The Eagles are close to soaring again: Reflecting on an impressive turnaround

Eagles devonta smith
PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 26: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) celebrates a first down during the game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 26, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

It wasn’t that long ago Jeffrey Lurie held a 44-minute press conference about the future of the Eagles. The team’s owner had just fired their Super Bowl-winning head coach, Doug Pederson, and was under the microscope due to their franchise QB wanting out of Philly.

The Eagles were under heavy scrutiny and Howie Roseman was then painted as the villain who stole Philly. No one understood how Jeffrey Lurie could allow all of this to happen. It all came tumbling down from the moment that the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round as their backup QB due to the injuries sustained by Carson Wentz.

About two weeks later, the Eagles hired a young inexperienced head coach in Nick Sirianni who brought along some young and bright minds with him to his coaching staff. Johnathan Gannon was the huge get that everyone raved about as he was declared to be the Eagles defensive coordinator. Sirianni preached the idea of hard-working and culture as media members laughed at how nervous the rookie head coach was in his first press conference.

Many declared Sirianni to be a “yes man” for Roseman and Lurie as opposed to being the next great young head coach. Sirianni had to dance around questions about who his QB would be. He raved about the intangibles of Carson Wentz and how he felt he could help him, but that theory was short-lived.

On February 18th, 2021, the news broke out that the Eagles had agreed to trade Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2021 third-round draft pick and an eventual first-round pick in 2022. The trade itself sparked even more unrest in the City, as questions surrounding Jalen Hurts ran rampant.

Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman both emphasized that next season would start the rebuilding process. They both understood the ripple effects of their decisions and wanted just move forward from it all. After hiring a rookie head coach in Nick Sirianni, it was as clear as day that the franchise was willing taking a step back in order to take two steps forward.

An impressive draft haul followed that included players like DeVonta Smith, Landon Dickerson, Milton Williams, and Kenny Gainwell. The team looked like they were heading in the right direction. The idea of infusing the roster with youth was the beginning of a new day in Philadelphia.

The Eagles entered the season as true underdogs. Jalen Hurts had all the question marks in the world, the coaching staff was inexperienced, the free agency signings were minimal and even the rookies drew criticism. Many questioned if DeVonta Smith would be able to hold up on the NFL due to his “frail frame”, while his Bama brother, Landon Dickerson, was coming off of a season-ending ACL tear.

They started the season with a bang as they took down Atlanta but that was short-lived as they contributed to battle against stronger teams and fall short of wins at the midway point of the season. After switching up their air-raid offense to a more run-heavy attack, the team went on a run to close out the season and fall into the wild card.

Fast forward a few months and oh, how things change. Jalen Hurts had a strong campaign but it wasn’t left without several question marks. DeVonta Smith soared above his critics and finished the season healthy as he tallied 916 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. Nick Sirianni was the most impressive of them all as he finished his rookie season with a winning record at 9-8. The Eagles finished by winning 6 of their last 8 games of the regular season and clinched a playoff spot.

The team would go on to lose in a blowout game against the Bucs but the season wasn’t a waste. We saw a product that should’ve been years behind turn into a contender after a turbulent offseason. Howie Roseman stuck to what worked best for his team and put the right pieces in place for his coaches. The organization as a whole seemed more put together than they have in recent years.

There were no leaked articles about how bad of a teammate the QB was or how sneaky and toxic Howie Roseman is. Instead, it became about how they found a true leader in Nick Sirianni. A true leader in their 23-year-old QB, Jalen Hurts. For the first time in almost 4 years, the raves about the Eagles were positive which could only lead to better things this offseason.

The organization may have struck out in their handling of Coach Pederson and Carson Wentz, but they rebounded better than many thought they would by just trusting the ideas of their coaching staff and allowing their players to develop. The freedom in the locker room every week was very evident. Players were allowed to just be themselves without the pressure of a microscope on them. After a winning season, one has to wonder how long that freedom will last as they enter year two of their “rebuilding project”.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire