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November 18, 2022

Eytan Shander: The book is out on how to beat the Eagles, but will anyone read it?

Opinion Eagles
Nick_Sirianni_Eagles_Giants_091922_KateFrese27.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 19: A photo from the Philadelphia Eagles game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on September 19, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Kate Frese for PhillyVoice)

The Eagles have a lot to learn from their disappointing but expected – at least by me – loss to the Washington Commanders. After sifting through the damage on the field, the bozos booing in the stands, and the aftermath of the post-game conversations, the biggest takeaway from this game is… chicken.

What? If this guy is about to bring up that idiot who ate all those chickens, man…

R-E-L-A-X. I would never.

Football is deemed a game of chess. Some loser coaches like Dennis Allen or Todd Bowles play checkers, but the best in the business are masters at reading the chess board. But as we saw last night and have seen over the past five years with the Chiefs, football is truly about a game of chicken.

Which coach is going to blink first and drive off the road, aborting his game plan and resorting to panic mode. That’s usually what the game comes down to, and having a head coach who understands the game and the guy on the other sideline is paramount to success. I’m sure you’ve seen coaches – even on the Eagles sideline – panic or melt after their scripted plays fail. It’s way more than just what you do from Monday through Saturday – it’s how you react on Sunday.

Ron Rivera got Nick Sirianni to swerve first and that was it. Everything else fell into place. Maybe Rivera saw how close some of these Eagles games truly were, knowing they were a turnover away from losing, and thought to move Sirianni off his comfort zone, essentially forcing the Eagles into panic play.

It was widespread panic without the guitars and mushrooms.

The funny thing about all of this is that we see it all the time. We have seen coaches just outthink themselves on the other sideline from Bill Belichick. He’s won games – playoff games – because the other coach is anticipating a move that never comes. Having an ultimate feel for the game allowed the Patriots coach to sense then pounce on another coach’s mistakes.

Everything else is just football.

Coaching has a significantly larger impact in the NFL than any other sport we care about. Coordinators or even position coaches can lose games and they can certainly win them with inside information from teams they previously coached. It’s an undervalued tool to use in sports betting and should be applied in general to why teams win or lose games.

It’s not the only reason why the Philadelphia Eagles were beaten – not embarrassed – at home. Everything else was just football, right down to the dumb penalty by one of the most important Eagles players of all time. At least for anyone watching over the past 20 years.

OK, Shander. We get it. The Eagles coaching staff was out-coached in a game of chicken. Now what?


That’s the point. The Eagles did something different on Monday night by doing something. They need to go back to doing nothing. Nothing different from their gameplan, relying on their strength – moving the football on the ground and wearing down defenses. They certainly need to find a new strategy on defense in stopping the run, but the offense moved off its center and it was obvious how out of sorts everything was.

The Eagles staff fell for it. Sirianni swerved first, so don’t swerve again.

The Kansas City Chiefs have a dynasty brewing if they can win another Super Bowl this year. Looking back at the years with Patrick Mahomes as their starter, the Chiefs defense – sorry Spags – was one of the worst units in the league in stopping the run. Right through last season, yet nobody ran on them. They were near the bottom of the league in opponent rushing attempts.

So, what gives? You have a defense that is begging you to run all over them, but nobody wants to do it. The book is standing there looking at you in the face, but nobody wants to read it. The reason why this is happening is because teams think they need to compete with Patrick Mahomes, not the Chiefs. Opposing coaches either come in with no plan to run – or they abort as soon as they are down a field goal. All to keep up with some false notion that the only way to beat the Chiefs is in a shootout.

Not many teams carry that much ammo.

Jalen Hurts is Patrick Mahomes. Nick Sirianni is Andy Reid. Jonathan Gannon is Steve Spagnuolo. The Philadelphia Eagles have established themselves as one of the biggest threats on offense across the entire NFL. They boast an MVP candidate who is electric and can beat you two ways. They have multiple receivers and backs who can wear you down – all behind a set of maulers whose depth seems to be infinite.

That is the message from Monday night, be who you are and have been. The very second you move away from your center, you become the teams you’ve faced. You become the tight team who is off their gameplan, the one more prone to making mistakes. This is the easiest fix on paper to make, but it’s hard to ask someone who is going through it live to be aware.

The good news is that this isn’t Week 1 The Eagles are a threat to everyone in the NFL, their target is just as big as it was before their first loss. But that’s just it – the only way to truly learn and improve from this loss would be to recognize what coaches are going to try and do.

Sirianni isn’t Belichick nor Reid in real life. He could be, but those guys had to learn the nuances of chess, checkers, and even a little chicken.

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