Something Out of Nothing

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In late September 2016, Carson Wentz scrambled to his right. Philadelphia had won its first two games that season, home against Cleveland and on the road in Chicago. Neither all that impressive. As Wentz moved toward the sidelines, the Eagles held a 10-point lead against the always tough Pittsburgh Steelers. It felt like backyard football as Darren Sproles wheeled up the sidelines with Wentz tossing a pass on the money to the scat back. Sproles did the rest, but Wentz made something out of nothing.

I thought about that play earlier this week. The Eagles won that game handedly—Doug Pederson’s third career win. It felt like the beginning of something truly special. A partnership between Pederson and Wentz that would last a long time.

A year later they won the Super Bowl. Pederson proclaimed a new normal. Winning double digit games would be tradition. Wentz was the league’s Most Valuable Player until he tore his ACL. He had made a habit out of making plays like he did against the Steelers.

Sure, the Eagles made the playoffs in consecutive seasons following their Super Bowl victory, but they weren’t very good.

Blame the front office. Certainly, they’re culpable. But Pederson failed. The offense never reached its ceiling. Stuck in mud, often a disgusting brand of football. It reached its breaking point this year, of course. Wentz regressed in ways that didn’t seem imaginable. Scoring points was never easier. The average NFL team scored 24.8 points in 2020. But Philadelphia surpassed that total FOUR times in 2020, winning only one such game.

It’s no surprise Pederson only wanted to promote from within. It’s actually mind-boggling Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman didn’t see that coming. Maybe they assumed he’d cater to them once again. Ideally, the Eagles would be hiring a new front office—a clean break from everything—but that was never in the cards, really. This week’s press conference with Lurie further demonstrated that.

As stark as that press conference felt at times, it’s hard not to trust Lurie as an owner. The Eagles have been one of the best franchises in football. They’re typically competitive. You wish; however, Lurie would have at least criticized Roseman a little bit. Clearly the GM hasn’t been that effective with drafting. There have been far too many puzzling decisions. People point to DK Metcalf as this colossal failure. Obviously, it would be cool to have him. One thing, the Eagles must have had a negative medical grade for him. Secondly, two other NFL teams selected wide receivers between the Eagles’ selection of JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Seattle picking Metcalf. It’s just—watching Metcalf end your season his rookie year, while the guy you picked before him played 12 snaps without a target—that amplifies the miscue.

It’s the 2020 draft that’s indefensible. As a fan, you’re always talking yourself into players. The idea that Jalen Reagor would be this dynamic, game-changing player. Don’t get me wrong, he can still be a solid receiver. Maybe even a No. 1 option.  But it’s hard to envision him as better player than Justin Jefferson. The guy Minnesota gleefully drafted immediately after Reagor.

So, yeah, it’s hard to trust Roseman. The absent of Pro Bowlers drafted in recent years is striking. The talent remains barren. The outlook is bleak. But maybe that’s one reason why Lurie decided to keep Roseman.

He’s done it before. When things looked dire, Roseman delivered in a big way. And if not, if he fails to inject youth into this team, he’s a goner. At least Lurie cannot be that obtuse. You hope that Lurie sees this as a last stand—you got us into this mess, now get us out of it. Maybe I’m naïve. Fandom has a way doing that to you.

A flash in the pan. Lightning in a bottle. Any cliché works to describe the Eagles Super Bowl season. And frankly, it doesn’t matter how the years following the Super Bowl win played out. I mean, sustained success is always welcomed, but that year. That magical year. Cannot be forgotten. Maybe that arrogance factored into their thinking. A “we can do no wrong” thinking. Maybe it still plays a role as Lurie touted Philadelphia’s successes during his press conference. It’s why this head coaching hire and this offseason will dictate the franchise’s future.

There’s hope for Wentz yet. As interesting as Jalen Hurts made the Eagles final four and half games, he left room for a question. It’ll matter who they hire. It’ll matter what’s available as a potential trade. Everything is on the table. It’s what makes being a fan so fun. There’s room for optimism, despite how dark it appears.

At least that’s what you hope.

For something out of nothing.

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