HomeFootball DirtUncertain Offseason Looms for Philadelphia Eagles after Late-Season Collapse

Uncertain Offseason Looms for Philadelphia Eagles after Late-Season Collapse

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Brandon Graham surveyed the media horde waiting to dissect the Eagles’ season-ending failure with players who packed up their lockers Wednesday and bellowed at reporters that they were out of luck for a story.

“Y’all ain’t getting nothing,” he said, laughing. “All the bad stuff’s been reported already.”

Oh, Brandon.

After 14 seasons with the Eagles, the veteran defensive end should have known the show was only about to begin.

Fletcher Cox crudely told off a reporter. Jason Kelce steeled his emotions as he waved off questions about retirement plans. Nick Sirianni’s worthiness as a head coach was a hot topic.

It was that kind of goodbye from a team ready to say good riddance to this season in the wake of one of the worst collapses in Philadelphia sports history — and there have been many.

There was no update Wednesday on the fate of Sirianni or any members of his staff after a 10-1 start to a win-or-bust season ended with a 1-6 finish that included a loss to Tampa Bay in an NFC wild-card game.

Most Eagles players were quick to defend Sirianni. The third-year coach did, after all, lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl just 11 months ago. He has three playoff trips in three seasons on his resume.

Except the last seven weeks left an indelible stain from which Sirianni might not recover.

At least that’s the theory from fans on sports-talk radio and even some media and other pundits who believe Sirianni shouldn’t get off the hook.

Cox, the defensive tackle who has yet to decide if he’ll return for a 13th season, manufactured outrage when asked about swirling speculation that Sirianni is on the hot seat.

“Huh? C’mon, man,” Cox said. “He’s the head football coach of this team. C’mon, man. There ain’t even no (expletive) discussion about that.”

Pressed on Sirianni, Cox said, “What’s there to talk about?”

“This man, he’s a winner. He’s a winning head coach,” Cox said. “Did we have some bumps this year? Yeah. But every team, every organization, everybody goes through it. We don’t look at firing a man who obviously has won 10-plus games two years in a row, that took this organization to three playoff appearances three years in a row. Have some respect. Coach, he’s a good leader for this team. He does a really good job. Did we come up short? Yeah. Did things happen this year? Yeah. I don’t discuss firing a man. This man’s got a family. I don’t discuss anything about that.”

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie will decide Sirianni’s future. If Cox really believed Sirianni shouldn’t be fired, perhaps he needed a reminder that Lurie fired Sirianni’s predecessor, Doug Pederson, only three seasons after winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl.

It doesn’t help that should Lurie fire Sirianni, the pool of candidates is particularly deep this offseason. Bill Belichick is on the market. Mike Vrabel is free. Even Jim Harbaugh might have an itch to return to the NFL.

Jalen Hurts will certainly be back after the star quarterback agreed in April to a five-year, $255 million extension, including $179.3 million guaranteed.

Hurts scoffed at speculation his lukewarm endorsement of Sirianni immediately after the Tampa Bay loss meant he didn’t want his coach to return. The 25-year-old Hurts, who accounted for a combined 38 touchdowns passing and rushing this season, said Wednesday he was caught off guard by questions about Sirianni’s status because “I didn’t know that was a thing.”

“We plan on fixing everything that we’ve done and growing together,” Hurts said.

Hurts played with a bruised left knee and dislocated his middle finger on his throwing hand in the season finale but said he has no plans for any offseason surgeries.

“The journey for this next year has already begun,” Hurts said. “The eagerness and the passion for that is only enhanced that much more.”

Graham and Cox may be undecided about one more run with the Eagles. Kelce, the heart of the Eagles and a Pro Bowl center, has all but officially called it quits after 13 seasons.

Kelce told teammates in confidence after the playoff loss that he’s not coming back. He danced around the topic on Wednesday’s edition of the “New Heights” podcast he co-hosts with younger brother and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

The 36-year-old shut down retirement talk at the Eagles complex.

“Before we start, I’m not addressing any retirement questions today,” Kelce said. “But I will answer any questions regarding end of the season and football stuff that I think people are entitled to.”

In that regard, Kelce said the “big turning point” of the season was Philadelphia’s loss to San Francisco. The Eagles were 10-1 before they were clobbered by the 49ers at home by 23 points in an NFC championship game rematch. Dallas beat the Eagles by 20 points the next week and the losses — and finger pointing — snowballed from there.

Like his teammates, Kelce stuck up for Sirianni.

“I love Nick,” Kelce said. “I think Nick’s a great coach, I really do. I think he’s a great head coach. Obviously, nobody was good enough this year. I wasn’t. None of the players. None of the coaches were good enough down the stretch. That’s the reality of the business. When you’re that bad, it’s a collective thing.”

Kelce has at least one more game left — or at least, one NFL event. He’ll head to the Pro Bowl, which has turned into a skills competition in Orlando, Florida. He wants to take his family to Disney World. He wants to watch his brother in the playoffs.

And then?

Maybe by the end of the Super Bowl, Kelce will be officially retired.

“It’s a hard thing to step away from,” Kelce said, before catching himself: “I’m imagining.”

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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