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November 18, 2021

Eytan Shander: Calm down, the Eagles aren't making the playoffs

Sure, they've been better the last month, but let's not forget what got them in this position in the first place...

Opinion Eagles
Nick_Sirianni_5_Eagles_49ers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni.

Let's get one thing clear: the Philadelphia Eagles are not making the playoffs.

It seems Philly fans have lost their sense of beginnings once again, forgetting why it’s taken ten weeks for us to talk about the postseason. It’s not their fault — most are stuck on social media where speaking in absolutes and insulting those who disagree are the only things truly rewarded. Others grew up with decades of AM sports talk radio, goaded by hosts into either loving or hating whatever the forced general topic of the day was.

It's like they've been brainwashed into forgetting that we were all right, right that the staff was (and is) incompetent. New coaches came in trying to reinvent the wheel – or create a new prototype. We sat there and yelled and screamed, "Run the ball!" and still saw the opposite week after week.

Look at the think pieces that followed, the ones calling for the head coach or DC’s job. Howie Roseman was under fire, so was Jeff Lurie. The only thing that’s changed? A commitment to running the football — ya know, the same thing fans and those in the media have been clamoring for since the start of the season. Finally, after nearly a half season of losing, they made a change. And suddenly, the players are making plays — it’s been the story of the last month.

But let's not give too much credit to the coaches. If anything, Nick Sirianni and his staff appear to be just not getting in the way. The run plays are basic in asking the five offensive linemen to put hands on guys and open up holes. The Eagles have a talented run OL – even when it’s not fully healthy. Jordan Howard is running down field off open holes, Boston Scott is using his speed in open space – created by those holes. And Kenneth Gainwell… well, two out three ain’t bad. Miles Sanders, who has been out the last several weeks was never afforded this benefit, but perhaps could be if he returns against the Saints on Sunday.

Nothing exotic is happing in the run game; there’s just an actual commitment to it. We simply see players making plays, just like in the passing game. When Jalen Hurts looked incredibly sharp in the first half against the Broncos, were the Eagles running some intricate offense that was scheming people open? No, it was DeVonta Smith using his incredible hands and route-running ability. It was Quez Watkins just flat out beating guys with his speed. And when he had the chances, Hurts threw Smith open – something that we saw him struggle with earlier in the season — or simply trusted his rookie receiver enough to go up and make a contested catch. Is that coming from some extended coaching? No, it’s coming with reps.

The offense is getting better because it’s relying less on the coaching staff and more on the players. Yes, it’s “changed” in that they are doing exactly what the entire world knew they should be doing. They look “better” because they finally decided to help the young QB out with a run game.

Yet, here we are. Cue the think pieces on how the Eagles were doubted or how the “haters” came out early only to be proven wrong. The same people writing those, tweeting that theory, or just having that conversation at the barber shop, are forgetting why the Eagles are currently on the outside looking in. Maybe you forgot too.

The refusal to adhere to some of the most fundamental elements of the game cost the Eagles the first six weeks of their season. It’s going to cost them the playoffs too, even with an easier schedule awaiting them down the stretch. But by refusing to praise someone for not continuing to make the same basic mistake, I’ll be labeled negative or for those with far less ability to see nuance, a hater.

It’s ridiculous if you truly look at what’s going on, especially after the players beat up on Denver. Part of the built-in expectations of all this post-season talk is that the offensive coaches are getting better. There is little mention about how damaging the first month and a half were, and how they stunted growth of an offense and its players.

The recent success of the Eagles offense should be credited to Hurts, the offensive line, Smith, and a bunch of running backs. They were simply helped by the coach not calling as many pass plays and actually giving them a chance. 

Most people don’t have the ability to see past their worldview. It’s just easier to already know about someone based on what they tweet, or how they look, or what kind of hair they have, as opposed to listening to what they have to say. The same applies here. People can’t discern between valid criticism of a coaching staff that refused to budge in their attempt to recreate offense, versus praise of players who moved the ball and opened holes on the ground.

If you want to praise a coaching staff on the Eagles this year, start and end with the special teams and Mike Clay.


Dolphins vs. Jets — OVER 44.5

This total is insanely low, and you should pounce all over it. The Jets defense is absolutely atrocious and can’t stop anyone – including Miami. This isn’t about the Dolphins keeping it close or the Jets losing bad, it’s just about how many points get scored overall in Jets games. From week 4 through 10, only one total hit in the 40s! If you want an extra push to the over, just look at how well Tua played against the Ravens and how aggressive their defense was against Lamar Jackson. Joe Flacco starting for the Jets means a bunch of sacks and possibly a pick-six. We don’t need it. This game may go over at the half.

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Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan on The Middle w/ Brooks, Mayes and Eytan (Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 p.m.) and on @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.)

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