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October 08, 2018

What they're saying: It's open season on Doug Pederson as Eagles' Super Bowl odds plummet

On Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles fell to 2-3 on the season with a 23-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at home. For the defending Super Bowl champions, that matches their loss total from all of last year — and needless to say, the city of Philadelphia is getting restless.

In some ways, it's almost like they never won the Super Bowl at all.

Sure, there's still time for the Eagles to turn it around — although they won't have long to prepare for their next game at the Giants on Thursday night — but it seems that Philly fans are the only ones losing faith in Doug Pederson's team. It also appears that the Birds are losing favor among Vegas oddsmakers. The Westgate SuperBook, for instance, has dropped the Eagles' odds of winning the Super Bowl to 40-1.  

That's clearly not where the Eagles thought they'd be five games into the season, with a worse record than the Cleveland Browns (2-2-1). So who is to blame for the Birds' slow start? According to many, it begins at the top with head coach Doug Pederson. 

We'll get into plenty of that in today's what they're saying about the Eagles, but first, one more quick look at what that 2-3 start means for the defending Super Bowl champs' odds of repeating...

Something's missing

Brent Sobleski | Bleacher Report

Last season, everything seemed to be going right for the Eagles — minus, you know, season-ending injuries to several Pro Bowl players, including their starting quarterback — as they rolled over opponents during the regular season and then rode Nick Foles and their defense to a Super Bowl title.

Most of the key players are back, so what's missing this year? According to Sobleski, it's their mojo.

More relevant, however, is the stat at the end, courtesy of NFL Research. ... That's unfortunate.

To win a Super Bowl, a team must have a perfect blend of top-end talent and coaching while catching lightning in a bottle with some fortunate play and overall health. 

This combination of ingredients allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to produce a 13-3 record and ride a wave of success throughout the playoffs toward the organization's first Super Bowl victory. After Sunday's 23-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, it's clear some of the ingredients are missing. The Eagles have now lost as many games through five weeks as they did all last year. 

Philly fans better enjoy their recent championship, because the odds of a defending Super Bowl champion making a playoff appearance after a 2-3 start are not in the Eagles' favor, according to NFL Research: 

The defending Super Bowl champion #Eagles are 2-3 this season Only 7 previous defending Super Bowl champions have started a season 2-3... ...and only 1 of the previous 7 rebounded to make the postseason (1996 Cowboys)  []

Who's to blame?

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Roob is hardly the only person pointing the finger at the head coach, but he's doing it about as directly as anyone.

Pederson isn't the one dropping passes and giving up sacks and missing tackles and lining up in the wrong place. This isn't to absolve the 53 guys on the roster, who have yet to play a complete game on both sides of the football.

But when a football team is undisciplined, mistake-prone and unprepared, that's a direct reflection of the head coach and his staff.

Doug deserved every bit of credit he got for the 2017 Super Bowl run, and he deserves a huge chunk of the blame now for a team that's lost three of its last four games, all in frustrating, agonizing fashion.

Doug got the Eagles into this. It's up to him to get them out.  []

Doug himself a hole

Jack McCaffrey | Delaware County Times

Doug Pederson tried to take the blame for the Eagles' Week 5 loss, but just before he walked up to the podium, he reportedly told everyone he was going to do that, which kind of negates the whole thing. 

Either way, as Jack McCaffrey points out, it wasn't the players who needed their mistakes explained away on Sunday. It was the head coach. And he didn't do a great job of it.

Quick quiz: What was the fundamental flaw, the essential coaching fumble, the source of the thorough ridiculousness of that announcement? Answer: If a coach is going to do the take-it-for-the-team dance, then it would only work if he doesn't blurt it out that his plan is to do the take-it-for-the-team dance. For if he's literally broadcasting that he is up there to provide cover for their mistakes, then he is only revealing his true thought that the mistakes led to the defeat. And in a game where Pederson used one of his three second-half timeouts on a fourth-quarter play while the clock had just been stopped and wasted another on a failed replay challenge, it was his players who should have volunteered to cover for him, not the other way around.

