If someone was to ask me to sum up the miraculous journey that the Eagles embarked on in 2017, I’d respond with ‘Culture change’. Doug Pederson built on the foundations laid during his first year as Head Coach and unified a locker room to push for one common goal, winning it all against all odds. After succeeding in the most wonderful fashion, Pederson’s next has is sustaining that mentality through the unpredictable offseason that lies ahead.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this team is that very word, ‘team’. The Eagles almost resemble the Golden State Warriors in that it doesn’t matter who does the damage or who shines the brightest, so long as the team come away with a win. If Steph Curry or Alshon Jeffery can’t heat up, then Kevin Durant or Nelson Agholor are waiting in the wings to punish defenses who insist on locking the former down.
No 1,000 yard receiver. No 1,000 yard rusher. No 10+ sack artist. No lockdown cornerback. Just a humble and hungry locker room who are willing to go to the ends of the earth for one another.
“Guys could complain about not having enough targets as a receiver.” Doug Pederson explained to reporters on Wednesday. “I’ve told you guys this before, I’ve got two starting running backs that are sharing time and neither one of them have complained on offense.
It just shows the character of the guys, the unselfishness, and the willingness to just get the job done and to win. Now they sit here today sort of reaping those rewards, and that’s what it’s all about.”
That attitude was clear in the Super Bowl when it was UDFA RB Corey Clement who led the team in receiving yards, notching up 100 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots. But now comes the tricky bit. The Eagles are without much cap flexibility, without a 2nd and 3rd round draft choice and have 13 free agents who will be searching for a big payday. Beyond that, there are the likes of Brandon Graham who have been patiently waiting for their name to be called by the front office in order to work an extension before it’s too late.
“These guys are well-deserving of everything now that they are going to be exposed to in the coming weeks and coming months.” Pederson said. “There’s a side of success that’s not the glamorous side and it’s the side that [includes questions like] who is going to hold out in OTAs? Who is going to want the next big contract? Who is going to miss ‘this’ or ‘that’ for an endorsement deal or an autograph signing? It’s the not-so-glamorous side of success. That was a little bit of the messaging this morning to the guys.
I told them, I said, “You know, if you want — get used to this. This is the new norm in Philadelphia, playing and hopefully playing into February every year. It’s the new norm, so get used to it. Short off-seasons and let’s do that.”
The guys that want to be a part of that just will do that. They will want to be here. I think everybody does want to be here. But as you know, the nature of the business is you can’t keep everybody. It’s just the way it goes. But the ones that are here, you know, my mindset is to be back again, to do it again and to keep doing it and to keep doing it.
I hold myself accountable. I’m just like the players. I can’t accept every deal that’s out there. I can’t agree to every speaking engagement out there because my goal is to win another one. If my time is spent doing other things, then that’s not the focus, and that’s where we’re at right now as a team.”
For now, it’s all sunshine and rainbows in the City of Brotherly Love. But just as last season when Fletcher Cox held out for a contract extension and the year before with the quarterback controversy, Pederson will have to navigate his way through uncharted waters. Success has the potential to change people, but can the Eagles head Coach stop it from changing the culture?
Change is inevitable, but if the Eagles can find a way to keep the core values and mindset identical to what we saw this season, then the team should be primed for dominance once again by the time September comes around.
Mandatory Credit: Kirt Dozier-USA TODAY Sports