I’ve seen the Eagles play worse games. Rich Kotite’s Eagles were a joke in the second half of his final year as coach, utter chaos reigned at the end of the Ray Rhodes tenure and even the Marion Campbell era (yes, there was a Marion Campbell era) had some games that were worse than this.
But those bad teams had something in common – they were supposed to be bad. And that’s why this was the worst game I’ve ever seen from an Eagles team, because these guys were supposed to be good. Even coach Chip Kelly, the man who put the team together and designed their offense and calls the plays, said he was embarrassed by the Eagles’ pathetic play in Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys (of course, it just had to be the Cowboys…).
It’s hard to believe now, after watching the first two games of the NFL season, that the Eagles were a popular pick to win NFC East and several “experts” even had them winning the Super Bowl, including former team president Joe Banner, now an analyst for ESPN. And we guess it’s even possible that those predictions can still come true and Captain Kelly can right his listing ship and change his course and sail on to the Super Bowl (sorry — we promise no more weak nautical metaphors).
Other teams have played poorly early in the season and gone on long winning streaks to get back into the playoff race. And some other teams that are supposed to be contenders this season have started off 0-2, including Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, Eli Manning and the New York Giants and Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, who played in the last two Super Bowls.
However, not all oh-and-twos are the same. The Seahawks lost two close games to good teams, whereas the Eagles were awful in all phases of both of their losses, except for a brief offensive flurry in the second half of the Atlanta game. Those were two games they were favored to win and they didn’t even come close.
There’s still hope, mostly because the Eagles play in a weak division and the one good team, Dallas, has already lost its starting quarterback and star receiver. Anything is still possible. But we can’t foresee the future, so all we can do is deal with the past and the present — and neither is much fun if you’re an Eagles fan. Again, it’s not the fact that the Eagles are 0-2 as much as how they got there. And the ironic thing is that their biggest problem is a hapless offense, which is owned and operated by a supposed offensive Zen master, one Charles “Chip’’ Kelly.
So, how did this happen? This week, Kelly was, of course, asked about his team’s struggles and his answer was revealing – not because it answered the question as much as what it revealed about the state of the team.
“A lot of it comes down to fundamentals,’’ Kelly said.
Fundamentals? Didn’t the Eagles just finish up three months of offseason workouts that included OTAs, minicamps, training camp and the preseason? That’s when a team should have the fundamentals thing down pat – not three weeks into the season. If that’s true and fundamentals are bringing this team down, then Kelly and his coaches aren’t very good at their jobs.
What Kelly won’t acknowledge is the biggest reason the Eagles have struggled so much so early in the season might be all the changes he made in the offseason. The Eagles have five new starters on offense, including most of the skill players – quarterback Sam Bradford, running back DeMarco Murray and rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor, as well as another receiver, Jordan Matthews, who’s just in his second year and, of course, never played with Bradford before this year.
The Eagles also have two new starters at guard and Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner are journeymen who are more suited to backup roles, not starring ones. Those are a lot of new pieces that have to fit together and so far they haven’t.
So, it comes down to general manager Chip Kelly as much as it does coach Chip Kelly. Maybe more. The NFL, despite all the Xs and Os and technical mumbo-jumbo coaches love, is all about talent. More to the point, it’s about having the right talent in the right place at the right time. And that responsibility now falls completely in the lap of Kelly, for better or worse.