Jordan Hicks spoke last week about the Eagles facing “a gut check.” Jason Kelce said his team needed to “look in the mirror.”
But in New Orleans on Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles showed no guts at all. And what reflected back from the mirror was the carcass of a once-great Super Bowl winner.
The Eagles 48-7 slaughter by the Saints marked the most lopsided loss ever by a defending NFL champion in the modern day era. It was a bigger embarrassment than any game played under Chip Kelly – no easy feat. Saints coach Sean Payton seemed intent on rubbing it in as the game progressed, and the Eagles mustered nothing to stop the humiliation.
The catastrophe raises dozens of questions – none of which should include wondering if this sorry squad can rally back and take the division. Spoiler: They cannot.
As safety Malcolm Jenkins said afterwards, “Winning a Super Bowl last year doesn’t win you a goddamn game this year.” Personally, I wouldn’t argue with the notion that they may never win another game this year, injured and dispirited as they are.
The larger question is one of direction. Doug Pederson became a folk hero for breaking this city’s 58-year NFL title dry spell last February. There’s literally a statue of him and Nick Foles now standing outside Lincoln Financial Field – tacky as it is, sponsored by a beer company.
What Pederson accomplished in 2017 was not a fluke. Not a sham. Not lucky. He coached and led brilliantly. But, as Jenkins noted, it doesn’t mean a thing this year, and last year’s head coach – creative Doug, Big Balls Doug, leader of men Doug – well, he doesn’t seem to live around here anymore.
Also gone, not coincidentally, are Frank Reich and John DeFilippo – the assistant coaches who helped Pederson scheme last year’s offense. Reich is now the head coach in Indianapolis, where the Colts have won four in a row and quarterback Andrew Luck has thrown at least three touchdown passes in seven straight games.
Pederson was flummoxed for words in Sunday’s post-game news conference. He threw out clichés about players “not hanging their heads,” insisted his team was “still battling in there,” and talked about “having some great football ahead of us.”
I don’t want to call Pederson a liar, so I’ll just say he was reading from the script of a losing football coach who is without real answers. He was similarly stumped a few weeks back when he declared that “the pressure’s off” after blowing a 17-0 lead to Carolina.
Meanwhile, Pederson’s quarterback, Carson Wentz, chalked up a 31.9 QB rating on Sunday against one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses. Wentz tossed three interceptions and largely ignored his best weapons, Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery.
Furthermore, critics are starting to bark that Wentz is a hollow compiler of stats, a quarterback worthy of the nickname, “The Big Empty.” A caller to my WIP show the other day compared him to former Flyer Eric Lindros – a guy who, for all his talent, could not produce when it counted.
I’ll disagree, for now. Wentz seems engulfed in the storm swirling around him. He’s the poor sap trying to turn the Titanic around on his own, and he keeps careening into more icebergs.
Wentz and Pederson, along with GM Howie Roseman and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, have all taken precipitous tumbles off their 2017 pedestals. That Super Bowl parade continues moving farther back in the rearview mirror.
And perceptions, of course, are always based on what’s happening now.