We are many hours past the 23-17 loss to the Washington Redskins. I am as angry and I am frustrated as I am bewildered. I also understand the urgency of the situation: To make the playoffs, the Eagles have to win at least 10 games this season. They have to win at least eight of the next 11 games, and even that might not be enough when you look at the teams in front of the Eagles in an NFC East that isn't going to lose many games this season.
Looking ahead at this point is foolish. What needs to be done is immediate and bold: Somebody needs to take control of this team and drag it in the winning direction and my candidates are the following men: Head coach Andy Reid, quarterback Donovan McNabb and safety Brian Dawkins.
I'm grasping at straws right now, tossing out all of the sports clichés that you don't want to hear right now. You want answers and, honestly, what answers are there? The Eagles are either going to stay the course and remain confident in what they have and what they are and hope that the team the Eagles believed they were just a few weeks ago is truly the team they are, or they are going to make some dramatic and instant changes.
Andy Reid, through clenched teeth, seemed to indicate a lean toward the former in his post-game press conference. He was upset, no doubt about it. What he is thinking now, having watched the tape of the game countless times and noting all of the things that went againt the Eagles, is something only he knows. Reid has been down this road before, and his approach was one of consistency and perserverance and, in years gone by,
That is a difficult pill to swallow at this very moment. It is hard for fans to accept more patience. A team that opened the season by blowing out the Rams, and then taking the Cowboys to the distance before manhandling the Steelers have taken a two-week powder at a time when the demands of the division and of the season are such that maximium performance and concentration was and is and always will be needed.
Yeah, it stinks right now. The Eagles are 2-3, and if I hear that "the season is still early and anything can happen" I'm going to throw up. The season isn't young. Anything can happen, sure, but when you have three teams in the division with a total of two losses and with a schedule filled with what I see as cupcakes, you know, the writing is right there: It's 10 wins, maybe 11, or else.
So what is going to happen? I don't know. The Eagles play San Francisco on Sunday in a game that promises to be another dogfight. A win gets the Eagles to 3-3 and then what? A bye week and time to re-assess the situation, sure. But it is an uneasy time, for sure.
There are many issues here, and every phase and every man involved deserves a piece of the blame. The offense isn't sustaining drives or scoring touchdowns. The defense isn't getting off the field on third down and on Sunday was gashed in the running game and beaten by a smart, efficient quarterback. The special teams gave the Eagles life with a punt return for a touchdown and continue to be the league's best in the punt coverage game, but otherwise there have been too many mistakes and not enough positive plays.
The playcalling hasn't worked, the motiviation and discipline haven't been there and, overall, it sure looks a lot like last season. And how many of you, raise your hands, can live through another year like 2007? Enough is enough.
I don't know if Reid can wave a magic wand and provide the remedy. He is taking responsibility, as all great leaders do. Reid understands that he bears the responsibility of restoring the Eagles to the glory they had in the first half of this decade, when a 2-3 record was overcome by one inspiring performance after another.
Does this team have it in them? Can this team win 8 of 11 games? Do you believe?
More important, do the Eagles believe? See, one of the intangibles missing with this team, and with the team from last year, is the ability to overcome adversity. Too many times already this season, the Eagles have lost the battle when faced with tough spots. They fumbled in Dallas and the defense couldn't hold a fourth-quarter lead. They had one chance after another after a tough start in Chicago to climb back in front and didn't do so. They led 14-0 over Washington on Sunday and let every ounce of momentum slip away without a counter-punch to consider.
The Eagles need someone -- Reid, McNabb or Dawkins -- to grab the locker room by the, uh, throat and choke some sense into this team. Maybe "sense" isn't the right word. This team lacks confidence. It lacks direction. It lacks spark.
While McNabb sat in his post-game press conference and expressed his defiance at the standings and the results of the three losses, it was hard to admit anything other than his words sounded hollow.
"I was embarrassed these last two weeks. I mean (to lose) to two teams we shouldn't have lost to," said McNabb. "When you make mistakes and you don't capitalize on opportunities things like this happen. There is no way that you can look at this game and say that, and not taking anything anyway from them, but there is no way that this team is better than us. The same went for last week and then you find yourself here wondering why. It's going to be a week in which you got to look at yourself and not look at anybody else. You have to ask yourself, 'Did you do the job?,' and sometimes you have to go through that process. It's better that you go through it now, but there's no reason for us to be going through that right now."
So, McNabb was asked, are the Redskins a better team because they beat the Cowboys and Dallas beat the Eagles?
"It doesn't make a difference. It doesn't matter if they beat the Cowboys. We should've beat the Cowboys. Does that make them a better team because they beat them? Not really," said McNabb. "They beat us last year and then we beat them at Washington so does that mean that they were better than us earlier in the year and we were better later? I don't see it that way."
The only way to see it is that the Eagles are at a crossroads five games into the season. They have a very little margin for error over the course of 11 games in the next 12 weeks. And they don't have answers right now.
In lieu of drastic changes, which are up to Reid to decide, the locker room has to find out just how much chemistry and leadership there is here. Talk is cheap right now, frankly. The Eagles have to go out and win in San Francisco and find that spark that turns the season around.
I'm laying it on the veterans of this team to show the way. The coaching has to be better, I'm not excusing Reid and his staff by any means, but the players are the focus here. How much do the Eagles want to win moving forward? How good is the mix here? How is the leadership?
I'm not sleeping. I'm miserable. I loved this team a few weeks ago and thought it would be a great season ahead, but how can you feel that way now? The Eagles have to prove it to all of us, themselves included. A season has turned downright ugly the last two weeks and the Eagles could ill afford the mis-steps.
There is no spin here. There is no way to make you feel better, because at 2-3 and with two NFC East losses already, the Eagles are in a difficult, unenviable spot. What is the team going to do? Which way is this season going? How does Reid and the locker room respond?
I wish I had the cure. I wish I had the answers. Right now, all I have is the angst from the turn in the season, and I'm waiting for the spark to turn it back in the right direction.