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Mailbag: Stacking the Eagles up against the past, the present, and Andy Reid

The time’s... ours?

Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Earlier we asked for Eagles mailbag questions. Let’s get right to it.

Some questions have been lightly edited for length and clarity

ScratcherX: There seemed to be no consensus pick on who the better matchup in the Super Bowl was for the Eagles. My friends and I were all cheering for the Chiefs because we felt that would be the better matchup for the Birds. Are we fools? Will we be forever haunted by the hobble-footed hero?

Be careful what you wish for, you might be in the Twilight Zone. If the Chiefs win, you might regret it. Either match up would have presented opportunities and problems and been a worthy AFC Champion.

The Bengals O line wouldn’t stand a chance against the Eagles D line. But their WRs are a hard matchup for anyone, their defense is better than the Chiefs, and they’ve got Joe Burrow.

Kansas City’s WRs, running game, and defense aren’t strengths, and their special teams have struggled. But they’ve got Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce.

No matter who won the AFC, their coach was at a disadvantage in game management to Nick Sirianni. If this game comes down to which coach isn’t a coward, the Eagles win.

But I don’t think you were wrong to prefer the Chiefs. That’s the top seed in the AFC, and Mahomes is going to win MVP. Ideally you would want to play the weakest team you can to improve your chances of winning, but the complaints about the Eagles schedule should stop if and when they beat the Chiefs (the complaints won’t stop). Beat the Chiefs and there’s no doubt the Eagles are a great team.

StoneColeKiller58: Has there ever been a football (or pro sports) ‘divorce’ that’s worked out better for both parties than the Eagles and Andy Reid?

You’re supposed to stop wearing rings after a divorce, but the Eagles and Andy Reid started wearing them.

There aren’t many similar situations where both the team and the ex-coach won titles so quickly after the separation. Coaches who lose a title game or series with a team, eventually separate and then both win a title down the line has happened, but there was a significant gap between the separation and one of the titles. What makes the Eagles-Reid post-divorce success noteworthy is that both the Eagles and Reid won their Super Bowls while key players Reid coached in Philadelphia were still on the Eagles roster. This happened before in the NFL, but only once.

The 1968 Colts lost the Super Bowl with Don Shula, then fired him after he missed the playoffs in 1969. In 1970 the Colts won the Super Bowl, Shula would then win back to back Super Bowls in 1972 and 1973.

The Eagles-Doug Pederson divorce has a chance to be another addition. Unlikely, but possible.

phunkenstein7: Who has bigger balls ... Nick Sirianni or Doug Pederson?

Doug Pederson called a trick play on 4th down at the goal line in the Super Bowl. That was the boldest play in the history of football. Seriously. Try to think of a situation with more at stake.

There are only two situations with even more on the line. The only way to top the Philly Special for ballsiness would be to call a trick play on 4th down at the goal line in the Super Bowl… as the potential game winning score as the clock expires or in overtime.

But Sirianni wouldn’t do that. This is no slight against Doug, but one of the things I really like about Sirianni is that he doesn’t waste time with trick plays. He just puts his best against the other team’s best. If faced with a similar situation as the Philly Special, Jalen Hurts is plowing the ball into the end zone.

Bird_brains: A running joke by some (including me) is that Andy Reid will finally “win” a SB for the Eagles, by outsmarting himself and calling a dumb play. But is that really a fair take, or likely scenario? Has he improved over time, and if so, what has he learned?

This has been floating around.

I’m skeptical of anything that says Brandon Staley is an elite anything. This graphic says Andy Reid, the king of poor clock management, is now by a huge distance the best in the league in late game time out usage? I have a hard time with that. But even if he is, there’s still plenty of Same Old Andy.

The Chiefs have a fullback, but don’t use him, Michael Burton has played just 73 snaps all year, and only 2 in the playoffs. But when they do use him, it’s classic Andy Reid overthinking it. He had 8 touches or targets: 4 on 3rd down, 1 on 4th down, 1 was on the opposition 26 yard line.

Backup TE Noah Gray has two carries. Both were on 3rd down, one of which was from the goal line (he scored). Mecole Hardman had six rushes. 2 were on 3rd down, and one from the 3 yard line (for his second rushing TD of the game, the other from the 25). Blake Bell came off season long IR in Week 16, in Week 17 he got his first target of the season, it was in the red zone.

That is classic “spent all week thinking about this play” stuff. But the thing is, it’s mostly worked for him. Burton, Gray, and Hardman have run the ball 12 times for 9 first downs.

Meanwhile, with Patrick Mahomes, he rarely goes for it on 4th down. That, more than anything in today’s NFL, is a sign of a coach who hasn’t really adapted. In the past five seasons the Chiefs have had a top five 4th down conversion rate four times, but have had the fewest or second fewest attempts three times. A big reason for that is Mahomes keeps them out of a lot of jams, they had the third fewest punts this year, and fewest last year. But they were middle of the pack in FG attempts.

In their loss to the Colts they had a 4th and goal from the 2. Reid sent the FG team out. In their regular season loss to the Bengals, they had 4th and 3 from the Bengals 8 yard line. Reid sent the FG team out. Nick Sirianni would never.

JawnJam: When you have a top ranked quarterback like Patrick Mahomes, sometimes the best point of attack is to keep him off the field. Jalen Hurts still doesn’t look right with deep shots, either. Will Shane Steichen attempt to galaxy-brain this, or sometimes is the best solution the most obvious one?

Kjb304: Does the Eagles’ rushing offense win the Super Bowl?

Even if not intended, these questions address the same issue. If the Eagles are running the ball well, that’s going to help keep the Chiefs offense off the field. Playing an advanced version of keep away seems like a logical approach. Mahomes can not score when the Eagles have the ball, and the Eagles are excellent at long drives through their running game.

However the Chiefs offense is highly efficient at scoring, they have the top scoring offense in points per drive and points per play (the Eagles are 3rd and 2nd). The Eagles defense was 11th in points per drive, and 5th in points per play. Not counting end of half kneel downs, the Eagles opponents have had 9 possessions four times, 10 possessions nine times, 11 possessions five times, and 12 possessions once.

Obviously holding Kansas City to nine possessions would be preferable, but that hasn’t been an issue for them this season. They scored 42 points on the 49ers on nine possessions, 31 and 30 on the Raiders on nine possessions, and 30 on the Chargers on nine possessions.

Another way to look at it: in their five highest scoring games, all over 30 points, KC played between 59 and 80 snaps, an average of 68. They also had six games where they scored 24 or fewer points. In five of those they had between 53 and 69 plays, with the sixth a 100 play OT game (they had 87 in regulation), for an average of 61 snaps.

One possession. Seven snaps. It’s not a lot, but any help is help. It could make a difference, but I would not expect it to.

perisanninja: Do you think we need to assemble a crew that guards the Rocky statue in shifts during the night? Or we should welcome this because both teams that tried defacing the Rocky statues were jinxed and lost?

If Chiefs fans want to put a Chiefs jersey on Rocky before the Super Bowl, let them. All these fans have done it wrong. Put the jersey on the statue after your team wins.

Masked Man: In your opinion, which fans are whinier about losing the NFCCG to the Eagles? The Legendary Vikings fan whiners of 2017, or the Epic 2022 Niners fans? (Or is it like, too close to call?)

Niners. They are complaining about the refs in a game they lost by 24. Pathetic. They’re retconning the game into one where Brock Purdy leads his team to glory because the 49ers were the better team in the game, completely overlooking that the Eagles defense spent the afternoon in the 49ers backfield. Delusional.

phunkenstein7 (continued): What cheese would you pair with this fine California whine?

Taleggio, because like the 49ers it’s pretty stinky.

john jay smith: Which team has a better offensive line: 49ers or Chiefs?

Chiefs. The right side of the 49ers line was a weak spot going into the game and cost them. Orlando Brown, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, and Joe Thuney are solid to good, though they are not a dominant line. The Eagles pass rush might not have a great game, but it should have another good game.

Wooterdelphian: Is Haason Reddick Eagles Defensive MVP this season?

Eagles defensive MVP? He’s got a better case for NFL Defensive Player of the Year than Micah Parsons and Nick Bosa.

tim sweeney: Is Jeff Stoutland retiring anytime soon? Is there anyone waiting in the wings to replace him?

