Just over one year ago, I wrote an article stating how Chip Kelly had lost the Eagles locker room. Through a negligence to adapt, a refusal to acknowledge areas of weakness and a lack of accountability Chip Kelly crumbled as his team fell to a decimating thanksgiving loss to Detroit. The team rebounded well against the Patriots, shocking everybody and causing a lot of backlash against those who foresaw the sinking ship.
The Eagles went on to fall apart in the coming weeks, eventually leading to the firing of Chip Kelly. But twelve months later..those same signs were evident in the play of the Eagles in their embarrassing loss to the Bengals. The reasons however, were totally different.
From the moment the Eagles opened the season on a high with a win over Cleveland, to the huge upset against Atlanta, Doug Pederson has been calmly approaching each week with the same “one game at a time” mentality. But if you’ve seen any of the footage of Pederson inside the locker room following those wins, a very clear message was being given.
“It’s so sweet when you walk off that field knowing you gave everything you got”
“I’m hoping you guys are believing, just a little bit”
“We’re sitting here at 0-0 again, now we gotta go try to win the next week”.
No matter what the circumstance, the affirmation was that so long as the Eagles “kept chopping”, then the sky was the limit. The belief from Pederson in his team was evident and something that as the season progressed, his team began to trust.
But then the losses started to mount. It becomes much harder to inspire a team with the same kind of speeches after crushing losses to divisional rivals and the likes of the Seattle Seahawks. But nonetheless, the Eagles were still in the thick of the playoff race..and the team had every right to believe that they had what it takes to go as far as their hard work would take them.
But them, something strange happened. In his press conferences during the run up to Sunday’s loss, Doug Pederson changed his stance. Winning now was no longer the priority. Instead, the bigger picture seemed to become the main focus for the Eagles Head Coach.
“Look at the effort,” said Pederson. “I think you might look at wins and losses. I got to look at the potential of the football team and the guys that we have. Are we there yet? No. Are we heading in the right direction? Yes.”….
…“At the same time, I look at the process. I look at the plan. I use those words because those are words that we use around here, because there is a plan. And there is a process. And you know, you build your team through the draft. You pick up a couple good free agents through the offseason. You continue to work.”
Building through the Draft? Potential mattering more than wins and losses? With numerous Eagles players adamant that the team are not in a rebuilding phase, this was beyond confusing. Pederson had acknowledged the reality that his team wasn’t a playoff contender just yet. But when you talk to the media, you’re talking to three different sets of people. The front office, the players and the fans. The idea was clear. Discredit the recent struggles and losses while reaffirming the long term plan in order to calm a ferocious storm that had been brewing.
But instead of calming the storm, Pederson had evacuated the town that the storm was headed toward. The loss to the Bengals was abysmal. Carson Wentz played his worst game of his career, the Pass rush failed to tally a sack for the second consecutive week and the Secondary was toasted by a 3-7 Bengals Offense. The Eagles passes 60 times against a Defense that gives up an average of 120 yards on the ground and it was just plain messy.
But the worst part, was the lack of effort. The Eagles looked disengaged, uninterested and lacked both effort and emotion as well as discipline. The team were penalized ten times on Sunday..as their season of raining flags continues. Poor discipline is often a sign of poor coaching, but potentially sign of thoughtless play.
Malcolm Jenkins, a perennial leader of this team left the stadium without talking to reporters. Jason Peters declined to speak and Carson Wentz kept his post-game activity short and sweet. The Head Coach? Doug Pederson kept reporters waiting 30 minutes after the game for his presser.
The heart and soul of this team has simply lost the will to keep beating. Pederson didn’t seem to adapt his strategy, be it on the field, or off of it. The same speeches, the same gameplans and the same coaching mistakes that constantly hurt his team have worn thin after the Eagles are now winless in five of their last six games. But when Doug finally took a different approach, it disregarded all of the hard work and hard times that his players had gone through..and it stung.
The Eagles didn’t just lose to the Bengals. They lost themselves. The fire that saw a sub-par Offensive line dominate the Steelers and the same fire that ignited one of the league’s most impressive pass rushes has turned into nothing but a smokescreen.
With a lack of leadership on the field, it’s hard to maintain the philosophies Pederson embodies. Jordan Matthews was sidelined, leaving Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green Beckham to carry the receiving corps. One man with character issues and another struggling to find character itself, leading a pair of UDFA’s into the battlefield.
A rookie quarterback playing behind a plug-n-play line that has lacked experience with him on the field could only do so much. A rookie running back took the very short backfield reins and a third string tight end led the team in receiving.
On Defense, just as momentum looked as if it was shifting, all signs of life would be sucked out of the team through a penalty..and if a Head Coach can’t rally the troops to fight a losing battle, he certainly can’t rally them to win the war. The pre-battle speeches have worn off, hope is fading..and realization is setting in.
Chip Kelly dismantled the Eagles locker room through a lack of accountability for his own actions..as one by one, players slowly started to lose trust. More than anything, it was Chip’s actions that forced the Eagles locker room into chaos. Doug Pederson’s lack of actions is what has caused this team to simply lose faith in the coach that built them up to leave them on the edge of a Cliff.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports