The Philadelphia Eagles refuse to stay content at 6-0

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Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni gestures as he answers questions during a news conference at the end of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Landover, Md. Eagles won 24-8. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The Philadelphia Eagles became the darlings of the NFL media during the 2022 preseason when virtually every major outlet lauded the offseason wizardry of general manager Howie Roseman.  

Jason Kelce cautioned against accepting compliments and getting too comfortable.

I think comfort is a f—ing terrible place to be if you’re in this league. I know everybody expects us to be Super Bowl champions in Philadelphia. I think that can definitely happen, but it’s not going to happen being comfortable. I can guarantee you that. It’s going to happen respecting your opponents. It’s going to happen respecting the game and understanding that if you don’t go out there and f—ing work every single day and go out there (and) have the mindset that there are things we need to work on and improve on every single day, you don’t get (success).”, the future Hall of Fame center barked to the media.

While the rest of the competition keeps tripping over land mines on a weekly basis in the NFL, the Eagles still hold the league’s only perfect record. They’ll test it at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 8.

Roseman made yet another splash on Wednesday, acquiring defensive end Robert Quinn from the Chicago Bears. The move bolsters a position that lacked the overwhelming depth that some of the best teams in franchise history have boasted. The GM isn’t comfortable with a 6-0 start, and neither is the team.

Jalen Hurts and the “Rat Poison”

Jalen Hurts explained his feelings about “rat poison” shortly after taking over as the starting quarterback for Carson Wentz in 2020.

It’s all external factors. External factors that are no good for us and what we’re trying to do as a team. … I just focus on what I need to focus on. Focus on winning, preparing, and just doing my job, coming in every day, and going to work. That’s how I focus on everything,” he said.

Hurts learned the “rat poison” metaphor from Nick Saban, his former head coach at the University of Alabama. Zach Berman of The Athletic referred to the two as “kindred spirits” in a recent piece about how Hurts and the Eagles are far from satisfied with their work in the first six games of the season.

Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time. His ability to restock the cupboard for the Crimson Tide and keep the program in NCAA National Championship contention on a yearly basis isn’t the result of a comfort level or complacency. It comes from the desire to continue making progress even at the pinnacle of competition. 

Hurts unmistakably revealed himself as a disciple of the Alabama legend, saying “I’m not trying to chase perfection. I’m just trying to chase progress.”

Kelce and Hurts make the same point about avoiding complacency. Nick Sirianni has also echoed their sentiment. Roseman certainly isn’t satisfied with the seemingly complete roster he put together during the offseason.

Eagles, Steelers, and Rat Poison

The Steelers last visited Lincoln Financial Field in Week 3 of the 2016 season. The Eagles smoked their cross-state rivals 34-3 in the third game of Wentz’s rookie season. The beatdown spurred all the media and fan hype that the state of “Wentzylvania” could handle.

The rat poison caught up to a team playing over its head early in the season. The Eagles stumbled with two straight losses as part of an ugly 2-9 stretch that dropped them out of playoff contention.

The Eagles learned a lesson from falling off the hype train. Doug Pederson entered the 2017 season on a mission to prove himself as a viable NFL head coach. He established a level of continuity that allowed the team to block out distractions and focus on one game at a time.

Week 3 of the 2017 season also ended in an exhilarating victory when no-name rookie kicker Jake Elliott gave the Eagles a victory with a 61-yard field goal as time expired. 

The 2017 Eagles were different. They didn’t stumble in a potential trap game on the west coast in Week 4. Pederson stuck to the game plan that helped Philadelphia to victory in the previous game by establishing a running game. An astonishing 214 yards on the ground helped them survive against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Instead of resting on the foundation of an excellent start to the season, the Eagles recognized the week-to-week difficulty of the NFL. They mowed down every team in their path with methodical blowouts as part of a nine-game winning streak, tied for the longest in franchise history. Home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs was their reward.

The 2022 NFL season hasn’t gone according to plan. Every time league analysts think they’ve identified a team ready to make a run, a struggling team recently written off as a bottom-feeder comes out of nowhere for an upset victory.

While the Eagles haven’t taken the rat poison yet, the trend only makes Kelce’s point about complacency more relevant. One moment of comfort over a 17-game regular season can mean a consequential loss with enormous postseason ramifications. The NFL’s last unbeaten team needs that reality at the top of their minds against the Steelers on Sunday.

AP Photo/Susan Walsh