It’s OK to blame Cowboys, Eagles coaches for collapses


To put it simply: An NFL team usually is only as good as its quarterback.

The Jets plunged to their eighth consecutive losing season after Aaron Rodgers went down with an Achilles injury only four snaps into the opening game.

The Giants played musical chairs with their quarterback spot — after Daniel Jones tore his ACL, they found a brief spark with Tommy DeVito and more consistency from veteran Tyrod Taylor — as they failed to follow up on last year’s playoff berth.

One could say the same about two of New York’s fiercest rivals: the Cowboys and the Eagles.

Dak Prescott looked to be playing his best football this season, leading the Cowboys on a midseason five-game winning streak that included a 33-13 beatdown of the Eagles. He tallied a career-high and NFL-leading 36 touchdowns.

But it all fell apart in a 48-32 loss in Sunday’s Wild Card matchup against the young and talented Packers.

Over the past month and a half, the Eagles have crumbled from the heights of a 10-1 record, losing six of their final seven games including Monday night’s miserable 32-9 elimination by the Bucs.

The Eagles started 10-1, but finished with losses in six of their last seven games, including Monday night’s playoff duel with the Bucs. AP

Jalen Hurts’ revenge season after last season’s Super Bowl heartbreak unraveled as the Eagles offense went ice cold. Despite earning the NFL record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season (15) — thanks, Tush Push — he didn’t look like the threat that he was in 2022 with his legs nor in the offense in general. Hurts rushed for 155 fewer yards for an average of 3.85 yards per attempt (4.61 in 2022).

But is it right to point the finger at the quarterback?

Sometimes it’s best to look to the sideline for who is at fault.

And in the case of the Cowboys’ and the Eagles’ late-season crumbles, the coaches are to blame.

This was the year Mike McCarthy had to prove to Jerry Jones that he is the guy to mold Prescott into a quarterback capable of bringing the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl since the 1995 season.

After the bizarre finish of 2022’s playoff elimination by the 49ers, McCarthy took on the additional responsibility of offensive play-caller. It looked promising for much of November and December, but fizzled as the Cowboys went one-and-done in the playoffs without ever having the lead over Green Bay. Prescott threw two pivotal interceptions and most of his 403 passing yards came in second-half garbage time.

Now McCarthy is again on the hot seat following what Jerry Jones deemed “the most painful [playoff loss]” of his 34-year tenure as the Cowboys owner.

After leading the Cowboys to the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys suffered a loss that owner Jerry Jones called “the most painful” in his 34 years with the team. Getty Images

Prescott even tried to take the blame.

“He’s [McCarthy] been amazing,” Prescott said on Sunday. “I don’t know how there can be [questions about his job], but I understand the business. In that case, it should be about me as well, honestly. That guy, I’ve had the season I’ve had because of him. This team has had the success they’ve had because of him. I understand it’s about winning the Super Bowl, and that’s the standard of the league and damn sure should be the standard of this place. I get it, but add me to the list in that case.”

After the Eagles’ meltdown, Hurts gave a more half-hearted endorsement of his coach, Nick Sirianni, who appeared to lose the locker room as the season slipped away.

When asked whether he wanted Sirianni back next season, Hurts said, “I didn’t know he was going anywhere.”

When he was quickly informed that there is speculation about the head coach’s job security, he said, “I didn’t know that.”

And when asked whether he had the confidence to fix the Eagles’ downward spiral, he gave the typical answer: “I have a ton of confidence in everyone in this building.”

Sirianni played dumb, too, saying he is not worried about his job being in jeopardy.

With two new coordinators, Nick Sirianni struggled to get the same production from the Eagles on both sides of the ball this season. Getty Images

“I’m not thinking about that. I’m thinking about the guys,” Sirianni said after the game. “Again, there’s a lot of guys in that locker room — all the guys in that locker room — every single one of them that put their heart and soul into this. I’m not worried about me. As the head coach, I’m just trying to be there for our guys and our staff right now through a tough time. Obviously, we didn’t finish anywhere near where we wanted to finish. My heart feels for these guys. We are all taking it hard and that’s where my mind is right now.”

Even if they don’t tell us, they know the stakes.

They know it’s an offseason that could bring a lot of changes for the 2022 NFC champions turned 2023 frauds. The first change came Tuesday morning with news Jason Kelce had announced his retirement to his teammates after a 13-year career that included a Super Bowl ring, seven Pro Bowl nods and six First Team All-Pro honors.

Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson and new defensive coordinator Matt Patricia failed to prove themselves in place of Shane Steichen and Jonathan Gannon, now the head coaches of the Colts and Cardinals, respectively, who yielded far better results on the field and off.

Hurts played differently and more effectively under Steichen, who orchestrated a well-oiled offensive machine. On Monday, Hurts was pushed backward on a Brotherly Shove, symbolically failing in their own invention.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has hired four different coaches since Andy Reid departed after the 2012 season. Getty Images

Given Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie’s propensity for not keeping coaches too long, Sirianni seems likely to be on the way out.

And Jones may not want to hang on to McCarthy as long as he did with Jason Garrett.

