At times this season, Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp has defended his players and units against criticism.
There was no defending what happened on Sunday.
The Eagles had one of their worst special teams performances in recent memory in the 33-26 loss to the Cardinals. They gave up a fake punt, they had one of their punts blocked to lead to a touchdown, had little to show from their returns and had the worst long snap of the year at an absolutely horrible time.
“I would just say, at the end of the day, I didn’t have our players prepared well enough to play that game,” Fipp said on Tuesday morning, putting it on himself. “Certainly wasn’t my best day out there. I’m disappointed in the results. Obviously, I expect better.”
While the Eagles have had their struggles on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball this season, they haven’t been very good on special teams either.
Jake Elliott has missed kicks, they haven’t gotten much going in the return game aside from that one Jalen Reagor touchdown and they’ve taken a few too many silly penalties.
“We haven’t done a good enough job,” Fipp said. “We’ve won four games. So at the end of the day, we need to be better.”
Of course, as injuries pile up for any team, special teams often suffer. Because anytime a starter is lost, the backup is normally a special teams player. So that either means you’re replacing that special teams player with some undrafted rookie (or the like) or that player now has to play on their side of the ball and on their special teams units.
The Eagles have been hit by injuries hard in recent years. But Fipp wouldn’t use that as an excuse for Sunday’s poor game.
“At the end of the day for me, bottom line, it’s just about performance,” Fipp said. “And you can’t make an excuse for injuries or all the things that happen in a course of a game. I don’t think if you’re any good you can do that. I’ve always said that we have a high standard. I personally have a really high standard for myself. Some days I’ve lived up to that. I don’t think I’ve ever played a perfect game or called a perfect game or prepared the guys perfectly for any game I’ve been a part of. I think you’re always trying to get better as a coach and improve.
“Unfortunately, when you lose a game like that and make some negative plays, obviously you learn some lessons the hard way. This is a really tough business. I love it. I love the challenges of it and the bottom line is I just have to find a way to do it a little bit better and get better and continue to grow just like every player does also.”
In a season where we’ve begun to question job security for coaches moving forward, it’s only fair to wonder about the Eagles’ future at the special teams coordinator position.
There have been a few special teams coaches fired this season and it made former NFL kicker and CBS analyst Jay Feely question how much teams actually prioritize special teams:
“Here’s the deal, if you as a GM don’t make it a priority to sign and keep score special teams players and you as the HC don’t demand and mandate special teams be respected and valued then don’t blame the STC”
Fipp has been with the Eagles’ in his current role since 2013 and he helped overhaul their special teams units. During their best seasons, they had dynamic special teams players like Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman and a dynamic returner like Darren Sproles. They don’t seem to have those players anymore and if they do, those guys aren’t able to stay healthy.
Longtime NFL columnist Rick Gosselin annually ranks special teams units at the end of each season. It’s an imperfect science but the Eagles’ actually tout those rankings on Fipp’s biography, so it’s fair to look at where the Eagles have ranked in each of Fipp’s seven seasons:
Before Fipp arrived, the Eagles were ranked 28th in the NFL, so he brought them up immediately. But we’ve seen a drop-off from the years where the Eagles had one of the top units in the NFL and they haven’t looked like a top unit again this season.
“I would say for us, personally, anytime you win four games and you’re going into the 15th game of the year, it would be hard to say we played well enough, really, in any area,” Fipp said. “Obviously, I’m really critical about our area. That’s all I have to worry about.”