The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the best teams in football this season. Jim Harbaugh has his Michigan Wolverines playing like the best team in college football.
When a team like the Eagles plays as well as they have throughout the season, comparisons are drawn to some of the better all-around teams in franchise history. For good measure too. In five seasons with a 10-1 record, the Eagles have either won the championship or appeared in the league’s final game.
But when we look and compare the 2022 Eagles, past teams in franchise history may not be the best comparison. In reality, the Eagles mirror a team Jim Harbaugh used to coach and made himself famous while doing so.
Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers made themselves known for finding any way to win. Smart, succinct quarterback play with pocket passers or scrambling quarterbacks made them one of the most successful teams in the 2010s. The reality of the season is that the more the Eagles win, and the more they win the way they currently do, the more they mirror Harbaugh’s Niners.
Jim Harbaugh completely resurrected Alex Smith‘s career and made him into one of the league’s most efficient passers. Then, when he felt he had gone as far as he could go with Smith (NFC Title Game), he made the switch to a scrambling quarterback in Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers took off with Colin Kaepernick. San Fran went 17-6 in two seasons with Kaepernick as the starter including a Super Bowl trip. Kaepernick’s greatest strength was playing mistake-free football while using his legs to make him an unstoppable force against some of the league’s best: including Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
In a 45-31 win over Green Bay, Kaepernick recorded 263 yards passing and 181 yards rushing. Sound familiar?
Jalen Hurts is playing like an MVP candidate. He’s played mistake-free football that has become a major focal point in a team that finds ways to win.
Kaepernick and Hurts have a lot more in common as the Eagles keep winning, and the quarterback continues to be a reason for their climb to the top.
Jim Harbaugh’s defenses in San Fran were definitely better than the Eagles’ current roster, but there’s one key point in their comparison: turnovers. The 49ers in the 2010s made a living off of pressuring teams into mistakes.
The Eagles are still leading the league in turnover-differential. The secondary is a top unit albeit with injuries and the front seven gets to the passer consistently.
Patrick Willis is the lone difference here. The hall-of-fame linebacker was one of the league’s greatest at the position and blows away anyone that the Eagles have at the position. But Darius Slay, Hassan Reddick, and countless other stars are a big reason why the Eagles defense is one of the most feared in football.
Run. The. Ball.
The Eagles are the best rushing team in football. Harbaugh’s Niners, with Frank Gore and others, were the top unit during their heyday.
Miles Sanders isn’t Frank Gore, but he’s having a career year with rushing yards, touchdowns, and yards per carry. If this continues, and the team plays smart football on the ground, the team is just as good as those 49er squads were during their best years.
It also comes down to the OL as well. Jason Kelce, Joe Staley, Lane Johnson, and Mike Iupati are all or were All-Pro caliber players. There’s really no difference here.
Harbaugh’s team, like the current Eagles, won through the trenches: more so than any Eagles team before them.
Philadelphia and Michigan are enjoying two excellent seasons to start. It’s no mistake that Jim Harbaugh is at the front of that when his NFL team compares so well to the current team owning the league right now.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum