Eagles news: Stat gurus offer irrefutable evidence of Fletcher Cox decline

Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Here’s how we’re going to set this up. If you’re upset about the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles brought Fletcher Cox back somewhere around 36 hours after releasing him (and you’ve found yourselves in arguments with your friends because you can’t, for the life of you, understand why they can’t see that he’s declined), what you’re about to read will probably cause them to cross your mind again.

No one will blame you if you call them back, drive by their house, or walk over to their desk just so you can take the low road and start the argument back up again.

You’ve heard of those guys at Pro Football Focus, right? Some swear by them. Others say that their stat engine doesn’t always tell the whole story. Everybody takes several glances per week at their site or Twitter page because they always find clever ways to deliver their unique brand of storytelling.

Take a look at what they said about Cox in passing recently in a take on free-agency grades for every NFL team.

"Cutting Fletcher Cox was a move made inevitable by his massive salary and decline in play recently, but the team brought him back on a one-year deal. After a run in which he was arguably the best interior defender in the NFL after Aaron Donald, Cox has seen his PFF grade drop from above 90.0 to 74.1 in 2020 and then 68.7 in 2021. He notched fewer pressures in those two seasons combined than in 2018 at his peak."

Let that sink in for a second. Again, no one would blame you if you call up your buds that love Fletch and read that to them over the phone, but once you’re done, buckle up. We need to take a ride here.

Pro Football Focus offers statistical evidence of Fletcher Cox’s continued regression.

Here’s a word that no fan wants to hear when people are describing their football team… average. Okay, maybe the Detroit Lions would be cool with that, but let’s face it.

No one in the City of Brotherly Love or any other Eagles fan living anywhere else in the country is satisfied with the fact that, since that Super Bowl win, two of the four seasons that have followed that magical run has ended with the team finishing two games above .500 and, during the most recent campaign (the first 18-week, 17-game season in franchise history), the Birds finished one game above .500 at 9-8.

That’s the textbook definition of being average. So much for that ‘new norm’ huh?

The above statement by PFF’s Sam Monson wasn’t even taken from a story about Fletcher Cox, Again, he was talking about the moves that each NFL team made and the grades he felt they were worthy of after evaluating what they had done. The Eagles earned a grade of ‘average’ by the way.

Now, don’t hear what hasn’t been said or read what hasn’t been written. No one is saying that Fletcher Cox is the chief or primary reason that this team has hovered around the ‘this team is okay’ threshold for three of the past four years (they were 4-11-1 in the other). As a matter of fact, the opposite is true.

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Cox is one of the greatest Eagles ever, and more often than not, most of this team’s success over the past decade, when they’ve had some, has been stamped with his fingerprints, but this isn’t the same guy anymore.

Cox’s presence no longer dictates wins or losses. He’s getting buy on reputation, not production. If you can’t see that shame on you. The numbers prove it. So does the eyeball test.

All of a sudden, an Eagles team that used to move off of guys sooner rather than later is now a victim of its own nostalgia. They had a nice opportunity to move on and do something special, but they’d rather be average with an aging star who is clearly average now and past his prime.