Moving on from Jason Kelce is much bigger than finding a replacement on the field

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Eagles jason kelce
Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce walks off the field following an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers won 32-9. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Jason Kelce’s retirement shattered the hearts of just about everyone yesterday. We all knew it was coming. This black cloud over the City of Brotherly Love had been looming for several years now, but it doesn’t make the storm any less present. If there was anything that became inherently obvious during his final press conference, it was that replacing him is going to be much tougher than finding someone to fill his boots on the field.

Is Cam Jurgens the next man up?

During the 2022 NFL Draft, Jason Kelce helped handpick his replacement. That man was Cam Jurgens, who then spent the summer learning from one of the greatest to ever do it. He’s built in a similar fashion, is a freak athlete just like Kelce, and is of course being tutored by Jeff Stoutland.

His rookie season wasn’t perfect, but it was solid. It’s tough for any rookie lineman to get up to speed when dropped into the deep end at a relatively new spot. He never took snaps at guard during his time at Nebraska, but injuries forced the hand of Nick Sirianni, and the Nebraska product ended up playing most of his time at a completely new spot.

There is every reason to believe that one of Jurgens or Tyler Steen will be ready to make the step up in 2024. If they’re not, someone like Jackson Powers-Johnson should be in reach with their first-round selection.

The Eagles should have a steady hand at center regardless of who it is that gets the nod, but that’s only half of the battle.

Jason Kelce’s goodbye speech will go down as one of the most tear-inducing in history. His love for the game and the City was clear and there were a few quotes in particular that stood out.

Jason Kelce eagles super bowl
FILE – Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) blocks during an NFL Football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. Eagles center Jason Kelce has told teammates he intends to retire after 13 NFL seasons, according to three people informed of the decision. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, out of respect for Kelce’s decision, which has not yet been made public. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)

Jason Kelce’s value

The first being one about what it took to play in Philadelphia:

“Some people struggle to play in this city. They can’t handle the boos, the media, or our fans. I consider it a blessing to play in the most passionate sports town in America. “If you’re not performing, they will let you know. But as long as you show effort, they will love you. They’re not gonna accept your excuses and soft-ass nonsense.

“The Eagles are the number one ticket in town, the most talked about thing at nearly every moment. With that amount of attention, you better be ready to overcome the lows that will happen, and be ready to persevere in the face of criticism. Yes, they will let you know when you’re not performing well, everytime. But they will also love you if you show effort, aggression, desire, the will to fight.“ (HT Fox News)

Jason Kelce embodied everything that being a leader and a Captain on this team means. He understands the high-pressure nature of playing for the Philadelphia Eagles and grew through every rise and fall that his remarkable career was made of. In turn, he became one of the biggest Legends this City has ever seen and will likely never pay for a Drink again.

Moving on from a future Hall of Famer

Losing Kelce as a generational player is one thing, but losing a leader as strong as he is? That’s another battle altogether. The Eagles have had some leadership concerns over the last 12 months, with a few veterans presenting a very different attitude to what’s really needed to galvanize this team. The core leaders on this team are getting older, too.

Lane Johnson, Brandon Graham, and Fletcher Cox might all be nearing the end of their own heroic stories in Philadelphia, and while the likes of Jalen Hurts and A.J Brown lead the charge in their own ways, suddenly losing a veteran who was so selfless in moments of adversity and always put the team first is going to be a huge void in that locker room. It’s a trait no stat can measure and no metric can follow, but one that is paramount to the success of this Eagles team.

Jason kelce eagles
FILE – Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2024, in East Rutherford, N.J. Eagles center Jason Kelce has told teammates he intends to retire after 13 NFL seasons, according to three people informed of the decision. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, out of respect for Kelce’s decision, which has not yet been made public. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)

Replacing someone who can rally troops the same way Kelce did for so many years isn’t going to happen overnight. And with so many other key leaders nearing the end of their runs in Philly, finding the right kind of players to lead the charge for the next generation has to be an imperative focus. It’s likely why Howie Roseman placed a real emphasis on finding former Captain’s and players from schools like Georgia and Alabama in recent years.

Players come and go, but Legends are once in a lifetime. Jason Kelce was exactly that, and while the Eagles will be okay in finding a serviceable replacement to develop over the next few years, finding someone else to keep that team firing on all cylinders through the stormiest of nights is a task that should hopefully encourage Howie Roseman to look at the broader picture of the Captain’s on his team and ensure that the right men are given the ‘C’ to represent the Eagles in the way that Jason Kelce did for so many years.

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack