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One Final Time For 2015's Roller Coaster

Posted Jan 2, 2016

They’ve come through the week that was, one of the most unusual in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles, and now in north New Jersey with a singular goal in mind: The players and coaches of this team want to beat the New York Giants on Sunday at 1 PM. That’s the sole focus …

They’ve come through the week that was, one of the most unusual in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles, and now in north New Jersey with a singular goal in mind: The players and coaches of this team want to beat the New York Giants on Sunday at 1 PM. That’s the sole focus …

It’s not an easy thing to do, to block out the noise of an extraordinary week and with so much of the outside world targeting the future. So if you’re a player or a coach, you take this week as a unique challenge.

“We’ve got to win a game. You only get 16 of these in the regular season and you go out and play the best you can and that’s it,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “What happens after that is out of our control. You learn to focus on what you can control.”

The only off-field news to report is that the Eagles interviewed running backs coach Duce Staley for the head coaching job. Otherwise, the team has kept its eyes and minds on the football game.

Not particularly easy to do.

“After the first day, when we found out and came together for the first day, it was really all about football,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “You follow the schedule and you do your job.”

The job is to complete the season on Sunday. At 6-9, both the Eagles and Giants have played through disappointing seasons. Both have questions about the future – who will be the Eagles’ next head coach? Will Tom Coughlin return as the Giants head coach in 2016? – that will be answered in due time.

At this moment, the team’s mind is on the finale. For the fans, yes, totally understood. We’ve all gone through a very tough season, one totally unexpected. It’s hard to believe the swan song is here. A season that began with such tumult, really dating back to the front-office restructuring a year ago to the massive changes on the roster in March, through what seemed to be a satisfying draft in late April/early May into the Tim Tebow Experiment and then playing in a preseason that was just about perfect to the opener in Atlanta and now through the week-by-week roller coaster.

Honestly, it’s been exhausting. That’s a word I hear so much from the fans about this season. And it fits in a 12-month cycle that has produced to-the-core turnover on the football roster, in the front office and with the coaching staff.

We’re all strapped in for the ride ahead. In the meantime, there is a locker room full of players and coaches hoping to go out feeling the good things you feel, no matter how temporary, after winning a football game. Don’t expect a lot to be different about the way the Eagles play under interim head coach Pat Shurmur, but there may be some young players – linebacker Steven Means and cornerbacks Denzel Rice and Randall Evans come to mind – who could get some game reps.

Shurmur says he’s playing it pretty much the same as the Eagles have played in 15 games this season in terms of scheme and approach and, of course, intent.

“I think what we need to do is do what we need to do to win the football game,” Shurmur said. “On offense we need to take care of the football, move the football and I think it’s important that we don’t fall victim to some of the mistakes that we’ve made in previous games. I think we’ve displayed an ability to move the ball all year, and here when we move the ball into the red zone we need to get touchdowns. We’ve got to avoid all the pre-snap penalties and avoid dropping the football. All of the mistakes that we’ve fallen victim to this season.”

Shurmur has stressed to his team all week to “stay in the moment” and “be professional” to prepare for the Giants. It’s been that kind of week, one that hasn't happened with the Eagles since 1985 and that hopefully won't happen again for another 30 years. Nobody wants to be in this position, but here we are: all together wondering what's next.

Let's enjoy the finale because, well, it's Eagles football. We love it and we live it and it is always a sad thing, no matter the date on the calendar, when the Eagles season ends. Parting is such sweet sorrow ...

It's an Eagles football game and it's part of our fabric and we live it and breathe it, so cherish the day and the game and let's look forward to better times. One more game remains and then the season ends and the future begins. It's been a long year, a disappointing year and one that goes down in history for this franchise as one of the most off-kilter, but I'm sure going to miss it when it's over.

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