Time to say goodbye to the Super Bowl Eagles

Time to say goodbye to the Super Bowl Eagles

It’s time to say goodbye to the Super Bowl champs. Time to say hello to an uncertain future.

When Howie Roseman said last week that one of his weaknesses is that he gets too attached to players, you can understand where he’s coming from.

Heck, who didn’t get attached to the Super Bowl champs?

That 2017 Eagles team took the city on a ride none of us will ever forget. 

But it’s time to move on. It’s past time.

And the only way the Eagles will ever get to another Super Bowl is if they put that team to rest and build a new one.

That’s what this offseason is all about.  

Roseman spent 2018 and 2019 trying to take the 2017 nucleus and tweak it, trying to recapture that 2017 magic. 

And honestly, it made sense. The Eagles didn’t have enough draft picks to rebuild the roster the right way — just four picks in the first three rounds over the last two years coming off the disastrous 2017 draft.

Some of the moves didn’t make sense – another year of Nelson Agholor at $9.4 million, Ronald Darby at $6 ½ million, Jason Peters at $6 million, bringing back Darren Sproles, guaranteeing Alshon Jeffery.

But it was Roseman trying to squeeze as much as possible out of the Super Bowl roster without the benefit of a ton of draft picks. 

Trying to win off the Super Bowl momentum.

And it worked, to an extent. The Eagles did reach the playoffs the last two years. But the whole thing was trending in the wrong direction. We all saw it. The roster got older, more injury-prone, and so many of those Super Bowl heroes just weren’t the same players as they were in 2017.

Now there’s 10 draft picks waiting in April, a boatload of cap space and a real chance to reshape the roster.

Taking into account compensatory picks as projected by Over the Cap, the Eagles should have their own 1st- and 2nd-round picks, two 3rd-round picks, three 4th-rounders, two 5ths and a 6th.

All of this means that by the time the Eagles make their final cuts on Sept. 5, 2020, it’s conceivable there could be as few as eight position players on next year’s roster who were part of the 2017 Super Bowl run.

The actual number will be closer to 12 or 15, but it’ll still be a far cry from this past year, when the Eagles gave that Super Bowl LII nucleus one last shot.

Some 30 players who played here in 2017 spent at least some time on the 53-man roster this year. They didn’t all play in the Super Bowl, but they were part of that team, part of that run.

Let’s look at that group and their chances of coming back:

DEFINITELY NOT BACK: Darren Sproles, Jay Ajayi, Nelson Agholor

PROBABLY  NOT BACK: Ronald Darby, Jason Peters, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Kamu Grugier-Hill

JURY IS OUT: Jalen Mills, Nigel Bradham, Rodney McLeod, Rasul Douglas, Alshon Jeffery, Nate Sudfeld, Corey Clement, Tim Jernigan, Vinny Curry

PROBABLY BACK: Jason Kelce, Malcolm Jenkins, Sidney Jones, Nate Gerry

DEFINITELY BACK: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz, Isaac Seumalo, Brandon Brooks, Rick Lovato, Derek Barnett, Jake Elliott

We only put Kelce and Jenkins in the “probably back” category since Kelce at this point in his life ponders retirement every offseason and because of Jenkins’ contract situation.

Roseman spoke about all this Wednesday, and NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro wrote about it:

When we look at our team from 2017 to 2019, we knew that we had one team -  really, a team that we were basically going to stick with,” he said. “We didn't have a lot of resources in terms of draft picks. That's on me. We made trades for some veteran players to go win. We stick to that. We're glad of those decisions. But going forward we need to infuse youth in this team.

It's tough moving on from veterans who’ve meant so much to this franchise, veterans who had a role in the Eagles’ greatest triumph of the last 50 years, veterans who rode a float up Broad Street while close to a million fans stood and cheered.

It’s even harder replacing them.

And that’s the challenge now. If you look at that group of players the Eagles are certain or likely to move on from, it includes a bunch of former Pro Bowlers, some long-time starters and a few all-time Eagle greats.

All Roseman and his crew have to do now is find a bunch of new legends to replace them.

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Doug Pederson's ominous track record hiring coaches

Doug Pederson's ominous track record hiring coaches

The Eagles this year will have their fifth wide receivers coach in five years under Doug Pederson and their third defensive line coach in three years.

They’ll have their third offensive coordinator in four years and a new secondary coach as well. And there could be more changes on the way.

It’s a lot of turnover for a team that’s reached the playoffs each of the last three seasons and won a Super Bowl just two years ago.

And it tells you two things:

1) Doug Pederson won’t hesitate to jettison coaches he feels aren’t getting the job done,
2) And Doug's track record of hiring coaches is bad.

Let’s go back a few years. When Doug replaced Chip Kelly four years ago today, he kept seven of Kelly’s assistant coaches and brought in 11 assistants of his own. A year later he brought in Mike Groh.

Out of those seven original Chip assistants? Six are still here, all but Cory Undlin, just hired as Lions defensive coordinator.

Of the 11 guys he brought in? Only four are still here — all defensive coaches: Jim Schwartz, Dino Vasso, Ken Flajole, Tim Hauck.

All seven assistant coaches he’s fired — Eugene Chung, Carson Walch, Greg Lewis, Gunter Brewer, Chris Wilson, Phillip Daniels and Groh - are his own hires.

Of the 10 coaches from 2016 who are still here, six – more than half – are Chip Kelly holdovers.

So the pattern keeps repeating itself. He keeps Chip's guys and fires his own guys.

And with four coaching openings at the moment, that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

Some of the most highly respected coaches on Pederson's staff - Jeff Stoutland, Duce Staley, Dave Fipp, Press Taylor - are guys he didn’t even bring in. Duce, of course, pre-dates Chip and coached under Andy Reid.

Both his original coordinators, Frank Reich and Schwartz, were very good hires. Beyond that? His track record is kind of ominous.

Coaching is just a fancy word for teaching. And we keep seeing the Eagles’ draft picks - Sidney Jones, J.J. Arega-Whiteside, Derek Barnett, Rasul Douglas, Donnel Pumphrey, Mack Hollins – failing to develop the way they should.

If you can’t develop young players, you have no shot.

So many of the players at the heart of the Eagles’ recent success – Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Zach Ertz, Nigel Bradham and Lane Johnson – will all be in their early 30s by opening day this fall and with most NFL players in that 30-to-33 range, you know you're going to get a gradual (or sometimes abrupt) decline.

So the challenge facing the Eagles isn’t just drafting talented players, it’s coaching them and developing them so they can become that next generation of Malcolms and Fletchers and Jasons. That next generation of guys who can lead this franchise to more deep playoff runs and maybe another championship.

That’s why it’s imperative that Pederson figures this coaching thing out.

We all remember what happened when Reid struggled to replace that brilliant initial staff he put together 20 years ago this month. As those guys left for head coaching jobs or coordinator positions – John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, Brad Childress, Pat Shurmur, Steve Spagnuolo – he replaced them with long-forgotten, over-matched assistants.

There are a lot of reasons the Eagles were essentially a .500 team in Reid’s last eight years here (66-61-1), but a huge one was the inability of that second wave of coaches to develop the young players who had replaced the nucleus that made the 2000 through 2004 team such a powerhouse.

Pederson was there for that decline as part of Reid’s staff, so nobody understands better than him just how critical it is to find people who can teach promising young players how to become pros, how to take their game to the next level.

The challenge now is finding an offensive coordinator with fresh ideas and a vision for the future, a wide receivers coach who’ll stay more than a year, a secondary coach who can salvage Sidney Jones’ career and a defensive line coach who can make Barnett more than just an average pass rusher.

It’s easy to fire coaches. It’s a lot harder to find bright, motivated, capable replacements who can mold young players into big-time pros.

Pederson needs to prove he can do that.

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Eagles Stay or Go: Breaking down the three specialists

Eagles Stay or Go: Breaking down the three specialists

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp bring back Stay or Go with the 2020 version, trying to figure out the future of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Today, we’ll look at their specialists: 

Jake Elliott

Roob: Elliott’s not going anywhere, but his late-season misses are a bit troubling. Elliott made his first 17 field goal attempts – only two longer than 43 yards – then missed four of his last nine (from 47, 49, 53 and 55 yards). They weren’t easy kicks, but league-wide in 2019 kickers were 54 percent from 53 to 55 yards. Elliott was 43 percent beyond 43 yards (3-for-7). The rest of the league was 66 percent beyond 43 yards. Elliott has been clutch, but his inconsistency is a tad concerning.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: In the regular season, Elliott was 22 of 26 and actually improved his career field goal percentage. And then in the playoffs, he made all all three of his field goal attempts in the loss to Seattle and is now 11-for-11 in his career in the playoffs. And the Eagles signed him to an extension during the season, so he's not going anywhere. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Elliott probably doesn't get enough appreciation from the fan base, but he isn't exactly elite, either. He's made a lot of huge, clutch kicks in three seasons, more than making up for the occasional game that's hinged on his misses. It's moot anyway, unless the 25-year-old suddenly becomes completely unreliable, because he just signed an extension. 

Verdict: Stays

Rick Lovato 

Roob: The dude can flat-out SNAP. Lovato made the Pro Bowl as a long snapper, joining Mike Bartrum and John Dorenbos as the Eagles’ third consecutive Pro Bowl long snapper. Hey, the Steelers have always had tremendous linebackers, the 49ers have a history of Hall of Fame quarterbacks, the Rams always have big-time receivers. The Eagles have great long snappers.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Good season for the long snapper. First, he signed a four-year extension and then he was named to the Pro Bowl. In the first year players voted on long-snappers, Lovato got the nod, which must mean he’s pretty good. I’ll defer to those guys. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: What can you really say about Lovato? No, I'm asking. The best compliment you can probably pay a long snapper is admitting you don't really notice his work -- it implies things are running smoothly. Anyway, he too signed an extension, and at 27, he could be around for awhile. 

Verdict: Stays

Cameron Johnston 

Roob: Johnston had another big year, averaging 46.4 yards per punt with a net of 42.3, which is 2nd-best in franchise history (behind Johnston in 2018) and very good for an outdoor punter in the Northeast, where weather conditions are often challenging. Johnston is the Eagles’ career record holder in punting average (47.2) and net average (42.5). His net average would be 12th-highest in NFL history if he had more attempts.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: He’s the only guy of the three specialists who didn’t get a contract extension. That might be coming. For now, he’s an exclusive rights free agents, which basically means as long as the Eagles want him back, he’ll be back. As far as his play, this season Johnson was ninth in the NFL in average (46.4), eighth in net average (42.3) and 13th in punts inside the 20 (28). He’s pretty good. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Eagles fans may realize it, but Johnston is quietly one of the better punters in the league, even if it hasn't produced any trips to the Pro Bowl just yet. Not sure what the hold up is on getting a new deal done. He's an exclusive rights free agent, so he's not going anywhere or anything. Still, the team should just lock him up for the long haul already.

Verdict: Stays

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