Who to blame? 5 ways Eagles coaching is holding this team back

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The 1-3 Eagles are a (poor) reflection of a young and green coaching staff, led by Nick Sirianni.

Coaching issues in a 42-30 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs weren’t as acute as during last Monday night’s meltdown in Dallas. Instead, Sirianni’s coaching blunders, game mismanagement and overall inexperience showed in more subtle ways in a game the Eagles competed in more than many expected.

Let’s count the ways poor coaching is holding back the Eagles right now.

Trading seven points for three vs. Kansas City is a loser’s mentality: We can point to poor execution in the red zone all we want, but nothing is worse than a coach putting his team behind the eight ball with conservative decision making. Sirianni coached to keep the game close vs. the best quarterback in the sport instead of trying to beat him. On the opening drive, Sirianni wanted to go for a fourth down, but was slow getting the play in. After Jalen Hurts called a timeout, the Eagles kicked the field goal. Total mismanagement. Have a play ready, and get it in on time. If the timeout is burned, you might as well go for it. Saving the five yards to (still) kick an easy field goal made no sense.

Clock mismanagement: What in the world was that at the end of the first half? In a situation where anything (yes, even a field goal) would have been positive, Sirianni didn’t call a timeout, and allowed the clock to run and run as the Eagles crossed midfield. A rushed snap, the Chiefs hit Hurts and a fumble basically ended any hope of scoring there. Call the timeout, reset, try to get out of bounds and set up a field goal after a potential shot to the end zone. Little things add up.

Zero correction in practice, per Sirianni: According to Ian Eagle on the CBS broadcast, Sirianni doesn’t correct penalties during practice because he doesn’t want to lose time for more reps. After watching this team for four weeks, perhaps it’s time to alter that strategy. Philadelphia was dinged for nine more penalties in Week 4, moving the season total to a franchise-record 44 through the first four games of the season. The worst part? It’s not just a single kind of penalty, and not all are just due to players trying too hard or being too aggressive. It’s pre-snap. It’s post-snap. It’s poor alignment. It’s wide receivers stepping out of bounds because they are getting outmuscled and worked to the sideline. It has to stop if the Eagles are going to have a chance. And by not doing everything he can to correct it in practice, Sirianni is enabling it to happen on game day.

Wasting an asset in the red zone: Poor execution in the red zone vs. a team as high-powered as Kansas City is a death sentence. It’s not Sirianni’s fault that Hurts missed Zach Ertz in the first quarter or that Greg Ward couldn’t reel in what should have been a touchdown pass. But why does this offense continue to ignore Hurts’ legs inside the 10 yard line? I’m all for making sure Hurts is developing as a passer and not just having a running quarterback that throws on occasion. But when the Eagles are inside the 10, I’d argue their most efficient way to get into the end zone is letting Hurts run on designed runs. We’ve rarely seen that through four weeks. It’s baffling.

Jonathan Gannon’s stubbornness: We’re learning more and more about the Eagles new defensive coordinator. In Week 1, it was hard not to be impressed. In Week 2, the defense was hardly the reason to complain. But the last two weeks show a major flaw in Gannon’s (stubborn) thinking. Playing so much zone and refusing to put any true heat on quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Jimmy Garoppolo can work. If you make those quarterbacks methodically go down the field, mistakes or missed plays will eventually happen. Against Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes, well, not to such. The Eagles have established an identity on defense: Play the pass, try to keep big plays in front of them, don’t worry about the run, and hope the other team screws up long drives. It’s not dissimilar to what Brandon Staley’s defense did with the Rams and now does with the Chargers. But it’s OK to tweak it against top-10 quarterbacks.

The 2021 Eagles are flawed. They are banged up. I thought Sirianni’s play design and play calling were very good on Sunday. I like that he’s getting Kenny Gainwell involved, and think prioritizing the rookie over the overrated Miles Sanders is smart. Hurts is developing. This team will get better.

But the coach and his staff have to be buttoned up before anything changes for the better. The Eagles aren’t very good right now, and it’s a reflection of the sloppiness we’re seeing on the sidelines each week.

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