By Adam Rank, NFL.com
There has always been a kinship with the Philadelphia fans and your friends out here in Southern California. There are a number of Philly transplants who love to call our fair city (region) home. It’s true. And most of them would never resign themselves to root for the Dodgers. (Trust me; even people who live out here don’t like to do that.)
So, I brought one of my Philly friends to an Angels game a few years back and he was amazed at how much disdain the Angels fans had for New York and Boston fans. “I had no idea. We’re like step brothers,” he said as we booed David Ortiz during the Home Run derby.
So, I feel you, Philly fans. And it kind of bleeds over to the Eagles, too. Truth be told, you’d be the team I would want to win the NFC East. Not only for our mutual bond over teams we don’t like, but your team is kind of cool. I mean, you’re the team of Randall Cunningham (Runnin’ Rebel!), Concrete Chuck Bednarik and not the Dallas Cowboys. So, you’re good in my book.
So, I feel your pain for last season. Chip Kelly was the toast of the NFL after he won the NFC East in his first season. And when the team started 15-0 (or maybe it was like 9-3), even the most ardent Kelly detractor had come around to the realization that this dude was pretty good.
And then the unpleasantness happened.
The Eagles lost three consecutive games, including one to the hated Cowboys. Or is it the hated Redskins? I’m never quite sure who is the worst of the NFC East. Man, this is a pretty cool division. Nobody (outside of you guys, of course) is redeemable. The Redskins have that name. The Giants have Eli Manning. And the Cowboys are the Cowboys.
So, it was a bitter end to a promising season after the inexplicable loss to Washington. But don’t be so morose about it. Let’s look at the positives.
The Eagles have won 20 games in two seasons. That’s pretty good. It should have been good enough for back-to-back NFC East titles, but the Cowboys had to go have one of their ‘miracle’ seasons. The Boys are good about once every decade and this just happened to be one of those years. Don’t worry, the Cowboys will be the Cowboys again and the NFC was just plain wacky. Seemingly every team in the NFC (well, other than the South) won 12 games. If a few things go correct (and I’m talking about the defense here), and Mark Sanchez is leading this team to a second-consecutive playoff appearance.
But since I brought up the name of Sanchez, let’s look at the quarterback situation. I believe it would be fair to say Kelly hasn’t found his quarterback yet. Michael Vick wasn’t the answer, though people tried in vain to make it the case. But he’s truly not a Chip Kelly-type of quarterback. Nick Foles was fine as a replacement, but he’s too immobile to really make this offense work. He was amazing in his 2013 campaign when he threw like 80 touchdowns with like no interceptions. Or something like that. But it’s foolish to imagine him ever doing that again. So, he’s not going to be the answer (but could be a nice trade chip during the draft).
I like Mark. I really do. But I’m also very biased. I used to cover his high school games at Rancho Santa Margarita High School (yes, even before he went to Mission Viejo). The honest truth is that Mark is probably an exceptional backup quarterback. He went 4-4 as a starter, which kept the Eagles in the hunt. He had some great games, but he also struggled in games against the Packers and Seahawks.
But the bottom line here is you’ve won 20 games with quarterbacks who aren’t quite Chip Kelly quarterbacks. And that should make you feel good. My conjecture is you guys will either trade up for Marcus Mariota (which I don’t think is going to be necessary) or you could end up with Brett Hundley, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. In fact, if you went defense with pick 20 (which would mean Mariota goes in the first 19 picks, which might not be as automatic as people assume) and came back around for Hundley in the second, well, I could get down with that.
The only thing that you need is a few pieces on the defensive side of the ball. And with a pretty favorable asset to trade (Foles) along with some nice cap space after some inevitable cuts, I’m pretty confident the team can address the concerns enough to get you back into the mix of being a 10-win team. Oh wait, you’re already there. So great! You just need a few more tweaks and touch ups on the defense and there’s no doubt you’ll be back to the top of the NFC East once again.