This has been a historic offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles in terms of player acquisitions. Never before has there been so many big name players added at the same time. To Eagles fans, the excitement has been extraordinary and makes the NFL Lockout all but a distant memory.
Eagles fans everywhere are now thinking that this is the year they finally, assuredly, and inexorably will win their first ever Super Bowl.
The front office has their championship recipe. They’ve purchased some key ingredients to mix in with an already good cake batter. They’ll spend the next five weeks stirring it up and smoothing it out before putting it in the oven on September 11th. Bake for 22 weeks and voila, Super Bowl pie!
But is it really that easy? Hardly. The Eagles are not guaranteed a championship this year any more than they were guaranteed one last year or any other year for that matter.
There are a few key things to consider here outside of any potential killer injuries. Team chemistry and the stress that comes with increased expectations can have a huge impact on the team’s lofty goals.
Think about this for a minute, the Eagles have made the following changes for this season:
– Defensive Coordinator – new scheme
– DL Coach – new scheme
– OL Coach – new method
– Several new starters or major role players: Nnamdi Asomugha, DRC, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Danny Watkins, Ronnie Brown, and right now Casey Mathews is the starting MLB.
– The offensive line, from the center on out heading right, could have all new starters.
– The starting defensive line could have three new starters.
– There will be a new rookie punter and kicker.
New coaches, philosophies, players, and personalities all have to intertwine and gel together. And they have five weeks to do it before the games start counting.
Teams that go through numerous changes have the typical offseason time to prepare and get things in order. The NFL Lockout has deprived the Eagles of that much needed time.
How much will all that matter? Hard to say. This is truly a situation that you can look at with a glass half full, or glass half empty philosophical mindset.
If you are the optimist, take a look at a very good article written by Eagles Insider Ray Didinger. It’s titled “Why the Eagles are like the 1994 49ers“. Ray makes some pretty good comparisons between this year’s Eagles and that San Fran team.
The 49ers were already a good team with a solid core but kept getting beat by Dallas in the playoffs. So, they went out and brought in some big name players to “push them over the top”. It worked beautifully for them as they got past the Cowboys and won the Super Bowl.
Can the Eagles do that this year?
The optimist will look at this situation as the Eagles already had a solid foundation in place and are now just adding the needed pieces (“plugging the holes”) to put this team over the top, ala the 1994 49ers.
The obvious weak links in the team last season were on defense and the offensive line. The Eagles have made several changes to address those two areas of deficiencies in the hopes that it should be enough to make them elite challengers in the NFC.
The positive thing is that the Eagles didn’t just make changes, they brought in the absolute best people available at their respective position (coaches and players). They addressed their weaknesses in the most aggressive way possible by sparing no expense.
They have created an atmosphere that has ultimately led players taking less money just to come to Philly. That is worth repeating:Players have taken less money just to come to Philly! That is the ultimate sign that your organization is running extremely well.
For that, I applaud Andy Reid, Howie Roseman, Joe Banner, and Jeff Lurie.
Then there is the pessimist view, albeit grounded in logic and past history. Other than the 1994 49ers, which isn’t exactly an even comparison when you consider coaching and scheme changes, how many teams do you remember making this many changes in one season actually winning it all?
That answer would be none. There may have been teams that competed well after a big overhaul, but not actually won the Super Bowl.
And we can’t discount the fact that the Eagles have been handicapped by the lockout. Valuable learning time has been missed. Players are not in as good of shape physically and mentally because they haven’t been held accountable for anything football related since March.
Then there is the team chemistry and leadership aspects. Adding a bunch of new players and coaches together and cramming it all together could be a cause for some ruffled feathers as everyone adjusts to the new environment.
You always hear about the importance of team chemistry from players and coaches. Team chemistry refers to the notion that everybody buys into the team concept. They put the team goals ahead of individual goals. They have a good rapport and all the individual parts make up the whole.
It makes for a well-oiled machine and runs smoothly.
The common notion is usually that “homegrown” teams (made up of mainly drafted players) have the best team chemistry. Proof of that concept are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, and Indianapolis Colts.
Those teams have all won Super Bowls in recent years and are teams built almost completely through the draft.
The Eagles are kind of like a hybrid in that they try to build a solid foundation through the draft, then fill any holes via free agency. It has worked pretty good but not quite good enough…yet.
Another consideration is potentially significant stress the team may be under due to such high expectations by fans and the media? Vince Young didn’t help the situation when he threw out the label “dream team”.
Everyone has taken that and run with it thus increasing the pressure. Teams will be gunning for the Eagles this year and will have that extra motivation to prove that they are not, in fact, a dream team.
How will all of these new players and coaches react to such pressure and stress? These guys are pros and should be used to pressure. However, I would think the typical amount of pressure they feel will be multiplied this season because of the atmosphere of expectations that has been created.
To a person, will they rise or crumble under such stress? Or will they band together as a unit to block out such outside pressures?
And then the one main thing some Eagles pessimists may point to no matter what: Will Andy Reid’s perceived faults (game management, play calling, etc) still hold this team back?
Considering all of the above, I see merit on both sides. However, I find myself leaning towards the optimistic point of view at this juncture in time.
If they can overcome the shortened offseason, this team has the talent and desire to win a championship. If they can come together as a team, and I believe they will, it will turn into something special that Philadelphia has never seen before.
One thing is for sure, this is going to be an interesting year. It’s going to be a thrill ride filled with bumps, twists, and turns that should ultimately leave you exhilarated and satisfied.
Get ready for a spectacular season Eagles fans!