The Philadelphia Eagles: Building a Championship Culture


Sep 21, 2013; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals defensive end Marcus Smith (91) sacks FIU Golden Panthers quarterback E.J. Hilliard (13) during the second half of play at Papa John

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman are not looking to just build a team of pro bowlers, they are looking to acquire the needed pieces to their Super Bowl-winning puzzle.

A lot of Philadelphia media has been somewhat displeased with the Eagles draft in 2014. Whether the Eagles should have waited to draft linebacker Marcus Smith, or that Chip Kelly is drafting former Oregon Ducks because of his familiarity with Oregon players (instead of taking the best overall talent), there has been a fair share of ridicule directed towards the Eagles brass.

The Chip Kelly/Howie Roseman regime has given few, if any, reasons to doubt their decision making so far. Half of their 2013 draft picks have contributed to the success of last season (a 10-6 record), and six of the nine draft picks in 2012 saw the field on Sundays last year as well (a credit to Howie). Last week, it was commendable that they happened to address the holes on this team–while at the same time supposedly drafting the best available prospects. The Eagles definitely put forth effort to provide some depth and optimism at positions of need such as safety, cornerback and special teams (returners and tacklers).

The biggest fuss is over the Eagles first round selection of Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith. Fans should wait and see what comes of this player. His physical features are freakish, and Kelly definitely has ideas in mind to set him loose on quarterbacks. Marcus Smith was not projected as a first round pick on most mock drafts, but the Eagles second round pick, Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews did have a late first round/early second round grade. Either way, even if Matthews was selected at #26 instead of Smith, the Eagles would have traded up to select Smith before #54 (their second round spot)–placing the team in the same situation going into the third round. Although, the skepticism lies in why they would risk losing out on Matthews over Smith. Matthews is obviously more proven, and has wildly impressive stats. The most logical answer is that the Marcus Smith puzzle-piece is for getting after the quarterback. The Eagles were bad at sacking opposing quarterbacks last year and they realize that championship teams put a lot of hits on signal-callers.

It is safe to assume that fans want their teams to draft players that have rookie of the year potential. The Eagles have never had an associated press defensive or offensive rookie of the year in franchise history. Nine of the fourteen offensive rookie of year winners since 2000 were first round picks. The others were second round picks except for running back Mike Anderson drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2000 (he was a sixth round pick). Linebackers Demeco Ryans and Kendrell Bell were the only defensive rookie of the year winners since 2000 not drafted in the first round (they were second round picks). This trend tells us that the most impactful rookies are largely projected and drafted in the first round (it is also true that first round picks will usually receive the most playing time out of all the rookies).

But fans should know that only five of the twenty eight offensive and defensive rookie of the year winners since 2000 have been a part of a Super Bowl winning team. By and large, rookie of the year winners due end up becoming pro bowlers, however in the last ten Super Bowls, only two out of ten Super Bowl champions had more pro bowl players on their teams than their failing opponents. Super Bowl winning teams averaged 4.7 pro bowlers, while the losing teams averaged 7.1. Emphasis on teams working together as a cohesive unit is much more indicative to winning the Super Bowl than having a misguided, entangled team full of pro bowl athletes.

In 2014 the Eagles schedule is grueling–with several games quite possibly being decided by just one or two mistakes. Chip Kelly has emphasized that his players are very intelligent–possessing high football IQ’s. Having a strong understanding for the nuances of the game may be more important to Kelly and Roseman than raw talent. Perhaps the Philadelphia Eagles under Chip Kelly will become a team known for defeating their opponents with strategy and cleverness rather than overwhelming physical prowess (this is bad news for mock draft creators), but hopefully for entertainment purposes, with all of Kelly’s forward-thinking methods comes massive point-totals and bone-crunching collisions.