Nick Sirianni just became a much better head coach.
For some obvious reasons and also some not-so-obvious reasons.
Jason Kelce’s announcement Friday morning that he’s returning to the Eagles for an 11th season is encouraging news in a difficult year.
Doug Pederson getting fired. Carson Wentz getting traded. A coaching hire greeted with mixed reviews. Salary cap hell.
It’s been more about who’s leaving than who’s coming back, and now one of the greatest players in franchise history is coming back.
On a basic level, this is amazing news from a football sense. Kelce is still playing at an all-pro level and there was every reason to believe he was considering hanging up the cleats.
He’s 33, he’s played through an endless string of injuries, he’s got a couple kids now, he’s got a lot of interests outside football. And some veterans who have been to the top — a Super Bowl championship, a legendary parade speech, four Pro Bowls, three all-pros — aren’t that interested in being part of a rebuild.
Kelce’s return means a potentially decent offensive line, although there are still big ifs concerning the health of Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson. But it means the Eagles don’t have to move Isaac Seumalo out of left guard just yet or toy with Luke Juriga at center. And if they’re all healthy, an o-line of Jordan Mailata, Seumalo, Kelce, Brooks and Johnson is very good.
And considering the Eagles will almost certainly have a young quarterback in 2021 - either Jalen Hurts or a draft pick - that’s huge.
But this goes beyond that.
This is an all-time Eagle saying he wants to play for Nick Sirianni, and the importance of a revered veteran like Kelce — who’s played for Andy Reid, Chip Kelly and Pederson - making this decision is tremendously important for a new relatively unknown head coach and his staff.
It doesn’t hurt that Sirianni brought back offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who Kelce swears by. But when you’re a rookie head coach and the players don’t know you or what you’re all about, the value of a guy like Kelce deciding he wants to play for you is immeasurable.
It’s a tricky balance when you’re in rebuilding mode. You can’t do it half-heartedly and say you’re going young and then try to get through a season with people like DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Jason Peters. When you go young you have to really commit to it.
But guys like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Kelce, the three oldest Eagles, are all still playing at a Pro Bowl level, and there’s a good chance all three will be playing in 2021 on restructured, cap-friendly contracts.
Having a few of those veterans is big. Even the most complete youth movement roster overhaul needs a few older guys to set an example and show all the young dudes how it’s done. On a team jammed with young guys just starting out, seeing a Super Bowl champ like Kelce – how he works, how he prepares, how he studies – is so important. Same with Cox and Graham.
Kelce once told me that he doesn’t play the game for individual honors. He just shakes his head and looks at you funny when you bring up the Hall of Fame or all-pro voting. He said the only reason he plays the game is because of how much he enjoys accomplishing something as a group that’s impossible to accomplish individually.
The Eagles may still be facing a difficult year in 2021 and things won’t be easy for Sirianni as the Eagles look to bounce back from last year’s 4-11-1 nightmare.
But this team’s chances of accomplishing something as a group are infinitely better with Kelce at center.
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