There was some talk, after the Philadelphia Eagles' very disappointing loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions, of working through the bye week to correct the issues that won't go away. Eagles coach Andy Reid has routinely given his team the week off when it's had a bye. But there's some thought in Philadelphia today that he should keep them around and practice as usual this week, so deep run their problems, so desperate they are for solutions.
I think that would be a terrible idea. In fact, I think it's exactly the opposite of what these Eagles need.
I think the Eagles need to relax, to get away from the intensity and the negativity and the doubt that has descended once again upon their halting, frustrating season. They need to take a breath. They haven't been able to breathe in quite a while, and Sunday they looked very much like a team that's playing too tight -- maybe even a little worried.
It started in training camp, which Reid made sure was one of the most intense and physical in the league this year. He wanted a tough team that wouldn't fade in the fourth quarter the way last year's team did. He worked his players hard in August because he thought they could take it, and because he thought it would make them better. They liked it, and they seemed to respond.
But then came Week 1 and a sloppy escape against the Browns in Cleveland. A pushover game that looked like a chance to flex their muscles as a much-improved team turned instead into a turnover-filled mess. They had to discuss it as though it had been a loss, to take it as a warning sign of what could happen if they didn't shape up. From the very beginning of the season, the Eagles were in a fight, and it hasn't stopped.
The following week brought a one-point home victory against Baltimore -- still the Ravens' only loss of the season. But it also brought more turnovers and more questions about the viability of such a sloppy style. Week 3 was a 27-6 loss in Arizona, then they came back the next week and beat the Giants at home when a last-second field goal fell just short. A tight, tough loss in Pittsburgh and then Sunday's collapse, and they hit their bye at 3-3. They've played only one game all year that's been decided by more than three points, and they lost it. The Eagles have mixed a couple of very big wins in among their disappointing losses, but the 2012 season so far has afforded them little chance to feel very good about themselves. At worst (today), they feel like failures who can't get out of their own way. At their best, they feel like relieved survivors.
So, yeah, I think what they need now is a break, and I think Reid would be foolish not to give it to them. This is a wound-up bunch right now. The offensive line looks overmatched. The defensive line hasn't had a sack in almost a month. First-round pick Fletcher Cox just got himself thrown out of a game. Michael Vick carried a football around all week in a high-schoolish effort to solve his fumbling problem, then he came out and threw two interceptions against the Lions. This is not a man who appears to be in the best place, psychologically, to succeed.
And honestly, I think the coaching staff could use the break as much as anyone. If what Nnamdi Asomugha says is true about the decision to change the coverage plan on Calvin Johnson in the fourth quarter after it worked all afternoon, this is a coaching staff that's trying too hard, that's coaching worried. The expectations are stratospheric in Philadelphia this year, and they appear to be wearing on everyone.
This Eagles team doesn't trust itself right now. And you can joke all you want about how they shouldn't, but just two weeks ago, all of the talk was about their newfound toughness and how well that would serve them the rest of the way. That didn't disappear in Pittsburgh and in the final few minutes against the Lions. It's all still there, as is the talent the Eagles believe can carry them to big things. They've won some tough games, lost some tough games and generally haven't played as well as they'd like to have played, but this is far from over. And I think what the Eagles need right now is a chance to shake it all off, to reset a little bit and take stock of what's in front of them and the opportunity they have to make something of it.
It stinks for the Eagles that the bye comes after two straight losses and that they must spend two weeks listening to everyone talk about what's wrong with them. But it's entirely possible that this bye is coming at just the right time. Because this looks like a team that could use a break.