Time for Eagles, Kelly to think ahead

It's almost hard to believe that at the start of the regular season some two months ago that there was an actual belief that the Eagles could possibly pull off a 12-4 record.

Given their roster on paper, given their performance on the field, given the innovative nature of their coach, the stars were aligning for what could have been a magical season.

There was just one problem: it all had to go right. Everything — health, effort, talent, execution, luck — they needed it all.

Not even Andy Reid's best teams, the ones that came on the cusp of Super Bowl appearances and victories, the ones that regularly won division titles and made playoff runs, needed the kind of luck that Chip Kelly needed this year.

Kelly saddled himself with that unlikely scenario.

He released DeSean Jackson in his prime. He traded LeSean McCoy. He traded Nick Foles for the even more unproven Sam Bradford.

He gave Tim Tebow an audition. He signed Byron Maxwell, the little-known member of the Legion of Boom, to a massive contract with the hopes he was ready for the spotlight.

He released Trent Cole, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. He had several players returning from injury that needed to be watched under a microscope.

It was all going to take a lot of luck. There just isn't much on the Eagles side this season.

But what is also not on the Eagles side is talent. They are missing it badly in so many places.

This is a team that has about as good a defense as you could ask for two years removed from being the problem area of the team. Malcolm Jenkins is a respectable safety. The front-seven can be dominant when completely on their game.

No one is going to look back at Sunday's rout by the Buccaneers and start calling for the heads of Fletcher Cox or Bennie Logan or Mychal Kendricks or Connor Barwin because they had a bad game. But they will call out Maxwell, who has been shaky all season in coverage and very seldom gets paired on the top receivers — and still struggles. They will call out the quarterbacks that don't seem to fit it. They will call out DeMarco Murray, who has been very inconsistent and frustrating to watch.

The Eagles could fail to win another game this season, and Chip Kelly would still be the coach next season. That much is certain. But what is uncertain, and needs to be figured out fast, is the path Kelly must take to get out of this mess. Which may mean losing more to get better.

There is no Philadelphia sports fan that wants to hear it. They've heard it far too much with the other teams in the city. But, while mathematically, the Eagles have a chance to still win the division and still make the playoffs, it is obvious that this team in its current state is not good enough to make a playoff run, even if they do sneak their way into the picture.

So losing becomes winning.

It is not the best Draft class. Losing and getting a Top-5 pick is not going to net Marcus Mariota. But if there was one lesson from Sunday, it was from Jameis Winston.

The top pick in last year's Draft showed just why he was so highly touted and deserving of the top selection. He may never win a Super Bowl. He may never be on pace to break records. But in his rookie season, all he should focus on is making the team better than they were to get him the previous season.

The Buccaneers were 2-14 last season. After Sunday's win, they are 5-5. That is significantly better.

As the Buccaneers are doing with Winston and the Tennessee Titans will try to do with Mariota and as the Eagles did with Donovan McNabb many moons ago, Chip Kelly needs to find his guy and run with it. He needs to develop a quarterback. He needs to start thinking of ways in the offseason, whether through trade, free agency or the Draft, to shed the dead weight of the last three seasons and fill the holes — the wide receivers, the offensive line, the quarterback.

Kelly has already done some patchwork to the defense. He drafted four players for the defense in last year's Draft, three that won't see the field this year. They may be busts, they may not. Time will tell. But the hope for the start of a new foundation is there.

Kelly needs to do the same with the offense. This city can not get behind Mark Sanchez. They won't get behind another year of Sam Bradford. They need someone they can support and root for.

They need a dynamic player that excites. That player may already be here. It's just that this season, that player is not DeMarco Murray and it's not Jordan Matthews. That player doesn't exist.

This team almost needs to take the step back before it moves forward. They need to start from scratch at some positions and continue the patchwork at others.

But enough talking about the playoffs. Enough talking about the chance to win now. That chance was buried by the Buccaneers on Sunday.

So you might as well focus on next season and think ahead to ways the Eagles can fix it. That's what Chip Kelly should do.

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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