Philadelphia Eagles News

MNF Crew: Just Who Are These Eagles?


The first impression was, well, fascinatingly extreme. Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden broadcast the Eagles' 2015 opener in Atlanta, the tale-of-two-halves'-game, and knew the team could look a whole lot different a month later.

"It was surprising in that game at that time, but now we look at Atlanta and it wasn't so surprising," said Tirico, recalling the Eagles falling 26-24 in the September 14 opener on the road. "This team had a lot of new pieces in place. It takes time for all of that to come together. They've lost three games, and only the Dallas game was one you would say they were outplayed. If that is the low point of the season for the Eagles, they're going to be fine.

"Did last week (win over New Orleans) represent the turnaround? I think that's one of the storylines for Monday night's game."

Tirico and Gruden spent much of Sunday at the NovaCare Complex watching the team train and then conducting a production meeting in advance of the broadcast for Monday Night Football on ESPN. New York (3-2) is in town and first place in the NFC East is at stake, as strange as that sounds for an Eagles team that was 0-2 out of the gates and then fell to 1-3 with the tough loss at Washington before rebounding to wallop the Saints on Sunday.

The opener, though, set the stage for the first month of the season for the Eagles. They were slow to start against the Falcons, the offense didn't establish the running game and the second-half comeback fell just short.

"I'm not really surprised by what I saw in the first game and nor am I surprised by where they are now," Gruden said. "There is so much turnover in this league, you know? It's really unbelievable. I don't think people realize it. The league is set up for 8-8 for every team. The way the draft is set up. The way the salary cap works.

"Sam (Bradford) didn't play much in the preseason and in that first game I was more interested in seeing how he played. He played like I expected him to play in the first half and kind of like I expected him to play in the second half. Each week you see him getting more comfortable, playing better football. That's kind of what you should expect."

To prepare for this game, Gruden went back and looked at the first time the Giants and Eagles played in 2014. He watched that game tape twice. The Eagles had one of their best performances of the season in a 27-0 win. But what does that Week 6 (October 12) win mean now?

Not much, really. New York has Steve Spagnuolo, not Perry Fewell, running the defense. There are new players dotting the Giants' defense. The Eagles' offense, as we know, has a new backfield, new starting guards along the offensive line and different receivers catching the football.

"So much change," Gruden said. "I don't know where this team is. I don't recognize the defense. The linebackers aren't out there. I don't know who is playing safety. Who is the nickel corner? I don't know yet. I think it's a great opportunity for the Eagles to get into a tie for first place in the division after six weeks if they win with 10 games to go. When you have a lot of change, it's hard to be consistent right away. It takes time for everything to come together."

That's much of what you're going to hear from the broadcast booth on Monday night as Tirico and Gruden get their second looks at the Eagles, a team that everyone is trying to understand. That loss in Atlanta was followed by the disappointment against Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field, then an encouraging win in New York over the Jets. But then the Eagles lost on the length-of-the-field drive late in the fourth quarter at Washington, putting their season in a precarious position.

Last Sunday's 39-17 destruction of New Orleans was great, fun, and ... what?

"Was it an aberration? Is last week closer to what this team is starting to get? There are a lot of questions about this team, most of it coming from all of the change," Tirico said. "We're in game 6 and it's hard to have a handle on what the Eagles are.

"I think locally there's more of a panic about this team than there is nationally. I look at Chip Kelly and see a coach who has won 10 games in back-to-back seasons. His team isn't where he wants it right now, but a win puts the Eagles in first place in the division. I get it in Philly. I know how much the fans love this team and how much the Eagles matter here. I know they haven't won a Super Bowl and that they are the closest among the four major teams to being a contender. The fans are deep into this team and you can feel the emotion when you visit this city. They're trying to figure out this team, too."

"I'll tell you one thing: Chip Kelly has his plan and his vision. Let's see how it turns out," Gruden said. "This game is the NFC East. You know it's going to be nasty. Maybe we'll get some answers to all of these questions, but I don't know. I don't know what to think. I'm excited to find out, just like everyone else."

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