The answer, of course, is neither. How can anyone possibly think that a group that had been together for two weeks would be representative of a season-long team or that a team that has practiced all of three weeks together would be a "finished" product? It's absurd.
I'm hearing panic in the streets. Just a bit, mind you. But there are questions about the Eagles in the wake of the loss last week in Pittsburgh, and there are concerns about everything from the play of the offensive line to the youth at linebacker, to the coverage skills at safety.
Understood. Eagles fans are back, and they are tuned in and they are passionate and completely immersed in the team.
When a team plays as poorly as the Eagles did against the Steelers, there are naturally going to be questions. Every team has questions, especially in this extraordinary offseason when the period of discovery about players is condensed and the clock ticks down faster and faster to the first game of the regular season.
There is a lot of faith in what the Eagles are putting together here. This is an excellent coaching staff working hand in hand with a personnel department that has stocked the roster with a terrific blend of youth and experience.
In normal years, we would have a pretty strong sense of which players are going to play where and how they are going to perform after watching them throughout the spring and all of training camp. This time around, of course, it's different. Casey Matthews is starting at middle linebacker and we see the good things in him and we see the things that he needs to improve, and sometimes it's hard to step back and understand that many of the blemishes would have been worked on had the NFL had a usual off-season.
It did not, because of the lockout. So Matthews is fully in the spotlight and every play, every movement, every learning experience, is blown up and scrutinized.
Is it fair? This the big leagues, and Matthews understands that. He is a remarkably mature young man who has a calm, confident demeanor. The Eagles obviously like what they see in Matthews now and they like where they think he is going to be in a matter of weeks and months. He is nowhere near a finished product.
A team that could start as many as five rookies -- Matthews, center Jason Kelce, right guard Danny Watkins, placekicker Alex Henery and punter Chas Henry -- understands how to teach players, how to guide rookies, and how to be patient during the growing pains.
Could the Eagles, in retrospect, have taken the safe route and retained their coaching staff and kept their roster intact from the 2010 NFC East-winning team and probably played better on Thursday night in Pittsburgh? Well, yeah, maybe. But is that the goal? Are we here to win preseason games?
No, the goal is to win the Super Bowl this year, and then to have a team with that kind of ability for years to come. The Eagles have managed to assemble a veteran-laden roster that also includes a lot of youth. This is a roster built for the short term and the long haul.
This is also a team that has a coaching staff that realizes the importance of teaching technique and of demanding precision in executing the scheme. Jim Washburn, I can tell you, loves what he has up front. He has a deep and talented rotation and he is going to throw wave after wave at offensive lines this season and dare blockers to keep up with the fresh legs and the tremendous energy of the defensive line.
Johnnie Lynn has a great group of cornerbacks that are going to be employed in a variety of ways within Juan Castillo's defense. Michael Zordich's safety group was hailed in the win over Baltimore when it recorded three interceptions. Do you think he is ready to throw it all away after a tough game in Pittsburgh?
Sure, the linebackers have a lot of show us. Agreed. It is a very young group, but there is a lot to work with here. The Eagles have enough size and speed and talent to have a fine group at linebacker, but when a team has a third-year man (Moise Fokou), a second-year man (Jamar Chaney) and a rookie (Matthews) starting, there is a bit of a learning curve. A rather steep one, in fact.
And on offense, the pieces are in place for having one of the league's best. No question about it. Yeah, the offensive line has some moving pieces, but do you think Howard Mudd, one of the greatest line coaches in the history of the NFL, is doing something now that he hasn't done dozens of seasons before? He is taking a look at his players. He is learning about his pieces. He is making sure that when the lights go on, the offensive line is prepared to have the five best players on the field.
Look, I understand the urgency. The Eagles fell flat in Pittsburgh, and the red flags popped out of nowhere. This is a team, like every team in the league, that has wrinkles to iron out. And they will get ironed out. In due time, this team will get on the same page and have a great season.
Have faith, Eagles fans. What you thought you had here, a Super Bowl-caliber team, is still here. It's just that sometimes you have to experience some bumps in the city streets to enjoy the cruise in the country.