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Pat Shurmur's offense has generated just 3.6 yards per play the last two games. (USA Today Images)
He was missing the cop outfit and the yellow caution tape. Otherwise, Pat Shurmur’s nothing-to-see-here, move-along bit was pretty good.
The Eagles offense has been dreadful lately. Three points. That’s all the unit managed against the Giants and Cowboys combined. Not surprisingly, Chip Kelly has been criticized for his play-calling as a result.
When he addressed the media at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday, Shurmur described Kelly as “an outstanding decision maker.” OK. An employee defending his immediate boss isn’t all that unusual. What was strange, however, was Shurmur’s repeated insistence that the Eagles will continue to do what they do.
The offensive coordinator mentioned “adjustments” and “mistakes that are correctable.” But when asked about various components of the offense, Shurmur challenged the assertion that the Eagles’ system has recently been malfunctioning. Consider his responses -- delivered with polite aplomb -- to several questions:
Does the read option lose its effectiveness when a mobile quarterback isn’t under center because the defense doesn’t have to respect the threat of a run?
“First of all, I don’t necessarily agree with that,” Shurmur said. “When you read a defender, you can do other things with the football if you can’t run it. You can flip it out on the perimeter. You can run it with anybody, you just may not get the same amount of yards you would get if the guy is a better runner. And there are a lot of times when we’re not reading it.”
Do the play calls in the running game have to change depending on the quarterback?
“Nope,” Shurmur said. “No. We’re going to run our offense.”
Are you finding that players are crashing down more on LeSean McCoy when Michael Vick isn’t in the game?
“No,” Shurmur said. “We have ways to adjust to that, which we do on a constant basis.”
If the Eagles are adjusting “on a constant basis," it hasn’t worked well over the last two weeks. But Shurmur was right about one thing: You can evidently run the read option offense “with anybody, you just may not get the same amount of yards you would get if the guy is a better runner.” The logic there is staggering and amusing, if only because the irony was lost on Shurmur.
The Eagles have run the read option with various quarterbacks, and they haven’t gotten the same amount of yards they did earlier in the year. In the first six games, the Eagles averaged 68.1 plays and 449.8 yards of total offense. That works out to 6.6 yards per play. In the last two games, the Eagles have averaged 66.5 plays but just 239 yards of total offense. Their yards per play over that span have dropped significantly to 3.6.
When asked why he thinks the offense has struggled in the last two outings, Shurmur implied that the issues were less a function of scheme than player performance.
“I just don’t think we’ve played well enough,” Shurmur said. “I don’t think we’ve executed well enough. Everything that’s happening in the game, those are mistakes that are correctable.
“You don’t make excuses for the fact that you’re not playing with the guy that started the season [at quarterback]. That’s not new. It’s happening around the league. So the challenge is, you don’t make excuses. You don’t let other people make excuses for you. The guy in the game has got to get trained up and play well. That’s the mindset. All the guys we have on our roster, we feel like they can do that.”