“You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone,

For the times, they are a-changin. …” Bob Dylan

Eagles center Jason Kelce looked up at the giant scoreboard at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium Monday night and slowly shook his head.

The final seconds of a 32-9 playoff loss to the Buccaneers were ticking away. Hitting :00 meant the Eagles’ once-promising season, and Kelce’s career, was ending.

TV cameras showed the 36-year-old trudging through the stadium tunnel, tears puddled on his bearded cheeks, before pausing to hug Eagles general manager Howie Roseman en route to the visitor’s locker room.

Kelce politely declined to speak to reporters, but announced his retirement Tuesday through a team release.

It marks the end of a legendary career that includes 193 regular-season games and a team-record 156 consecutive starts over 13 seasons.

During that time, he was named as a six-time All Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler. But his value extended way beyond the middle of the offensive line.

Kelce was the team’s soul, the embodiment of what it meant to be a Philadelphia Eagle. Although there was a statue erected in honor of “Philly Special,” the most enduring memory of Super Bowl LII was Kelce, clad in a gaudy, green Mummer’s costume borrowed from the Avalon String Band, delivering a raucous, colorful speech on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

About two months ago, it didn’t look like the Eagles’ season would be ending in Tampa. They were the odds-on favorites to be heading to Las Vegas for this year’s Super Bowl, having rolled to a league-best 10-1 record.

Instead, Monday’s loss to the Bucs – the second-worst playoff defeat in franchise history behind a 34-10 loss in Dallas in 1992 – capped a shocking collapse that saw the Eagles lose six of their last seven games.

As a result, the only way Kelce will go to the Super Bowl now is if younger brother Travis and the Chiefs make it. And he’ll likely be sitting in a luxury box next to Taylor Swift.

The epic fail will no doubt spark changes.

Although Kelce will be retiring, he won’t be the only one leaving. He was among several players on the north side of 30, including defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (33), defensive end Brandon Graham (35), tackle Lane Johnson (33) and cornerback Darius Slay (33). Cornerback James Bradberry is 30, but played like he’s 50.

Johnson has proven he’s still among the league’s best at his position. Cox and Graham had decent years, but are no longer elite. Neither is Slay.

Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie have to weigh loyalty against production, which is an extremely difficult decision.

It’s a tricky situation. The Eagles made the mistake of letting safety Brian Dawkins leave too early in 2009. The Phillies made the mistake of keeping Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmie Rollins a few years too long.

The turnover will almost certainly extend to the coaching staff.

Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson was criticized throughout the season and really struggled during the slump. Later in the season, coach Nick Sirianni made the controversial decision to demote defensive coordinator Sean Desai and hand the defense over to consultant Matt Patricia.

The defense was worse under Patricia than it ever was under Desai. The Eagles surrendered 31.3 points per game in losses to Arizona, the Giants and Bucs. Opposing receivers roamed free in the secondary and poor tackling was rampant.

The most alarming issue during the late-season collapse, however, was the lack of continuity, chemistry and accountability. Week after week, there were players-only meetings and promises of a rebound, but they bounced back with a thud, like a basketball without air.

That falls on the head coach.

It was ludicrous to suggest Sirianni was in danger of losing his job two months ago. The Eagles were a year removed from a narrow loss in the Super Bowl and owned the best record in the league.

But now his seat is hotter than the wings that will be served at Wing Fest at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City next month.

Roseman and Lurie will be asking some tough questions during the offseason. How Sirianni answers will determine if he’s back next season.

I think he deserves a year to turn the team around, but judging by the look of disappointment on Lurie’s face Monday night,  I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s looking for another job.

Maybe Jason Kelce can get him a bartending gig at Ocean Drive in Sea Isle City.

Local NFL update

Local NFL fans looking for a reason to watch the divisional round of the playoffs can focus on the Packers and Chiefs.

Packers wide receiver Bo Melton (Cedar Creek) will be playing at San Francisco Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. in an NFC divisional round game. Melton caught one pass for 7 yards in Green Bay’s 48-32 win over the Cowboys last weekend.

Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco (Vineland) will be at Buffalo in the AFC divisional round Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Pacheco, Melton’s teammate at Rutgers University, rushed for a 89 yards and a touchdown in the Chiefs’ 26-7 victory over Miami last weekend.

Another local player, Cowboys safety Markquese Bell (Bridgeton) tied for the team lead with 10 tackles in the loss to the Packers.

Top 10 Things To Do This Off-Season in Cape May, NJ Area

Anyone who has lived in Cape May County knows that even though half the businesses close during the winter, the locals still love living in this area for many reasons. As someone who has lived in Cape May County for over 20 years, here are some of my favorite activities to do in the offseason:

Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media

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