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Eagles Dangerously Misguided to Believe They're 'Close'

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    Eagles Dangerously Misguided to Believe They're 'Close'
    CSNPhilly.com
    Eagles dangerously misguided to believe they're 'close'

    There are few things in sports as misguided and dangerous as a team believing that a few close losses means they're on the brink of greatness.
     
    That's the theme we've been hearing out of the NovaCare Complex for the last few weeks.
     
    That a bunch of close losses – losses by seven points or less to the Lions, Cowboys, Giants, Ravens and Redskins twice – could easily have gone the other way if the ball just happened to bounce differently.
     
    "When you look back on the season, it's going to come down to about six or seven plays that could change the outcome of your season and flip it for you," head coach Doug Pederson said last week. "So we were right there."
     
    The reality? The Eagles were not "right there." And nobody involved in this disappointing season has any right to say they were.
     
    And this is the last thing any Eagles fan should want to hear right now.
     
    Because it indicates a franchise that has deluded itself into believing it's closer than it really is. It ignores the reality the Eagles weren't on the brink of anything this year. It pretends the talent to be a legit contender is here, and it's not.
     
    Losing close games means one thing. You lost.
     
    It doesn't mean that magically those close losses will become close wins next year.
     
    Let's look around the league.
     
    The Jaguars finished 3-13 and fired their coach. They lost nine games by seven or fewer points. Are we supposed to believe they were nine plays from being a 12-4 team?
     
    The Bears went 3-13. Six losses by a touchdown or less. Did they look like they were a few bounces of the football away from a 9-7 record?
     
    The Bills were a 7-9 team with six losses by seven points or less. Right on the brink of 13-3, right?
     
    You can play this pointless game for just about any bad team.
     
    The Eagles won two games from Sept. 26 through Dec. 21. A 3-0 start became a 5-9 record. And the close losses and these last two wins better not delude anybody in the front office into thinking the Eagles suddenly figured anything out.
     
    The Giants was a good win, and it's always nice to beat the Cowboys, but that was Mark Sanchez and a bunch of scrubs out there, for crying out loud. Everybody went home happy Sunday, but in the big picture, beating a Cowboys team resting its starters for the playoffs is nothing to brag about.
     
    The reality is this team won three games against teams playing their starters after Week 3.
     
    The reality is that a bunch of close losses doesn't mask the fact that the roster is shockingly low on elite young players.
     
    The reality is the Eagles have the NFL's worst group of wide receivers, they once again need wholesale changes at cornerback, they don't have a franchise running back, they're desperate for a pass rusher and there are serious questions up and down the offensive line.
     
    The Eagles recorded the second-fewest offensive plays of 30 yards or more in the NFL this year – just 12 all year – and allowed the third-most – 33, just two off the lead.
     
    Their offense can't make a big play down the field, and their defense can't stop big plays down the field. Bad combination.
     
    Two of their best offensive players – Darren Sproles and Jason Peters – are 33 and 34. Key defensive guys like Brandon Graham and Malcolm Jenkins are going into their eighth and ninth seasons. One-time Pro Bowl veterans like Connor Barwin and Jason Kelce face an uncertain future.
     
    The head coach, while liked by his players and generally able to get them to play hard, made enough poor game-day decisions to raise legitimate questions about his ability to guide the franchise to elite level even with a stocked roster.
     
    But there is no stocked roster. Years and years of poor drafting have caught up with the Eagles, who haven't won a playoff game in eight years and haven't even reached the playoffs in three years.
     
    There is a small nucleus here of promising young players, and it begins with Wentz and continues with Jordan Hicks, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews. They do have a very impressive, very promising young quarterback, and that is a terrific start.
     
    But there is so much work to do, not a ton of salary cap room to do it with and a front office run by a guy with a weak track record for identifying and selecting talented college players.
     
    This is a last-place team, the only team in the NFC East that hasn't reached the playoffs the last two years, one of only 12 NFL teams that hasn't been to the postseason the last three years.
     
    The Eagles are not close. They are not on the brink. They are not a few bounces away from being an elite team.
     
    And the people running the franchise better understand that or it's never going to change.