Originally written November 04, 2012 on Buzz On Broad:
Is this Eagles team good enough to win a championship?  Are Michael Vick and Andy Reid good enough to be considered a potential Super Bowl-winning coach and quarterback? We've all thought and talked about these types of things for a while now.  The ultimate goal of every NFL team is to win the Super Bowl.  Numerous things usually have to fall in place for a team to succeed in its goal. Extraneous factors such as injuries, ease of schedule and luck all play a part.  However, there are some things we can all point to as essential for winning a championship. If we believe the masses, including those who run the Eagles, the 3 most important things are having a great (or at least "very good") quarterback, protecting the quarterback and getting after opposing quarterbacks. Notice a trend there?  Yes, the consensus is that this is a QB-driven league and for the most part, I tend to agree. One needs to just look at what QBs have won the Super Bowl in the past.  Most of them are household names such as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger. Then going back into the 90's you had guys like Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, John Elway and Steve Young.  All of these guys are in the class that most would consider elite. Of course, there are always the Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson-types that steal a ring here and there, but those guys had elite defenses that carried the team.  Plus, they didn't really hurt their team as they were good "managers" and played efficiently. During his tenure here in Philly, Andy Reid has tried to maintain having good play at the QB position, has forever been trying to get elite pass-rushers and has usually had a solid offensive line. This year, I'd say he is 0 for 3 on that, unfortunately.  But it's not for a lack of trying. While having good play at the QB position is #1 on the Super Bowl priority list, there are several other areas where teams need to excel in order to seriously compete for a title. Recently, Greg Garber of ESPN made a list of 10 criterion for Super Bowl caliber teams.  The essence of the article is that, depending how well your team rates in each of the 10 areas listed, the better chance your team has of reaching -- and winning -- the Super Bowl. I thought this would be an interesting exercise to do and see how the Eagles stack-up in each of Garber's 10 criteria.  Whether or not you agree with all of these criteria is besides the point, I'm just basing it strictly on the ESPN article. More after the jump... 1. Of course, first on the list is having an elite quarterback.  Garber doesn't go into much detail about what makes for an elite-level QB, but he does note that these QBs normally have a very good touchdown-to-interception ratio. He notes that eight of the last 10 Super Bowl-winning QBs had finished in the top-eight in the NFL in that category.  Where does Vick rank so far this year?  Well, there are only about seven starting QBs with a worse differential than Vick's +1 (9 TDs, 8 INTs). However, if you did a total turnover-to-total touchdown ratio, he'd be close to last, if not dead last. Therefore, going by this criteria, the Eagles don't meet it...0 for 1. 2. Turnover differential.  I agree that this plays a huge part in the success of a team.  You have to protect the ball on offense and take it away on defense.  Garber brings up a great example in the 2009 Saints. The Saints' defense that year was ranked 20th in points allowed and 25th in yards allowed, but ranked 2nd in takeaways.  That defense gave up some plays, but also made a lot of plays. Where do the Eagles rank in this category?  The only teams with a worse differential are the Cowboys, Colts and Chiefs.  The Eagles come in at 29th with a -9 differential. That's not good enough to win any games, let alone a title.  0 for 2. 3. Get on a hot streak at the end of the season.  In other words, Garber says it's probably better to not be one of those 14-2 teams that rests their starters at the end of the season or loses their sense of urgency. Last year's Giants and the 2010 Packers are great examples in that they were wild-card teams that won 3 of their final 4 or 5 games and kept that momentum through the playoffs. Well, we don't know whether or not the Eagles could get hot at the end of the season, so obviously we don't know if they would fully meet this criteria.  They meet about half of it, because we certainly know they will not be one of those top teams faced with the dilemma of resting their starters in Week 17. And since Reid's teams have a history of finishing the regular season strong, I'll give them a half-credit for this one.  1/2 for 3. 4. Having adequate depth.  Teams need to be able to overcome injuries, hence the "next man up" mantra we always here about.  The 2010 Packers and 2011 Giants are again great examples of that when both teams won it all with a combined total of 28 players on IR. The Eagles have suffered only two key injuries, Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, as well as having to play without DT Mike Patterson.  