PHILADELPHIA — Clearly the Eagles aren’t listening to Nick Sirianni. Would anybody be surprised if Bill Belichick succeeded him, assuming it’s time for him to move on from the Patriots?
The Eagles aren’t tuned in to their coordinators, the veteran captains, and certainly not their critics. The proof is a gruesome 1-4 December to remember highlighted by a last-minute 35-31 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, who arrived here Sunday with a lot of questions and a 3-12 record.
Leadership is needed, and there is at least one Eagles player who can supply it. In fact, he tried in Seattle and a few days later put himself back in his place. The Eagles have been regretting that.
Obviously, the guy we’re talking about is quarterback Jalen Hurts, wise and respectful beyond his years, yet when he steps up to the podium, duller than a waiting-room conversation about the weather.
Hurts surprised himself when in the wake of a pathetic loss to the Seahawks, the team’s third straight setback, he remarked that the Eagles weren’t “committed enough.”
Faster than you could say, “seriously?,” the debates began. While Hurts was 100 percent correct, he walked the phrase back days later. Too many players weren’t doing everything they could, and they deserved to be put on notice that more was required if they wanted to be here.
Since the “committed” quote, the Eagles have had two more opportunities to show they were all in. The first was a one-possession victory over the lowly New York Giants in which we had to await the resolution of a Hail Mary from Tyrod Taylor, who came out of the bullpen at halftime.
The other was Sunday’s four-point loss to the Cardinals, who marched up and down Lincoln Financial Field the way the Eagles did when they were committed.
Last year, the Eagles leaned on Hurts and the offense to control the football and keep the defense fresh to rush the passer. This year, the symbiotic relationship between those units has been a train wreck.
Changing defensive coordinators hasn’t helped, though don’t blame newbie Matt Patricia. The lack of experienced healthy players in the back end of the defense is ridiculous. Receivers have been open all season. If Mac Jones could throw, the New England Patriots would have prevailed in the opener.
The Eagles at least are trying to get better long-term by breaking in rookie defensive backs Sydney Brown, Kelee Ringo and Eli Ricks. They can run, though the tackling leaves much to be desired. The bottom line is there are only so many productive snaps you can get out of DB old heads like Bradley Roby (scratched last week) and Kevin Byard (should be scratched).
But back to Hurts. The quarterback noticed something about his team when he was fighting an illness leading up to the Seattle trip. When Hurts said something about the lack of commitment, his apologists defended him by spinning his remarks as a team thing.
What’s wrong with transparency in a three-game skid? Hurts should have named names, positions and coaches in Seattle. Maybe then the people around him would have done something before it was too late.
While it is basically too late to get back to the Super Bowl this season, it’s not too early to set a committed tone for 2024.
Let’s be honest, this is Hurts’ team. He’s not going anywhere. It’s not too late for Hurts to assert himself. He doesn’t have to rip teammates or coaches, but he needs to be heard instead of silenced. Communication is key. The face of the franchise should not under any circumstances have to spend time explaining what he really meant to say.
In a football city like Philly, there is no way to walk back what you say without regretting it. So, don’t. Football fans here are a lot more sophisticated than what some players would like to believe. They can smell a coverup from the cheap seats.
Sirianni, for all his energy and focus, has been lost this season without last year’s coordinators, now Cardinals head coach Jonanthan Gannon and Colts head coach Shane Steichen. Gannon out-strategized Sirianni Sunday by turning that onside kick with the ultra-low success rate into a chance to get the ball back and go for the win. Steichen is fighting for a division pennant with Gardner Minshew as his quarterback, and he found a way to get the most out of Hurts, who looked like he was ready to take a next-level step at training camp.
Hurts’ numbers are a lot like last season. The Eagles again boast two 1,000-yard receivers in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith and a 1,000-yard rusher in D’Andre Swift. But going from 10-1 to 11-5 once the schedule got tough? Struggling down the homestretch against pitiful teams with little to play for?
Belichick would make a difference if say, Jeffrey Lurie wanted to go that way. Bill loves Hurts.
But Hurts was right, the Eagles aren’t committed enough. And right now it’s up to him to make the non-commits accountable.
To contact Bob Grotz, email firstname.lastname@example.org.