The 2016 Eagles are the Eagles of the Future

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Quarterback Carson Wentz

September 29, 2016
By Connor Russell
They blew out the Cleveland Browns and everyone said “Oh it’s just the Browns, who cares.” They blew out the Chicago Bears in primetime and everyone said “Oh it’s just the Bears, who cares.” Now they’ve blown out a team that many have predicted to make a run within the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers, now what will the doubters say? This Pittsburgh team was near full strength and yet were still trounced in all three phases of the football game. The team’s two rookies, quarterback Carson Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson are major reasons for the current success of this Philadelphia Eagles team. But they aren’t the only reasons, much of the success can be traced back to the General Manager, Howie Roseman who has had a hand in the acquisition of many of the current stars and starters.

Back in 2012, longtime President of the Philadelphia Eagles, Joe Banner was pushed out by the owner Jeffrey Lurie when the two had a falling out. Much of this rests on the lack of success that the Eagles endured after their franchise quarterback, Donovan McNabb, departed in 2009. In his 10 seasons, McNabb reached five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl. Following his departure, the Eagles temporarily experimented with Kevin Kolb at quarterback. When Kolb was injured Michael Vick was brought in to replace him. The move to acquire Michael Vick after a lengthy jail stint was criticized by both supporters and rivals of the team. The Michael Vick experiment brought the Eagles to a playoff game and Vick took home Comeback Player of the Year honors. In 2011, the Eagles made a flurry of offseason moves to acquire big name players such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Vince Young, and several other big names. The self proclaimed dream team of 2011 flopped and only achieved an 8-8 record while missing the playoffs. This attempt for another dynasty by Joe Banner lead to his demise within the organization. In 2012 the Eagles felt a hangover from the failures of poor signings from the previous season and finished 4-12 with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft. After the 2012 season a move that many predicted was made and longtime coach Andy Reid was fired after failing to live up to expectations over the previous two seasons. After firing Reid the Eagles made the unprecedented move of hiring college coach Chip Kelly who was poised to unleash a fast-paced offense the NFL hadn’t seen before. At the 2013 draft the Eagles selected future franchise left tackle Lane Johnson. They also selected tight end Zach Ertz and defensive tackle Bennie Logan in the second and third rounds.

To start the 2013 season, the Eagles looked lackluster and the offense was not explosive as it was pumped up to be. They started 1-3 and the season seemed to be taking a turn for the worse when they lost Michael Vick in the fifth game against a divisional rival. After Vick’s injury the backup quarterback, Nick Foles, was able to steer the Eagles to a win and then another win in the following week. The Eagles were .500 after six games and looking decent. In weeks eight and nine they couldn’t get anything going and totaled ten points against mediocre defenses. In week eight they even had to turn to their third string rookie quarterback Matt Barkley who was not able to produce. In week nine, the fireworks of Chip Kelly started to fly as Nick Foles threw seven touchdowns and the Eagles obliterated the Raiders. After the Raiders the Eagles beat four more teams including the Cardinals and the Packers. Week fourteen represented a signature win for the Eagles, as they came from behind to beat the Detroit Lions behind LeSean McCoy’s 217 rushing yards.With a playoff appearance on the line in week seventeen the Eagles eked out a win out against the Cowboys 24-22, and in his first season Chip Kelly finished 10-6 with an NFC East division title. Nick Foles finished the season with twenty seven touchdowns to just two interceptions. In the playoffs they narrowly lost to the Saints who had both a Super Bowl winning quarterback and head coach. Overall, the 2013 Eagles seemed to be poised for future playoff trips and success.

The 2014 offseason started off well for the Eagles when they were able to sign their own wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to a one year deal. They also acquired FS Malcolm Jenkins and Darren Sproles through free agency from the Saints. Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman together decided to bolster the special teams by adding Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman. The biggest move of Chip Kelly’s reign was deciding to cut star wide receiver and fan favorite DeSean Jackson. The decision to cut DeSean due to supposed off the field issues outraged fans. However, they were further enraged by his decision to plant a story days before the move was made tying DeSean to a Los Angeles gang that was accused of murder. Many felt this was unfair and the divorce between DeSean and the Eagles was ugly especially after he signed with the rival Redskins. The draft is where Chip Kelly’s decision making came into real question. At pick twenty two in the draft many talented players such as Odell Beckham Jr., Anthony Barr, Kelvin Benjamin, and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix were on the Eagles draft board but had already been selected. When it came time for the Eagles to pick they selected Marcus Smith. Smith had been as a projected third round pick leading everyone started to wonder why Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman decided to select him in the first round. The Eagles quietly selected Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt in the second round, a solid pick that was overshadowed by the erratic pull of the trigger in the first round. To this day, the argument still rages whether it was ultimately Roseman or Kelly that decided to select Smith, but much of the blame was put upon Kelly.

