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State of the Eagles: Regular Season Wrap-Up and Playoff Preview

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2019 NFC East Champs!

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Happy New Year! I hope everyone has enjoyed their holidays, which I’m assuming you have since you are all Eagles fans and we just watched the team bulldoze its way to a division title.

My last post came after the Dolphins loss, and was rather negative in tone, to put it mildly. I’m here to answer for everything, because the Eagles just WON THE NFC EAST, BABY! And not only did they win it, they won it on the back of Carson Wentz, who dragged what was essentially a pickup game roster to playoff glory. Now, we can mention all we want about how abysmal their opponents were, but no win in the NFL comes easy, and the Eagles have lost to some bad teams this year with more talented players active on gameday. Wentz simply played like a man possessed who would not be denied the playoff game he has so desperately wanted ever since he shredded his ACL against the Rams in 2017. And when the dust settled, we got this stat line (courtesy of Pro Football Reference):

388/607 (63.9%), 4039 yards, 27 TD, 7 INT, 93.1 passer rating

A lot of records came with this season-long performance, including the Eagles franchise record for passing yards and the first time in league history that a 4,000 yard passer didn’t have a 500 yard wide receiver. Given all of this, I think this is important to point out:

There is a LOT more to go over here, so let’s get down to it. In this article:

  • Eating (delicious) crow over my last State of the Eagles, with some caveats on the side
  • Sorting out what the playoff berth should mean for the coaching staff and front office
  • Previewing the upcoming playoff game against the Seahawks

Crow Never Tasted So Good

If you don’t wish to revisit my tirade in full, here is what I said about the prospect of the Eagles making the playoffs, verbatim:

There is one - exactly one - argument for making the playoffs, and that is to get Carson Wentz experience playing in January. If Pederson signs an affidavit that Groh, Walch, and Taylor are all goners regardless, then I am all in on that. If not, I’m tempted to say that replacing those assistants with competent offensive minds on the heels of a failed season is more important for Carson’s long-term development than getting downright trounced at the Linc by the 13-3 49ers (who will hilariously be a wild card team) while freezing his ass off in January. Nothing like a playoff beatdown and the predictable circling wagons of the Foles Truthers for the next eight months to boost the confidence of your young single-caller, am I right?

To be clear, I am absurdly happy that the Eagles won the division and kept the Cowboys out of the playoffs. I’m really happy for Carson and can’t wait to see how he handles his first “real” playoff game. Given what I wrote above, I don’t believe this makes me a hypocrite, but you are free to disagree. All of that notwithstanding, there are a few things I would like to unpack with the above quote, my incorrect prediction about facing the 49ers (just one win and a few inches short!) aside:

  • We’re all riding the high of the incredible 4-game win streak that the Eagles have cobbled together, but I’d be remiss without wondering if it was all a Pyrrhic victory, especially in the “broken wing” win over the Giants this past week. Do I think the Eagles will get “trounced” in their game against the Seahawks? No, but there is no shame in saying that squeaking out a win against an actual playoff team with this ragtag roster is going to be an immense challenge. We all know now that Brooks’ season is over, so I think that Lane Johnson HAS to play to give the Eagles a reasonable shot. He’s a tough cookie so I wouldn’t count that out. As for skill position players, Ertz is probably done for the year as well. Getting Boobie back would be a HUGE boon for a team that has never beaten Russell Wilson.
  • We can all agree the “Foles Truthers” have either been converted or crawled away to the caves from whence they came, right? Even if Carson has a bad game next week I don’t think anyone will really count that against him considering the remarkable run he’s put together in December. And that’s not even considering his status as the first Eagles quarterback to break the 4,000 yard ceiling.
  • I’ll talk about this in more detail in the next section, but I’m sticking to my “affidavit” statement from above. Groh, Taylor, and Walch all need to go, regardless of how far the Eagles make it in the playoffs. I don’t care if they win the Super Bowl - move on from these mediocre assistants and bring in quality coaches. Don’t agree? Hear me out before running to the comment section.

Post-Playoff Gameplan

It seems kind of silly - and perhaps a bit stiff - to entertain any thoughts about what the Eagles should do after their playoff run is over. But considering the way this season has gone, I think it’s important. The playoff push has been absolutely exhilarating, but it shouldn’t erase everything that came before it. If I’m Jeff Lurie, I’m deciding right now what changes need to be made once the season is over, Super Bowl victory or not. He’s a pretty sharp guy - his “fools’ gold” comment from 2011 comes to mind, even though this situation is nothing like that one - so I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s thought about this by now.

There’s a lot to consider. This is still a team that has dealt with an insane amount of injuries for the third year in a row. This is still a team that lost at home to the Lions, got blown out by the Vikings and Cowboys, and gave up 37 points to the Dolphins. It’s really encouraging to see how well Doug gets his team to respond year in and year out with their backs against the wall in do-or-die scenarios, but it shouldn’t be overlooked that the best teams in the league are where they are because their backs were never against the wall. In other words, it shouldn’t take a “win or go home” mentality for this team to live up to its potential. It’s the coaches’ job to light a fire under the players’ asses each week, not the surrounding circumstances. If they are failing to accomplish this with the players they’re starting, they either need to adapt before the team is 5-7 or start playing the guys that do show they’re motivated. That’s not to take away from what they did accomplish once the team fell to 5-7. It’s great to revel in the glory of a division title, but that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge this season for what it is: an uneven, inconsistent, mediocre effort for 3 months that was only elevated when it became absolutely necessary. The steadfast and relentless resiliency of this team cannot be overstated, and it is incredible how much they’ve woven it into their team identity, but it simply cannot be what drives this team to the playoffs year in and year out. It is not a template for sustainable success, no matter how good it might feel to watch this team endure and prevail when the chips are down.

And that’s why I’m sticking to my guns that Groh, Taylor, and Walch should all be fired, even if the Eagles win the Super Bowl, and Howie needs to be on a shorter leash. (Schwartz at this point I could take or leave - his philosophy is a little outdated but the talent at his disposal in the secondary hasn’t really helped him.) To be clear, if the Eagles miraculously win the Super Bowl, I don’t think anything changes, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. If Lurie takes a high-level approach to this, he might recognize that the last team to win it all at 9-7 - the 2011 New York Giants - have been mired in futility ever since that last championship. The Eagles wouldn’t suffer that same fate, of course: Pederson is a better coach than Coughlin (HAWT take alert) and Wentz is a better quarterback than Manning. But that doesn’t mean the boring, uninspired play we’ve seen from this team won’t resurface in future seasons with the same coaching staff.

For those of you that point to the recent success of the offense as evidence the assistant coaches should get the benefit of the doubt, much of what the Eagles have accomplished during the playoff push has come either after in-game injuries or halftime adjustments. I’m not saying that the assistants don’t have some input in all of that, but let’s not kid ourselves here. Doug is the playcaller, he runs the show on gameday, and deserves most of the credit for the in-game coaching heroics the Eagles have conjured over the past month. What we’ve seen in the past four games is mostly a testament to Dougie P, not his underlings, and I will 100% die on that hill.

None of this mentions the personnel department, led by Howie Roseman. How is it that it took Greg Ward forever to get some kind of look, when Mack Hollins was doing less than nothing for over a month? I understand the coaches have some say in this, but if you’re the type of GM that’s going to cut L.J. Fort before he gets any real playing time, how can you possibly justify keeping Hollins on the roster for as long as you did? And my opinions about JJAW and Jeffery remain unchanged - whether or not Alshon was the source of the “sour grapes” comments Josina Anderson reported, it is clear this offense has performed just fine (or even better) without him. It seems pretty obvious that he should be moved, and yet his contract restructure means any trade will be in the “salary dump” category, meaning the Eagles will probably have to give up more than they get to move them.

Howie needs a homerun this offseason, Super Bowl win or not. It’s the only thing that could possibly make up for his questionable moves and missteps over the past two offseasons. And help the team get younger! It’s obvious that the Eagles need players who share the same hunger that Wentz has for a championship. You’re not going to get that from the divas on the team who already have their ring. (The fact that young players are theoretically less susceptible to injuries shouldn’t be overlooked, either.)

The division title is AMAZING, and I am really excited to see them play in wild card weekend. But this team is one that can still get better, and we need to keep our eye on the ball if we want to have the sustained success we know Doug and Wentz can bring to this franchise. Let’s enjoy this playoff run, but let’s not forget about the future in the process.

Speaking of playoff runs...

Wild Card Weekend Preview

I was watching Sunday Night Football after the Eagles wrapped up the division, unsure of which NFC West team I’d rather face at the Linc. On one hand, the 49ers have clearly looked like the stronger team this season, have a punishing defense, and the Seahawks are almost as banged up as the Eagles. On the other hand, Russell Wilson is a lot more intimidating than Jimmy Garoppolo, the last game between these teams really wasn’t that close, and the 49ers do not have any real playoff experience, similar to last year’s Bears team that the Eagles beat in Chicago.

With the news that Brooks is done for the year, I think Seattle was the better draw. (Big V and Matt Pryor against Nick Bosa and DeForest Buckner? No thanks.) I’m not putting too much stock in homefield advantage - the Seahawks went 7-1 on the road this year - and it might be wishful thinking to suggest that Wilson will miss on those deep shots again like he did in the first meeting. But still, it’s hard not to like the Eagles’ chances here. Wentz is clearly playing better than he did in their first matchup. The defense has more tenacity, especially at home. The coaches have found a groove with the practice squad players they have been forced to start.

I do think the Seahawks will score more than 17 points this time around. The Eagles will probably have to score at least 27 points to walk out of the Linc with a playoff victory. And I think they do! Seattle’s defense is beatable and the guys they are starting on offense have a LOT more heart than the ones that suited up the last time these teams met. Eagles win, 31-24

It’s almost impossible to doubt this team with how Doug has rallied them in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity. And you know they know in the back of their heads if they can pull this one off at home, DeSean comes back, and at that point all bets are off.

What a time to be an Eagles fan.

This is the last you’ll hear from me until the new league year begins, when the Eagles will (hopefully) adding another Lombardi to their trophy case. In the meantime... Go Birds!

Poll

Will the Eagles beat the Seahawks?

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  • 70%
    YES!
    (971 votes)
  • 2%
    No (I’m a salty Cowboys fan)
    (39 votes)
  • 26%
    I don’t care if they’re one-and-done, this is house money now
    (363 votes)
1373 votes total Vote Now