Whenever people ask me what concerns me most about the Eagles, I have a quick response. The coaches. Nick Sirianni and Brian Johnson, especially. I keep wondering if they have a real grasp of basic football strategy.
The latest example is the most outrageous. Football 101 — not to mention analytics — says that with a lead at the two-minute warning, facing an opponent with no timeouts and a weak offense, the very last thing you should do it throw a dangerous pass down the field to a receiver (Dallas Goedert) who is double-covered.
With good reason, Jalen Hurts is taking the brunt of the criticism after that horrific 20-14 loss to the Jets. He had one of the worst games of his NFL career even before the fatal interception late in the fourth quarter. And that’s precisely why I blame the coaches first. Because they knew he was not playing well, and still they called a play riddled with risk.
Why not run the ball — or throw a high-percentage screen — and then, if necessary, punt the ball deep into Jets territory with a minute or so left on the clock? Why not rely on the defense, the unit that was performing best that day, by far? Why not apply simple logic to a basic moment of football strategy?
Sirianni has a lot of good qualities, and a great record so far to match them. But he still struggles mightily in key moments.
Two weeks ago, He and Johnson (the offensive coordinator and play-caller) threw a deep ball to A.J. Brown that gave the Commanders a final possession rather than just running the clock and kicking the clinching field goal. Afterwards, Sirianni insisted he would do the same thing if the situation came up again.
In order words, the young coach doubled down on stupid.
Fortunately, the Eagles beat Washington in overtime that day, but it set off an alarm in my head, if not in yours. If the Eagles are committed as much to analytics as it appears — after all, the owner’s son, Julian Lurie, is in charge of the team’s statistical analysis — then they must realize the right thing to do, by all measure, was to bleed the clock against Washington, and then again versus New York. No?
But Sirianni is too busy chirping like a parrot about “dog mentality” and providing verbal cover for an offense that found no rhythm against a team begging to be beaten.
It is hardly a secret that the drop-off from right tackle Lane Johnson to his replacement, Jack Driscoll, is humongous, but that alarming fact against the Jets did nothing to discourage a pass-happy game plan that invited disaster. Stupid. With a capital S.
When I was watching the game — three hours of pure agony — I kept saying, “The Eagles don’t deserve to win this game.” In the end, justice was served. They didn’t win because Hurts had a bad game, because the team committed one moronic penalty after another and — above all — because Sirianni and Johnson showed again that they don’t know how to manage a close game.
This is precisely what I would have said if I still did a show on WIP.
The only difference is, I would have been screaming it at the top of my lungs.