The backdrop, of course, is a wild coaching carousel spinning this offseason. Seven teams already have vacancies.

Bill Belichick is at the forefront of the available candidates along with Jim Harbaugh, Mike Vrabel and Pete Carroll (if not Mike Tomlin).

For both the Cowboys and Eagles, it’s a case for house cleaning.

Today’s back page

New York Post

Welcome to Western New York

A Super Bowl-caliber game is set for the Divisional round of the playoffs this weekend as the Chiefs and Bills meet yet again in the playoffs.

Only this time, Buffalo will host the Chiefs for the first time in the postseason since the 1993 AFC Championship, which the Bills won, 30-13, to advance to the Super Bowl against the Cowboys.

Patrick Mahomes has played 15 postseason games, but Sunday in Buffalo will be the first he has had to play on the road. Getty Images

The game will also mark Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ first career road playoff game.

Both teams enter with 11-6 records from eventful regular seasons.

The Chiefs’ offense has struggled with a post-Tyreek Hill cast of receivers and without former offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who helped the team to two Super Bowl wins in his four years in Kansas City.

This season, they scored two touchdowns or fewer in 12 of 17 regular-season games. In 2022, that occurred just six times.

And the Chiefs scored two touchdowns in Saturday’s frigid 26-7 playoff win against the Dolphins.

Over the course of the season, Mahomes’ stats were way down: He threw for 4,183 yards and 27 touchdowns, compared to a career-high 5,250 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2022.

Josh Allen and the Bills rallied from a 6-6 record to the AFC East title and No. 2 playoff seed. But they are bruised going into Sunday night’s game.

In their 31-17 defeat of the Steelers in the Wild Card round, starting cornerback Christian Benford, cornerback Taron Johnson, linebacker Terrel Bernard, and linebacker Baylon Specter were added to this list of injuries on their defense.

Josh Allen and the Bills offense will need to be at their most nimble to help pick up the slack for a defense hit hard by injuries. Getty Images

The unknowns on both sides will make for an interesting and wintry matchup after the Chiefs won their previous meetings in the AFC Championship following the 2020 season and the Divisional round after the 2021 season.

Pegula’s progress

Could this finally be the breakthrough tournament for Jessica Pegula?

Pegula, the world No. 5, opened her Australian Open on Tuesday, with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Canada’s Rebecca Marino. She is set to face France’s Clara Burel in the second round.

Pegula, 29, hit her stride later in her career — as opposed to fellow American Coco Gauff, the 19-year-old reigning U.S. Open champion — but remains on the hunt for her first Grand Slam title.

She has never even advanced beyond the quarterfinals in a major — including exits at that stage in the past three Australian Opens.

This year, a tricky draw holds a potential fourth-round matchup with Chinese up-and-comer Qinwen Zheng and a quarterfinal against No. 3 Elena Rybakina.

Jessica Pegula was able to squeeze in some time to watch the Bills game before winning her first-round match at the Australian Open. Getty Images

Pegula can take encouragement from the success of the Bills, who are owned by her billionaire parents, Terry and Kim Pegula.

After her first-round win, Pegula waved to a few young Bills fans in the Melbourne crowd, and said she had been able to watch the Bills’ Wild Card victory against the Steelers despite the time difference.

“It was on at 8:30 this morning, so it was kinda nice that the schedule worked out,” she said. “They got a win, so I’m happy I got to finish the day with a win. It was a good day for Buffalo.”

Before she left the court, Pegula did the tradition of writing on the lens of a camera, adding “Go Bills” in blue marker atop her signature.

What we’re reading 👀

➡ Knicks and Rangers owner James Dolan was sued for alleged sexual assault.

🏈 More juicy detail on how the Brian Daboll-Wink Martindale dynamic unraveled. Even if Daboll didn’t take a hit from the Giants, he needs to evolve in Year 3, writes The Post’s Paul Schwartz.

🏒 Kaapo Kakko was among the goal-scorers and Igor Shesterkin was sharp as the Rangers beat the Kraken, 5-2, for their second straight win. “The issues that had cropped up and festered over the season’s second quarter have been less noticeable over the last 120 minutes of hockey,” per The Post’s Larry Brooks.

🏒 The Islanders continued to slide down the standings with a 4-2 road loss to the Jets, their fifth in six games. They now have to leapfrog at least three teams for a playoff spot.

🏀 With Rick Pitino away from the team due to COVID, St. John’s (12-6, 4-3) was obliterated by Seton Hall, 80-65, in an utter dud of a Big East rivalry game. And, as The Post’s Mike Vaccaro points out, there’s no break in the schedule now.

🏀 What happens to Julius Randle when Jalen Brunson is sidelined for the Knicks?

🏀 The Pacers are closing in on a trade for All-Star Raptors forward Pascal Siakam.

⚽ Mallory Swanson — her husband plays some ball, too — landed a record-setting $2 million contract with the National Women’s Soccer League’s Chicago Red Stars.

⛷ Mikaela Shiffrin won another World Cup race. It was a day ending in y, after all.

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