29 November 2015

Stick a Fork in 'Em

Philadelphia Eagles 14, Detroit Lions 45, Thursday, November 26, 2015

It took a few days, but I'm finally up for writing about the sorry state of the Birds. I am very happy that they played the early game Thursday, since we were somewhat distracted from the mess on the field by Thanksgiving meal preparation.

I'm not going to bother to recap the game, other than to say: BLEH. Also, the Lions are not nearly as bad a team as their reputation this year. They just got off to a slow start on the season. Not that that's any excuse for two weeks in a row of dreadful losses. First time in team history the opponents have scored 45 points two weeks in a row. That is NOT the kind of record you need to be setting, guys.

Stud of the week? No stud this week - no one did anything worth praising. Well, the guy in charge of the Gatorade kept the cups full, but everyone ELSE screwed up royally.

To quote Tommy Lawlor: "The 2015 season has gone from frustrating to full on nightmare."

What is going on here? Let's take it in turns:

The Defense

How has the defense gone from the strength of the team to dumpster fire in 11 quarters of football (the first quarter against the Dolphins being their last solid showing)? Are they just gassed because the offense can't stay on the field? Maybe, but you'll have to excuse me for thinking that guys in their 20s and early 30s (the prime of their health and vitality) who are being paid millions of dollars to PLAY A GAME should make sure they’re in shape to play THE ENTIRE GAME. I personally have run marathons. I have friends who have run ultra marathons. I don't buy that being on the field for 35 or 40 minutes of football (rather than 30) constitutes an excuse for poor play. Nope nope nope.

Tommy points out that they're tackling badly and expending too much energy and attention on trying to strip the ball rather than wrap guys up. And if they're beat and trying to get off the field, I guess I can understand that. But I still say they should be in better shape and able to play the whole damn game. And smart enough to play their assigned positions correctly. Jordan Hicks, who knew that you were the key to the D, rook?

The Offense

There's been a lot of ink (well, electrons anyway) spilled to the effect that Chip and Pat Shurmur have simplified the offense to make things easier on Sam Bradford coming back after basically two years lost to injury, and several opposing defensive players have gone on the record that the Eagles are easy to defend because the offense is predictable.

Maybe, maybe not. But it *is* the case that the three-headed running back monster is NOT working for the Birds. No one is getting enough touches to get any momentum, and the weaknesses of the patchwork o-line have become glaringly evident since Ryan Mathews went down with a concussion against the Dolphins.

Meanwhile, the wideouts still can't catch the ball reliably. No one expects them all to be Odell Beckham Jr. but we're all shocked when one of them does manage to complete a catch, and that's not good.

Also, way too many 45-second three-and-out drives. WAY too many.

Special Teams

Special teams hasn't been terrible. But last year, we enjoyed a heaping helping of special teams fireworks that may have hidden some of the other flaws in the team. The Birds still have a great punter in Donnie Jones, but Caleb Sturgis has been far less reliable than a HEALTHY Cody Parkey, and the Birds have not been enjoying much in the way of outstanding (or even adequate) kick off or punt returns to help the offense start with a short field.

Coaching

Has Chip lost the locker room? I don’t know, you don’t know, and neither does anyone who’s not in the locker room with the team.

Of course, that’s certainly been the media narrative since Chip got rid of DeSean Jackson, and out of the literally hundreds of guys he’s coached over the years, the sports media has managed to find a few people who are willing to anonymously call him an asshole.

Here's the thing: if you polled everyone who’s ever worked with me over the course of my career, and asked, "Several people have said that The Snark is a jerk. We'll keep your name out of it, but what do you think? Is she a jerk?" I know you’d find at least a few people who’d agree. That's true for you, too, by the way.

I have a theory about the whole "why did Chip let XX guy go?" Despite what a few players have claimed, it seems highly unlikely to me that it's a racial thing. He's brought in as many African-American (and Latino and Native American) guys as he's let go.

I think it’s much more likely that he was looking to get rid of all of Andy Reid’s guys.

Hear me out:

In the disaster 2012 season, when Andy Reid was having probably the worst year of his life, the team stunk, but at least to an outsider, there was a palpable sense that they were a family standing by Big Red in his worst hours.

Chip is not a kumbaya guy - he doesn’t want to hug and kiss and cry, he wants to monitor your sleep patterns and resting heart rate and whatnot and plug it into a spreadsheet and use that to figure out the optimal ingredients for today’s smoothie.

Do you have to have that family feeling to be successful? No - I don’t get any sense that the Pats are anything more than a bunch of guys showing up to win games and GIT PAID, and Bill Belichick is certainly not a warm and fuzzy father-figure type coach - and I think the holdovers with that attitude didn’t fit what Chip is trying to do.

The question becomes: can he find the right players to fit what he's trying to do AND meld them into a well-functioning unit? The early returns are not good.

Will he still be the head coach on Black Monday? The next five weeks will likely determine that. Jeff Lurie is a patient owner, but five more games like the last two likely get Chip fired. I don't see how it could go any other way.

Meanwhile, next up is a road game against the Patriots, which...I don't even know if I want to watch it. I don't see how it will be anything other than horrible. Chef Spouse and I are planning to put the tree up next Sunday afternoon, so at least I'll have that to distract me ("now why the hell are they BLINKING?!?!?!?").  Plus egg nog. LOTS of egg nog.

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