The Nightmare Is Over

eagles loss

The Nightmare Is Over

     When the Eagles slogged off the field in Tampa late Monday night, I felt a genuine sense of relief. The biggest collapse in Philadelphia sports history (at least since since 1964) was complete. The worst coaching job I have ever witnessed finally drew to its inevitable close.

     Reports of the demise of the 2023 Eagles were not premature. They are a corpse. Bravo to that. I can’t remember a team I hated more than this one.

     As for what I would have said today if I were still on WIP, I can sum it up in two words: Fire Sirianni!

     There are going to be lots of different takes on how a 10-1 team could finish in such a humiliating fashion. There will be expressions of shock, despair, confusion, anger – but only if you experienced this doomed season through rose-colored glasses.

     I invite you to go back to my skeptical posts on this website even when the Eagles were recording win after win, often in improbable fashion. The moment Brian Johnson, Sean Desai (and then Matt Patricia) were handed positions of power in the Eagles coaching hierarchy, the team was doomed. I felt it early in the season. I know it now.

     No longer was Shane Steichen there to hide Nick Sirianni’s ineptitude. Somehow, Sirianni found defensive coordinators even more clueless than Jonathan Gannon, who blew the Super Bowl. Sean Desai and Matt Patricia? Who was next, Juan Castillo?

      I remember vividly that initial news conference after Sirianni won the job. First impressions are often right. We called him Harry High School that day. In retrospect, that assessment now seems unfair to all high-school coaches.

      After my opening message on the radio today (hypothetically), I would then have stated the overwhelming case against Sirianni. Here are just a few examples of his stunning ineptitude:

     Exhibit A – Handling the blitz

     With an offensive line ranked first in the NFL this season, Jalen Hurts spent the last half of the season either on his back or running for his life. How could that be? Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson are future Hall of Famers. The other guys are all serviceable NFL offensive linemen.

     It’s simple, really. Sirianni never devised anything even close to a logical plan to counteract the blitz. The Giants demolished the Eagles in the final game of the regular season, and then – with eight days to prepare – Sirianni had no answer to the brazen blitzes dialed up by head coach Todd Bowles against Tampa.

     Is Jalen Hurts a problem, one year after his brilliant 2022 season? We will not know the answer to that question until Hurts is working with a creative, intelligent coach like Steichen again.

     Until then, the blame is all on Sirianni. He’s supposed to be an offensive guru, no? There was no evidence of that in 2023.

      Exhibit B – A muddled, awful defense

     The No. 1 reason the Eagles imploded this season is the defense, which excelled at nothing and often failed spectacularly. At last look, they had the 31st-ranked NFL defense against the pass – only two slots worse than they were when they were 10-1.

     Granted, the linebackers and secondary were lacking in talent and depth, but coaching was a much bigger issue. Just look at all the video over the past few weeks showing how the defenders were constantly pointing at one another, never knowing where to be when the ball was snapped. That’s coaching.

      Again, my finger is pointed first at Sirianni. It’s his job, as the head coach, to fix – or at least address – major crises like this. Did he? If so, his new ideas were no better than his old ones. The defense kept getting worse all season. That’s the coach’s problem.

      Exhibit C – Running the ball (or not)

      Troy Aikman proudly divulged at the start of Monday night’s game his inside information that the Eagles planned to run the ball down Tampa’s throats, using their advantage on the offensive line and grinding out the clock to keep their lousy defense off the field.

      Indeed, the Eagles busted loose for a first down with two runs to start their first drive – and then ran the ball one more time for the rest of the first half. One time in 25 minutes. Incredible.

      Aikman was incredulous as he kept pointing out how the Eagles were submitting Hurts to brutal punishment by not establishing the run. This has been a recurring theme throughout Sirianni’s three seasons.

     Run the ball. Run the ball. Run the ball.

     Hell, at the last home game, the Eagles fans chanted it.

     The coach never got the message.

     Exhibit D – Developing young players

     It’s no secret the Eagles are an old team now. The core of their success, extending all the way back to the championship season, is Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Where is the next generation of stars to take their places?

      After the 32-9 loss in Tampa, it became clear than Kelce is ending his extraordinary career as the best center in Eagles history. It’s hard to imagine Cox or Graham will be back as their talents slowly decline. Johnson will return, but for how long?

     Is there one young player who became a star in Sirianni’s three seasons?

     Yes, one. DeVonta Smith. He proved against Tampa that he is a clutch player, though I doubt Sirianni had much to do with his fearless performance. Smith’s emergence looks more like a happy accident to me.

      The rest? Jalen Carter had a great first few games and then disappeared. Nolan Smith, Tyler Steen, Sidney Brown, Kelee Ringo, Jordan Davis, Cam Jurgens and Nakobe Dean comprise the top three picks in the past two drafts. Brown, Ringo and Jurgens got to play a lot, but did any look like future Pro Bowlers?

     Sirianni blabbers all the time about the impeccable culture of his team, but where is the evidence of it on the field? If those draft picks can’t learn from the core of terrific veterans on both sides of the ball, what’s the problem?

     Are they just not good enough?

     Or is the coach not good enough?

     Basically, that’s what I would have said on the air after that debacle in Tampa. There are lots of problems – starting with the pompous owner Jeff Lurie and his trusty sidekick Howie Roseman – but no evaluation is truly valid until the rest of the team is working with a competent head coach and a talented staff.

     Sirianni and his minions are most definitely not that.

     As I said in my most recent post before this, the Eagles have truly come full circle in the past three years.

     Nick Sirianni is every bit the clueless boob we feared he was at that first news conference.

     He needs to go – immediately.

     Say goodbye, Harry High School.

     I feel nothing but sympathy for the next team that hires you.

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