The Eagles finished the 2014 season 10-6 like the previous season but missed out on the playoffs due to dropping three of the last four games of the season. Chip Kelly’s offense was not as good as it was the previous season, and Nick Foles was not the same player he was in 2013. Billy Davis’s defense was ranked poorly despite the pro bowl talent they had and many blamed this on the amount of snaps they were taking. On January 2nd, 2015 it was announced that Chip Kelly had usurped Howie Roseman’s power and was now able to make all final roster decisions. Chip Kelly’s new power made it so that each and every move he made in the offseason would be scrutinized. He was accused of favoring Oregon and Pac-12 players and some people even accused him of favoring white players over African American ones. The 2015 offseason brought on more questionable moves made by Chip Kelly. He started the offseason off by trading fan favorite and franchise leading rusher LeSean Mccoy for the injury prone Kiko Alonso. There was no reason to make this move because the Eagles already had a good group of linebackers with Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Graham. In free agency he lost pro bowl wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, and then he went out and signed Demarco Murray to a giant contract to take him away from the Dallas Cowboys. After Demarco Murray’s heavy workload in the 2014 season all signs pointed to him not being able to match that production level again. Chip Kelly also went out and signed unproven cornerback Byron Maxwell from the prestigious Seattle Seahawks secondary. This contract reminded many Eagles fans of the infamous Nnamdi Asomugha contract that flopped. After signing two make or break deals Chip Kelly got rid of left guard Evan Mathis who had several seasons of being a top ranked run blocking guard. In the draft, Chip Kelly selected Eric Rowe and Jordan Hicks in the second and third rounds which many supported because the defense needed bolstering.

The 2015 Eagles flopped hard and couldn’t repeat their success from the two years prior. The NFL had figured Kelly’s fast paced offense out and he refused to change his philosophies. His big acquisitions in the offseason didn’t look like themselves. Kiko Alonso got injured in the first few games and was not the tackling machine he was for the Bills. Demarco Murray wasn’t being used in the shotgun formation which is where he had all of his success for the Cowboys. It also seemed like each week he had a new lingering injury and his running style didn’t fit the offense quite like LeSean Mccoy did. Without Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman surrounding him, Byron Maxwell wasn’t the shutdown corner he was expected to be. Every week, it seemed like he was burnt by the pro bowl wide receiver he was assigned. After week sixteen, when the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs Jeffrey Lurie fired Chip Kelly. After the season ended, the whole coaching staff he had brought in was also replaced. Many players on defense breathed a sigh of relief after taking so many snaps for three seasons under a failing no huddle offense.

Jeffrey Lurie wanted to take the Philadelphia Eagles in a different direction after the Chip Kelly experiment flopped so hard. The Eagles had a solid defense in place but they needed a good coach to utilize their talents. With Fletcher Cox anchoring the front seven and pro bowl playmaker Malcolm Jenkins running the secondary they had the potential to be one of the best units in the league. To start off his new era Jeffrey Lurie put Howie Roseman back in control of the personnel decisions. He then hired Andy Reid protegee Doug Pederson as head coach. After hiring the head coach, he brought in former quarterback Frank Reich as offensive coordinator and Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. After being hired Jim Schwartz announced he was implementing a 4-3 defensive scheme instead of 3-4 scheme Billy Davis had run. This decision was supported by many due to the immense amount of talent that the Eagles had on the front seven that was not utilized in the 3-4 system. After the coaching staff was in place Howie Roseman signed Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, and Lane Johnson to extensions to keep some of the homegrown talent on the team for the future. Then he signed top defenders Vinny Curry and Malcolm Jenkins to extensions. To start the true offseason Howie Roseman immediately got rid of Chip Kelly’s big acquisitions Byron Maxwell and Demarco Murray through trades for draft picks. Those two contracts were constricting the Eagles and it was a miracle that Howie Roseman dealt them both. After trading these two Howie went out and bolstered the secondary by signing Rodney Mcleod, Ron Brooks, and Leodis McKelvin. These moves were all supported and influenced heavily by Jim Schwartz who was trying to get players that would fit well within his system. The draft was the shining moment of the offseason. After trading Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins in exchange for the eighth overall pick in the first round of the draft, Howie Roseman then made a blockbuster trade with the Browns, sending two first round picks and several other later round picks in exchange for the second overall pick which guaranteed him one of the two marquee quarterbacks, Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. The Rams selected Goff first overall and so the Eagles took Carson Wentz, a move that already seems to be paying off. The Eagles did not have many picks in the draft due to trading up for Carson Wentz but in the seventh round they got a steal with defensive back Jalen Mills. Mills came out of LSU, a college known for producing talented NFL defensive backs. Mills was originally projected to be a first to second round pick but several off field issues caused him to drop down to the seventh round where Roseman took a gamble on him. After the draft, reports started to come out that Sam Bradford was unhappy with the Eagles picking a franchise quarterback after they signed him to a two year contract extension. He was requesting a trade to another team but the Eagles were not willing to do that for him.

Fast forward to training camp where Carson Wentz looked good as the third string quarterback and was throwing darts to the first string receivers and many fans wanted him to start. They were calling for this to happen because starting Wentz and giving him NFL experience for him to grow as player would be much more valuable than starting Bradford and possibly going to the playoffs. On September 3, 2016 everything changed for the Eagles. When Teddy Bridgewater tore his ACL in practice for the Vikings, they scrambled to find a starting caliber QB and turned to the Eagles. The Eagles made the trade and sent Sam Bradford to the Vikings for a first round pick and then announced that Carson Wentz would be the starting QB in the season opener against the Browns. This move has singlehandedly changed the season and future of the Eagles very positively because after three games, Wentz looks like the real deal.

Image Citation:

Leff, Mitchell. Carson Wentz Playing Quarterback. Digital image. Getty Images, n.d. Web.