Happy New Year, folks! We made it through one of the most catastrophic Eagles seasons in recent memory in one of the most catastrophic years in recent memory. The season concluded with as much tumult as one could imagine, so there’s a lot to discuss. Let’s dive right in and get started!
In this article:
- Tank? Or no tank? Or maybe a better question… who cares?
- Stumbling through the fog of Quarterback Limbo
- Where do we go from here?
The Great Tanking Scandal of 2020
I have a confession to make – after watching Chase Young strip-sack Sudfeld, I went to bed (*gasps*). Yes, I did not watch the whole game. And I found myself totally indifferent to whether or not Pederson was throwing in the towel and giving the Washington Football Team a free ride into the playoffs at 7-9. If they had won the game, great! “You play to win the game,” after all. If they lost – in any fashion whatsoever – well, that just gives them a better chance to draft Ja’Marr Chase, or some other highly ranked prospect that can help turn this team around (dare I say… a quarterback?).
It turns out NFL Twitter did not share my apathy. I woke up to a bloodbath the next morning as everyone and their mother was arguing over whether or not Pederson tanked, and whether or not that was an acceptable move by a head coach in the National Football League. It was a rather fascinating sight to behold, and I found that the discussion broke along three lines, ranked here in order of how popular each opinion was:
- Pederson intentionally lost the game, and made a mockery of the sport in doing so.
- Pederson intentionally lost the game, but it was the right move since they had nothing to play for other than draft positioning.
- Hurts was justifiably benched, and therefore it’s hard to tell whether putting in Sudfeld constituted tanking.
I think two and three are pretty self-explanatory: by losing what was essentially a preseason game, the Eagles improved their chances at grabbing a Howie-proof (knock on wood) difference-maker in the draft. Statistically, Hurts was having a worse outing than any Carson Wentz start ever and his scrambling, while effective in spurts, was not sustainable and would probably get him murdered eventually.
So let’s talk about making a mockery of the game.
To me, this one is the silliest. I’m typically a “you play to win the game” person, and if the Eagles gave it their all and won their last game out of pride, I would have generally been pleased - even if it did hurt their draft position.
But just because the Eagles didn’t give it their all doesn’t mean they’ve committed some injustice against the sport’s integrity. You know what’s MORE of a mockery than tanking for a draft pick? Sending a 7-9 team to the playoffs while an 8-8 team has to go home. That mockery only gets worse if you send the 6-10 Giants instead.
Others will point out that intentionally losing is an insult to the players that have to go out and play. And there were certainly younger players on the Eagles that seemed visibly upset about pulling Hurts for Sudfeld. But the Eagles were also fielding a bunch of practice squad players for that game. Will they even be on the team next year? Most of the starting players on the Eagles were either injured or rested - how much did they care if they won or lost?
Speaking of injuries, Hurts was sacked five times before he was pulled. What if he tore his ACL on the sixth sack? In a meaningless game? When you have a thousand questions at quarterback that you need a full offseason to answer? Pulling your potential starting QB for 2021 to protect him does not sound like “mockery” to me.
Finally, there is the human element to the game that we’re all forgetting. The Eagles were going to spoil a rival’s night no matter the outcome. If they won, they ruined the hopes and dreams of the Washington Football Team. If they lost (or tied), they ruined the hopes and dreams of the New York Giants. Maybe the team - from the top on down - had a preference over whose night they wanted to ruin? I mean, think of the context with these two teams (Dan Snyder notwithstanding). Is the choice really that hard? Do you think players don’t appreciate what Ron Rivera and Alex Smith went through just because they wear a different team’s colors?
If you are an NFL employee (player, coach, assistant, etc), who would you rather see in the playoffs?
This poll is closed
The cancer-surviving coach and his near-amputee quarterback
A coach who orders sprints in practice and, uh, Daniel Jones
Lost and Alone in Quarterback Limbo
If you’re a fan of old movies, a good one to see is Hitchcock’s classic adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel, “Strangers on a Train” (which itself has spawned more than one adaptation). The film’s tense climax (spoiler!) features a runaway carousel that eventually rolls off its axis.
If the Eagles truly are facing a “quarterback carousel” in the near future, there is none other more fitting than that one.
Not only have there been several muddied and confusing reports concerning how Wentz feels about this situation, but his backup Jalen Hurts has probably created as many questions about himself as he’s answered. On top of that, the Eagles now hold the sixth pick in the draft - prime positioning to grab one of this year’s top college passers, if they want one.
What the Eagles will do is anyone’s guess at this point. What they should do... is also not very clear, and that makes this whole mess even worse. Can you really try to tweak Carson’s albatross contract to get him off the roster? Does Jalen Hurts to have the potential to develop into anything more than a poor man’s Kyler Murray? Do you try to trade Hurts? If you are stuck with both quarterbacks, is taking another in the first round really off the table? Do you really pass on someone you think could be ‘the guy’ just because of the guys you already have?
All of these questions represent possible paths the Eagles can take with their quarterback situation, and each one seems to be more ludicrous than the last. In a perfect world, I think they should trade Carson and grab a non-quarterback in the first. (I could write a whole post on Carson - and maybe I will! Stay tuned.) The conventional wisdom is that if you are in position to draft a quarterback, you take one, because you don’t expect to be there again anytime soon. Considering how shell-shocked this Eagles’ organization is right now, I’d hedge my bets on being back in the top ten in 2022. At least at that point you could reset the roster and cap space to go along with your new quarterback.
Of course, trading Carson is probably one of the least likely outcomes here, or at least not in a way that anyone would really feel happy about it (read: the Eagles are gonna have to eat a lot of dead cap). Which means that until the Eagles do something about their Frankenstein’s monster of a quarterback room, we’re going to be stumbling through the fog waiting for answers, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
Where Do We Go From Here?
In the coming days, weeks, and months many changes will be made. We’re seeing some already - Scangarello and Mornhinweg won’t be returning to the offensive coaching staff, and Jim Schwartz has resigned. I’m sure we will see more changes to the coaching staff moving forward, and perhaps Doug will actually be able to select the external candidates that he interviews. If the Eagles are going to run it back with him, they might as well push their chips to the center of the table and give him control in that regard.
As for Schwartz, amidst near constant calls to fire him, his defenses were often no worse than mediocre regardless of how injured or bereft of talent the roster was. He will be missed - but I personally prefer the Eagles look outside the organization for his replacement. As we’ve seen in the past, Schwartz is really the only coach who can find consistent success with the Wide 9, and internal hires would probably follow in his footsteps. Plus, teams like the Colts, Bills, and Steelers have created monster defenses - it would be worth looking into their coaching staffs for some diamonds in the rough.
What about, well, everything else? Unfortunately, the Eagles appear to be entering a period of their franchise that is largely foreign to us as fans: they are directionless, with no real clear path forward. This is perhaps even more terrifying than trending downward - at least then there can be talks of retooling and rebuilding, of allocating draft assets to forge a young and talented roster. But when you are directionless, what can you do? The Eagles have an old, degrading, overpaid roster littered with contracts full of dead money. They have little leverage for acquiring draft capital - who wants to acquire anyone on the Eagles? - and have a front office that reeks of incompetence but is immune to getting fired.
In all likelihood the Eagles have not hit rock bottom yet. We will know when that happens because the team will be so broken that Howie actually gets the boot. Until then, as fans we can’t do much more than accept the team for what it is and convince ourselves in the offseason hype that things will be different this year.
(And in the meantime, Go Flyers.)
When is the earliest you think the Eagles will have a reasonable chance at competing?
This poll is closed
2024 or later