Eagles Confront Major Crossroads This Offseason
Despite an admission from up top that the Eagles must avoid sentimental personnel decisions and replenish the roster with young, homegrown talent, this offseason should have felt from the start like a time for the franchise to be teeming with optimism.
Putting aside the rising injury toll and midseason turmoil that once had the Eagles staring down a 5-7 record, positive vibes about the team’s future potential weren’t hard to feel.
Doug Pederson had shown, once again, that he’s a skilled and brilliant motivator who has unflappable command of his locker room. Wentz stiff-armed critics who said he couldn’t lift the franchise and carry it, as the Eagles won all four of their last games to win the division.
Rookie running back Miles Sanders, wide receiver Greg Ward, tight end Dallas Goedert and cornerback Avonte Maddox flashed when the Eagles most needed a youth infusion to soldier them to the finish line.
One day after the Eagles fell 17-9 at home to the Seahawks to end their season, the feeling remained that the Eagles had accomplished something few had believed they could, and that Wentz’s fleeting image as the franchise savior had been restored.
Those feel-good moments lasted all of two days.
On the following Wednesday, Pederson clumsily stuttered through a press conference in which he insisted that his most embattled assistants on offense would return and then left the status of his defensive coordinator murky at best.
A day later, both offensive assistants were actually fired and the Eagles shifted into damage control for Jim Schwartz, who was interviewing for the head coaching gig in Cleveland but came back to his post with the Eagles. The impression was that owner Jeffrey Lurie had once again stepped in and forced changes that the head coach had wanted to avoid.
Then came a long, puzzling, awkward search for an offensive coordinator that turned into a reshaping of the offensive staff to exclude an actual offensive coordinator.
In between, the team announced its third medical staff shakeup in three seasons, lost one of its top personnel executives to the Browns, and made several changes to the defensive staff.
The Eagles then packed up and prepared for the NFL Scouting Combine while in the headlines for what appears to be an imminent messy divorce with wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey. While at the Combine, reports surfaced that the prized rookie left tackle the team traded up for in last year’s draft was suddenly on the trading block.
A powerless head coach. A meddlesome owner. An incomplete coaching staff. An incompetent medical staff. A disgruntled wide receiver. A Pro Bowl safety who refuses to play under his current deal. An assistant head coach passed over for a promotion.
Folks, it’s only March.
Some of these exasperating storylines hovering over the Eagles make you wonder if the 2017 Super Bowl team was truly the result of comprehensive excellence and top-to-bottom cohesion in decision-making, scouting, coaching and execution or just the most fortunate stroke of luck 52 years in the making.
Luckily for Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ top decision maker has a chance to make the dark cloud from the past six weeks evaporate.
Make no mistake, the Eagles are entering a crossroads in their franchise history. Roseman is tasked with rebuilding the roster while still arming Wentz and Pederson with enough firepower to compete for another Lombardi Trophy in 2020.
Roseman anticipates about 10 overall picks for April’s draft, a very promising number of selections to begin the process of restocking his roster with the young, hungry, cost-efficient talent he seeks to reinvigorate this team.
Ten picks – or something in that neighborhood – should equip Roseman with enough ammunition to facilitate his planned youth movement and still have the means to cut a deal that could bring in an impact wide receiver, cornerback or wide receiver.
Roseman can’t afford to have a so-so draft, as this incoming crop of prospects will be primarily responsible for forming the new foundation of Pederson’s program.
The Eagles are restocking, but certainly not rebuilding. Not when the quarterback just dragged his team into the postseason throwing darts to receivers and weapons who had spent more time on the practice squad or on the street than in the playbook, not when the team is believed to be ready to back up the Brinks trunk for a free-agent corner and open the pocketbook aggressively for the first time in several years.
With Wentz, Sanders, Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Malcolm Jenkins, and with the expected returns of DeSean Jackson and Malik Jackson, the Eagles still boast a formidable enough core to be competitive in an NFC East that just observed coaching changes in its three other cities.
Expectations for Roseman, Pederson and the Eagles remain high even as the team turns over and ushers in a new era. Another 9-7 season or worse won’t be casually dismissed because of youth, injuries or newcomers on the coaching staff.
The seat is officially warm for anyone and everyone if the Eagles are on the outside looking in next postseason.
A rash of firings and changes since the end of the season sent the message that being just good isn’t good enough.
Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is an award-winning journalist and member of the PFWA who has covered the Eagles and NFL for 16 seasons. He is co-host of the Inside the Birds podcast with Adam Caplan and host on 97.3 ESPN in New Jersey.