Cullen Jenkins has won a championship – the kind you capture in February, not in July – so when he talks about the state of the Eagles, it’s worth listening. What he had to say after Sunday’s loss was quite damning – and it brought me immediately back to something very smart that Jenkins said in training camp. That’s below, but here was his analysis Sunday:
“The biggest thing that we’re missing here is attitude. You look around, you look how people are when things are going bad, you’re seeing there’s not that fire, that attitude, that mental toughness that you’re going to make it happen and we’ve got to get that, somehow some way,” Jenkins said, calmly, analytically, but clearly hurting by a third consecutive defensive collapse. “Maybe it’s because everybody’s spending so much time, adapting, trying to get to used to each other, but at some point the man in you has to come out.”
Let that roll around for a minute: the man in you has to come out. Some of Jenkins’ quotes are in my game story today, but I thought it would be worth posting more of his interview, because it was so honest and insightful.
“Every game we’ve played, we’ve had an opportunity to win it … we’re not coming up with the plays at the important times, we’re not doing things consistent enough and that’s what we have to get over. It was the same thing in Green Bay (last season). During the season we were never out of any game, even the ones we lost. The only thing that got us to turn it around was having that killer mentality that we’re not going to let it happen and we’ve got to develop it here,” he said.
In Jenkins’ eyes, the 49ers’ came out in the second half determined to win while the Eagles were all waiting for someone else to make a play.
“They just came out and they wanted it more than we did; they went out there I guess with the mindset in the second half that they’re going to win it. I think we went out there with mindset that we’re winning by 17 and we’ve pretty much got this in the bag,” he said. “I know they came out with the mindset to win and that’s what they did.”
He downplayed talk about chemistry or the defensive scheme causing problems, putting the burden instead on the players.
“I don’t think there necessarily needs to be any changes except how we approach the games and how we approach the end of the games,” Jenkins said. “You can’t go out there and play that hard just to give it up at the end, give it up on mistakes. That’s unacceptable.”
Lastly, Jenkins was asked about the burden on the “Dream Team” label which has largely been perpetuated by national media, but which was started by one Eagle – Vince Young --- and furthered by Jason Babin, who compared the Eagles to the Miami Heat.
“That whole Dream Team label, all the attention we got early, I didn’t like it because of this whole thing right here. We’re setting ourselves up to have shots taken at us,” he said. “Maybe since we had all the acquisitions and all the people out there maybe people are expecting someone else to do good out there, especially once we get the lead and once we fight and get up it’s kind of like everybody doesn’t have a sense of urgency. Like, oh yeah, we’re going to win this and nobody’s going out there and making it happen.”
Those are some harsh words, and they are hard to argue with. A couple final points: while Young was touting the “Dream Team” and the Eagles front office was taking a victory lap and many in the media (including myself) were happy to give it to them, Jenkins had some of the most sobering comments of training camp – ones that seem especially important today. This was Jenkins in his introductory press conference:
“You just don’t put talent on the field and win because of it. You have to have camaraderie, trust, work ethic. Everything has to come together. That’s something we’ve got to develop in training camp since we didn’t have an offseason to go through and build that. We really have to use this training camp to build that up, because there will be times in the season when things will not go the way you want them to go. Those will be the times that will test the team the most. Will the team be able to come together? Especially with so many additions and new personalities. Will everybody be able to trust each other? Will everybody be able to hang in there and pull things together?”
I don’t think anyone envisioned that test coming so early.
One final point: the primary defensive guys standing up and answering questions Sunday were Jenkins, Babin, Jarrad Page and Nnamdi Asomugha. All new faces to this team. The Eagles entered the season without an established leader on defense (as we wrote about a few weeks back), and it seems they are relying on new faces instead of someone well established here in Philadelphia. When I wrote that story some people I spoke with downplayed the importance of leadership, and to a degree, I agree: it can often be overstated by the media. But when you have blown two leads and the other team is driving for the score that could cause your third straight collapse, that is when you need someone with credibility to step up and rally the team and make a play. It’s still not clear who that person is on this defense.