No Surprises Here

The Eagles are what they are.

Back when the Eagles were 3-0, fans were booking Super Bowl trips and researching the petition process to have the five-year Hall of Fame waiting period waved for Carson Montana, so anyone with the temerity to suggest the fast start was something of a mirage was ridiculed. The usual rebukes were issued. The word “hater” was sprinkled liberally into pro-Birds diatribes. It was a fat time that seemingly wouldn’t end.

Until it did.

Sunday’s gaffe-filled loss to an average Giants team demonstrated that the Eagles are quite worthy of their 4-4 record and that their four losses in five games provide an accurate representation of what this team really is: mediocre. As the euphoria fades like the green of late summer, it is left to the more reasoned minds in the city to ask a simple question: How in the world is anybody surprised by all of this?

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Before the season, an honest assessment of the Birds’ talent would have included damning appraisals of the wide receivers and cornerbacks. It would have questioned the depth at linebacker. And it would have warned that very few rookie quarterbacks are able to lead teams to the playoffs. The Eagles have a first-year head coach who, before this season, had called plays for less than half a season. And their offensive line was average, at best—especially with Lane Johnson’s second P.E.D. suspension looming.

There was no way any objective person could’ve looked at that roster and forecast big things. Yet, when the Birds burst from the starting blocks 3-0 and had demolished the Steelers—who are 4-4 right now, by the way—the warts were beauty marks, and the wrinkles were lines of distinction.

Well, let’s look in the mirror now: 3-and-0 is 4-4, and the Eagles are in last place in the NFC East, with an 0-3 record in the division. The next three weeks feature games against 6-3 Atlanta, Seattle on the road, and a trip to Cincinnati. It is quite possible that, as December dawns, the team could be 4-7 and rooting hard for Minnesota to lose all of its games, the better to get an attractive draft pick.

This should not be surprising. The Eagles’ personnel isn’t impressive; Pederson has been erratic on the sideline; and, after a quick start, QB Carson Wentz has shown that he has plenty of work to do. As the near-misses pile up in a league designed to produce games that are close enough to maintain everybody’s interest—except for Browns and Niners fans—it’s obvious that the Eagles lack the talent, experience and character to win the tight ones. The ability to succeed in pressure situations is every bit as important as speed, strength and athleticism. The Eagles have just enough talent to get close but lack the necessary ingredients to turn opportunity into success.

The scary part of this is that it seems to be an institutional condition. This week’s poor handling of the “Josh Huff Wild West Show” was an organizational failure. The coach said one thing; the GM said something else. And the owner kept quiet, as usual. On the field, two early interceptions by Wentz and Pederson’s insistence on surrendering points to ill-fated fourth-down attempts led to defeat.       

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It’s fun to be optimistic about teams and players, because that creates anticipation and the possibility of success that leads to fan enjoyment. But when a team continues to flounder because of a weak cast of characters and shaky leadership, there’s a need for objective assessment. The Eagles are a 4-4 team just good enough to come up short. They need a substantial influx of talent and must hope their young performers—particularly Wentz and Pederson—develop into NFL standouts.

Until that happens, don’t be surprised. We all saw this coming—even if we don’t want to admit it.

EL HOMBRE SEZ: After one round of high-school football playoffs, the cast of locals remaining has been winnowed substantially, but several remain alive. In 6A action, Downingtown East visits Perkiomen Valley, and Garnet Valley is at Neshaminy. In the 5A bracket, Marple Newtown hosts West Chester East, West Chester Henderson is at Upper Dublin, Great Valley visits Springfield Delco, and Bishop Shanahan takes on Academy Park. Cardinal O’Hara’s win over Bonner-Prendergast has it in the 4A city title game Nov. 19 against Imhotep, and Valley Forge Military Academy faces West Catholic Saturday in the District 1-12 Class 2A Subregional Final.

Carson Wentz

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