History says no repeat, but these Eagles could buck the trend

History says no repeat, but these Eagles could buck the trend

Math says the Eagles are more likely to have a losing record in 2018 than return to the Super Bowl.

Now, maybe math doesn't get just what this football team is all about, but since the onset of free agency, it's been rare for teams to make repeat trips to the Super Bowl.

Since the inception of free agency in 1993, only seven teams have reached a Super Bowl in consecutive years. Going back to 1992 to make it an even 25 years, seven of the last 50 Super Bowl participants have made it back to the Super Bowl the next year. During the same span, nine of those 50 teams have had a losing record the next year — which actually seems like a very low figure. 

In all, 17 of 102 Super Bowl teams have gotten back to the Super Bowl the next year, but it's important to note that 15 of those 17 were quarterbacked by a Hall of Famer (16 if you count Russell Wilson, who I think will one day be in Canton). The only exception is the 1982 and 1983 Redskins, with Joe Theismann (who probably should be in the Hall of Fame).

It seems that teams that reach the Super Bowl one year generally put together very good regular seasons the next year but don't often go deep in the playoffs. 

Of those 50 Super Bowl teams since 1992, only 16 even won a playoff game the next year.

So that's what the Eagles are up against.

The Super Bowl hangover is a very real thing. 

That hunger this team had, that deep, profound desire to prove all the doubters wrong and deliver a championship to a city starving for one, won't be easy to replicate. 

The roster will change. The coaching staff already has. There's always the risk that some players hit the banquet circuit a little too hard and come back in the summer out of shape or not quite as motivated as a year earlier. New players mean a new locker room dynamic. That delicate chemistry that drove the 2017 Eagles could be tough to find in 2018.

It's so hard to repeat. Heck, even the Patriots have won back-to-back Super Bowls only once under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick — in 2003 and 2004. 

Nobody has won back-to-back titles since. 

The last teams to do it before those Patriots teams were the Broncos in 1998 and 1999 and the Cowboys — the last NFC team — back in 1992 and 1993. The 49ers won in 1988 and 1989 and those are the only four repeaters in the last 35 years.

Every one of those teams wanted to get there and aimed to win it again. Only 11 percent of them did.

OK, all that said, I fully expect the Eagles to be right back in the thick of things next year.

I like that Doug Pederson didn't waste any time setting the tone for 2018. His message was that this group, this nucleus, has a chance to accomplish something extraordinary over the coming seasons if the players return in 2018 with the same attitude they had this year.

He didn't shy away from dynasty talk. He didn't shy away from wanting to be Belichick or Gibbs or Walsh.

I'm sure every Super Bowl coach has had that same conversation with his team, but I believe this team has a very good chance at sustained success for one big reason: Doug.

Pederson established a culture last season where players put the team first, didn't get wrapped up in individual stats and achievements, and worked their butts off from July to January. Now, that 2016 team just didn't have enough talent or experience to win, but you could see the progress as the season went along. They believed in Doug, they believed in themselves.

Then the Eagles went out and overhauled the roster. By the time they arrived in Minneapolis, they had 25 new players who weren't part of the 2016 team. Virtually half the roster wasn't even here last year. 

Yet the culture remained. What Doug instilled in the locker room remained.

Pederson's ability to create a unique, healthy, winning culture in the locker room and then carry it over from one year to the next despite a massive roster overhaul is remarkable. 

That tells me that as long as he has the locker room leaders along with him — Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Peters, Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce — he can maintain that culture, and that means the team will remain as hungry and as driven and as determined in the future as it was this year.

This strikes me as a group that won't be content with just one. 

History may not be on their side, but one thing we've learned about this football team is that when history isn't on their side that's when they're at their best.

Eagles Mailbag: Sidney Jones, rookies, ice cream

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Eagles Mailbag: Sidney Jones, rookies, ice cream

We answered half of your questions in yesterday’s mailbag (see story), but there were plenty more. 

So in between scarfing down hot dogs and burgers, take some time to check out these answers. 

To give some background on this question, cornerback Sidney Jones has been working in the slot during OTAs. Last year’s second-round pick, who missed most of his rookie season with that Achilles injury, looks good and is ready to be a real player in this league. 

It seems like the Eagles really want to give Jones a chance to learn the nickel corner position and take control of it. It’s a new spot for him, but he should be talented enough to handle it. If he doesn’t look good in the slot, they could always move him outside on those downs and slide Jalen Mills inside. 

As far as Jones simply being a starter … it seems unlikely now, just because Mills and Ronald Darby are still ahead of him. As long as they’re both there, Jones is the third guy in. Either way, he’s going to play a ton this year and I’m on the record predicting a big year for Jones. 

Nah. Gotta trust the doctors and trainers. As I understand it, the stuff Carson Wentz is doing right now is just a part of his rehab. He hasn’t done any work outside of individual drills and has to start throwing and working on footwork at some point. It seems like he’s doing a lot, but he really isn’t yet. Although what we’ve seen is a good sign. 

The Eagles aren’t rushing Wentz. They’re making sure he doesn’t rush himself. If anything, they’re going to end up being too cautious.  

I have seen just one practice, so I don’t have a ton to work off of. I like the look of defensive end Josh Sweat. He’s long and slender and could get on the field in pass rush situations this year. It’s way too early, but if Sweat ever lives up to his potential, we might look back at him as a steal. 

As far as guys under the radar, I don’t think anyone is making a big enough deal about Mike Wallace. Most people know he’s an upgrade, but he should be a significant upgrade over Torrey Smith and it should really help the Eagles’ offense be more dynamic. 

If I had to guess now — and, again, I’ve seen one practice — I’d say, Jones. Doug Pederson talked about Jones like he actually has some plans for him this season. We’ve already seen him have success in the NFL and he’s not that far removed from it. 

Adams had a good college career, but there are some clear flaws in his game, which is why he went undrafted. I know everyone looks at Corey Clement from last year, but that’s rare. Adams might be a better fit on the practice squad this year, if they can sneak him there. 

I’ll revisit this in the summer once the pads go on. 

Well, those smoothies are still around. Pederson kept a lot of that stuff but made it more voluntary. Players still get personalized drinks. 

The easy answer here is ice cream. Doug likes his ice cream. Plain vanilla. Can’t believe Häagen-Dazs hasn’t found a way to get Pederson in some ads. 

Aside from that, I know wings in the cafeteria have been a big hit on Fridays. The cooks — who are great, by the way — make non-fried wings with plenty of different sauces to choose from. A couple years ago, a player from Rochester, New York, introduced Boss Sauce and it became a hit among the players. I think the wings are still around. 

Eagles Mailbag: Lead back, Mack Hollins, the LB position

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Eagles Mailbag: Lead back, Mack Hollins, the LB position

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend. The Eagles are probably enjoying it too — because Tuesday, they’re back to work. 

That’s when the team’s second round of OTAs begin. The Eagles will have a few more weeks of the voluntary offseason program before the mandatory minicamp June 12-14. 

Let’s take a dip into the mailbag: 

Yeah, I’d consider Jay Ajayi the lead back for this coming season. I really think the Eagles are going to ride him a little more than they did last year now that he’s had plenty of time in the offense. But I still don’t see Doug Pederson or Duce Staley abandoning the running back-by-committee approach. So while I think Ajayi will get the bulk of the carries, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles will still play plenty. 

Ajayi will be the feature back, but Pederson will want to keep him fresh for the playoffs too. Sure, the Eagles want to use him up on the final year of his deal, but they shouldn’t do it before they really need him. 

The Eagles really like Mack Hollins and it’s not hard to figure out why. He’s a nice, humble kid who works extremely hard. As a rookie, Hollins played in all 16 games and had just 16 receptions for 226 yards and one touchdown. He was even less productive in the postseason, when he caught one pass for nine yards. 

To answer your question, yes, I think Hollins will be more involved. It also can’t hurt that the Eagles brought in his college position coach, Gunter Brewer. The problem is that as long as everyone’s healthy, he’s still behind Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor. He’ll get snaps, but they’ll be limited. He’ll have to make the most of them. 

Quick Hollins story: Late in the season, I asked him about his lack of offensive production and he looked me dead in the eyes and said his job isn’t to catch passes. I probably looked confused. “My job is to help us win,” he said. “And I’ve been doing that.” 

Got a few questions about bringing in a linebacker and I understand why. On the first day of OTAs, the Eagles cut Mychal Kendricks and lost Paul Worrilow for the season. Earlier this week, I looked at the depth the Eagles have. I still wouldn’t worry about the position. 

I think it’s very possible the Eagles bring in another veteran linebacker, but I’m not sure there’s a huge rush. What might have been lost this week is that to cut Kendricks, the Eagles must feel really good about Jordan Hicks’ recovery. And remember, the Eagles are in two-linebacker sets most of the time. Corey Nelson will have a chance to be the weakside guy with Kendricks gone. And there's still decent depth. 

Maybe the Eagles add a player this summer, but it’s also possible they wait a bit to see what they have. For what it’s worth, I’d at least take a look at Bowman to see if there’s anything left.  

Corey Graham is still available and Pederson seemed more than open to bringing him back, so that’s very possible. Graham was a really important addition last offseason because, like you said, it allowed Jenkins to move closer to the line.

A lot of Jenkins playing that hybrid LB position was out of necessity with Hicks gone. According to ProFootballFocus, he played 42 percent of his snaps at LB, so it’s hard to imagine him doing it more in 2018. Still, Jenkins' versatility and his importance to the team can’t be overstated.