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The Mirage of Late-Season Success

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The central question of the moment is simple: what to make of the Eagles final month? They won four games in a row, allowed only 11.5 points per game -- seemingly the make up of a long-anticipated turnaround.

Was it really?

You can make that case if you’re so inclined, citing defensive statistics like yards allowed, changed tactics, and the words of almost every player in the Eagles locker room. But I think you would be wrong.

The oft-cited Occam’s razor is typically used to defend the simplest answer, and to some minds the idea that Juan Castillo and his defense just improved over the final weeks could seem like the obvious solution. But what Occam’s razor actually recommends is the answer which makes the fewest new assumptions. A new assumption like, “Castillo is now a good coordinator.”

Instead, after the first 12 weeks of complete ineptitude, culminating in a humiliating loss on Thursday Night Football to the Seattle Seahawks, we should give the benefit of the doubt to explanations that don't make radical assumptions.

Explanations such as:

  • Facing the vaunted quarterback lineup of Matt Moore, (J.P. Losman), Mark Sanchez, Stephen McGee and Rex Grossman.
  • Playing only one game against an opponent with playoff ramifications on the line (Jets).
  • Lining up against two NFC East teams that the Eagles had already shown the ability to shut down.

I could go on, keep talking about these poor offenses and, more generally, poor teams, but you know all of that. We could predict this possibility of “improved defense” weeks ago, and we did. To come back now and suggest that the Eagles are set going forward would be a mistake.

This team finished 8-8, buoyed by a 5-1 record in the putrid NFC East. In any other year, given their performance, the Eagles could count on both a worse record and a worse finish in the division. Instead, after a second-place finish, just enough optimism remains to excuse a season of failure.

What we saw over the last month was a mirage, an illusion of success encouraged by our need to see progress and find hope. It would be wise for us to accept this reality as we set expectations for the offseason, lest we remain in the desert, convinced that Castillo can lead the team to an oasis just over the next ridge.

Related Topics Juan Castillo, Defense, NFC East
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