I saw that team fall apart under Vermeil's failure to adjust, then become utterly terrible under Marion "Swamp Fox" Campbell, because any fox that's smart enough to be in the genus is smart enough to not live in a swamp. I saw Buddy Ryan come to town, build the most fun defense ever, then ruin a generational talent at QB in Randall Cunningham through some of the least imaginative play-calling ever. Ryan never won a playoff game, since that required some form of scheme, then passed things over to Rich Kotite, who got a win (over the Jim Mora Saints, no less) before his incompetence and ownership's inability to keep talent blew that team up. Ray Rhodes came in with smoke and mirrors for a little while, then fell apart, and the franchise was back to its lowest point.
I still watched. I cared less, but I still watched every game.
Then the team hired Andy Reid, drafted Donovan McNabb, and went on a rapid rise to being an every year pretender for the Super Bowl. The fact that they only got there once, and didn't get it done against the corrupt Patriots, remains one of the more profound sports disappointments in my life. The signature player of the age, Terrell Owens, couldn't control his mouth or mind long enough to be the local messiah he could have easily been, and eventually, Reid would walk away from most of what we had known and enjoyed, but only after it had become hideous.
Enter Chip Kelly. His first year, while incredibly lucky in some respects, was fun, since the team did some very innovative things and won the division. Last year, the team was less healthy, but some guys developed and the club failed to win down the stretch with a QB2 that Kelly picked, despite being a turnover machine; the team lost because he was, well, a turnover machine. Not fatal to my fandom, but not wildly encouraging, especially since the difference might have been as little as the failure to get any return from the self-destructed asset that was WR DeSean Jackson...
And now we've had the off-season from Tabloid Hell, in which the entire roster has been turned inside-out for a GM direction that seems more driven by the day of the week, or a Jets-esque need to win the media air cover war, than any kind of sane long-term plan.
This has been the worst time of my life to be an Eagles Fan.
Worse than Bobby Hoying turtling up against pressure that didn't get there. Worse than run defense that couldn't stop fullback dives from going for big yardage. Worse than the Last Days of Reid, where the club seemed to be trying to figure out the most exasperating ways to turn the ball over. Worse than Campbell, worse than Kotite, worse than, well, anything.
And the fact that there hasn't even been games to watch has made it all, well, somehow worse.
The offensive line is not better. The team's best healthy young LB, Mychal Kendricks, seems on the way out, for no good reason. The team's best interior OL, Evan Mathis, same story. The corners, so bad in this scheme last year, were replaced for guys that might be better, but were also scooped up by the defending conference champions... which says that teams that know talent think they are fixable, and that the coaching (especially DC Billy Davis, whose refusal to adjust for single coverage against WR1s for CB Bradley Fletcher, repeatedly torched at the end of the year, might have been the most exasperating coaching decision in years) was to blame.
So we have these following points to take on faith, and faith alone.
1) Paying for top dollar RBs (DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews), a philosophy that *no* other winning NFL teams followed in 2014-15, or indeed in this century, is going to work.
2) Paying for a top dollar RB with injury and fumble issues (Murray), who is coming off the most carry-heavy season in years, is going to work.
3) Paying for a relatively top dollar RB2 with ridiculous injury issues (Mathews) will be a great insurance policy if RB1 (Murray) gets hurt, rather than just a stopgap that won't hold.
4) Diminishing the prospects of retaining your best young and healthy LB (Kendricks), while insisting on retaining the services of your oldest and least-versatile LB (DeMeco Ryans), is going to work.
5) Bringing in a divisive media sideshow (Tebow) who has washed out in his last two NFL stops (NY Jets and New England, who didn't retain him afer pre-season), and has been out of the league while every other NFL team passed repeatedly on his services, is going to work. (Oh, and he's going to work despite failing the Eye Test or Math Test of anyone who has ever watched NFL QB play without wearing Go Jebus Go Team Glasses.)
6) Trading for an injury-prone QB (Sam Bradford) who is going to make 6X more than your own significantly less injury-prone QB (Nick Foles) is going to work, because the scouting reports from three years ago on both guys when they were coming out of college says the 6X guy is the shiznit.
7) Letting a Pro Bowl speed WR walk (Jackson) for no return is fine, because that guy was small and wasn't part of Your Culture.
8) Retaining a divisive media sideshow at WR (Riley Cooper) is fine, even though that guy hasn't put up numbers outside of a single hot month of lucky deep ball catches, because he is Big, and presumably, part of Your Culture, which is such a win for the black guys in the locker room.
9) Past FA whiffs like James Casey, past draft whiffs like Marcus Smith and Jaylen Watkins (not even good enough to get on the field when Fletcher was hopeless), and a fixation on filling the end of the roster with Oregon Guys who contribute nothing that shows up in actual games, is fine because it is and shut up.
10) Retaining a turnover machine at QB2 (Mark Sanchez) for more money than anyone else seemed interested in paying him is better then developing younger and cheaper talent, because working with guys who have shown over a very long sample size that they can't get the job done... just haven't gotten enough exposure to your coaching.
11 Through I've Lost Count... trying to go all-in on the last gasps of Frank Gore, not getting a safety of any kind in FA when you desperately needed one, treating Chris Polk like hot garbage when he's young, good and cheap, starting Mike Vick over Foles in 2013 (defensible at the time, but plainly the wrong decision on the merits later), not giving TE Zach Ertz a full complement of snaps last year when he was clearly a vastly superior option to Cooper, because Ertz is a TE and Brent Celek blocks great and I don't know what else...
And the reason why all of the above is OK and we're going to be swimming in ice cream, playoffs wins and parades is Kelly, who has never been an NFL GM before, is Just That Much Smarter Than Every Other GM In The League.
Ignore the fact that he's not been all that much smarter than Every Other NFL Coach, by the way.
Oh, and the fact that Coach/GM is almost always a disaster is OK, because Kelly.
* * * * *
I've tried to be patient with this.
I've tried to not be the guy who just flies off the handle.
I've tried to say that you have to wait out the entire process before judging the off-season, and that the past regime of No Playoff Wins During The Obama Administration isn't exactly repainting the roof of the Sistine Chapel.
But there's patient, and there's being quiet in the back of the bus when it's going off a cliff.
When, well, you can just get off the bus.
The 2015-16 Eagles are not going to be better than the 2014-15 team. The draft is not going to save the secondary from being a below-average unit. The FAs are not going to ensure better health or production from an offensive line that is on the wrong side of history. The HC is not going to get better at in-game decisions, and the league is not going to get worse at adjusting to the HC's pet plays and strategies that, well, started to lose effectiveness in Year Two. The turnover and injury vagaries are not going to just swing their way, and they are not going to be better than draft-grown and more cohesive teams in Arizona and Dallas, let alone truly elite teams in Green Bay and Seattle.
And in some small but potent way, I'm OK with all of that.
It's mid-April. There hasn't been football on the air for 10 weeks, and won' t be for another 20.
I don't miss it all.
I don't really care who the Eagles draft now.
That's because I don't think the Eagles' GM is smart enough to make good decisions, and that the Eagles coaches are good enough to put them in a position to succeed.
I'm not planning on going to a road game in 2015-16. That's been an annual ritual for me and my mom for years now, but money's really bad right now, and the travel possibilities for this year (AFC East, yuck) do not entice.
There's a real possibility, for the first time in forever, that I might not play fantasy football, or pick games against the spread. And if I'm not doing that, I get back hundreds of hours of my life, all of which might be needed to try to alleviate the money situation.
And even if the Eagles were making sane moves, and caring about the team is the equivalent of saying wow, what a view we're getting as we're going off the bridge...
It's still football.
Which is to say, a deal bathed in blood, death and head trauma, where I put money into the hands of some of the worst people in America. (The owners, much more than the players.)
And spend all of that time away from my family, who do not, thank God, like football.
So... thanks, Chip Kelly, for wrecking my team, and giving me the air cover I needed to step away from an abusive relationship.
But I need you to do more, just because I'm weak, and might backslide into this relationship again
Put Jebus crosses on every player. Big ones. Have them talk about it in every interview.
Whiten up the team further by running off any remaining Reid Era stars. (Just imagine what you could get for Fletcher Cox. I bet Miami would give you Dion Jordan for him, and that would give you another Oregon Guy.)
Change the jerseys to be more Oregon-like. If the team doesn't look at all like what I spent my life watching, that might also help.
Pivot away from the innovations that I've actually liked about your teams, and start caring about time of possession, and slower tempo. Explain that this is the new hipness, and that you did all of that stuff because you were giving the rest of the league false info.
Waste your timeouts to avoid delay of game penalties.
Kick lots and lots of field goals, from deep distances, because yay, field goals.
Trade away years and years of draft picks for more QBs, or RBs, or anything else you already have too much of.
In short, finish the job you started, and burn the place to the ground.
Then salt the earth, and poison the wells, and go to some other place, and win championships there, while doing everything that you didn't do here, preferably for a franchise with a wildly spoiled and hateful fan base. (Dallas or New England, or even better, Washington, still with a racial slur for a name.)
Have all of this happen while the Eagles keep the same ownership, who then thanks you for your service, then hires someone else who is as bad, or worse, than you.
Make me feel, in short, not just happy to no longer be a fan, but give me survivor's guilt for everyone else in my life who still roots for the laundry.
And hey, thanks again, for being the Eagles' Nero.
I needed to get the hell out of Rome anyway.