Another catastrophic loss to cap off a catastrophic regular season.
The Eagles followed one of the worst losses in franchise history to one that was almost as bad.
Here’s how you can remember the 2023 Eagles: The first team in NFL history to open a season 10-1 and not win 12 games.
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And they even had one more chance than teams in a 16-game season.
Also the first team in 37 years to open up 10-1 and not win its division. In 1986, the Jets were 10-1 and finished 11-6 and didn’t win a game. The Eagles were 10-1 and finished 1-5 with a skin-of-their teeth win over the Giants their only win since November.
This was a meltdown of historic proportions.
The Eagles got embarrassed again Sunday, finishing the regular season with another wretched performance – this one a 27-10 loss to the Giants at MetLife.
This is a Giants team that has long since been eliminated from postseason contention, that had lost 17 of its last 20 to the Eagles, that hadn’t beaten a winning team all year.
Holy cow, this is unimaginably bad.
1. I’m going to start with Nick Sirianni because I’ve scoffed at the notion that he could lose his job this offseason a year after taking the Eagles to the Super Bowl. I still don’t think he will, but I could see how Jeff Lurie could be thinking about it. After this? How could you not? It’s not Lurie to make rash decisions, and even Chip Kelly got a third year after not winning playoff game his first two seasons and missing out on the playoffs his second year. But this is a collapse the likes of which the NFL has never seen. The Eagles didn’t just finish 1-5 after a 10-1 start, they lost in spectacular fashion. Blowing big leads, losing to awful teams, getting picked apart by backup quarterbacks, falling apart week after week in every way imaginable. The league has been around a long time and this is unprecedented stuff. Sunday was supposed to be a chance for the Eagles to get their confidence back heading into the playoffs after blowing a 17-point lead to the Cards Sunday at the Linc. Instead they suffered their worst loss in 11 years to a division rival they always beat. And what’s most alarming is that the Eagles had already begun getting blown out while the Commanders were actually up 10-7 against Dallas. So even with the NFC East in play, they still couldn’t stop playing awful football. There’s still a playoff game to be played in Tampa next weekend – although I half expect the NFL to just rule that the Eagles don’t deserve to be in the postseason and put somebody else in. But I can’t think of a single reason to believe the Eagles can shrug off the last six weeks and beat the Bucs. And I fear the 53 guys in that locker room probably feel the same way.
2. Matt Patricia has to go. Now. I’m serious. The Eagles need to put Sean Desai back in charge of the defense. I get that Desai wasn’t exactly Bud Carson, but at least when the defense fell apart under Desai it was against the Bills, the 49ers, the Cowboys – teams with big-time offenses. And under Desai’s watch, the defense had some nice performances – holding Tampa to 11, the Rams to 14, the Dolphins to 10, the Cowboys to six 2nd-half points and the Chiefs to no 2nd-half points. With Patricia in charge, this defense has been disastrous against everybody. The last four weeks have all been vs. teams ranked 20th or worse in offense. I don’t know if anything would help at this point, but if Patricia is calling the defense in Tampa, the Eagles have no chance to win. Period.
3. What the heck is going on with Jalen Hurts? Hurts has never been the best QB in the world against the blitz, but he hasn’t been one of the worst, either. But he just wasn’t seeing anything out there Sunday. Nobody prepares more than Hurts, but it looked like he had never seen the Giants’ defense before. His answer to every blitz was to roll out and throw the ball away, get sacked or throw a low-percentage pass into traffic. His final passing totals: 7-for-16 for 55 yards, no TDs, one interception and a 26.8 passer rating – his lowest in two years - before giving way to Marcus Mariota late in the second quarter. The Giants blitz the 2nd-most in the NFL. Guess who’s third. Yeah, Todd Bowles’ Buccaneers. The Eagles don’t have much of a chance to win a playoff game no matter what. But without Hurts playing at an elite level, they have no chance. Hopefully his hand injury isn’t as serious as it looked, but he’s got a lot to figure out in the next week.
4. Let’s be honest here. The Buccaneers are not a great team. They beat the 2-15 Panthers Sunday without scoring a touchdown to finish 9-8 and win the NFC South. They finished 2-7 vs. winning teams – they beat the Packers and Saints – and they finished 23rd in the league in offense and 25th in defense. In theory, you couldn’t ask for a better first opponent for the Eagles. It’s a team they already beat by two touchdowns – matching their biggest win of the season – and they were just 4-4 at home while the Eagles were 5-3 on the road. Bowles – the Eagles’ defensive coordinator at the end of 2012 – has coached for six years and has never won a playoff game. He’s coached 101 games – the 12th-most in NFL history by a head coach who’s never won a postseason game. I still have zero faith in the Eagles being able to get out of Raymond James Stadium with a win. But you couldn’t hand-pick a team the Eagles would have a better chance to beat.
5. This team’s turnover issues just won’t go away. With three more Sunday, the Eagles finished with 28 – nine more than last year. And 23 in the last 12 games – their most in any 12-game span since 2015. Which is not a year you want to be compared to. The Eagles did have one takeaway – Reed Blankenship’s interception just before halftime – but they finished minus-3 and – get this – minus-13 since Week 5, their worst in any 12-game span since 2012. Can’t win like that. Period. The Eagles were 4-0 this year when they were plus-1 or better and they’ve won 20 straight games when they’ve been plus-1 or better. That’s great. But good luck getting to plus-1 or better. They haven’t done that since the Chiefs game. They’re not going to start doing it now.
6. Not much to say about A.J. Brown because we don’t know yet how serious his knee injury is. It was scary at first but at least somewhat encouraging to see him walk off the field and to the tunnel on his own power. But needless to say, if the Eagles have any chance of doing anything in the postseason they need Brown as close as possible to 100 percent. He’s one of the few guys who never stopped fighting. Never stopped trying. Never stopped battling. But whoever’s running the offense next year has to figure out how to get Brown back to where he was last year and the first half of this year, when along with Tyreek Hill he was one of the NFL’s most feared deep-ball threats. Brown had 13 catches of at least 25 yards the first eight weeks and just two the last nine games. He averaged 15.7 yards per catch the first eight games and 11.3 the last eight. He averaged 11.3 yards per target the first eight weeks and 6.9 the last eight. He’s way too good to be some sort of underneath short-yardage guy. There’s not enough time to solve all this team’s problems by Sunday afternoon / Monday night. But finding ways to get one of the NFL’s best receivers the football shouldn’t be this hard.
7. This team’s inability – or reluctance – to tackle is infuriating. The Eagles were actually a good tackling team much of the season, but it’s gotten progressively worse and the last two weeks in particular have been horrible. And it’s everybody. There was one play early in the second quarter where Tyrod Taylor completed a short pass to Wan’Dale Robinson and James Bradberry and Zach Cunningham both not only whiffed on the tackle but ran into each other, letting Robinson pick up an extra 18 yards for a 26-yard gain. But the missed tackles have been everybody. Cunningham. Bradberry. Reed Blankenship. Sydney Brown (who got hurt Sunday). Nicholas Morrow. Kevin Byard. Shaq Leonard. Bradley Roby. You name it, he’s guilty. Some of it is effort, some of it is bad technique, some of it is being out of position. But I think a lot of it is also related to the defensive coordinator changes and guys really not being comfortable in Patricia’s scheme. If you’re not fully confident in what you’re doing – and how could they be? – you’re going to have a hard time playing fast and confident. I know one thing. We have all offseason to talk about the roster, but this team needs a completely new cast of linebackers next year. Nakobe Dean and Ben VanSumeren will be here, but everybody else? Bye.
8. OK, here’s a positive. With D’Andre Swift out Sunday because of an illness, Kenny Gainwell again showed why the Eagles are high on him. Gainwell ran seven times for 62 yards, continuing a 2nd-half surge that has seen him average 6.4 yards per carry since Week 9 – limited carries but the 2nd-highest rushing average in the league the last two months. There’s a chance the Eagles re-sign D’Andre Swift simply because running backs aren’t getting big contracts these days and he may end up being affordable. But it seems like the Howie Roseman way to let Swift go as a free agent, draft a running back on Day 2 and split the workload next year between Gainwell and the rookie. Swift had a strong year and I like his game, but if Roseman believes he’s really not that much of an upgrade over Gainwell – who has a budget $1.055 cap figure next year – he’s not going to spend $3 to $3 ½ million per year on Swift. If there’s a lesson in Miles Sanders’ performance in Carolina this year – he finished with just 3.3 yards per carry and just over 400 yards – it’s that good running backs look very good behind this offensive line and pedestrian behind a weak offensive line. Now, maybe Jason Kelce won’t be here next year, but this will still be a very good o-line. Howie hasn’t given a significant second contract to a running back since LeSean McCoy in 2012, and I’m not sure he’ll do it for Swift.
9. In case you were wondering … this was the second time in franchise history the Eagles lost three of their last six games by at least 17 points. It also happened in 1976 when they lost by 21 to the Browns, 19 to the Raiders, Washington by 24 and Dallas by 19. But that was a 4-10 team. This was a 10-1 team. A little different.
10. Looking for a reason for hope? Here’s all I’ve got: We mentioned those 1986 Jets, the last team before the 2023 Eagles to open a season 10-1 and fail to win its division. Those 1986 Jets – with Rich Kotite as offensive coordinator and Bud Carson as defensive coordinator - also reached the playoffs. They opened the season 1-1 and then won nine straight games to get to 10-1. After that? They lost their last five games, including losses by 42 points to the Dolphins, 31 points to the Bengals, 21 points to the Steelers and 14 points to the Rams and 49ers. That’s the most similar collapse to what we’ve just watched over the last six weeks. That Jets team – like this Eagles team – did draw a pretty good 10-6 Chiefs team that had won its last three games. And in that playoff game, Pat Ryan – who would play for Kotite with the Eagles in five years – threw three touchdowns and the Jets destroyed the Chiefs 35-15 to end their five-game losing streak and then played a competitive game against a 12-win Browns team in Cleveland, losing 23-20. That’s all I got.