Backlog of posts for this week, including another guest post from Jared, who did the 4th down decision series, a note about “momentum”, and more on expected points and underdog strategy. First, though, I have to say a few things about yesterday’s game.
– If you’re forced into playing a 4th round rookie at QB, all bets are off. To that end, don’t read too much into the performance. The defense was OK (not as good as some have claimed, but not a disaster) and there were plenty of opportunities for the offense to move, Barkley just couldn’t get it done. That marks the second week in a row that the Eagles lost a game that they would have likely won with just average QB play. If they get that, we’re looking at 5-3, 1st place in the division, and a whole different storyline.
– Keep the defensive performance in context. The defense looked competent, and many are running with the “they’ve turned a corner” storyline, but I think it’s too early for that. Consider: The Giants are a TERRIBLE offense. Additionally, while the Eagles kept the Giants out of the end one, they also allowed the Giants to score points on 5 of the first 6 drives, and forced just one three-and-out in the first half (the 1st possession). The also sacked Eli Manning just once (he had been sacked 18 times in the first 7 games of the season, or roughly 2.5 per game). So yes, the point total against was a good result (15), but in context, it was just an OK performance.
– Vinny Curry was back on the bench. This is just one of Kelly’s (and Davis’) many perplexing decisions during the game. As I said pre-game, this was a great opportunity to play Curry without worrying about his problems against the run. Instead, he got just 12 snaps (and the Eagles struggled to get a pass rush). I have no particular insight here, other than saying that logic is clearly not the determining factor in the playing time decisions.
– Matt Barkley isn’t the guy. I’m usually the first person to urge caution and restraint when making snap judgments based on small sample sizes. However, there were two plays Barkley “made” that I found extremely troubling. I’m sure everyone knows which ones I’m talking about (the fumble and the 4th and 20 check down). Normally, we could pass these things off as “rookie mistakes”. Unfortunately, it seems like Matt Barkley’s biggest strength should be “Football IQ”. He’s been starting for big-time programs forever. Nothing about either of these situations is materially different in the pros. Maybe I’m being to harsh on him (as I said, most rookies would deserve a pass), but he’s a unique player by virtue of his experience.
– Are the Eagles stuck in no man’s land? I probably should have listed this first, because it’s arguably the most important point, but I’ll leave it here as a reward for reading this far. Here’s the dilemma:
1) The Eagles clearly do not have the talent to seriously contend for a Super Bowl.
2) The Eagles are currently just one game out of first place (behind a very suspect team).
Given the potential 2014 QB draft class, the long-term best interests of the team are probably served by losing, improving the draft slot, and using the draft to build the foundation of “Chip’s” team.
Unfortunately, given the profit-incentive and the general short-term incentives of NFL coaches, it’s too much to ask for the Eagles to NOT do everything they can to make the playoffs. That means when Vick is healthy, he plays, unless Foles comes back before then and remembers how to throw the ball.
There’s probably not a worse outcome for the Eagles this season than a 7-9 finish and missing the playoffs by a game. Sadly, that appears to be the most likely result at this point in the season. Note, if both Foles and Vick are out for a while, then this doesn’t hold (they won’t win many more games in that case).
– Kendricks had a very good game. Cox played well also. Have to end on a good note, so here it is. Pending review, of course, the 2 Eagles players that have the biggest potential for “foundation” status on defense (Boykin may work his way into this category soon) had good games. Let’s not get too excited, for reasons I mentioned above (bad offense), but it’s a good sign nonetheless.
P.S. I’m not ignoring the decision-making from Chip, I just realized that it probably needs its own post.
He is only getting nickle snaps and the Giants mainly played 2 RB or 2 TE sets. Same reason why Boykin saw so few snaps and Sopoaga saw so many.
We can hate on that all we want, but until Curry shows in practice he is a 3 down player, he will only be a nickle DE.
I think it’s fine to have early opinions on Barkley, but I’d keep it to an appraisal of his physical tools. I wouldn’t make snap decisions based on just two dumb plays that I’ve seen plenty of rookie QBs make over the years.
