By Sam McPherson
The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions.
Let that sink in for a moment, and then go celebrate in the City of Brotherly Love … forever.
With a 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, the Eagles erased decades of frustration and exacted a bit of revenge, too. Forget the Super Bowl XV loss to the Oakland Raiders and their backup QB on a magical run to immortality. The Eagles now have their own Cinderella story to retell to posterity. Forget the Super Bowl XXXIX disappointment, when the Patriots escaped late with another last-second field goal. For the first time since 1960, Philadelphia has won the NFL title.
The Philadelphia Eagles finally are Super Bowl champions.
What Went Wrong In 2017
Let’s get this out of the way before moving on to the best stuff. A lot went wrong for the Eagles, despite the season outcome. Injuries took a big toll on this team, and it’s a testament to the front office and the coaching staff that the team didn’t sink as a result. Everyone knows about the quarterback situation: Carson Wentz was having an MVP-worthy season when he got hurt in Week 14 and was lost for the rest of the season. Other than the 1990 New York Giants, it’s hard to remember any other team that lost its starting QB so late in the season and still went on to win the Super Bowl.
But it wasn’t just Wentz; running back/kick returner Darren Sproles played in only three games before his season ended with an injury, and left tackle Jason Peters also tore up his knee before missing significant time (including the playoffs). Oh, and don’t forget linebacker Jordan Hicks, the defensive play caller for Philadelphia, who went down after just seven games. That’s a lot of key players and talent the Eagles were missing in this year, but the team still won 13 regular-season games on its way to a perfect postseason as well.
What Went Right In 2017
Again, the front office and the coaching staff deserve a tremendous amount of credit here. Head Coach Doug Pederson changed his offense up to maximize QB Nick Foles’ talents, and it paid off handsomely. But having Foles around in the first place now seems like a stroke of genius. Acquiring RB Jay Ajayi from the Miami Dolphins mid-season was huge, as he averaged 5.3 yards per carry in a Philadelphia uniform and gave the Eagles another serious weapon to play with on offense.
Other personnel decisions—signing both RB LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, for example—now look brilliant in light of the diversity the offense possessed all season. Toss in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and his efforts in turning a solid defense into an elite one over the past two seasons, and Executive VP of Football Operations Howie Roseman deserves a lot of credit for bringing all this talent together in one place after the organization changed direction late in 2015 with the firing of Chip Kelly.
Most Valuable Players
It really has to be the two QBs, jointly, on offense. Wentz posted a 101.9 QB rating in 13 games as a second-year NFL player, while Foles turned in a 115.7 QB rating in the postseason. Yes, both QBs were supported by a great offensive line, three talented running backs and a very good receiving corps, but in the end, it’s still the QB making the decisions and the throws. The Wentz-Foles duo combined to tie the team record with 13 regular-season wins, and of course, there is the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the front office lobby now to consider as well.
In addition to the above, however, we’re also giving MVP props to center Jason Kelce, who dominated opposing linemen all season and created opportunity for everyone else on the offense. Where would the Eagles be without Kelce? Philly doesn’t want to know, as he’s started 61 consecutive games now for the team.
Also, defensive props go to defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. The Eagles had a very deep rotation on the line this year, saving Cox and Graham precious snaps, which panned out in the postseason with some huge play-making. As the saying goes, you win in the NFL by dominating in the trenches, and that’s what Philadelphia was able to do this season.
Predictions For 2018
Let’s be clear: The Eagles do not have a QB controversy. When Wentz is healthy, he will start again. However, Roseman and the front office have some options now with Foles, who is signed through the 2018 season. There are a lot of teams in the league that will come calling to inquire about acquiring a SB-winning quarterback, so Philadelphia will have to handle the situation wisely. Until Wentz is fully healthy again, the Eagles probably shouldn’t make a move with Foles.
Beyond that situation, Philly will look to repeat with mostly the same roster, of course. No team has repeated as Super Bowl champs since the Patriots did it in 2003-2004. That’s the challenge that now awaits Pederson: Can he join an elite group of NFL coaches to accomplish the feat? Considering how much went wrong for the Eagles in 2017, it would be foolish to bet against Philadelphia in 2018. The NFC East is in flux, so winning the division should be manageable. From there, it could come down to fate and desire. Hopefully, the Eagles won’t lose the latter next season now that they’ve reached the NFL mountaintop.