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January 04, 2023

Eytan Shander: Can the Eagles get their mojo back?

If the 49ers could do it, why couldn't the Eagles?

Opinion Eagles
111922JalenHurtsNickSirianni Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni will try to get the Eagles back in the win column against the Indianapolis Colts.

What the hell happened?

I remember when the Philadelphia Eagles won the first two months of the season, man was that a great time.

Suddenly, it’s gone. 

All it took was three straight losses – yes, three – for the Eagles to fall apart. They lost their leader in Jalen Hurts, then proceeded to drop two games in a row, in a horrific self-inflicting fashion. The team is just not the same without Hurts and now comes the biggest challenge of the entire season – restoring that mojo.

Hurts was so much more than just the impact player on the field. His value as a leader exponentially grew without his presence in the huddle. It was clear that neither Gardner Minshew nor anyone else not named “Hurts” was going to save this team. 

It feels like as reliant as they are on him as a player, they may simply be too reliant on him as a leader. That isn’t to say there’s a lack of leadership or quality leaders on this team. Anything purporting that is false. That makes the last two weeks so crazy and mildly infuriating. 

We get it, it’s hard to go 17-0 in the regular season. The Eagles were meant to lose a couple of games, but the circumstances surrounding the last two weeks and what’s to come make it far worse. The return of Hurts is major but based on what this team went through against Dallas and New Orleans, it’s fair to question if it’s enough. 

The Eagles went from bad to worse – losing a game on their own in Dallas then coming totally unprepared against New Orleans. From the Minshew to AJ Brown disaster to an OL illegally downfield on a playaction – rather than the RPO he most likely heard – this team was utterly unprepared to play. Nick Sirianni just realized how difficult it is to coach without a band-aid. The two coordinators were given a lesson in how they need to be great when Hurts is out, not just present. 

The past two weeks have given us a glimpse of what this team is without one player and it’s a scary sight. Unforced errors and lack of preparation standing out despite a super talented roster around the QB position.

But Shander, come on, they lost their QB! What the hell do you want, two straight wins?

Yes. But it’s more than that.

The San Francisco 49ers have won nine straight games and most of that is on the strength of their third string QB. There is literally no draft slot available after Brock Purdy’s selection, and Kyle Shannahan has worked magic around him. The defense gets to the QB and shuts down the run, the offense is built around misdirection and quick throws – combined with a workhorse back they acquired via trade.

This sounds a lot like 2017 except this run will overshadow the Eagles because of Mr. Irrelevant winning it all. But with this season, is there truly that much difference or gap between the skilled players around the QB in San Francisco versus Philadelphia? 

They have some talented WRs as do the Eagles. They have a massive defensive front and punishing offensive line – as do the Eagles. They have solid back seven play on defense including a couple of standout players to help mask some issues as a whole with their secondary – much like Philadelphia. They have creative coaching that’s led to high scoring and large leads – much like the Birds. 

San Francisco has figured out a way to sustain success despite key injuries on both sides of the ball. It simply hasn’t been an excuse. That is where the past two weeks have differed from each team, and it falls on the people in charge.

It’s inexcusable to be unprepared and sloppy as the Eagles were through this two-week stretch, compounded by the fact that the Niners are still finding ways to win games. The biggest takeaway here is that without Jalen, this team is lost. That’s just not the team we know as fans and were used to seeing compete this year.

It’s not the team that will go into the playoffs but it’s just so hard to shake what’s happened, mostly how it’s all happened. Yes, there will be no more Minshew Mania. Yes, the team gets its leader back. But what about everything else around him?

The Eagles got seven sacks and had two receivers with nearly 100 receiving yards each, and still lost a game where they only scored 10 points. They actually found a creative way to lose that game against the Saints. 

The reason why this is so important and still relevant is because of the Giants game. The game that’s already been played and won by the Eagles. That’s the major concern beyond the obvious, which is it’s the friggin NFL and crazy is the norm. The Eagles have been told all week that the Giants are going to sit everyone and nobody there cares about this game. That, combined with the return of Hurts equals an Eagles blowout.  

I am financially invested in the Eagles winning the Super Bowl, as is anyone else who read my column back in the summer, so I would love for them to blast NY into the sun and ride into the playoffs on a positive note. But I also know this league like you know this league, and s**t happens. 

While it may not be evident with a lack of Daniel Jones or Saquon Barkley, New York actually does need this win. The obvious is what it could do to the Eagles' seeding, effectively ruining this amazing 3/4's run of the year and dropping them as low as the 5th seed. The other part is what winning 10 games would mean for the Giants – specifically their head coach. 

If New York wins 10 games, then expect Brian Daboll to be named NFL Coach of the Year, taking it away from the other guy on the sidelines (and most likely Doug P winning the AFC South). You better believe the entire team is aware of that and has some extra motivation. 

Speaking of which, Nick Sirianni should hit up Bill Cowher and ask him what was said to the 2004 Steelers on the final day of the year. It was back then that a meaningless game for Pittsburgh saw them sit most of their starters to take on a desperate Buffalo squad. While the Bills needed the win to get in, and the Eagles are already in, the sense of desperation seems similar with the circumstances surrounding this upcoming game. 

The entire sports media – including betting folks – told the world to lock up the Bills. People were told to bet mortgages and school funds on Buffalo. There was just no way a team that desperate with so much to play for would lose to a bunch of backups. But it’s the NFL and the Bills lost.

Send that text, coach. This one is too important to lose.

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