The Eagles brought the worst out of themselves: 4 takeaways from a dismal playoff loss

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Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, right, is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Greg Gaines during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

It’s been nearly 24 hours since the Eagles watched their playoff hopes disintegrate in front of them, but the loss doesn’t feel any easier to accept. Here are some initial thoughts on what might be one of the most bitterly disappointing ends to a season in recent memory.

The worst feeling…

I have never before got to the end of a blowout and felt a sense of relief. It was over. I no longer had to wake up and delude myself into believing that the coaching staff would get it right, or buy in to the same old words being recycled in pressers each week. The Eagles are who we thought they were and hoped they weren’t, and the season is finally over so that substantial change can finally take place.

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni looks on during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

For a team this good on paper, that is one of the worst possible emotions to associate with them. This is an elite roster that features an elite quarterback and two outstanding receivers. To feel a sense of relief when the team gets blown out for the final time feels so dystopian.

No more false hope or empty words. No more outrageous disappointments. It’s time for the front office and ownership to step in and fix a mess that the coaching staff refused to. The darkest days should be in the rear-view mirror, but it’s a bumpy road ahead.

It starts at the top

As much as we can point to a total lack of effort from the players on Monday night, this very clearly starts at the top. The blueprint on how to beat the Eagles has been out for around 2 months now, and team after team has stepped up and knocked them down, with no signs of change on the horizon.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took to the field with unwavering confidence. Baker Mayfield was aggressive from the off, unafraid to launch balls down the field and challenge a vulnerable secondary.

The fact that beating a team this good can be made to look so blindingly obvious even to the most casual fan is a huge problem, and one that has to be fixed this offseason. It doesn’t matter who’s at fault. Whether it’s Sirianni, Johnson, Patricia, or all 3 of them. Change is coming.

How much of this falls on Jalen Hurts?

There has been a lot of finger-pointing in the direction of Jalen Hurts over the last 24 hours and I don’t really understand why. What more can you expect him to do when his passing chart resembles my ex-girlfriend: hot on the outside, cold in the middle?

I lost count of how many times Hurts would scramble to the right and wait for a wideout to get open, only for the playmakers to literally: stop moving, killing the play and exposing Jalen Hurts to a hit.

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) scrambles as Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Yaya Diaby (0) and defensive tackle Calijah Kancey (94) chase him during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

I acknowledged that against the Giants, the Eagles’ offense looked lost without A.J Brown to shoulder the burden. A good offense will be able to at least put up points regardless of who plays, and elevate weaker players by masking their weaknesses. The Eagles don’t have an offense to run as soon as one player goes down.

It’s beyond perplexing, but Jalen Hurts still put up 250 yards and a touchdown last night. He didn’t turn the ball over and completed 70% of his passes despite being blitzed on nearly every play.

That’s not an exaggeration, either. The Bucs blitzed Hurts on 75% of dropbacks during their week 3 contest, and it was very evident that a similar approach was taken here. The difference is that he handled it better than he has in recent weeks.

Let’s not overthink ourselves into a bad decision. Jalen Hurts is not the main man at fault here.

A sad goodbye

Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox. Three players who have been cornerstones of this team since their arrivals well over a decade ago, and three players who feel destined for Hall of Fame honors down the road. Last night’s loss might well be their final game as members of the team that drafted them, with all of their contracts set to expire in March.

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) helps up Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Brandon Graham has expressed interest in returning to the team for one last rodeo, but is that going to be a shared desire? He’s 35 now and cost $8M this year, putting up 3 sacks in the process. As wholesome as it is that he wants to come back, it’s no guarantee that he will.

As for Kelce, he told reporters that he plans to retire. Arguably the greatest center of all time is hanging up his boots after a remarkable 13-year career. The Eagles just won’t feel the same without Kelce around, and the same can be said for Fletcher Cox, whose status remains up in the air at this point.

More than anything else, it just completely sucks that the Eagles couldn’t win just one game for them. Players who have outlasted every coach, every scheme, every rise, and every fall. Teammates who grew up watching them on TV couldn’t just get out of their own way for one playoff game, to give back for all the years of exceptional play and remarkable leadership. It’s a real shame it had to end this year, but not every ending can be a fairytale one.

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara