The Eagles rode the underdog theme to a Super Bowl last season, but it’s hard to be a team full of underdogs when everyone is wearing a gaudy Super Bowl ring.
So this offseason has been about trying to recreate that mentality.
Last week, Jason Kelce said on Good Morning Football he thinks the Eagles probably still aren’t getting the respect they deserve. And when Howie Roseman spoke at the Wharton People Analytics Conference earlier this spring, he spoke about the idea of people thinking the Super Bowl win was a “fluke.”
Roseman was the subject of a half-hour interview that was posted by Penn on May 9. He talked about various topics, including the Super Bowl celebration, the use of analytics and sports science in the NFL and about the trade two years ago to get Carson Wentz.
Perhaps the most interesting thing Roseman said during that conference wasn’t about analytics at all. It was about trying to repeat as champions and avoiding the same fate as many teams before which haven’t been able to duplicate championship success.
“From our perspective, we know we have to change the chemistry,” Roseman said. “We know we have to create competition, we have to make everyone feel the same kind of urgency we had. So how do you do that? You get more people who have that urge, who have that underdog kind of feeling that we had, who feel like they’ve been kicked to the side, who have this need to win.
“And what we feel will happen is, you bring in a bunch of competitive people, with inherently competitive people who are maybe just kind of going through the motions a little bit for a while. And all of a sudden, they have a competitive moment and you bring out those competitive juices. Will it work? I have no idea. But we’re going to try.”
A quick look back at the players the Eagles brought in this offseason and it’s not hard to find that “underdog” quality about a lot of them. You can almost hear Kelce yelling about these guys next February.
Michael Bennett: He’s getting old! He’s too socially active!
Corey Nelson: Nelson’s just a special teamer!
Haloti Ngata: Ngata’s too old and injured!
Mike Wallace: Remember when Mike Wallace was good?!
Paul Worrilow: Paul Worrilow was undrafted!
Markus Wheaton: Wheaton can’t stay healthy!
Matt Jones: Matt Jones fumbles too much!
You get the idea.
“We understand that it’s hard to repeat,” Roseman said at the owners' meetings in March. “You have to add some guys with the same chip on their shoulders that we brought in last year.”
Now, adding guys with chips on their shoulders coincided nicely with the Eagles' salary cap situation. The good thing about players with something to prove is that they’re cheap. And the Eagles needed that.
All of their free agents this offseason signed either one- or two-year deals and it’s similar to the contracts the Eagles handed out last offseason when they brought in Alshon Jeffery, LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long and Patrick Robinson. All those guys were hits and it helped with the championship. But these signings aren’t always hits; there are going to be misses too.
When talking about moves, Roseman likened it to gambling, which is really what it is. The analytics play a role in making sure the odds are in their favor, but there are plenty of variables like injuries that still make every move a gamble. It’s all about maximizing the odds.
If the Eagles did that again, they might be able to succeed where many other teams have failed.
“I think it really goes through all organizations, not just sports,” Roseman said. “When you have success, how do you continue to have success? I think it’s easy when you think about these teams and some of the process because the season goes six weeks longer, and so I know all of us are a little bit more tired and everything comes on us quicker and the same thing for the players. …
“How do you get that energy? How do you change the dynamic? For me, the resources that I’ve been exposed to not only in sports but outside of sports about people who have built great organizations, who have won championships and then gone back, talking to them about what you have to do.”