Was the Eagles historic collapse fueled by inability, stubbornness and confusion?

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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)

It’s over. The 2023 Philadelphia Eagles season concluded in such a demising fashion, that it will go down as the worst collapse in franchise history. You could make a case that it’s one of the worst collapses in the city by any sports franchise.

They became just the second team in NFL history to start a season 10-1 or better and finish with seven losses, joining the 1986 New York Jets, losing six of their final seven games of the year.

The Eagles started to get near the edge of the cliff during the San Francisco game seven weeks ago when the inefficiencies across the board from the coaching staff and players and the stubbornness of the play calling became glaringly noticeable. The players and coaches said each week that went by that they would be fixing the issues and that it’s correctable, trying to back away from the edge of the proverbial cliff.

Well, the Eagles were unable to save themselves from falling off that ledge and what a fall it was.

Sirianni’s Seat is Now Hot

Once again, all of the troublesome signs on both sides of the ball that became the common theme during the final six game of the regular season where the Eagles lost five of those contests, two of them against the lowly Cardinals and Giants, was on full display for the world to see in a disastrous 32-9 loss to a Tampa Bay team that was also limping into the playoffs.

It was the lopsided loss the Nick Sirianni couldn’t afford to have. With his seat getting warm over the past month, the tailspin this team closed out the season on will never be forgotten by fans and the front office.

A front office led by Jeffery Lurie and Howie Roseman who are not afraid to fire a head coach despite previous success. The duo fired Doug Pederson just three years removed from winning the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl. They fired Chip Kelly in 2015 after the team went south under his leadership. If Sirianni gets let go, it would be the third head coach fired in 11 seasons by the Eagles.

Add all of that along with a coaching “class” that the league hasn’t seen in quite some time with heavy hitters such as Jim Harbaugh, Mike Vrabel, Bill Belichick along with rising coordinators across the league, it could make firing Sirianni a little easier for the front office.

It remains to be seen what the decision will be regarding Sirianni, who led the team to a Super Bowl last season and made the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. On the surface, his resume alone should buy him at least one more year to fix the issues that developed and persisted for the final two months of the season and perhaps even longer.

However, the list of negatives, poor decisions and lack of ability to adapt and change to help the Eagles get out of this rut very well might outweigh Sirianni’s success.

The Laundry List of Negative Eagles’ Mishaps

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Anthony Nelson, right, forces a safety on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

From the dysfunction on the sideline at times between players and coaches, the frustration from the players, the change in defensive coordinator more than halfway into the season that caused confusion for an already struggling defensive unit, to the stubbornness by Sirianni to not make any changes to “his” offense could have been his own demise.

The performance in Tampa was so bad, that the coaching staff was called out by Eagles’ legends on social media.

The coaching staff continued to not implement hot routes to help Jalen Hurts on blitzes, knowing Tampa blitzes at the third-highest rate in the NFL. Countless times, there was a free rusher in the face of Hurts, 10 unblocked pressures to be exact. Watching replays, you could see that every wide receiver had his back turned to Hurts running vertical routes a majority of those blitzes.

Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson throughout the season, especially on Monday night, abandoned the run too early. D’Andre Swift had two carries to start the game and picked up 11 yards. He ran the ball just two more times in the entire first half. The Eagles ran it just five times total in the first half after gouging Tampa on the ground for 201 yards in Week 3 on 40 rushing attempts.

They became one dimensional early and it became easy for the Buccaneers defense to pin its ears back and attack this offensive line and quarterback who had no safety outlets once again.

To put it in perspective, the Buccaneers running back Rachaad White came into that game averaging under 3.5 yards per carry. Yet, Tampa’s offense consistently ran it with him, 18 times in total and it helped Baker Mayfield move the ball through the air effectively on a sprained ankle and bruised ribs.

The Eagles fell in love with the big plays down field all season and the coaching staff’s stubbornness to not change the philosophy continued in Monday’s loss.

A prime example was on a 3rd and 2 early in the first quarter. Instead of running the ball, it was a pass play called resulting in Hurts airing it down the field where two Eagles wide receivers were less than five yards from one another, which shows there was confusion on what routes were to be run.

Philadelphia went 0-for-9 on third downs and became the first team since 1988 to not convert on third or fourth downs in a playoff game.

The Eagles have two of the top-15 wide receivers in the NFL and thrive on routes over the middle with the combination of their speed and strength. Instead, all season long they just sent A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith deep nonstop. Sirianni, who said earlier this season that he is unwilling to adjust his “process” despite the results, may have sent himself packing.

The frustration on offense boiled over in many forms on multiple occasions and caught on camera during broadcasts. Lane Johnson had one of the most insightful quotes postgame and his displeasure with how some of his teammates handled their dismay.

*Language Warning*

Defensive Confusion

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Trey Palmer (10) avoids a tackle by Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry (24) after making a catch and running for a long touchdown during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Defensively, this unit took just as sharp of a 180-degree turn. A rushing defense that was ranked in the top-three through the first half of the season, simply forgot how to stop the run. The tackling was poor the majority of the season, but once again, it seemed to reach a new low in the loss to Tampa Bay.

On WIP, Tuesday morning, Brandon Graham told the Morning Show that the switch of the defensive coordinators from Sean Desai to Matt Patrica was equivalent to “training camp, where you have to go through that stage, especially with Patrica, he tried to keep some stuff the same and he had his own spin to it. We understood that part, but we looked at it like it was a training camp phase where we’re building it and building it.”

The full interview with Graham and his quote can be found at 8:34.

A decision by Sirianni to essentially change the defensive scheme and all that comes with it could be one of the most egregious decisions he made. Legendary safety Brian Dawkins pointed out during the game that the defense was still learning in the playoffs.

Did the Players Quit on Sirianni?

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Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni reacts to a play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

There will be a lot of changes for the Eagles this offseason. It’s expected that Johnson, Desai and Patricia will not return next season. As for the fate of Sirianni, it remains to be seen. Does his success prior to the final seven weeks of this season enough to warrant a one year “fix it and prove it” deal? Perhaps.

It’s hard to think that he didn’t lose this locker room at some point this season based on the body language, answers in interviews, player only meetings and the lack of desire shown on the field over the final two weeks. If Lurie and Roseman find out that the messaging from Sirianni is no longer effective, it would be quite hard to bring him back for another season.

One thing is for certain if he is brought back. He will need to be more open-minded on how to elevate his offense and help Hurts return to the high level of play he showed in 2022 all while finding two new coordinators on offense and defense for a second consecutive season. That’s a tall task for any team, let alone for a team who crumbled with one of the most talented rosters in the league.

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara