The Eagles dressed 46 professional football players for Thursday’s twilight special in CenturyLink Field in Seattle, and it’s fair to say that the 43 of them who made their way onto the field didn’t have a great game.
The exact failures in the 31-14 loss have been picked over like the parking lot trash consumed by the great flocks of gulls that collected outside the deserted stadium when the night was over. The Eagles didn’t tackle well, they didn’t run the ball effectively, they committed too many turnovers and they were being put through their paces by a collection of coaches often working at cross purposes.
By this point in the season, the players see that the mistakes brought about by faulty or too ambitious schemes are not being addressed. Instead, the coaching staff is sticking to a bad plan the way a faithful diner stays with a favorite restaurant long after the chef is dead and the health department has pasted flyers on the door. The players are being used poorly and they know it.
That much is obvious. What is more difficult to decipher is whether the Eagles would have been good under any circumstance this season, or if the combination of turnovers (an incredibly bad minus-13 on takeaway/turnover), injuries (mostly Michael Vick, but Jeremy Maclin, too; and earlier this season, the mess on the offensive line) and some plain, old bad luck (some of the turnovers were night-of-the-blue-snow weird) sentenced them to a record that looks far worse than the actual merit of the team.
How should the Eagles approach their last four games?
It might be for the 2012 season to decide that one. If the Eagles come back with essentially the same core, and essentially the same staff and philosophy – oh, yes, that certainly is possible – then judging the oddity of 2011 will be easier.
A real concern, however, is that the Eagles, as presently constructed, just aren’t that talented, and that the bulk of the roster is made up of average or below-average players whom the player personnel department has misjudged as something more.
For a handy example, look at the three players who put on a uniform but didn’t play a single snap on Thursday: Brandon Graham, Mike Kafka and Steve Smith. This isn’t meant to pick on them, but there they were, taking up uniform space and contributing nothing.
Graham, a defensive end, was the first-round pick in 2010. He didn’t do much during his rookie season and, before he tore his ACL at the end of the year, he had all but disappeared. They even tried him on the inside, at tackle, to little effect.
This season, he was on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list until Nov. 7, played sparingly against Chicago and Arizona, was inactive the next two weeks, and then dressed but didn’t play against Seattle. Maybe the front office and personnel departments – who recommend the picks to Reid for consideration – get a pass here because of the injury, but if a guy’s dressed, he’s healthy. If he’s healthy and he doesn’t play, and he was a first-round draft pick, you messed up. If there’s another way to look at that, let me know.
Kafka was another 2010 draft pick, in the fourth round. In all probability, he was projected as a backup, not someone who would develop into a starting NFL quarterback. Nevertheless, the coaching staff doesn’t appear to have enough confidence in him – after nearly two years of observation and coaching – to put him in a game when the starter (in this case, Vince Young) is incapable of doing anything but get you beat.
Then there is Steve Smith, who the Eagles signed during their binge of training camp transactions. He’s a former all-Pro, but was coming off an injury and surgery. Still, the organization’s judgment was that they were smarter than all the teams shying away from Smith. And on a night with the season’s survival on the line, on a night in which Jeremy Maclin couldn’t play and Riley Cooper was a starting wideout, on a night like that, Steve Smith couldn’t get on the field for a single snap. Nice signing.
Anyway, the point is that, as bad as Reid and his staff have done this season, he might not have much to work with, depending on how you judge the roster put together by the front office tandem of president Joe Banner and general manager Howie Roseman. The two drafts conducted by Roseman since he took over after Tom Heckert, Reid’s guy, was forced out, have been awful and could get worse, depending on which direction Danny Watkins and Nate Allen go.
I went into greater depth on this subject, and the shameful way the front office has let Reid absorb all the public blame, in this Saturday column in the Inquirer, and link it for you here because many of you don’t flip on the computer to check out Philly.com over the weekend. Too bad for you. There’s good stuff here every day.
Now you’re back at work, however, and the boss is out on a call somewhere and, well, you just can’t read enough about the Eagles at the moment.