It was an amazing season for the 16-3 Philadelphia Eagles of 2017, who saved their best for last, slugging it out toe-to-toe with one of the greatest football dynasty teams to ever take the field in an NFL Championship game.
If there’s any sadness at all to contemplate amid all the well-deserved celebration, it is that we will never see this exact combination of team players for the Eagles again.
We’ve seen all along how this group is special.
But inevitably, there will be personnel changes. Heck, there may be some coaching changes on the horizon, too.
That’s just life in the NFL.
There are certainly legitimate thoughts of retirement among our older players, guys like Celek and Peters. Other guys are looking to get paid, or get more playing time. We’re up against a tight salary cap as it is, so some guys may be asked to restructure their current contracts. Some veterans with team-friendly contract options may be released outright.
And if some QB-desperate team offers a 1st-round pick for Nick Foles, what would you do?
The point being, the 2018 Eagles will be a uniquely different team in many ways, and only the coaching system and the organizational culture will be remotely the same.
It is a normal thing for Super Bowl winners to go through these fluid changes. That’s one reason why, with the exception of certain dynasty teams of the past, you so rarely see a repeat winner.
Often what you see is the “hangover” effect. Teams that won either made too many changes, or didn’t make enough. Also, drafting out of the 32nd slot now instead of a much higher pick takes its toll.
A classic example of this is the Baltimore Ravens of 2012. In the five years since they won the Super Bowl, the Ravens are 40-40 in league play and only made the playoffs once (2014).
Now that’s what I call a major hangover!
I still believe a level of excellence combined with preservation of a winning culture can be attained by the Eagles for at least an upcoming 5-year cycle, but a lot of things have to go right both in the front office and on the field.
Tim McManus of ESPN.com briefly addressed the hangover issues in a recent editorial:
- What to do with Foles: Do you hold on to Nick Foles, the Super Bowl MVP, or deal him if a quality offer comes down the pike? If nothing else, this season demonstrated the importance of having a good No. 2, so the Eagles aren’t likely going to be in a rush to trade Foles, who comes with a cap hit of close to $8 million next season. Plus, there’s some uncertainty about when Wentz will be fully recovered from his torn ACL. But if they’re blown away by an offer, they’ll have to consider it.
- Biggest draft need: Executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and VP of player personnel Joe Douglas have done a very good job of assembling a top-level roster with few holes. This is a team that believes in putting heavy resources into the offensive and defensive lines and could use depth at offensive tackle, in particular. I’d expect them to target linebacker as well.
- Free-agency targets: They have to make a couple of in-house decisions first, with linebacker Nigel Bradham and Sproles. Could they look for a speedy receiver to push Torrey Smith and work opposite Jeffery?
- Future looks bright: The Eagles arrived ahead of schedule and won a Super Bowl with their backup QB. Wentz is just 25 and has the potential to be a top-five player in this league. Coach Pederson was a question mark heading into the season, but now it’s hard to look at him as anything but a major asset. Most of the supporting cast is locked in contractually for the foreseeable future, making a sustained run of success likely.
There’s a whole bunch of other variables in personnel changes coming up that we can’t even know or see right now. But at least McManus’ overall take is optimistic.
For now, let’s savor the moment just a little bit longer.
“We are world champions, men. Just look around. This is what you guys have done. This is what you have accomplished. We said before, an individual can make a difference, but a team makes a miracle. You did it. You did it against a fine football team. When you’re asked, you’re complimentary, but at the same time … we are going to party.” — Doug Pederson