Regarding your statement that: “Unfortunately, given the profit-incentive and the general short-term incentives of NFL coaches, it’s too much to ask for the Eagles to NOT do everything they can to make the playoffs.”
I agree with you that it’s extremely frustrating that the Eagles might have to pay a huge sum of draft picks to get a top-rated QB in the 2014 draft. But if you were managing or coaching the team, would you try to tank? How do you tell the players and the fans who pay for games? It would be too painful to watch for me, and for many others, I think. Plus–what if tanking results in drafting a QB high who then fails?
Another way to make my point is that I love reading your posts because you often focus on what’s optimal from a standpoint of winning games, both in the short run and (in this case) in the long run. But people are very passionate about football and you can’t ignore that. Some things–not many, but some, like tanking–might be optimal but they would ruin the NFL overall.
No real argument here. As I said, “tanking” really isn’t an option in the NFL. HOWEVER, you can do things like play Foles or Barkley that MIGHT practically reduce your chances to win without explicitly saying it.
I guess the best way to look at it is that the Eagles should be playing a very high-risk game. Things like going for it on 4th down, surprise onside kicks, etc… If it works, great, gonna win a lot of games. If it doesn’t then at least you won’t end up in the middle of the pack. You can also couch that type of play as “aggressive” and “having faith in the team to execute” which shields you from the issues you hit on.
Can’t do it NBA style, but there are more subtle ways to go.
For me, looking at what Andy has done in Kansas City proves Eagles issues are in talent not coaching. The two biggest needs are 1. Quarterback 2. Dominant nose tackle. Unfortunately most of the qb’s in the draft look like mobile read option types and it doesn’t look like that type of player can win the Super Bowl (btw ultimate goal) so let’s get the dominant player on the line and keep throwing darts in the later rounds for a qb.
Agree that its a talent issue. Im still a big fan of Chip, even if his strategic decisions aren’t as forward-thinking as Id hoped they’d be.
I’m not sure I believe that a read-option QB can’t win the Super Bowl, remember that its a relatively new system. It makes sense that it would take a while for players who best utilize the system to make it to the pros. We could be seeing the best read-option prospects come out over the next couple of years. That’ll give us a much better view of what “can win” and what can’t.
For the record, I said they should take Lotulelei….
And if the Super Bowl goes slightly differently we’ve got Colin K as a Super Bowl winner and suddenly everyone is ready for an option QB
Lotulelei would have been nice, but I think John Jenkins in the 3rd instead of Logan might have been a better option to set the d-line up for the next few seasons.
…. I want a quarterback that is smart and instinctual enough to get the ball out quickly and accurately and only runs in those “oh shit” moments. Don’t know if he’s in this draft, but if he is trade McCoy, Jackson and/or Celek for him and let’s move forward.
Brent – IMO it’s not the offense that’s concerning but Kelly’s tactical decision making
Kelly has made a plethora of inexcusable mistakes with clock management, time outs, field position calls and some questionable play-calling decisions. These things are somewhat similar, but fall into two distinct categories: tactics and strategy. Strategy is largely discretionary and refers to game management decisions such as play calling and field position calls. That’s something the Kelly deserves to experiment with and something that we can give him plenty of rope for. The tactical decision making however—consisting of universally obvious game-mechanical decisions such as time outs and clock management—are deeply troublesome. Generally tactical management is at least partially intuitive, and as of now it does not appear that Kelly possesses an innate sense of tactical intuition. He may memorize how to handle recurring situations over time, the lack of natural aptitude that he has shown for tactical decision-making makes me believe that Kelly isn’t going to excel at making the critical call in novel, complex situations. Perhaps Kelly recognizes his lack of tactical aptitude and compensates for it by adopting moneyball-esque decision making schemas. Good method of compensation, but not ideal. Would love to hear your opinion on my delineation between Strategic and tactical decision-making.
Im with you. See the last note, Kelly’s decision making has been a huge disappointment, though it doesn’t mean he’s a bad coach. Deserves its own post though.
Yea, I saw your end note but wanted to tee this topic up for you in anticipation of your dedicated post. Since we are in agreement though, we might as well call our kinsman Howie Roseman and restart the head coaching search (satire).