By: Jared Grossman
The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions.
Last Thursday (February 8th), a parade down Broad Street that ended with a ceremony at the Art Museum marked the team’s historic first Super Bowl win. The city played host to crowds estimated at close to 1 million people!
A lot went wrong for the Eagles despite the season’s outcome. Injuries took a big toll on this team, and it’s a testament to Howie Roseman, the rest of the front office, and the coaching staff, that the team didn’t succumb to the increased pressure.
Season ending injuries occurred to LT Jason Peters, RB Darren Sproles, LB Jordan Hicks [the defensive play caller], their MVP candidate QB, and a few other significant players, but the team was able to overcome it all.
It was a Week 14 game vs. the Rams when the Eagles would experience the turning point of their season. Toward the end of the 3rd quarter, the 10-2 Eagles were down 28-24 to the 9-3 LA Rams in a key battle for the potential #1 seed in the NFC. Though the protection by the O-line was fairly good on the play, Carson Wentz rolled to the right and took off under his own volition, seeing what he thought was enough open field to get into the end zone. As he left his feet, diving head first for the goal line, the people of Philadelphia took a collective gasp as they witnessed their franchise quarterback sandwiched between two Rams’ defenders. The replay showed Alabama safety-turned-linebacker Mark Barron’s helmet make direct contact with Wentz’s knee.
Though shaken up, Wentz stayed in the game and a few plays later threw a McNabb-esque ankle-high touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffrey, his team record breaking 33rd TD pass of the season. However, after the drive Wentz limped back to the locker room and a few days later Philadelphia’s worst fears were confirmed when they found out Wentz had a torn ACL.
But perhaps that particular play, as painful a memory as it is for Eagles’ fans and their face of the franchise, was a foreshadowing of how Wentz and his teammates would work together and rally around one another to overcome adversity and make this season into one that was truly special.
Enter Nick Foles, the 5+ year pro from Arizona who’s in his second stint with the Eagles after playing the previous season in Kansas City with former Eagles HC Andy Reid. However, at the beginning of the 2017 season Foles contemplated retiring, which could have ended this incredible story of going from backup QB to Super Bowl MVP before it ever started. Other than a historic 2013 season where he posted an absurd 27 touchdowns to 2 interceptions (including a 7 touchdown game vs Oakland), Foles career had been defined by inconsistent play. There didn’t seem to be any one quality that was special about him and most fans realistically assumed the season, and their chances of a Super Bowl run, were over.
“Hungry dogs run faster. And that’s this team!” Eagles’ center Jason Kelce exclaimed to the joyous crowd last Thursday from the Rocky steps at the Art Museum. It’s a quote that coach Jeff Stoutland put up in the O-line’s room and has been there for the past 5 years. Kelce seemed to fully embrace that mindset as he went from the roster bubble to a 1st Team All-Pro this year.
“We’re the Eagles, no one likes us, we don’t care!” Kelce sung to the fired up crowd, a theme song for the underdog, chip-on-their-shoulder attitude that this team played with all year and carried into the playoffs.
The City of Brotherly Love was absolutely electric last Thursday as Eagles’ fans witnessed their first Super Bowl victory parade, some of which had been waiting almost 60 years to experience. Fans tried to climb every light pole, street light, garbage truck, and tree to get a good vantage point of the parade as it crawled by, one bus after another, on the sunniest of days in Philadelphia. Music helped amplify the city-wide party as it pumped out all day through big speakers that had been set up as everyone was drinking, dancing, singing, or just hanging out and having a good time with friends and family.
Jumbo projection screens set up around Logan Square and down the Ben Franklin Parkway showed a replay of Super Bowl 52. Every time a big play occurred on the screens, fans cheered as if they had never seen it before, and the city re-lived each moment of the triumphant game.
Doug Pederson, Jalen Mills, Jason Kelce, and Brent Celek, were among those who got out and walked on the streets along side the buses on the parade route, so they could be at ground level and enjoy with the fans.
Once the parade had reached it’s destination at the Art Museum, the message that we got from the players, coaches, and front office was clear. Though they were all extremely proud of the team and happy for the Philly fans to finally experience a day like this one, they’re not done or satisfied with this being a one time thing.
“This is the new normal for Philadelphia,” Doug Pederson told the crowd. Though the end goal certainly remains the same, some of the coaches for the 2018 season will be different.
Later that day, we found out that QB coach Dave DeFilippo accepted the job as the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator, replacing 2017 Assistant of the Year Pat Shurmur who is now Head Coach of the rival Giants. On Sunday, Frank Reich accepted the job as new Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Josh McDaniels had originally accepted the Colts job but backed out.
The Eagles’ WR coach this past season, Mike Groh, was tabbed as the team’s new QB Coach, replacing DeFelippo. Groh played QB for 2 years in college at Virginia and has coached WRs and QBs for the past 5 years in the NFL – for the Rams in 2016 and the Bears 3 years prior to that. He also coached in college for a few years before moving to the pro game, both at his alma mater and as part of the ‘11 and ‘12 Alabama National Championship winning teams.
Look for current Eagles’ RB coach (and former Eagles’ RB), Duce Staley, to be the front runner to replace Reich at offensive coordinator. There’s a lot of positive buzz around the league currently about Duce, and it’s been reported he was being considered for the Giants OC job which was recently filled by former Panthers’ OC Mike Schula.
Looking ahead to the upcoming season, the Eagles are currently about $9 million above the salary cap according to overthecap, so although almost all of their young, core players are locked up for the next few seasons, there will be a few tough decisions the team needs to make this offseason.
Eagles players signed through at least 2020: QB Carson Wentz, WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Zach Ertz, RT Lane Johnson, C Jason Kelce, G Brandon Brooks, DT Fletcher Cox, DE Vinny Curry, DT Timmy Jernigan, DE Derek Barnett, S Malcolm Jenkins, S Rodney McLeod. Stacked roster.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 2, 2017
The most debated of which is most likely to be what to do with Nick Foles. It’s hard to argue his trade value could ever be higher than it is right now, but with almost the same team ready to make a Super Bowl run again next year, does it really make sense to trade Foles for a 2nd (or late 1st) round draft pick? For me, the short answer is: no. Carson Wentz has a 9+ month recovery period from his torn ACL, there’s not a 100% guarantee that he’ll be back that he’s back for the regular season opener on September 6th. Having Nick Foles start the season opener next to the home crowd after what he accomplished is a must. If Foles gets dealt, the only other healthy QB on the roster is Nate Sudfeld, who had a lackluster showing in week 17 vs Dallas.
Brent Celek is considering retiring which would knock $4 million off the cap. Torrey Smith’s contract was essentially set up as a team option this year and cutting him saves another $5 million.
The emergence of Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who had a stellar postseason, will make deciding what to do Jason Peters challenging. Darren Sproles most likely became expendable with the breakout rookie season of un-drafted free agent Corey Clement, and the Eagles will also need to decide if they want to try and bring back LeGarette Blount back after he signed a 1-year deal in 2017. One other player that could be released due to the emergence of a younger teammate is Vinny Curry, after Derek Barnett’s productive rookie season.
Reports are that the Eagles plan on making re-signing starting LB Nigel Bradham a priority. That makes sense given the injury concerns of Jordan Hicks, whose first two NFL seasons have ended on IR, and the rocky relationship the Eagles have had with Mychal Kendricks over the past few years.
“Is this what heaven is like?” Howie Roseman asked the roaring crowd of Eagles’ fans last Thursday. I hope so Howie, I hope so.