September 29, 2020
Last week, we said that a loss to Bengals would push this city into a pit of despair. Well, the Eagles didn't lose to the Bengals, but the feeling remains the same.
Following their 23-23 Week 3 tie with Cincinnati, the Birds look lost, a shell of the team that won the Super Bowl three seasons ago. And now they get to prepare for a cross-country trip to face the 49ers in primetime, a game in which they're currently a 7-point underdog, according to TheLines.com's consensus odds.
There's plenty of blame to go around, whether it's Carson Wentz' regression, Doug Pederson's questionable play calling, particularly late in the Bengals game, or Howie Roseman's poor roster construction and overall lack of young talent. It goes well beyond that, but it's hard to argue that those three names are not the most important to the success of this franchise, and currently, all three are lacking.
In that spirit, for today's What They're Saying, we're going to take a closer look at each, their culpability and, mostly, whether or not their future's in Philly are in doubt. Let's dive right in...
First up is Reuben Frank's great column that somewhat served as the inspiration for this post. Roob went through each of the three names outlined above and simply wondered which one will be the first to get fired, and it included some great insight about each.
First, there's Pederson, who could very much be on the hot seat despite leading this team to its first-ever Super Bowl title. Could he be fired if the Eagles season continues to trend in this direction? And what about Wentz? His contract suggests he isn't leaving Philly any time soon, but the Eagles do have second-round pick Jalen Hurts waiting in the wings. And could Roseman, the man responsible for putting this roster together, be the safest of the three?
Here's what Roob had to say...
I do think Doug Pederson’s in trouble. Lombardi Trophy or not. ...
Jeff Lurie knows he waited a year too long to make a change with Andy Reid. Big Red reached the NFC Championship Game in 2008, made the playoffs in 2009 and 2010, then opened 4-8 before finishing 8-8 in 2011. That’s when he should have been gone. But Lurie waited a year too long and the Eagles fell apart in 2012, going 4-12.
The timing is similar now. Lurie gave Reid four years after 2008, and this is Pederson's third year after 2017. Now, the difference is Pederson won a Super Bowl here and Reid didn’t. But I don't think Lurie is going to make the same mistake again. If he feels like Pederson has lost the team, he won't hesitate to make a change.
Carson Wentz isn’t going to get fired, not with that contract. But he sure is in jeopardy of getting benched.
I don’t think Pederson would pull the plug on Wentz before the bye week, but if he keeps making the same mistakes week after week, game after game, and the losses (and ties) keep piling up? ...
Howie Roseman is as close to GM for Life as you can have. Lurie has been steadfast in his praise for Roseman in both his tenures here as GM — before Chip Kelly and after Chip Kelly. But even Lurie has to see the pattern. ...
I can’t imagine Lurie ever firing Roseman. But I wouldn’t be shocked if the Eagles restructure the front office this offseason and place Roseman in charge of contracts and salary cap — where he’s as good as anybody — and hire a pure GM to oversee personnel. [nbcsports.com]
We've gotten Reuben Frank's take on those three crucial members of the organization, but now let's take a look at what those outside of Philly have to say about them.
We'll start with Wentz, who has statistically been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league this season, but Pederson said on Monday that he isn't considering making a change at QB just yet. If things don't turn around, the Eagles could (and probably should) bench him, even if it's just to send a message.
Over at CBSSports.com, Cody Benjamin took a look at two scenarios in which the Eagles could make a change at quarterback, one a temporary move to light a spark under Wentz and the other one a bit more consequential.
But we're here to talk about 2020. And 2020 has not been pretty. Wentz may have willed the Eagles into overtime against the Cincinnati Bengals to help Philly stay out of the "L" column in Week 3, but it wasn't enough to overshadow another week of erratic accuracy, questionable decisions and killer turnovers. Somehow, after throwing no more than seven interceptions in each of the last three years, Wentz is working with these numbers through three starts this season: Three TDs, six INTs, and a measly 63.9 passer rating -- the worst among all 32 starting QBs. He's hurting the Eagles more than he's helping them.
That brings us back to the question at hand: How long is his job safe?
The thinking here is that there are two conceivable paths to Wentz landing on the bench this year. We'll call the first scenario the Motivational Benching and the second the Serious Benching. Here's how they'd logically play out... [cbssports.com]
How would those look in practice? You'll have to click over to find out, but we'll tell you that one comes before the bye and the other comes immediately after.
