Monday, November 17, 2008

I Guess We Didn't Lose Exactly

Well, I guess the Eagles didn’t lose.

Gosh, that tie with the 1-8 Bengals would be soul-sucking, except that life with Andy has been soul-sucking for four years now. The criticisms are diverse, contradictory: they throw too much, they are too predictable. Lord. How can you be too predictable and refuse to run on third-and-one repeatedly? It is the sort of karma only Andy Reid can generate.

Look, there are two problems.

First, they’re initial six year or so run through the NFC East in the early part of the Reid regime was fueled by three factors. First, they drafted the right quarterback. Two, as the NFL entered an era defined almost solely by how well you passed the football, the Eagles were blessed by a series of borderline Hall of Fame pass defenders: Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, etc. Third, they grasped how to lock guys up on bargain second contracts before a lot of other folks.

Couple that with a weak division, and it was a recipe for years of home play-off games despite the difficulties of multiple year success in a capped environment. But those three advantages are gone. The quarterback is, in the words of Les Bowen, “ineffective and ordinary”. The pass defenders aren’t bad- but rushing the football has made a renaissance in New York, and the Eagles inability to deal with it gives them an 0-2 start on the division title each year. And their cap management expertise has been copied- or at least matched to the extent that their overall roster depth at good contracts isn’t an overwhelming advantage anymore.

Second, a decade of poor drafting position has caught up with them. Right now, today, who are the pro-bowlers on this roster? Sav Rocca (until yesterday anyway)?

I can’t think of another.

Worse, who on the offense is a “better than average” starter? Andrews and Westbrook- and one is out and the other clearly playing hurt. DeSean Jackson is certainly a good-looking prospect… but at 65 or so catches, only one touchdown, he isn’t a plus player outside of special teams yet.

The Eagles don’t stink. They’re average- something one game up or down from .500- depending on how much Westbrook actually plays from here on out. But the coach and administration don’t seem willing to change their perceptions of this collective-particularly the offensive, particularly the offensive linemen who increasingly can’t move people- that they’ve won a lot of games with. Philadelphia survives a potential 6-10 season because the muscle memory is still there, the professionalism. They have a lot of veterans who play the game the right way- or, for better or worse, give Andy requisite effort. There is no great unit, but no bad one either (maybe the wide outs). Consequently, the Eagles are no lock to win any road game, or lose any home game.

There are two roads to 8-8: inconsistency or general okayness. And the Eagles are the latter.