But, that's it. Apparently, the Eagles can't overcome these injuries due to a serious lack of offensive line depth.  And, it shows on the field this year every single Sunday so far. Whether it's a severe lack of talent in the depth players or it's the coaching -- or both -- they certainly need to figure out a way to secure better depth players. 1/2 for 4. 5. Good special teams.  Garber basically focuses on having a clutch place kicker in his article, but it's more about the total package.  Good kicker, punter, coverage units and return units. All of them can make a huge difference in a game. Alex Henery is a good-enough place kicker.  He hasn't really been tested much in the clutch, but he seems to be doing fine.  The punting has been mediocre, not good but not bad.  The coverage teams have been terrible and the return teams have been non-existent. The Eagles' special teams as a whole are not championship caliber. 1/2 for 5. 6. Red zone performance on offense and defense.  Per Garber, nine of the past 10 champions finished in the top eight in either offensive or defensive red zone efficiency. This goes without saying, but the more TDs you score and the fewer you give up in this area, the better your chances of winning a game.  The Eagles' red zone issues on both sides of the ball, particularly defense, have been well documented over the past couple years. Where do they rank this year so far?  Surprisingly, they rank 4th in the NFL in red zone defense in giving up a touchdown just 37.5% of the time, per TeamRankings.com. Not too surprisingly, the Eagles rank just 25th on the offensive side in scoring a TD just 45.45% of the time.  However, Garber is using offense or defense efficiency in this category so the Eagles do meet this criteria. 1.5 for 6. 7. Having the ability to win on the road.  Garber lists the top seven teams with the best road record over the past 10 years.  Interestingly, the Eagles rank 3rd with a 49-30-1 record.  Also just as interesting, the Eagles are the only team on that list that hasn't won a Super Bowl. The Eagles are just 1-2 on the road so far this season and every team that leads their division has a winning road record.  With five of their last nine games away from home, they better become road warriors if they want to make the playoffs. 1.5 for 7. 8. Winning the 4th quarter of games.  Garber cites game-winning drives as well as defensive stands and overall point differential in the 4th quarter as a key for the better teams.  He says seven of the past 10 Super Bowl champs were top-10 finishers in 4th quarter point differential. While Michael Vick has led the Eagles on some good, late 4th-quarter drives to win a few games this season, they've been outscored 52-44 in the fourth quarter of games this season. That's a -8 differential and therefore not good enough to meet this criteria. 1.5 for 8. 9. Have a great pass-rush.  Garber is saying particularly to have a great pass-rush with just the defensive line, but he basically means being able to create havoc on the opponent's passing game when rushing your regular set of guys. This is what the Eagles have been trying to establish with Jim Washburn.  They want to be able generate enough pressure on the quarterback with just the front-four so they can keep the back-7 in coverage. This philosophy half-worked last year because the the DL did get a lot of sacks and generated pressure, but deficiencies in the secondary doomed them.  This year, the DL is not generating any pressure at all. The defense as a whole has nine sacks on the year, eight by the line.  Opposing QBs generally have enough time to sit down and read a good book before having to stand up and complete a pass. In other words, the Eagles definitely do not meet this criteria this year so far. 1.5 for 9. 10. A good offensive line.  Well, there's not much to say here because we all know how the Eagles' offensive line has played this year...terrible.  The loss of Peters and Kelce have been devastating. Their replacements haven't been up to snuff and it has impacted the cohesiveness of the group.  Even Danny Watkins appears to have regressed without having Kelce next to him. If the offensive line doesn't shape up soon, the last nine games will be just as dreadful as the first seven. Those are pretty good criteria to go by and the Eagles meet exactly 1 and a half out of 10.  Needless to say, that's not even good enough to be a playoff team, let alone a Super Bowl team. Going by this, the Eagles need to basically do a 180 to have any type of success this season.  That's a tall order given how they've played so far, but it's not impossible.  Teams have turned their season around before. It's probably a long shot that they will, but that's all we've got right now. Follow Dave Stoessel on Twitter for more Eagles news and discussion!
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