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Was 2013 actually a missed opportunity for the Eagles?

Jan 6, 2014, 10:13 AM EDT

desean-saints

No matter where you turn, the sentiments are largely the same. The future is bright for the Philadelphia Eagles. They were ahead of schedule this season. With a couple free-agent upgrades and another quality draft, the Birds are primed to be contender in the NFC for the next few years.

The flip side of the coin is they were within striking distance this year, and as much as we forecast better days on the horizon, the Eagles let this opportunity slip through their fingers. You never know when they’ll get another.

That’s the synopsis behind Reuben Frank’s Monday morning autopsy of Philly’s 26-24 first-round exit from the playoffs over the weekend, a game the Birds led with under five minutes remaining. The CSNPhilly.com columnist explains why it was actually so important they seized that moment.

The Eagles went from 4-12 to 10-6, won the division, reached the playoffs, seemingly righted the franchise after two dismal seasons.

All of which guarantees them nothing in 2014 and beyond.

Success in 2013 doesn’t automatically mean success in 2014, and while it might be reassuring to shrug off that loss to the Saints with the notion that the Eagles do have a promising young quarterback and an impressive coach and an array of offensive weapons and several terrific, young defensive players, the reality is that next year stands alone. Players change, circumstances change, team chemistry changes. You don’t pick up where you left off. You start over like 31 other teams, and that’s why so many NFL teams routinely go from worst to first and back again year by year.

Roob is absolutely right of course. We need not look outside the NFC East to find an example of what he’s talking about. Washington finished the 2012 season much the same way the Eagles did 2013, with an improbable run to do a division championship led by a budding superstar at quarterback.

The future looked bright for Washington, too. They went 3-13 this season.

Of course, there were circumstances that came into play. Robert Griffin III suffered a torn ACL in Washington’s final game last year, and it affected his entire offseason. The franchise also lacked a first-round pick, while a salary cap penalty limited the money the front office could throw around in free agency.

The Eagles finished the season in good health, they have all of their draft picks and are way under the cap. Still, the point is the NFL is unpredictable.

Philadelphia may not be so lucky with injuries in 2014, some key veterans could start to decline significantly and there’s always the possibility Nick Foles will regress. Right now, it seems like it would take a perfect storm to keep the Birds from going back to the playoffs next season, but teams get snake-bitten. It happens all the time.

That being said, I’m not so sure how legitimate the Eagles’ shot was at winning the Super Bowl this season even had they advanced over the weekend. The secondary was a mess for the last month, and New Orleans showed the defense could be pushed around in the running game. Foles and the offense were contained as well until the Saints’ top cornerback left the game with an injury.

Were the Eagles significantly better prepared to defeat the Denver Broncos in February than they were in Week 4 when they lost 52-20? Not by much, and there still would’ve been a tough road ahead to make it that far.

You still have to love the direction the Eagles are heading though. Foles should return strong with a full offseason of work as the starting quarterback—not to mention his wide receiver corps bolstered—while the defense will absolutely improve once a true nose tackle, a safety or two and another pass rusher are added to the mix.

It’s a great situation on paper. But as is always the case, everything needs to align at proper time.

>> 2013 Eagles failed to seize fleeting opportunity [CSN]

  1. philasopher - Jan 6, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    I think that is the negative side of reacting emotionally after loss. The Eagles are in the best position of the division. Owner, front office, coaching staff and players are in sync. BSnyder and Jones have run amok while the Giants have won recent rings they haven’t dominated the regular season. Reality is we weren’t the team nobody wanted to play Roob proclaimed. That’s okay the Saints, Panthers, Seahawks and Niners are farther along in the process.

