That was the perfect end to the Eagles’ crappy season — failing to lose the one game they wanted to lose. There were just as many inept tackles, turnovers, dropped passes, stuffed runs, and big third down conversions surrendered as in any game this year, but New York’s defense proved even worse than Philadelphia’s and Eli threw another pick six to spoil Tom Coughlin’s (likely) final game.
Or maybe Coughlin outsmarted Pat Shurmur, getting his team a top 10 draft pick and a trip to London next year, as his grand finale. The Eagles will pick 13th, as well as facing Seattle on the road next year and crushing the hopes of the UK Eagles fan club.
Tragically, it appears that both teams were trying their hardest to win. They are just both so bad that it’s hard to tell sometimes.
Here are six interesting developments as a terrible season thankfully shuts down.
1. Sam Bradford’s price just went up.
People who think no other teams will want Sam Bradford are crazy. At least half a dozen teams are desperate for a QB, even if you don’t factor in the likelihood that at least one aging great (Romo, Brees, P. Manning) will retire. Brandon Weeden stank out loud for Dallas, got cut, and was signed by Houston, where he won a game as a starter. Teams will definitely want Bradford.
He’s been getting better all year and notching yet another big game today will boost his price even more. It’s too early to tell if he can really be a solid starter, but if the Eagles don’t keep him, what’s the alternative? Sanchez? Gamble everything on some rookie when three of four QB prospects fail in the pros?
Sam continues to improve every week and did well with more audibles today, a great sign for whoever ends up calling plays next year. The Eagles clearly need to draft at least one QB this year and hope he develops, but they’d be foolish not to keep Bradford as their starter while new talent develops.
Oh, and by the way?
That’s even with all the wide receiver drops. Note that Sanchez’ record was set last year, also under Chip. So if you think ditching Chip Kelly and Sam Bradford is the key to a better Eagles offense, well good luck with that.
All of this means that keeping Bradford won’t be cheap. The smartest move is probably a non-exclusive franchise tag. It’s cheaper, doesn’t lock them in long term and if another team signs him away, the Eagles get two first round picks. That’s a deal they should be happy to accept.
2. The Eagles need new linebackers coaches.
Rick Minter and Bill McGovern are just not getting the job done.
After three years, Mychal Kendricks keeps overrunning plays, and he’s teaching his technique to Kiko Alonso, hobbled as he is. It’s clear that Kiko shouldn’t have kept playing after re-injuring his knee this fall, but Chip no doubt felt pressured to produce. It backfired. With the outside OLBs, Marcus Smith’s lack of development is as legendary as Kiko was supposed to be.
3. The offensive line will remain bad.
OL weakness crippled this team, especially in the run game, and it is not likely to be fixed this off-season. Arguably everyone except Lane Johnson should be replaced. Jason Peters is rapidly declining, the guards are bad and Jason Kelce was under-sized even in Chip Kelly’s highly mobile system. When the team reverts to a more power-based offense, his deficiencies will be even worse.
DeMarco Murray started the game with a 54-yard touchdown run, leading folks to wonder if Chip had been unfairly holding him back. Nope. He gained 15 yards on 11 carries the rest of the way, actually losing 4 yards total on his next three carries. He may do better if he gets a good front line, but so will Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner.
4. The Eagles have a lot of talent.
At least three very good players missed most of this year due to injury — Cody Parkey, Jordan Hicks and JaCorey Shepherd. Kiko Alonso probably should have sat out as well. They will bolster an already talented team that underachieved this year.
I’m thinking that a lot of Chip’s acquisitions — Ertz, Agholor, Matthews, Mathews, Hicks, Thurmond, Shepherd, Rowe and Bradford – will eventually prove to be great players, but they developed too slowly for the pace of the NFL.
If Chip can figure out how to speed up the process, he may turn out to be a great coach some day too. But the Eagles and their fans were in no mood to wait and hope.
5. There’s a kicker controversy brewing.
He started out badly, but Caleb Sturgis has been steadily improving all year, especially on touchbacks. He didn’t allow a single kick return today. If the Eagles are confident in the recovery of Cody Parkey, who was better on field goals than Sturgis before his groin injury, they should look to trade one of the two this spring.
Sturgis has a year remaining on his contract, and good kickers are at a premium now, especially with the longer extra point kick. The Eagles are not going to keep a kickoff specialist so they ought to take advantage of their good luck.
6. Beware of statistics.
There are some revealing stats floating around today, hopefully even in this column. But a lot of the ones I’ve seen today are misleading. For example:
— Jordan Matthews didn’t reach 1,000 yards receiving.
Who cares? He had 997. That difference is no more important than the difference between 997 and 994. It’s like the odometer on your car rolling past 100,000. It’s just a number like any other.
Before the 2014 season, several people put down Jeremy Maclin by saying “he’s never broken 1,000 yards.” OK, but he had 964, 859 and 857 his previous three years as the #2 receiver behind DeSean Jackson. And when Chip featured him, he racked up 1,314 yards.
This year, he has 1,034 as Kansas City’s top target. That’s better than his pre-Chip high of 964, but just 70 yards better. No more, no less.
Then there’s this one:
Yeah, quarterbacks get a lot of yards when their team is behind a lot and can’t run, so they have to pass all the time. You know who doesn’t get many passing yards? Russell Wilson, who ranked 15th and 16th in the NFL in passing yards en route to two consecutive Super Bowls.
On a related note, a decent tight end on a team that has terrible wide receivers and has to pass a lot SHOULD rack up huge numbers. The bigger mystery with Ertz is why he didn’t start to explode like this a year earlier.
And finally, a defensive stat:
Walter Thurmond was a smart acquisition for Chip Kelly, and he’s had a great year. This ruling had nothing to do with the play Thurmond made, which scored seven points either way. But it means the difference between finishing 12th in the NFL with four interceptions for the year — tied with Josh Norman and Vontae Davis — and 19th (tied with Ricardo Allen and DRC).