Chris Long was a member of that aforementioned Super Bowl team, and he is rightfully concerned about the state of affairs in Philly. While he didn't quite come out and say it, it seems like he thinks Roseman deserves a good bit of the blame for not reloading the roster with young talent in the years following their title.
"It is time to panic.
"Even if they got the win [vs. the Bengals], it's not a good football team. If they'd won that ballgame, I'm still feeling the same way about this team.
"The roster has fallen off, really suddenly. It's compounded by being the most snakebit team in football, when it comes to injuries. I get that. Reagor, DeSean, Goedert yesterday - they've gone youth, and the youth hasn't stayed healthy. I know I'm biased, I'm the old guy who moved on and it might sound like sour grapes. I'm only airing this out because I'm analyzing the game. You know? 2017 was f***ing lightning in a bottle, and that's maybe magic we can only recreate. We didn't build to that. I say we, I wasn't there before. We didn't build to that, it just happened. Then there was a regression to the mean, and now it looks like the window's kind of closed. They're not a good football team right now." [h/t nbcsports.com]
And then there's Pederson, who used to pull all the right strings when calling plays but, like his quarterback, appears to have regressed in recent years.
The biggest blunder on Sunday was the decision to punt late in overtime. On Monday, Pederson admitted that he should have gone for it, but he was saying they should have gone for the first down, not attempted the 64-yard field goal.
I still think that's wrong. And so does Rodger Sherman of The Ringer...
To be fair, a 63-yard field goal is very difficult. The all-time NFL record is 64 yards, and had been 63 from 1970 until 2013. But if anybody could kick one, it would probably be Elliott. Elliott was drafted by the Bengals in 2017, but was cut, allowing him to sign with Philadelphia when their kicker was injured. Two weeks later, Elliott secured his place in the NFL by drilling a 61-yarder. It’s the only kick Elliott has ever attempted from over 60 yards—and it would’ve been good from 63. He’s been their kicker ever since, as the Eagles have made him one of the highest-paid kickers in the league.
Only 18 kickers in the history of the NFL have hit a kick from 60 or more yards. The Eagles have one, and they passed up the opportunity to have him win a game. What was the risk? If Elliott missed (and the kick wasn’t returned), the Bengals would’ve had the ball with under 15 seconds left and would have needed to move the ball into field goal range with no timeouts. Sure, it’s unlikely Elliott would’ve hit the field goal—but it’s pretty unlikely the Eagles would’ve lost. [theringer.com]
Another potential mistake Pederson made on Sunday was his decision to kick the extra point at the end of regulation and not go for two and the win. It's a lot easier to say that now, knowing how the game ended up, but some people, myself included, were rightfully wondering why Pederson didn't go for the win there.
Zach Berman and Bo Wulf of The Athletic broke those decisions down and seemed to agree that the whole thing just didn't make a ton of sense...
Wulf: It’s worth unpacking Pederson’s walk-back of the decision to punt. Just like Wentz’s regression in Year 5 is peculiar, so too is Pederson’s regression in the area of in-game management during his fifth year as head coach.
“I would have probably elected to go for it in that situation, and so the decision there is not an analytical decision,” Pederson said. “The fact was there was 19 seconds on the clock and now you’re talking around midfield. Now you’re back at the 46-yard line. It’s a situation where you take the shot. And I learned from it, and I’ll move on.”
It’s hard to come down hard on the players for a sloppy 11-penalty performance with mistakes all over the field when the head coach is making critical mistakes with the game on the line, too. I find the whole end-of-game sequence and the public walk-back very bizarre. Do you?
Berman: You’re right about Pederson. The punt has received the most attention because it was the end of the game and it seemed like such a gutless decision, but the uninspiring play call I’d focus on is the choice not to attempt the two-point conversion at the end of regulation. (This isn’t second-guessing; I told you in the press box I’d go for two.) The offense had just put together a spirited scoring drive and the Bengals defenders were on their heels. Wentz was hurting them with his feet. Jalen Hurts, who impressed during training camp in goal-line situations, was fresh on the sideline. I’d take my chances with a creative play from the 2-yard line to win the game rather than thinking my offense would put a productive drive together in overtime. For what it’s worth, the Eagles have converted 65.5 percent of their two-point conversions (19 of 29) under Pederson since 2016. [theathletic.com]
It's one thing to be cowardly. It's another thing to be wrong. But to be cowardly and wrong? That's not something we're used to seeing out of Pederson.
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