    Reply
  2. DLo34 - Jan 6, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Basically all Reuben Frank said there is no such thing as a guarantee – nothing really earth-shattering there. Yea Shady could get injured tomorrow, one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow, or the stadium could collapse, there are no guarantees. Just like there was no guarantee that the Phils would win the division/pennant/World Series in 2008 after they made their miraculous comeback in 2007 only to be swept in the first round by the Rockies. I don’t really care to be depressed about the missed opportunity we had, I’m fired up about what we have going forward. This season was the most fun I’ve had since their last run to the NFC Championship Game in 2008. The Birds have gone from the worst record in the division, to 10-6, and winning the NFC East. They did this all in Chip Kelly’s first NFL season coaching. The same guy A LOT of people said “is not an NFL coach” because his “system wouldn’t work in the NFL” and yet he led the Birds to the 2nd best offense in the NFL. They also accomplished all of this despite losing Jeremy Maclin in training camp. They won 10 games with a brand new defensive scheme and a lot of new faces on both sides if the football. To add to the excitement, Lesean McCoy has emerged as the BEST running back in the NFL and he is only 25 years old. We also found the quarterback of the future in Nick Foles, who is only 24 years old. The energy at the Linc was amazing the second half of this season and it really felt like a renaissance in South Philadelphia. To think that, at the end of last season, we had no coach, no quarterback, no defense, no direction, and no hope. But now, one season later, we’re raising an NFC East Championship banner and our expectations are back to where they were in the early 2000′s. It’s an exciting time to be a Birds fan and I’m fired up for September already. It’s a new day and this season was only the beginning…

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    • michael - Jan 6, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      I could not have said it any better…good job dude

      Reply
  3. Plaza204 - Jan 6, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Considering their schedule next year, this year was a cake-walk.

    Home: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans

    Away: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts

    Going into Arizona, San Fran, Green Bay and Indy will be tough games (plus your regular NFC East line-up). Playing potential 2013 Super Bowl potentials in Seattle and Carolina at home could be challenging too.

    I think they were the hot and healthy team that could have gone further. But it is what it is and this team didn’t capitalize on the little things. There needs to be more work done, both in the draft and free-agency. The Birds are a good team, heading in the right direction, but this team is still going to have to battle tooth & nail for playoff contention the next couple of years.

    Reply
    • 2sentz - Jan 6, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      So basically 5-3 at home, 3-5 on road.
      Is 9-7 or maybe 10-6 possible? Yea sure, but vs all those playoff teams injuries will take a far larger toll.

      Reply
  4. 2sentz - Jan 6, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Yes.

    Reply
  5. Beardy - Jan 6, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    I find it hard to call it a missed opportunity when the defense was as weak as it was this year. The exciting part about this team, though… You can already see it. With Chip, the offense is going to get its yards and it will score. We’re not going to have to deal with the Mike or Nick debate next year. We should have Maclin back and the team should get better in kind.

    What they need to do now is focus energy on improving that defense. Stiffen them up against the run, and for the love of god, get some guys that can rush the passer and disrupt routes. Look at what Carolina did by getting a beefy front 7, and try and emulate that. If you could get that unit to play at a high level, this will be a franchise that will win a title under Chip. There is some work to go, but they’re a lot closer to being very successful than they were at this point last year.

    Reply
  6. Jason R. - Jan 6, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    Yeah, it’s a missed opportunity but it wasn’t an expected opportunity. If you told us last January we’d go 10-6 and win the division and have a home playoff game that seems like a dream scenario. But once that scenario was accomplished the expectations and opportunities change.

    I think we will see a regression in 2014, look at nearly every QB’s sophomore slump, opposing teams now have 8 months + to look at tape of Chip’s offense. Of course we can hope that his system is like the West Coast Offense and bad match ups will continue to present themselves and this offense will revolutionize the game, but that seems more hopeful than likely.

    Looking ahead to next year, I’m not sure I can be convinced that the Eagles won’t be favored in every division game except *maybe* Dallas on the road, Seahawks win but aren’t special (offensively, that defense travels) on the road, Titans/Jags/Texans games don’t keep me up at night, Colts need miracles from Luck every week.

    Really, everything comes down to offensive line health, doesn’t it? Agree with 2sentz that against those teams there’s a greater potential for injury and they’re more likely to exploit injuries.

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