Saturday, November 28, 2015

Why The Eagles Stink And Why ESPN Is Wrong About It

Not in any way, shape or form responsible for the Eagles' collapse
Thursday night, ESPN radio personality Robin Lundberg attempted to defend beleaguered Eagles coach Chip Kelly. "Point to one move," Lundberg sputtered, "That was that bad". The logic being, of course, that since there's no "disaster" move the definitively turned the playoff-bound Eagles into Tulane, there's nothing to see here and the Eagles' collapse can most likely be blamed on pixie dust, too much sushi, or the sudden difficulty in finding certain pieces of the Hooters' back catalog.

Which is nonsense.

No, there isn't a single "disaster move" Kelly made. That doesn't matter. Franchises generally don't get wrecked by single moves, unless they're of the Herschel Walker/Ricky Williams draft deal variety. More often, they get killed by a series of deals, each of which makes the team worse on their own, and when put together, synergize into a truly unholy mess.

And that's why you don't look at, say, the quarterback trade Kelly made with St. Louis and call it a wash. Yes, Nick Foles is having an awful year, and if you look at just Bradford for Foles in a vacuum, you'd probably call it a draw.

Except it wasn't. The deal put an older, injury-prone quarterback who didn't have experience in Kelly's system under center. Foles had his flaws - he could lose a 60 meter dash to a stoned armadillo, for one - but the fact that he is having a bad year on a bad team in St. Louis doesn't mean the trade for Bradford was a good one. No, that deal made the Eagles just a little bit worse. And then you look at the other moves Kelly made - dumping 2/5 of his highly rated offensive line, that same offensive line he'd be sticking that old, fragile, slow QB behind it; letting top receiving talent go through trades or free agency, making it that much harder for said old, fragile, slow QB to find a quick read before ending up on his ass; swapping out a halfback perfectly suited for the system for two who need more time and running room behind the line  - and you see how things got out of hand in a hurry. Any game designer can tell you this: Little downgrades don't add up; they multiply. 

Which gets us back to the original proposition, namely, that football is a complicated (though not as complicated as its advocates would tell you) system, and that looking for simplistic answers to why complex systems fail is generally a good way to wind up with a double fistful of derp. The Eagles are awful, not because of any move that Chip Kelly made, but because of all of the moves Chip Kelly made and how they interacted. And maybe someday the Robin Lundbergs of the world will figure that out.
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