Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly has emphasized culture over talent and scheme over skill, but with back-to-back 45-point losses, his team appears not to have bought in.
By Mike Diviney
Just as Eagles fans thought their team had hit rock-bottom,on Thanksgiving, it managed to dig itself a little deeper into the subterranean depths.
For the first time in its 83-year history, the franchise surrendered 45 or more points in consecutive games. The 45-14 loss against the Detroit Lions was a very public humiliation, coming on the biggest NFL day of the regular season and before a huge national TV audience.
Since taking a 16-3 first quarter lead against the Miami Dolphins at the Linc, the Eagles have been outscored 107-34. As disturbing as that total is, even more alarming is that it was happened versus three sub-.500 teams. Although the offense has been poor, the defense, which had been the strength of the team, has been historically so, failing to compete against average-to-below-average teams in three straight weeks.
The offensive unit of the first eight games is largely intact, as is the scheme. Its utter collapse coincided with Mark Sanchez taking over at quarterback for injured starter Sam Bradford. Sanchez is a petulant turnover machine who is lucky to still have job in the NFL. Re-signing him—with a hefty raise to boot—was one of Chip Kelly’s many foolish decisions.
Could the presence of Sanchez be so deflating it has caused the other side of the ball to collapse? A stretch, but even if that is the case: shame on the defense. The Eagles led the league in takeaways after eight games—perhaps masking some of their defensive deficiencies—and the unit is now suddenly incapable of forcing a turnover. Worst, its players seem to have stopped caring.
A lack of effort is the most egregious sin in pro sports. Typically a coach is fired, a player cut, or other message-sending measures undertaken to enforce accountability. Prior to the Eagles playing turkey to the Lions’ carving knife, there were widespread reports of infighting amongst Chip Kelly’s team on both sides of the ball. Such behavior is typically the death knell of a pro sports team, and often for the regime presiding over it (or being undermined by it) as well.
Kelly has defended the personnel moves he made in building this team as necessary to create a strong culture of high-character, system-first players. A strong culture is supposed to reinforce the character of a team such that it can withstand the pressure and adversity every team faces throughout the long annual war of attrition that is the NFL season. The demonstrable lack of effort on the field is the final spoke of this farcical wheel on the Kelly bandwagon coming loose.
That the rest of the NFC East is so bad could be a blessing or a curse. If the Eagles keep going as they have been, they won’t be put out of their misery until well after the inevitable is obvious. If they were to right the ship, they might be able to play meaningful games down the stretch.
There is no indication this team will do anything but continue to sink in the standings of an embarrassingly bad division. They have been blown out by teams that are average at best, and the most difficult part of their schedule starts Sunday with a trip to Foxboro to take on the 10-1 New England Patriots, a week removed from their first loss. Winning that game would take a miracle, as would salvaging this season—and possibly Chip Kelly’s career in Philadelphia.
Photo credit: Keith Allison. https://goo.gl/PEk6lx.