Friday, September 20, 2013

Well, No One Said This Eagle Season Was Going To Be Easy

Won't Be The Last One
As I look out on the Eagle feeds in my Twitter account, and think about the second straight home loss against a thoroughly beatable AFC West team...

And think about how, with just some cleaner ball, they could be 3-0 with a nice long period of time to spring something epic on Denver...

Well, I suppose I'm supposed to be more annoyed by the fact that they really are 1-2. After all, Andy Reid was supposed to go down, and go down hard, for the last two years of football atrocities, and the earlier 12 years of Not Quite Satisfaction...

But, well, most people in town don't really have that much ill will for Reid. We just didn't want to see him coach our team any more, because while he's the best coach in the history of the franchise, he's not actually good enough to win a Super Bowl, and at the very least, really was not getting any better. While the media geisha work on Andy's Wunnerfulness is just all kinds of grating in the way that being told a falsehood over and over again is maddening... that's not on Reid. The applause for him tonight was genuine. We feel bad that he wasn't better. Moving on.

As for the actual team, the flaws are starting to show, but that's actually all OK. Michael Vick is not, it turns out, going to have a late-career renaissance and be better and healthier than he's ever been. Having a team with only one credible WR, and a bunch of other guys who can just block and be tall, isn't going to get you past a team with a CB who can work on DeSean Jackson. (By the way, it's not fatal that DJ isn't the best WR in the NFL. You can win without that.) Also, the offensive line is a lot better at run than pass blocking, and the special teams are not suddenly and irrevocably better.

Here's what I was kind of actually worried about: this team playing clean enough, and benefiting from a weak end of year schedule, to win a poor division with 9 or 10 wins, then get curbed stomped in a home playoff game against the Niner-Seahawk-Bears-Packers grouping. Then their draft picks would be middling, they'd extend older guys that helped them win those games, and the rebuilding would be half-assed.

But, well, the last two games showed that's not going to happen. It just turns out that Washington is terrible, and Vick and the OL isn't good enough, and Riley Cooper is really bad (seriously, play another guy already), and turnover-prone players don't stop being turnover-prone just because the tempo is better. Also, that their conditioning is where it should be yet. If the current OL starters can't take advantage of defensive players that have given up 200 yards on the ground to provide a cleaner pocket for the QB, they need to either become more fit or become ex-Eagles.

That doesn't mean that Kelly can't win in the NFL, or that his innovations aren't valid. They are going to be in a lot of games (note: not Denver in 10 days), they are going to find out about a large number of guys (one of the benefits of that tempo game; more snaps is more snaps), and they are going to burn off a huge number of guys from the Reid Era that just aren't good enough to compete with good teams. They are infinitely more watchable, even when they are dropping the ball all over the yard like tonight, then the last two years of Veteran Tire Fire and This Time It'll Work.

The trick will be patience and faith. If we're not going to the playoffs, everyone and their brother will be howling for Nick Foles or Matt Barkley, but it doesn't send the right message to just play the young guy to the rest of the roster. Kelly made Vinny Curry inactive in the first two games despite a strong preseason; tonight, he gave him snaps and the man produced. When you make personnel decisions on money or age, rather than performance, you lose the locker room, and when that kind of thing happens, you also lose in free agency. (And yes, the Eagles need to win in free agency. When you have a multi-year whiff draft to recover from, and things like Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett releases where other teams have first and second round draft picks, you aren't going to get back to a top tier on just the draft.)

So, stiff upper lip, Eagles fans. That rebuild that we thought we might be able to skip in Game One is here, and it's going to take a while. Your team isn't always going to look like this, and whether or not they win 1 to 8 games this year doesn't really amount to much in the long run.

And remember, it's still better than last year. So much better.

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