WILL Sam Bradford's encouraging play down the stretch buy Chip Kelly another year to fix this mess?
The quarterback is a significant building block, but I don't see a bunch of other reasons for Jeffrey Lurie not to pull the plug. You've read here before that the Eagles' chairman is in so deep with Kelly, has allowed him to alter so much of the organization's DNA, from the scouting staff to the cafeteria, that starting over a year after giving Kelly full control of personnel would be painful.
You've also read here before that Lurie is a man who likes to make a plan and stick to it - Kelly was hired as the result of a painstaking process that began long before Lurie officially deep-sixed Andy Reid. Unless it has been the NFL's best-kept secret, no such process has unfolded down the stretch this season.
Watching the Eagles get waxed Saturday night by a mediocre Washington team in a must-win game, it was SO obvious that SO much is wrong, and most of it traces back to decisions Kelly has made over the past three years. Can Lurie convince himself that NOW Chip gets it, that this is the guy to rebuild the disaster-area offensive line, retool the wideout corps he already devoted first-, second- and third-round draft picks to over his first three seasons, and do God-knows-what to a defense that adds talent every year and every year gets worse? Is it not time to wonder if a defense can play far more snaps than any other unit in the league and still be any good at the end of the year, regardless of personnel?
This is not the kind of thing you can wave your hand at and say, "Well, so-and-so got hurt, and then we got some bad bounces, but building a team takes time . . . "
The team that has lost four of its last six games - pretty much making that special-teams-fueled New England win meaningless, not to mention the victory over mistake-prone Buffalo - has been outscored 168-72 in those losses. That's an average margin of 24 points.
Twenty-four points, Jeff.
Do the players believe in what they are being asked to do? This was the season when the recurring topic of offensive predictability reached critical mass; running the NFL's fastest pace means simplicity and repetition, inevitably, but if you do it right you're supposed to build momentum, catch the opposition in disarray, with the wrong personnel on the field, and wear down the opponent physically. That doesn't happen so often anymore. What happens more often is what happened twice Saturday night, the first time on the initial play of the second quarter. Kelly split tight end Brent Celek out wide to the left, then sent him in motion toward the line. In the press box, former Eagles linebacker Ike Reese predicted a pitch. Bradford pitched to Darren Sproles, who was swarmed by Mason Foster for a loss of 6 yards.
In the third quarter, third-and-2 from their 29, the Eagles having closed within 23-17, Celek split wide again. Motioned toward the formation again. Surprise, the pitch again, this time off the hands of DeMarco Murray, the ball then booted by pulling center Jason Kelce, and picked up for an easy touchdown trot by Washington's DeAngelo Hall.
Had Murray caught the pitch, he almost certainly wasn't getting 2 yards. The defense was all over it, again. You have to be amazingly talented to succeed when the defense knows exactly where to go to find the ball. The Eagles are not amazingly talented.
Tempo is a weapon, to be used here and there, not a guiding philosophy. If Kelly is going to stay, he's going to need to vary his offense, pay more attention to keeping his defense off the field, and do a much better job in talent evaluation and retention.
It's up to Lurie to figure out how likely all that is. Or what comes next.
On Twitter: @LesBowen