As the Super Bowl looms ever closer it is a certainty that a former Eagle (Kyle Eckel of the Saints or Hank Baskett of the Colts) will earn a Super Bowl ring. Albeit in a lesser role than the ones they enjoyed in Philadelphia, the fact remains they are on the game-day rosters of the two teams competing in Miami.
So naturally the question in Eagles Nation is: Just how far away are the Eagles from those two teams?
I can answer that question with one word:
Who's to blame for the gap?
Normally there'd be a debate, but in the minds of some in Philadelphia there's no need for discussion. In their eyes it has to be the fault of quarterback Donovan McNabb.
And to be completely honest, in some respects he makes it easy to blame him.
He's a clown at times on the field and in interviews, his home is as far away from Philadelphia as you can get without touching the Pacific Ocean, his mechanics aren't always the best, and so forth and so on.
Because he hasn't completely endeared himself to the city he plays in and because he's the self-proclaimed "Captain of the Ship," he takes the heat for that ship being, at times, lost at sea.
I won't argue if the blame is wrong or right, because that never leads to a constructive conversation and because I'm not saying that he isn't completely blameless.
Instead, I offer some other compelling reasons why the Philadelphia Eagles are the Katherine Heigl of the NFL.
Yes. Yes I did just make a 27 Dresses reference in a sports article, but don't let that dissuade you.
"It's a business"
Nowhere is that more true than in Philadelphia.
Players come to camp with their briefcases, because this organization has made it very clear that there's nothing family-oriented about it. How often do you hear about Eagles players hanging out outside of football?
Not counting Juqua and Todd rolling dirty Scooby Doo style of course.
This is not a close knit group of men, these are guys that work hard and play hard for themselves and seemingly by themselves. After all, each year they have no idea if they'll even be with the team.
Especially if your contract ends after your 29th birthday hits.
If that's the case most players start emptying out their lockers and put their house up for sale, because it's only a matter of time before they're sitting with Big Andy in an exit interview.
Doesn't matter if you're a fan favorite or a locker room leader, players for the Philadelphia Eagles fall into two categories: young or departing.
The Eagles lock up young players to long, back-heavy contracts and show players that are on the wrong side of 30 the door. Even from a strictly business standpoint this is a flawed strategy.
One prime example of course being Brian Dawkins.
There is also no negotiation with players under their second contract or players in the first or second year of their contracts.
There are exceptions to these rules of course, but for the most part this is standard operating procedure. It might well be in the employee handbook.
How does this affect the win/loss column?
Players don't play for the suits, they play for the guys lining up next to them every Sunday. Of course if that guy changes year to year, sometimes week to week, it makes it difficult to think of anything other than just "doing your job."
You punch in and then you punch out.
Wanna know why players on this team don't take losses as hard as you do, Eagle Fans?
Because for them it's just a job.
And not only is it just a job, but the bosses have not shown much loyalty. The Eagles have shown that no player is safe from being replaced under any circumstances.
They've also shown a staunch rigidity regarding any talks of raises for players under contract. In some cases they've been right, but that only makes someone work just hard enough not to get fired, or in this case, cut.
Lost in that embarrassing tie with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008, mainly because all anyone wanted to focus on was McNabb's lack of knowledge concerning overtime rules, was this comment made by Bengals' corner Johnathan Joseph:
"They may have a lot of yards or whatever, but teams have been successful getting them off the field. They have tendencies you can pick up on and you have a good idea of what's going on."
This is not the exception, but the rule, as more and more teams know how to stop the Eagles on offense. Most times it's chalked up to the shortcomings of McNabb, but really what chance does any quarterback have when the opposing team knows the play and has the personnel to stop it?
Against bad teams most times it doesn't matter if they know what's coming or not, because if you have better players, talent can overcome predictability. Against the better teams in this league, the ones you'll be facing in the playoffs, predictability is a killer.
Lack of Commitment to the Running game
Since Duce Staley's departure, there has been a sharp drop in the number of called runs for the Eagles' offense.
So not only have the Eagles become predictable in their passing game, but they also seem to have an aversion to running the football.
Once Andy Reid supplied the argument that a short dump-off pass to a running back is like a run. Sure it's "like" a running play.
A burger is like a steak, in so far as them both being made from the same animal, but which would you rather have?
The most baffling thing about this is that the Eagles' win percentage when they run for over 100 yards is staggering. It's well documented that the running game helps the passing game, but a good passing game rarely helps the running game.
At BYU, Andy Reid was an offensive lineman so he should know that linemen are on the receiving end of punishment in pass protection, and that running the ball allows them to get some payback. It also allows the offense to get into a rhythm and allows a team to dictate tempo.
A defense that can make an offense one-dimensional has the advantage. A defense that knows an offense is one-dimensional from the start has the ultimate advantage. When a team has no running game, safeties don't have to play close to the line of scrimmage, defensive linemen can tee off on the quarterback and linebackers can be aggressive.
It makes defense so easy... even a Cowboy can do it! (Okay, bad joke.)
If you lined the Eagles' current defensive line against an offensive line from the 70's, they'd dominate.
They'd be bigger, stronger, and faster than most of the offensive linemen in the league of that time.
Problem is, this ain't the 70's.
Players today are on average 20 pounds heavier than they were just a decade ago, let alone 30 years ago.
The Eagles' defense has been dominant at times during the past decade, but they were always susceptible to a team with a solid running game. A riddle that they haven't had an answer for since Corey Simon left.
Let's review: The Eagles defense is undersized so teams run the ball more which tires out the defensive line. The Eagles don't run the ball well (i.e, at all), which means the defense is on the field more, which means they are having to defend the run more, which they already don't excel at...see where I'm going with this?
Wearing two hats
Bill Parcells wanted to choose the ingredients he had to make a meal with.
So does Andy Reid.
But sometimes it seems (and this is not a fat joke) that Reid is just content with slapping a bunch of food together and calling it a meal.
The draft is a crap shoot, everyone knows that.
Free agents that were monsters on their former teams may flounder in a new system, that's understandable.
This is why, though, teams have a designated general manager who works closely with the head coach, but is typically not the head coach himself, because the process of selection of players is so key, so vital to an NFL team. It's something that is a year-round evaluation and requires enormous amounts of time, energy, and effort.
So too, does being a head coach in the NFL.
There's a phrase I've always liked:
"Jack of all trades, master of none."
When you're split in so many directions, naturally something will be given less attention.
Ever wonder why it seems Reid has the same problems (clock management, play selection, in game adjustments) he had as a young coach?
I'd be willing to bet that it's because he hasn't given the proper attention to perfecting his craft. It's why the Belichick's, Dungy's, Shanahan's, and Cowher's of the NFL will always be a step or two ahead. It's why Caldwell and Payton are coaching their teams in Miami while Reid is answering questions about his quarterbacks.
He hasn't become a better coach as time has gone on and to make matters worse, his contemporaries have.
Even Coughlin has learned that he needed to adjust his approach to the game and he's got a ring to show for it.
Reid's got an excellent resume, but a lot of people think that it should be even better, if he could just learn to focus on one thing at a time.
The most damaging thing about all the points I've made is that there's absolutely zero chance that any of these things will change anytime soon, simply because the sheer talent on this team will allow them 10-11 wins every year.
Which will be good enough to stay the course.
And what good is a great captain if the navigation is wrong?