Not three seconds after proudly announcing that he would do the blocking for the post-game rush, in fact without even taking a breath, Pederson plowed on. “I want to make sure that the guys understand that you can't do these things,” he said. “You can't self-inflict. Championship teams just don't do that. And we're doing that right now. So I have to self-examine myself first. It starts with me."

Did they self-inflict? Or were they victims of coaching? Of course, it was a mixture. It's never just the coaches. It's never just the players. But it was curious that as the Eagles lost for the third time in four games, Pederson volunteered to take blame, then tried to defend some of his most questionable decisions. And just because the Eagles lost, it did not make them wrong decisions. No, that would be rude second-guessing. But they were questionable. And on that day, they became heavy.  []

The theory of everything (is wrong)

Mike Lombardi | The Athletic

Interestingly enough, one of the few people not to directly blame Doug Pederson was former GM Mike Lombardi, who bad-mouthed Doug so badly last year that Jason Kelce felt the need to take him out during his Super Bowl parade speech. 

Instead, in his column over at The Athletic, Lombardi says it was a mix of everything that's caused the Eagles to start 2-3. But isn't that just an indirect way of blaming the head coach?

The defending champion Philadelphia Eagles look nothing like last year’s team in every phase. They don’t have the same ability to make plays when the game is on the line, and now instead of always playing with the lead, they seem to always play from behind. Last year they threw the ball 188 times when behind all season, and so far after five weeks they have already attempted 147 passes when trailing. Had they not been able to have two excellent home goal line stands in Week 1 of the season against the Falcons, and later against the Colts, the Eagles could be winless.

Eagles fans will complain about the bad calls in Sunday’s 23-21 loss at home to the Vikings, and they will be right. The game was poorly officiated, yes, but once again the Eagles simply did not play well. They turned the ball over twice, once on a Carson Wentz fumble that Linval Joseph recovered for a Vikings touchdown and once as they were on the Minnesota six-yard line  in the second half. Even their fourth down magic has lost its luster. The Eagles cannot cover anyone man to man in their secondary, and when their pass rush does not dominate, every offense can move the ball effectively against them. Last year the Eagles’ front dominated most games, created turnovers, and never was on the field for more than 27 minutes. On Sunday, the Vikings’ offensive line controlled the action and forced the Eagles to play over 30 minutes of defense. When the Eagle’s defense has to play that long, they’re not effective — and that was the case even last year.

Since quarterback Carson Wentz returned in week three, the Birds are 1-2.  Wentz does not look as fast as he did last season, which was expected after returning from major knee surgery in less than a year. He was remarkable on third down last year —he made it seem routine — and yesterday, he almost converted a third-and-20 with a laser throw to receiver Alshon Jeffery, but Vikings safety Harrison Smith’s hit on Jeffery caused him to drop the ball. As the Eagles are learning, everything is much harder this year.  []

It's now or never

Jarrett Bell | USA Today

Facing a crucial NFC East road test on a short week is not ideal for the Eagles, as they'll have to find their identity quickly or else things could spiral out of control. After the Giants, they'll host the Panthers before heading to London to take on the Jaguars, so it's not exactly about to get easier for Pederson and Co.

No, one season’s success doesn’t automatically carry over to the next, which is one reason why the NFL hasn’t had a back-to-back Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots repeated in the 2004 season. But the Eagles have their star quarterback, Carson Wentz, back in the fold. The savvy vets in the trenches on both sides of the ball are intact. And Doug Pederson is still coaching without fear.

Yet they are clearly in soul-searching mode.

“We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and fix ourselves,” said defensive end Brandon Graham, who on Sunday collected his first sack since his fourth-quarter strip-sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII. ...

If this doesn’t turn around soon, these outcomes will come to define the season. One of the advantages that Philadelphia earned last season – the No. 1 seed that allowed them to host the NFC title game – seems so distant now, especially with the Los Angeles Rams (5-0) one of just two unbeatens in the league and the New Orleans Saints (3-1) looking to stay on their heels. So there’s already some serious ground to make up.  []

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