PHILADELPHIA - At its core, coaching is teaching and Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp made that clear on Tuesday when discussing Philadelphia's uncharacteristic 2020 special teams performance.
Typically a strength since Fipp arrived for the 2013 season, the often-overlooked third phase has been much more uneven during a 4-10-1 season that will mercifully end Sunday night against a Washington Football Team that can clinch the NFC East by stamping the Eagles with an 11th loss.
Jake Elliott's kicking woes, Cam Johnston's regression in the second half of the season, poor kickoff and punt return teams, save for one Jalen Reagor touchdown, and inconsistent coverage units when stalwarts Rudy Ford and Craig James weren't on the field have somewhat hampered the Eagles, a far cry from the usual top-shelf product Fipp has provided.
Coming into the 2020 campaign Fipp's units were second in the entire NFL in both blocks and touchdowns produced over a seven-year span.
"At the end of the day, I think coaches focus really a lot on the process. I know the outside world focuses a lot on the outcome," said Fipp.
What's baked-in there is a somewhat veiled reference to the talent issues the Eagles have dealt with this season, a narrative also referenced by Doug Pederson earlier in the week, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz on Tuesday.
"There's a lot of things in the outcome that I think any individual coach can't necessarily control," said the ST coordinator.
Fipp sleeps soundly at night if he feels he's prepared what's at his disposal the best he could.
"... Did your players know what to do? Did they know how to do it? Did you put them in situations in practice? Did you drill it? Did you go over all the things possible to have them prepared the best you can have them prepared?" he asked rhetorically.
It's the same mindset coaches preach to players all the time: control what you can control.
Common sense should tell you that Pederson and his key assistants like Fipp didn’t forget how to coach between February of 2018 and New Year’s Day of 2021.
The goal for every coach is fairly simple: mask as many deficiencies as possible while accentuating the strengths you do have with the goal of providing a team that is greater than the sum of its parts.
If those parts aren’t championship caliber the Lombardi Trophy isn’t in play no matter who the coaches may be.
"I think individually, like my focus is more on that type of stuff, in terms of how I evaluate myself," Fipp said. "I would say that there's always room for improvement. I've always said that about myself. I can grow a lot and get a lot better, there's no doubt about that. That's kind of in general where things are."
Some will call it all of this an excuse for a disappointing season. Others an explanation but in a public-facing industry that often values assigning blame over substantive problem-solving, coaches also know they are always operating under a shelf life.
"I'm not going to make excuses. We haven't done well enough. We’d like to be better," Fipp said. "I know no one out there is harder on our performance than I am myself."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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