The Philadelphia Eagles Are Inevitably Rebuilding


It was only a matter of time before the Philadelphia Eagles’ aging offensive line, bulky contracts and desperate defensive secondary set them back into a rebuild.

The year was 2010, on Easter Sunday, when Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid and co. decided that it was time to part ways with quarterback Donovan McNabb. McNabb was arguably the best quarterback in Philadelphia Eagles history, and he provided reliability in which opened a long-term window of success for the team under Reid. While division rivals searched high and low for their quarterback, Eagles fans had the luxury of watching the combination of McNabb and Reid stomp into the playoffs year after year.

The team was also known for it’s WWE-style defense in which players like Jeremiah Trotter, Hugh Douglas and Brian Dawkins severely punished opponents. This was the type of team that Philadelphia fans grew accustom to watching; explosive offensive outings, creative defensive schematics, heart and toughness. So, what happened?

The Eagles got old. When familiar faces such as McNabb and Dawkins departed, the Eagles fell into a new-age funk that made it near impossible to believe in the organization. It isn’t like getting rid of McNabb was the wrong decision, but replacing him proved to be the hardest task that the Eagles had to deal with since deciding to draft him.

Same goes for Dawkins, who joined the Denver Broncos late in his career before retiring. Moving on isn’t always the worst decision, but replacing franchise players can be difficult, awkward and ineffective. The biggest issue is that there is no timetable on replacing all-time greats. It could take forever, or it could happen as quick as star quarterback Andrew Luck fell into the Indianapolis Colts’ lap.

Luckily for the Eagles, new franchise figures were groomed in the City of Brotherly Love. Fans fell in love with the flashy halfback LeSean McCoy, a sentiment that they were reluctant to fully admit in the wake of the team’s former running back Brian Westbrook. When McCoy got his chance to prove himself, he won the fans over. Even wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, the team’s first round selection in 2009, did not really reach the fans’ good graces until his breakout year in 2014. When Reid was fired, and these players remained, it was easy to continue supporting the familiar names that Lincoln Financial Field’s choir belted out for on Sundays.

So, the burning question that Chip Kelly’s Eagles faced after a steady first two seasons of 10 wins each was, “How can this team take the next step?” Kelly took over a 4-12 Eagles team that was left behind — the high-priced individuals that Reid bought as bandaids had seemingly given up on Philadelphia. Kelly gutted some of those players, but used the leftover weapons to his advantage in the uptempo offense. The underdog Eagles, a team that ESPN the Magazine predicted to finish 6-10, saw an immediate NFC East title and a playoff appearance in the first year under Kelly. Quarterback Nick Foles, a project prospect that Reid drafted in the 3rd round a year prior, gave Kelly astounding production that led to a 7-1 finish. Although the season ended with an upsetting playoff loss, it looked as if Kelly had rescued Reid’s misfits and turned them into a roster on the verge of elite status.

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson sat at his locker after the 2013 playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints and gloated that his agent would find a way to make him one of the highest paid receivers in football after his career year. There were many things over the years that raised red flags on Jackson, but Reid tolerated it all. However, paying the alleged disobedient Jackson over $10 million per year was not in Kelly’s best interest. When Kelly released him, the city of Philadelphia got their first taste of his “my way or the highway” approach that has since driven the Philly faithful halfway insane.

When Kelly gained full control of the roster in January of 2015 he made even more head-turning moves. Trading away Foles and McCoy, and being outbid for Maclin, completely depreciated the stars of yesterday yet again. To top it off, aging fan favorites such as Trent Cole, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans were released to gain salary cap space. The dramatic changes came mere months before the season and no one had time to soak it in. New stars replaced the old with visions of immediate success, but all of the holes couldn’t have possibly been plugged in one offseason, and youth at key positions gave way to glaring weaknesses. Is Chip Kelly solely responsible for this team’s 4-7 record, or was a rebuild inevitable for a team that was 4-12 just a few seasons ago?

It is believed by many that the rash decisions Kelly made ruined the current Eagles. It is easy to see that Kelly’s moves didn’t fully pan out, and even individually talented players have been painfully hard to watch because of their lack of supporting cast. For example, running back DeMarco Murray and quarterback Sam Bradford haven’t had consistent enough offensive line play to succeed. The new secondary has had a few moments, but without a fierce pass rush it has put them at a disadvantage. A defense that looked so promising early has suffered lately because the offense cannot sustain drives or score points. And finally, when you need the young defense to make a key stop, it seems that they just can’t make it happen. This is, needless to say, a poorly constructed football team.

It is easy to point the finger at Kelly and call for his job, but did he have any choice? With no quarterback in the NFL, your coaching life could be mighty short. Kelly hasn’t really made a fresh attempt at acquiring a quarterback that he is fully comfortable with. He wasn’t duped by Foles more than he was forced to keep him after a historically productive season. The Bradford experiment hasn’t helped, but it definitely keeps options open seeing that he is an expiring contract. The Eagles could have kept Herremans and Mathis on the books for a combined $12+ million this season, but the glaring holes on defense that led to the 2014 collapse were more demanding. Not to mention, the two guards are aging horribly and have not maintained the production that earned them national recognition. Herremans can’t even make the Colts’ game day roster in 2015, and the pay raise Mathis got him released and forced him to accept $4 million less to play for the Broncos this year. In roughly five seasons together, the cast of characters that Kelly dismissed won a total of zero playoff games. They were all on the 4-12 team that cost Andy Reid his job, and they only appeared in the playoffs once under Reid.

After a 2013 playoff appearance under Kelly, the same group was haunted by turnovers and injuries in the aforementioned debacle of 2014. The quarterbacks, Foles and Mark Sanchez, were an atrocity. The tandem led the NFL in turnovers in eight starts each, and the offensive line gradually withered away at the hands of Father Time. Mathis started just nine games in 2014 due to injury, and Herremans only started eight. The defense, as mentioned before, was comical in attempts to stop wide receivers such as Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. on the back end. A team that looked as if it had regained life after a nightmarish 4-12 season found itself helpless yet again despite their 10-6 record. To many, it looked like the team was a few pieces away from 12-4. In reality, the team desperately needed a refacing.

In the NFL, it is extremely difficult to transition from one regime to the next without some type of rebuilding period. Success is sustained through patience and development in pro football, and firing a staff the minute things start to get tough has never seemed to be the answer. Finding a quarterback is a journey that could be compared to hitting the lottery; there are 32 teams, 12 make the playoffs, and without a top 10 quarterback you are at a dead-end disadvantage.

Every coach has flaws, methods and a personality. If you’re winning, your personality becomes a strength. If you’re losing, folks grow tired of your ways quickly. Chip Kelly proactively tried to improve the state of this team by investing money and resources into new positions, which is a process that is always ongoing. The team could find itself in a very favorable position financially yet again this offseason with a few obvious roster moves, and it could be another offseason of rebuilding weaknesses. Retooling a declining roster takes more than one offseason no matter who the GM is, and giving up on Kelly would seem like a knee-jerk decision. It isn’t like his departure will deliver a franchise quarterback or an All-Pro offensive line. These things take time, and if Kelly isn’t granted that time then this whole regime was a waste of it.