PHOENIX — The Philadelphia Eagles won a Super Bowl, but it seems like forever.
The NFL has accelerated to the point where five years is a lifetime. Maybe two. There are some key members of the 2017 Eagles on the current NFC Championship team, but a lot has changed.
Doug Pederson was then the head coach. Nick Foles was the quarterback. Every Eagles player who scored a touchdown in that Super Bowl against the New England Patriots – Alshon Jeffery, LeGarrette Blount, Foles, Corey Clement and Zach Ertz – is no longer on the roster.
Teams shouldn’t deliver so fast and build another Super Bowl roster right away. The Eagles are the rare club that wins a Super Bowl and then comes right back with a different cast. In fact, they are the only team in history to win a Super Bowl and then bounce back within five years with a different starting quarterback and head coach.
What the Eagles did is special.
“In the off season, as you have seen [general manager] Howie [Roseman] as we kept adding pieces to the roster, it started to look more and more like the real thing,” Reddick said. Like we had a chance to make it to the Super Bowl. And we did. Here we are.”
Roseman received most of the credit for the fast reload. Many of his moves have been Grand Slams.
The Eagles fall after the championship
The first thing to look at is how the Eagles handled the two most important positions, head coach and quarterback.
Things went badly fast with Pederson. Two consecutive 9-7 seasons led to a 4-11-1 debacle in 2020. There has been a reported power struggle, disagreements over assistants, and general dissatisfaction from team owner Jeffrey Lurie. The Eagles moved on, which was shocking so soon after a historic Super Bowl title. They hired Nick Sirianni, a first-time head coach who served as offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. Sirianni bombed his introductory press conference, showing how little that means. Since then he has been amazing, a bold and innovative coach whose personality is perfect for the roster.
“I think Coach Sirianni brings a lot of enthusiasm to the game,” said Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. “He Loves the game.”
The next big move was Hurts. He was a controversial second-round draft pick. The Eagles already had Carson Wentz. Hurts’ choice seemed like a waste. After the selection, Roseman spoke about developing quarterbacks for the Eagles, but a second-round pick seemed too valuable for that.
“As we looked at where we were on the board and what was the one thing we believed in the most and the kind of people we believed in the most, Jalen stood out in all of those ways,” Roseman said of the 2020 pick, via NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Wentz was hurt again that season, and the next offseason, the Eagles made the bold move to admit a mistake with his extension and trade him. They ate $33.8 million in the salary cap due to the trade, the largest dead cap hit in NFL history at the time.
This has affected the ability to build in the short term. But Roseman has gotten nearly every green light in putting together the 2022 roster.
Eagles rebuild is a success
The Eagles have lost many draft picks. Every team does. They got little out of class this season, though the veteran’s depth on the roster may be one reason for that.
But the Eagles nailed some key picks. Hurts was the biggest hit. They also had a strong 2018 draft, in which they didn’t have a first- or third-round pick, but produced several key players (tight end Dallas Goedert, cornerback Avonte Maddox, defensive end Josh Sweat, and forward offensive Jordan Mailata all play great roles). Miles Sanders was a key second round pick in 2020. DeVonta Smith was a strong first round pick in 2021, followed by starting lineman Landon Dickerson in the second round and valuable backup Kenneth Gainwell in the fifth. The Eagles have also been fortunate in that veterans like defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham and offensive linemen Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce have aged gracefully.
Then came the sales. The Eagles made some crucial trades. They stole cornerback Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions for a third- and fifth-round pick, due to then-Lions coach Matt Patricia’s tantrum over Slay. The Eagles capitalized on this when the Tennessee Titans misinterpreted the wide receiver market and traded a first and third round pick for AJ Brown, one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. Somehow they also got safety CJ Gardner-Johnson and a seventh round pick from the New Orleans Saints for fifth and sixth round picks. The Eagles probably wouldn’t be in the Super Bowl without those three players.
Then, with Wentz’s cap taken off the books, the Eagles made smart free agent moves like signing defensive end Haason Reddick and cornerback James Bradberry. Suddenly the Eagles had a dynamite roster.
“I kind of knew we had a pretty good team on the pitch,” said defensive forward Javon Hargrave. “You could tell we brought dogs in. They helped us.”
The Eagles were bold when they needed to be (especially with the head coach and quarterback changes), made shrewd trades, had enough good draft picks to fill the depth, and hit big on some free agents, which is This was possible because Hurts is still on his rookie contract.
That’s how you can go from the Super Bowl title to 4-11-1 and back to the Super Bowl in five years.
“It depends on management, the guys upstairs, the personnel department,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “I think they know the pedigree on what they’re looking for, the type of team.”