Jan 6, 2014, 10:13 AM EDT
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.
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