Why saying goodbye to Zach Ertz is tough for Eagles fans to stomach

NFL: DEC 22 Cowboys at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 22: Philadelphia Eagles Tight End Zach Ertz (86) takes a knee during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagle on December 22, 2019, at Lincoln Financial Filed in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Today was bittersweet for the Philadelphia Eagles. 30-year-old TE Zach Ertz was traded to the Arizona Cardinals after an entire year of speculation surrounding his future. Ertz will be a part of Kliff Kingsbury’s high-octane offense and have a shot to go and earn a second Super Bowl ring, but this goodbye will be harder than most.

Zach Ertz epitomizes everything it means to be a professional, a leader, and a Philadelphia Eagle. After the trade was announced, he requested to meet with the media one last time. Not many players would choose do that and even former franchise QB Carson Wentz decided to go out quietly. But that’s not who Ertz is…and that’s what makes this so hard.

He’s not only withstood every twist and turn over the past nine years, but has done so with grace and composure. He became a mainstay for all of the right reasons. On the field, Ertz rapidly grew into one of the most dominant forces at his position. Off the field, he became one of the most lovable personalities whose selflessness acted as a standard for everyone to try and follow.

Ertz leaves Philadelphia as a three-time Pro Bowler and someone who shattered just about every franchise record he could. He set the NFL single-season record for receptions by a TE, cruising past Jason Witten as he amassed 116 receptions in 2018, second only to Michael Thomas. This was also the most single-season receptions by any player in Eagles history.

Of course, his most memorable moment came just a few months prior in Minneapolis, where his athletic dive across the endzone plane acted as the game-winning touchdown in the team’s first and only Super Bowl win. Ertz ended that season with a career-high 8 touchdowns.

Unfortunately, the 2020 campaign was a forgettable one. But even in that instance, the fans knew it wasn’t really all on him. Ertz spent the offseason looking for a contract extension. It made sense. He’d taken pay cuts for the team in the past and just watched both George Kittle and Travis Kelce earn mouth-watering extensions. Howie Roseman stood pat and left a dejected Ertz to play knowing that he wasn’t a part of the team’s future. This clearly impacted him mentally, and after the team’s season finale against Dallas, he met with the media in teary-eyed fashion, expecting that it would be the last time he’d get to speak with them.

All he wanted was to be wanted. And the truth is that he always was and always will be so far as the fans are concerned.

Not everyone truly gets Philadelphia. Not every first-round pick will spend their career in the City Brotherly Love, or fully work out what makes it so special. Ertz did. He worked hard and was able to survive three (and a half) different eras as a result. He became a beloved teammate and friend to many, and a player that everyone wanted to root for. Not because he was great. Not because of the touchdowns or the yards. Not because of the records.

Zach Ertz became a fan favorite because he was simply one of them. He embraced what it meant to be from Philadelphia and let that tell his story. For that, he will go down as one of the all-time greats in this City and a player whose jersey will be seen worn around the Linc for decades to come.

(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

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