Stoutland is only 60, which is young to retire for a coach. But I would not completely rule it out because this season his players have really stepped up their praise of him with the Stoutland University thing. He’s absolutely deserving of the praise, but the timing is a little curious to me. If Stoutland were to call it a career I would not be surprised to find that he told his players at the beginning of the season that this might be his last ride. I’d put it at like a 1% chance of happening, but 1% is still a chance.

Ziggy2020: If you are Gannon how do you slow down Travis Kelce who seems to be their only elite weapon (other than Mahomes)? Do you consider using Bradberry to help mitigate Kelce’s height and speed attributes?

Novalogic: Is there any chance Gannon deploys CJGJ to stick with Kelce anywhere he goes?

Mahomes to Kelce is as unstoppable a combo as there is. Everyone knows Kelce is getting the ball, without the benefit of a star WR to take some of the pressure off him, and they still can’t stop him. He went 8-108 against the Bills, 9-92-1 against the Bucs, 6-98 against the 49ers… if he goes 6-95-1 in the Super Bowl, that’s a job well done by the Eagles defense.

Kelce has more 100 yard games this season than AJ Brown or Devonta Smith. Smith averaged 12.6 yards per catch this season, Kelce topped that in 10 games. Including the playoffs, he has caught a TD in as many games as Brown. He scored 4 TDs on just 25 yards against the Raiders. He scored 3 TD on just 6 catches against the Chargers. Yes, those teams aren’t good, but they’re division foes, they spend all year worrying about how to stop Kelce. The Eagles only have two weeks.

It’s the Super Bowl, so all the cards can be on the table, and none of them are that good. CJ Gardner-Johnson gives up half a foot on Kelce. You put Bradberry on Kelce and Mahomes is going after Zech McPhearson.

Jonathan Gannon should not over think this, the defense has been pretty good against tight ends. 6th in DVOA, and they’ve kept the good tight ends they have faced to pedestrian games. Zach Ertz went 6-48, TJ Hockenson 4-38, Pat Frieiermuth 4-57, Evan Engram 1-16, and Dalton Schultz 3-43. None of these guys are elite, but keeping solid TEs out of the game like that is encouraging. If they were routinely giving up 80+ yard games to guys like that, I would be extremely worried about what Kelce could do to them. Instead I’m just regular level of worried about what a HOF player having a great season will do.

If anything, the Eagles might be better off with a “don’t let the other guys beat you” approach. Kansas City led the league with 29.2 points per game. JuJu Smith-Schuster has been held to under 50 yards 11 times, the Chiefs average 27.9 points per game in those games. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been held to under 50 yards 12 times, the Chiefs average 27.6 points per game.

Kelce is going to make some plays. As long as the rest of Mahomes’ pass catchers don’t, the Eagles should be in a really good position.

Trbailey23: How many Chiefs players would start for the Eagles?

Not a lot! Assuming full health: Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce would start over Jalen Hurts and Dallas Goedert. Chris Jones would start over Fletcher Cox. And Tommy Townsend — that’s actually his name, he sounds like an NPC — starts over Brett Kern or Arryn Siposs.

And that’s it? It’s not that the Chiefs lack talent. Orlando Brown, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, Joe Thuney, Justin Reid, are good players. Nick Bolton, Willie Gay, L’Jarius Sneed, and Trey Smith are nice young pieces, and rookies George Karlafits, Isiah Pacheco, and Trent McDuffie had good seasons. They’re just not good enough to crack the Eagles starting lineup.

The Eagles roster is not getting the national recognition they deserve. Their offensive line, defensive line, and secondary are Tier 1. They have two #1 WRs and a top five TE. And they have an MVP nominee at QB. They just embarrassed the supposed best defense in the NFL. Their only loss with Jalen Hurts came when Dallas Goedert fumbled after being nearly decapitated and the refs were like “well, too bad about that” and then Quez Watkins decided he didn’t want to hold onto the ball anymore.

In every game, on both sides of the ball, the two or three worst players–at the least–on the field are on the team playing against the Eagles. That’s going to be the case in the Super Bowl.

The Eagles offensive line is superior to the Chiefs defensive line, their pass catchers are superior to KC’s defenders, the Eagles defensive line is superior to the Chiefs offensive line, and their secondary is superior to the Chief’s pass catchers. Take the QBs out of the equation, and the Eagles have a significantly better team. Add the QBs back in and the Eagles still have the superior team.

RBHeadge: Position by position, how does this team compare to the ‘04 and ‘17 teams?

The 2022 Eagles are better than the 2017 team who are better than the 2004 Eagles. If I had to make a “depth chart” of the three teams, the 2022 team would be the starters, the 2017 the backups, and the 2004 the third string, with these exceptions:

QB: Jalen Hurts is still the starter, but Donovan McNabb is the #2 over Nick Foles. Foles had the game of all games in the Super Bowl, but McNabb was having the best season of his career.

RB: This is a toss up for the top spot. The 2017 team was 3rd in rushing without the benefit of a 700 yard rushing QB. On talent alone I would give them the “starting job” but in terms of fit with Jalen Hurts it would be the 2022 unit.

LB: Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks were a really good duo, they get the start. Then it’s Jeremiah Trotter and the rest of the 2004 LBs, followed by the 2022 team.

CB: The 2022 trio of Slay, Bradberry, and Maddox are top notch. It’s a toss up for the 2nd string. Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown were a better CB duo than Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, but Patrick Robinson was great in the slot.

S: Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod were an excellent safety duo and get the start, and then Brian Dawkins alone puts the 2004 team over the 2022 safeties.

Or here’s a different way to look at it. Take the 2022 team and add a player on offense and defense from each of the 2017 and 2004 teams. It’s not so easy.

On offense, from the 2004 team the pick is actually easy: Terrell Owens. A Hall of Famer in the prime of his career along with AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. Good luck stopping that. From the 2017 team is where it gets tricky. Maybe a healthy 2017 Lane Johnson over a playing through an injury 2022 Lane Johnson? But if we’re worried about health, then the pick is Nick Foles as injury insurance in case something happens to Jalen Hurts. But I’m taking someone who will play: Zach Ertz, giving the Eagles another top notch weapon in the red zone.

On defense, improving linebacker and secondary depth would raise the floor, but I want the big guns. Give me Malcolm Jenkins and Brian Dawkins. That’s two more options to defend against Travis Kelce, and it lets the Eagles use CJ Gardner-Johnson at corner if they want or need to, bolstering the CB depth. Actually if you gave me Jenkins and Dawkins on this team, I’d start Dawkins and Gardner-Johnson at safety and Jenkins as a nominal linebacker and put him on Kelce.

CVEagles: 5 years is a long time in the NFL, 10 years even longer (Math). There’s 8 players left on the team from the 2017 SB team: The foundational Core Four of BG, Kelce, Fletch, Lane, plus Elliott, Lovato, Seumalo, and Barnett, technically. Who from the current team will still be around in 5 years?

Using maths, I can confirm that ten years is in fact longer than five. And five years is a long time in the NFL. As the question shows, only 8 players are still on the team from 5 years ago. And two of them are specialists, teams tend to not tinker with specialists, if they’re good enough then they just leave them be. For example the Chiefs long snapper has been there since 2015, their kicker since 2017.

From this season everyone 25 and under, along with Dallas Goedert, Rick Lovato, and Jake Elliott, are candidates to still be on the team in five years: Jalen Hurts, AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Kenneth Gainwell, Josh Sweat, CJ Gardner-Johnson, Milton Williams, Jordan Davis, and Reed Blankenship, along with rookies and second year players Nakobe Dean, Cam Jurgens, Christian Elliss, Quez Watkins, Jack Stoll, and Grant Calcaterra.

That might seem like a lot, but the 2017 team had pretty much that same volume of 25 and under contributors. They had Carson Wentz, Nelson Agholor, Isaac Seumalo, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Corey Clement, Jordan Hicks, Timmy Jernigan, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Derek Barnett, Rasul Douglas, Rick Lovato, and Jake Elliott; along with rookies and second year players Sidney Jones, Nate Gerry, Wendell Smallwood, Mack Hollins, and Kamu Grugier-Hill. Only four of them are still on the team.

Obviously a lot can change between now and 2027, but I would guess that out of the 25 and unders who have played this season, Hurts, Brown, Smith, Mailata, Dickerson, Sweat, and Davis are still around. That’s an excellent core to build around. It would be even better if they were Super Bowl winners.

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