LAS VEGAS – The fingers are already pointing at Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon after just seven games, and it's hard to see him surviving in his job much longer if this continues.
All of that was plain to see Sunday in the Eagles' 33-22 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
There was defensive tackle Fletcher Cox openly questioning Gannon's play-calling, scheme and Cox's role in it.
Cox complained about how his aggressiveness is being taken away by Gannon's read-and-react scheme, and that Cox in turn tries to compensate by taking matters into his own hands by being too aggressive at times.
So Cox was asked if that was the case on a screen pass in particular.
"I don’t get paid to play screens," Cox said indignantly. "I get paid to sack the quarterback, play in the backfield, tackle. I don’t get paid to play screens. We get screened all the time. Get out of stack and run to the football."
Cox even admitted to confronting the coaches on the sideline.
"It was one of those deals, as a player, I didn’t agree what was called on the defense," Cox said. "So I kind of let my frustration go, and that’s part of the game."
Then he bestowed faint praise on the coaching staff when asked if he has confidence in them: "I have confidence in everybody. They brought this coaching staff in for a reason. (Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey) Lurie believed in this coaching staff.
"I’m pretty sure he met with everybody before he hired them. It’s everybody’s first year. We’re all learning."
Sure, one disgruntled player is hardly enough to topple a coach, especially a 38-year-old in Gannon whom general manager Howie Roseman raved about as a brilliant young coach when he was hired last February.
But Cox has plenty of pull in the locker room – and with Lurie. Cox has been selected to each of the last six Pro Bowls. Yet he has just one sack this season.
So when a player of Cox's stature starts questioning things, that's a red flag.
When those questions are also coming from the head coach in Nick Sirianni, that's another red flag. Sirianni had already admitted to upbraiding Gannon after a 42-30 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 3.
Sirianni was furious after this debacle, too.
Sirianni made more than a few references to Gannon after the game. After all, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr completed 31 of 34 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns.
Carr's completion percentage of 91.1% is the second highest in NFL history for quarterbacks with 30 or more pass attempts in a game, according to CBSSports' Jeff Kerr.
— Jeff Kerr (@JeffKerrCBS) October 24, 2021
Carr couldn't have had an easier time if he was throwing to receivers in his backyard.
"When you’re giving up this high percentage ... you gotta make changes," Sirianni said. "You gotta adapt, you gotta move. I don’t want to say you have to make a completely different philosophy switch, but we gotta do different things to help our players out."
It got so bad that Sirianni specifically said that the attempt at an onsides kick to start the second half was because, "We didn’t feel like we were getting enough stops in the first half on defense."
The Eagles got one stop in the first half.
That came when Carr threw an interception at the Eagles' 4 yard line on the Raiders' opening drive, on a pass that was deflected.
The Raiders recovered the onsides kick at the Eagles' 41 to start the third quarter. They quickly scored a touchdown for a 24-7 lead. The Raiders' lead was 30-7 after their next possession.
"We scored 22 points. Not good enough on my part," Sirianni said. "Derek Carr was 91%. Not good enough on Jonathan’s part."
The Eagles have allowed an average of 32.4 points per game over the last five games. They have trailed by double digits in each of their last six games, winning only one of them.
Sure, that's not all on the defense. And the Eagles certainly didn't help themselves offensively against the Raiders, especially after Miles Sanders left the game late in the first quarter with what could be a severe ankle injury.
But the defense couldn't even give the offense a chance.
Eagles safety Rodney McLeod was so incensed that he said he made a speech in the locker room to the team.
"Really just challenging guys and asking guys, ‘Are you committed to making this run?'" McLeod said. "If you are, come Wednesday ready to work.’ That’s it."
McLeod was then asked if he made that challenge because he was sensing that some players weren't committed.
"Not at all, man, not at all," McLeod said. "I feel we all are playing and showing a lot of effort on the field ... The margin of error is very small in this game, and you can’t make mistakes. We have to eliminate those mistakes and be where we need to be."
But Cox seems to be on the verge of checking out. And it's becoming clear that Gannon will have to appease Cox or risk the consequences.
"I’m an aggressive player and that’s how I made my living, playing in the backfield and splitting double teams," Cox said. "I’m not used to double teams staying on me two, three yards down the field.
"That’s just frustration, and when you get frustrated and tired of 600, 700 pounds laying on you, you want to do something about it. Being the player I am, I can only take so much. I’m going to do something about it, and I’m going to be aggressive."
Cox will get his way. That means, either Gannon will change his scheme and let Cox attack, or Gannon's replacement will.
And that could happen relatively quickly. That was abundantly clear after another desolate defensive performance from Gannon to the players.
"Time’s running out," McLeod said. "We’re at a point in the season where we’re 2-5. Of course we didn’t want to be in this position, but obviously, time is running out. We have to make a stand, and we have to make a push."
Follow Martin Frank on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Fletcher Cox furious at Eagles' defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon