason.
The Coaching Staff
The Phillies fired hitting coach John Mallee because his hitters couldn’t score runs and were among the bottom-third in the league in home runs. They fired their pitching coach Chris Young at the end of the season because none of the pitchers under his guidance got any better.
Eagles fans are asking themselves just what value offensive coordinator Mike Groh is bringing to the table. Like Young, Groh has not seen any of his young players get better this year. Mack Hollins, now in his third year with the team, has played 138 snaps for the Eagles the last four weeks and has ZERO receptions. JJ Arcega-Whiteside, their second round pick, can’t even see the field. Nelson Agholor is not making enough plays, and we’re still waiting on that dominant Dallas Goedert breakout.
The knives are out for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who is admittedly dealing with an injury-riddled unit, but is also doing his defense no favors with his scheme. Sidney Jones, a second round pick three years ago, didn’t play a single snap on Sunday night. Not one. Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat played better last night, but the linebackers’ substandard effort and cornerbacks continually being left on an island have the masses screaming for his head.
If things continue to go this way, it’s likely the Eagles will decide to move on from the embattled Groh and Schwartz, just like the Phils did with Mallee and Young.
Lack Of Offense
Despite having a ton of weapons in their lineup — Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen (before he got hurt), the Phillies finished 22nd out of 30 teams in home runs last season and were 14th in runs scored. Just like the Phils, the Eagles are 14th in scoring (24.4 points per game), and in yards per pass attempt (6.5) the Eagles are 21st. Just like the Phils, they are failing to hit home runs, too.
Without DeSean Jackson on the field, the Eagles are like a collection of singles hitters who need six hits in an inning to score two runs. Every first down, every touchdown, is like squeezing blood from a rock. The chunk plays are almost non-existent, and when they do go deep, the results are often embarrassing.
I remember the days when WRs would lay out to make these catches pic.twitter.com/yzNKkwoMnK— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) October 21, 2019
Little Young Talent
Who are the Eagles most talented youngsters?
Certainly, Carson Wentz tops the list. He is their Bryce Harper. Zach Ertz is like the team’s J.T. Realmuto. But other than that, who else is there?
Miles Sanders and Arcega-Whiteside are obviously unproven. Andre Dillard has just one start under his belt. Sidney Jones can’t get on the field, and when he does, it’s bad. Derek Barnett shows flashes but needs to work on his consistency. He’s not a star player. Neither is Josh Sweat, Mack Hollins, or Avonte Maddox.
Most of the Eagles’ best players are older, and even some of them (Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Alshon Jeffery) aren’t playing all that well.
Gone But Not Forgotten
The Phillies traded away first baseman Carlos Santana this off-season, a move that was welcomed by most fans. He underachieved in 2018 and moving him out of town meant taking Hoskins out of left field (where he was a horrendous fielder) and putting him at first base (where he is slightly less horrendous). Then, Santana turned around and had an All-Star season and was the most valuable first baseman in the American League.
The Eagles released linebacker L.J. Fort a few weeks ago and recouped a fourth round conditional pick in the process. Fine. The only problem is Fort is playing good football as a starter for the sure-to-be playoff bound Baltimore Ravens now.
L.J. Fort showing up so far today. First, the tackle for an 8-yard loss and now a sack on MVP candidate Russell Wilson. Great on-the-fly pick-up by Eric DeCosta.— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) October 20, 2019
Oh, and the Eagles also said goodbye to long time linebacker Jordan Hicks, a guy who simply couldn’t stay healthy and was largely invisible in this defensive scheme last year. So the Arizona Cardinals signed him to big money this off-season, and he is making lots of plays for them at the moment, too.
Jordan Hicks has 63 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, an interception, and has played in every game for the Cardinals this season.— BobCrossingBroad (@BobWankelCB) October 20, 2019
Why couldn’t the Eagles get this kind of production from these linebackers when they were here? It’s a frustrating question, to be sure.
GMs Under Fire
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak took a lot of heat for not upgrading the starting rotation this off-season. And for good reason, as they finished 17th in ERA. It was the team’s greatest weakness and the biggest reason they did not go to the playoffs. Howie Roseman took some heat for not doing more to add talent to the edge rushing position outside of re-signing Brandon Graham and bringing back Vinny Curry. Now, the Eagles are tied for 16th in sacks with 17, but 10 of those came in one game against the woeful Luke Falk and the New York Jets. In their other six games, they have seven total sacks.
Roseman also did not upgrade the cornerback position in free agency or trades, nor did he address it in the 2019 NFL Draft. He also did not add a speed receiver in the draft and decided instead to go with a possession-type receiver in Arcega-Whiteside, despite already having a target like that in Jeffery. He then guaranteed Jeffery’s 2020 salary and traded for the oft-injured Jackson while adding no other speed options to the roster.
It hasn’t worked great.
The Birds certainly aren’t going to fire their top guy in charge (unlike the Phils’ dismissal of manager Gabe Kapler), even if Pederson’s in-game decision-making is being called into question just like Kapler’s was. But the similarities between these two teams, despite playing very different sports, is there, and it is notable.
The Eagles still have time to turn things around and save their season, but at the moment, things are trending in a very Phillies-esque way.