With the Super Bowl now behind us, you can’t help but wonder what went wrong for the Eagles. One thing has become evident since the infamous 2017 season, the culture has changed and not for the best.
Maybe it was the losses they faced in the coaching staff. The 2017 coaching staff of Pederson, Reich, DeFilippo, and Schwartz was possibly one of the best in football. The respect was evident among the coaches and that carried into the locker room naturally.
Ever since that group has split, the locker room hasn’t been the same. There was the elephant in the room with former Eagles backup QB Nick Foles, the second injury to Carson Wentz, the outing of the franchise QB anonymously, the piling up of injuries, and the changes to the coaching staff. It’s been an avalanche of issues for the team with no solution in sight. Sight is such a key thing in the world of sports. As an organization, your confidence in your culture could be either detrimental or successful. It all depends on how you build on it. Unfortunately, what was once the grandest structure in the City, is now beginning to look weathered.
Once you climb to the top of the Mountain, where do you go? The only way is down. When you achieve the thing you’ve been striving to your entire life, how do you keep that fire burning? That was the task Pederson was given in 2018. Underdogs no more, establishing the new norm became the aim. But as Orlando Scandrick (as much as we all agree he spoke a lot of nonsense) said, a lot of younger players stepped into this team with the energy so high and the swagger of a Super Bowl win. That’s all they knew. Adversity hadn’t hit them at the NFL level yet and it’s arguable that complacency began to set in.
‘Targets on the back’ didn’t work. And with a myriad of injuries over the next two years, frustrations grew internally as they did with Russell Wilson in Seattle after their crashing out of a Super Bowl. The need to hit a reset button on the franchise and rid the team of anyone who wasn’t bought into the culture or the quarterback was imperative and as a result, Seattle are thriving once more. The Eagles haven’t hit that extreme just yet but the early signs are there.
The difference between the Super Bowl finalists and the Eagles is beyond obvious. It was subtly stated by Richard Sherman, cornerback of the 49ers, in a statement he made about signing with the San Francisco. Sherman declined more money from Detroit to sign with the 49ers. His reasoning was as simple as could be, culture. While speaking at the Super Bowl, Sherman went in-depth on his needs as a free agent at the time and also raved about his new head coach, Kyle Shanahan, by stating:
“His culture and the way he did things was very similar to how we did things in Seattle and what I was accustomed to. That made a huge difference. Hey, I can get this $20 million guaranteed and be in Detroit and lose football games. Or I can go to a place where I’m very comfortable with the scheme, coach, and culture and I’m very comfortable with the things they do and I really believe we can win…”
“Because I don’t think there’s anybody that can stop Kyle when he has the personnel that he has picked and put into spots, and I don’t think there’s anyone that can beat Saleh when he has the personnel that he has picked and put into spots.”
Simple isn’t it? Culture. Culture is defined as the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group. Now, when you read that, I need you to try and tie that into the Eagles from 2018-2019 before their 4 game playoff run.
With the anonymous sources, the lack of effort in catching balls and making plays, to the lack of effort in protecting the quarterback until you hear the whistle. There’s so much of this season that went wrong for the Eagles while still having small moments that could’ve completely change the season for the better. What if Agholor caught that pass against Atlanta? What if JJ Arcega-Whiteside caught that pass against the Lions? How about the first cowboys’ matchup when the Eagles just came out flat after a week where their head coach guaranteed a win?
It’s the little things that make a team better or worse. The 2020 offseason will define the culture that the Eagles are trying to re-establish. It all starts with who they bring in for OC and WR’s coach. They’ve shown what they want for their secondary in the hiring of Marquand Manuel. A coach who’s been described as a true student of the game by former Eagles CB, Lito Sheppard.
The Eagles are taking the necessary steps in retooling the team and building a new foundation for the players to buy into but only time will tell if they’re making the right steps or not.
Free agency will show us the next glimpse. Will players like Alshon Jeffery still be on the team, or will he have a new home despite such a suffocating cap hit? The Eagles have to be smart, but they also have to be cerebral…and that may be the perfect word to describe what identity the team needs to establish next season.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports