Gino Cammilleri reporting
In just over two short years the Eagles learned one great skill: How to finish
After the firing of coach Chip Kelly, Jeffrey Lurie went into 2016 offseason in search of “his guy.” Many could see the culture Kelly had developed was not met with much love by many of the players. Lurie wanted to be more involved in the coaching search after the failed Kelly experiment.
Rather than selecting a “football genius,” the Eagle owner wanted to find someone who excelled in the soft skill area of coaching. Maybe not the first choice the fans had wanted (myself included), Doug Pederson was hired as the next head coach for the Eagles. Being a first-time head coach, not many knew what to expect of coach Pederson coming into the 2016 season.
In the first three games of the 2016 NFL season, the Eagles stormed out of the gates to a 3-0 record.
With wins over the Browns, Bears, and an upset victory over the Steelers, Pederson’s Eagles looked destined for the playoffs. Going into a bye week at the most inopportune time may have thrown off the team’s mojo.
The Eagles would go on to win only two out of their next eleven games, finishing the season at a middling 7-9.
After missing the playoffs in 2016, Doug and co. knew that making a jump in 2017 was the number one priority. And as we all know the 2017 Eagles were vastly improved. From missing the playoffs to Super Bowl Champions in one year, coach Pederson went from hot-seat to Philadelphia royalty.
But what changed for this Eagles team in just one year?
The coaching staff stayed the same. The roster was overhauled for the better. But there was one underlying element that made this team go from good to great. They learned how to finish.
The 2016 Eagles were known for blowing wins late in games. From the Ryan Mathews fumble against the Lions, to the atrocious play calling against the Cowboys late in Jerry World. Not to mention allowing Kirk Cousins to march down the field against Washington.
That 2016 team clearly lacked the clutch-gene.
In one-score games, the Eagles finished with a less than ideal record of 1-6. Fast forward a year later to 2017. The Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles team finished the year with a record of 7-2 in one-score games, two of which came in the playoffs.
The first game of the budding 2018 season, the Eagles started hot with a 1-0 record, which happened to be a one-score game. There are many different factors that had a hand in the way the Eagles closed games. Carson Wentz had an MVP-caliber season. Doug Pederson’s play calling exponentially improved. The defense asserted themselves as one of the best in the league. But the one element that may have created the biggest shift in the organization can be attributed to a new culture.
When Jeffrey Lurie hired Doug to be the head coach, it was clear that there was a paradigm shift in the Eagles organization. Chip Kelly was focused more on “scheme beats talent,” and we all know how well that went.
Coach Pederson came in with the mentality that if his players bought in they could achieve greatness. After the finale of 2016, Doug made it known that being 7-9 “sucks.” Pederson knew the talent he had in that locker room. He knew how special Carson was. He knew how elite the defense was. He knew he had everything he needed to win. All he needed was the team to buy in.
Come 2017, all the chips were in the middle of the table. The team had bought in. By simply looking at the statistics of the team you can see that the 100% bought into Doug’s mentality.
|Offense||Rushing||Passing||3rd Down Conversion %||4Th Down Conversion %||Red Zone Scoring %|
|2016||11th – 1,813 yds, 16 TDs, 113.31 Y/G||24th – 3,585 yds, 16 TDs, 224.06 Y/G||85/224 – 37.9%||13/27 – 48.1%||27/55 – 49.1%|
|2017||3rd – 2,115 yds, 9 TD’s, 132.19 Y/G||13th – 3,737 yds, 38 TDs, 233.56 Y/G||96/230 – 41.7%||17/26 – 65.4%||36/55 – 65.5%|
|Defense||Rushing||Passing||3rd Down Defense %||4th Down Defense %||Red Zone Defense|
|2016||15th – 1,652 yds, 10 TDs, 103.3 Y/G||13th – 3,832 yds, 25 TDs, 239.5 Y/G||82/205 – 40.0%||8/18 – 44.4%||23/51 – 45.1%|
|2017||1st – 1,267 yds, 7 TDs, 79.2 Y/G||17th – 3,637 yds, 24 TDs, 227.3 Y/G||66/205 – 32.2%||4/18 – 22.2%||21/38 – 55.3%|
Statistics from Pro Football Reference
Coach Pederson inherited a cultureless Chip Kelly Eagles team and molded them into the Super Bowl Champions he knew they could be. It is well known that talent does not win championships (i.e. the “Dream Team” 2011 Eagles), but how well that talent meshes together.
These aren’t the same old Eagles. This locker room is different. This coach is different. These players are different. These are the new Eagles. A team that plays with passion. A team that plays for its city. A team who finishes games. A blue-collar team that takes pride in their work
Bell over Brown is an obvious choice for the Eagles
It’s almost fishing season in the NFL as all 32 teams look to catch some nice pieces for their roster through free agency, the draft, and the trade market. While the biggest fish don’t always tend to swim in those waters, every year a few big names suddenly become available for a team looking to spend.
This year, it just so happens two of the best at their position are up for grabs, and they both are coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Star offensive weapons in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown will both be in different jerseys next year for the first time in their careers. Bell is set to become a free agent, while Pittsburgh and Brown agreed a trade is in the best interest for both sides.
On paper, the Eagles could make sense for both. Adding weapons around Carson Wentz will always be a priority. However if Howie Roseman and the front office decide they want to go after one of these expensive play-makers, Bell makes much more sense for a number of reasons.
Bell doesn’t come with the baggage Brown does
Don’t let this fool you. Talent beats culture. It is why the Steelers were consistently atop the AFC despite a chaotic locker room. Coaches like Chip Kelly flamed out because they prioritized scheme and a robotic culture.
Despite that, Brown’s antics off the field are a real concern. He quit on his team with the season on the line. Pittsburgh needed a win and a Baltimore loss to make the postseason in Week 17 but Brown was MIA.
The temper tantrums on the sidelines, ghosting your team with the season on the line, that kind of behavior despite six straight seasons of 100+ receptions is eye opening.
Bell doesn’t have that stench to him. While Steelers fans will tell you Bell was selfish and uncommitted to football, it is unfair to say he has character concerns because he didn’t want to risk his long term health in a contract year. He wanted to be paid like the star he is and Pittsburgh wanted to pay the position not the player. Can’t blame either side.
Brown would require trade assets AND a big contract
Some people love to scoff at the idea of paying any significant resource for a star RB like Bell. While it wouldn’t be smart to kill the salary cap for the do-it-all weapon, it is far more reasonable to pay Bell rather than pay Brown big money and give up the trade assets it would take to get him from Pittsburgh.
What sounds better to you? $14+ million a year for Bell or $14+ million a year for Brown and perhaps a 2nd round pick + Nelson Agholor?
Bell, Agholor, and the rookie taken with that 2nd round pick sounds a lot better than just Brown.
The report Bell wants $50 million in the first two years is scary. He turned down a 5 year $70 million deal with the Steelers but perhaps when the market develops Bell will have to temper his expectations.
Bell’s age and position is more attractive to the Eagles
Two other major elements in deciding between Bell and Brown would be age and position.
By the start of next season, Brown will be 31. Bell will be be 27. Bell has four years on Brown.
If Bell could maintain his productivity into his early 30’s, the Eagles could be set at RB for 5-6 years.
Being a running back also makes him a more attractive option. Doug Pederson’s offense is in desperate need of a talented RB.
Having a weapon like Bell in the backfield that can be your top runner, a top receiver, and efficient pass blocker puts this Eagles offense on a level only the Saints and Rams can match in the NFC.
It also makes the offense less predictable. Using a committee with featured grinders like Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajay, and Josh Adams to go along with the clear pass catchers in Darren Sproles and Corey Clement can be a good way to keep your backs fresh, but it is clear what the offense plans to do on 3rd and 4 when Sproles is out there.
It is easier to predict what Pederson will do on 3rd and 2 when Blount was out there. Someone like Bell keeps the defense guessing in any situation.
While the Eagles could use more speed on offense, Brown would be a luxury. A luxury that could cost high draft picks, players, a high cap hit, and potential baggage.
Is that worth it for a team that already has at least four quality receiving options? Can’t imagine Brown would be happy not seeing 13+ targets a game.
History tells us the Eagles won’t go after either Bell or Brown. However with an aggressive front office that has shown a commitment in surrounding their franchise QB with weapons, it wouldn’t be suprising to see one of these two in midnight green. Especially with Roseman’s ability to perform magic on the salary cap.
If they decide to pursue one, it should be Le’Veon Bell.
Offseason Options: Wide Receiver
The Eagles have plenty of weapons for Carson Wentz to throw to in 2019. The WR position, however, could use more speed to compliment the bigger weapons in Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert.
If Golden Tate, Mike Wallace, and/or Jordan Matthews leave the Eagles this offseason, what options does Howie Roseman have in free agency and the draft when it comes to pass catchers?
Louie and Gino give some big name options in the draft and free agency, as well as some receivers that could fly under the radar in both offseason periods.
Offseason Options: Running Back
It is time for the Eagles to add some serious talent in the backfield. What are their options if they want to add a big name free agent? What about a high draft pick?
If Howie Roseman sticks to his strategy of lower-priced free agents or draft picks, who could be a diamond in the rough?
Our “Offseason options’ series begins with RB on the Locked on Eagles podcast!
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