On Football analyzes the biggest topics in the NFL from week to week. For more On Football analysis, head here.
From 10-1 to one-and-done, the Philadelphia Eagles’ collapse is complete.
The defending NFC champions won’t be going back to the Super Bowl. They’re heading into a potentially turbulent offseason after an early vacation that few could’ve imagined heading into December.
A 32-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC wild-card game on Monday night turns up the pressure on owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and coach Nick Sirianni.
Despite a 34-17 regular-season record and three playoff appearances in three seasons, including coming up just short in the Super Bowl last year against Kansas City, the heat is on Sirianni because his team lost six of seven to close out a season that had championship-or-bust expectations.
“I’m not thinking about that,» Sirianni said about his job status. “I’m thinking about the guys in the locker room. I’m not worried about me. … We’re hurting right now.”
Anything less than a Lombardi Trophy was going to be unacceptable for a team loaded with talent playing in a city that demands success.
But going out like this — a sloppy effort featuring plenty of poor tackling and a lopsided loss to a mediocre team — will have the city of Brotherly Love angrier than usual.
They started calling for Lurie to fire Sirianni and hire Bill Belichick last week when the Eagles were still alive. After this debacle, Philly’s fickle fans don’t even want Sirianni on the team’s flight back home.
Instead of celebrating a postseason victory, players were left to answer questions about their head coach in a somber locker room.
“I didn’t know he was going anywhere,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said, adding he wasn’t aware of the speculation about Sirianni’s job.
Given an opportunity to endorse his head coach, Hurts said: “I have a ton of confidence in everyone in this building.”
Hours earlier, a banged-up Hurts couldn’t pull off any magic without star wide receiver A.J. Brown. Cornerback James Bradberry and his defensive teammates missed several tackles, including a few that led to a pair of long touchdown passes by Baker Mayfield.
Now, Sirianni has to explain what went wrong and how he allowed the team to crumble. Of course, there’s plenty of blame to be spread around from the front office to highly paid players who underachieved.
“Obviously we’re in a big slide. I didn’t do a good enough job,” Sirianni said. «We couldn’t get out of the rut we’re in. We all have to look ourselves in the mirror and find solutions. … Expectations were high and we fell into a skid, so I’ll look at play calling, scheme, practices, everything we’re doing.”
The Eagles were flying high after an overtime win against Buffalo on Nov. 26 gave them a 10-1 start for the second straight season. At that point, they had won 27 of the previous 29 regular-season games started by Hurts.
But everything unraveled after they were blown out at home by the San Francisco 49ers in the following game. Then, they got pounded at Dallas. A last-minute loss to Drew Lock and the Seahawks came next. After escaping with a win over the Giants on Christmas Day, they spiraled further into the gutter. Consecutive losses to the lowly Cardinals and Giants cost Philadelphia the NFC East and dropped them to the No. 5 seed.
From the start, the Buccaneers outclassed and outcoached a more talented team.
“The reality is we have to be better and it starts with me,» Hurts said.
Hurts and Philly’s offense couldn’t get much going early against Todd Bowles’ aggressive defense.
The Eagles couldn’t stop Mayfield and the Buccaneers from moving the ball at will. Only dropped passes prevented Tampa Bay from building a lead bigger than 13-0.
Fletcher Cox and other veterans wouldn’t let the Eagles quit, however. They showed some fight to close within 16-9 at halftime. But the offense went three-and-out to start the second half and continued to fizzle.
The Eagles had to overcome staff changes after losing offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon to head coaching jobs. Brian Johnson’s promotion from quarterbacks coach had mixed results. Sean Desai didn’t even last a full season as defensive coordinator before losing play-calling duties to Matt Patricia.
The defense played even worse after that change. It culminated with an embarrassing performance in an elimination game.
There has to be accountability. Roster turnover is inevitable.
Cox and other veterans, including six-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce, defensive lineman Brandon Graham aren’t sure to be back. Kelce has contemplated retirement for several seasons. He declined to speak to reporters. Graham said he wants to play a final season in Philadelphia as a farewell tour.
“It hurts because we had so much potential this year,” Graham said.
Yet, they couldn’t get it done. Their failure might end up costing Sirianni his job.