What if Fletcher Cox had played for someone other than the Eagles?

The longtime Eagles star has spent his entire career in Philly, but what if he had played for another organization?
Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles
Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

Defensive lineman Fletcher Cox has been weighing his options as of late. Does he continue playing or retire? He and fellow veterans Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, and Lane Johnson have remained integral to this Philadelphia Eagles club for over a decade. They're among the remaining players from the Super Bowl LII win and the 'Core Four' of this proud organization, but what if history hadn't worked out that way?

Cox has been a member of the Eagles organization since 2012 and has often referenced his desire to remain in Philly, but even the smallest of decisions can rewrite history. What if he had played somewhere else all this time?

The Eagles' recent collapse was taxing. Philadelphia will enter 2024 with a new defensive and offensive coordinator for the third time in the Nick Sirianni coaching era. Questions have risen about how solid the foundation of the franchise is with players commenting on what went wrong seemingly more often than normal.

The Eagles underachieved in 2023 after nearly winning Super Bowl LVII a year ago. There are legitimate concerns about whether Sirianni is the right coach to turn this team around in 2024. He'll enter next season on thin ice. The recent collapse culminated in an embarrassing and predictable blowout loss in the Wild Card Round versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fletcher Cox's previous appearance on Cam Heyward's podcast and expressed his affinity for the Steelers great and the Steel Curtain.

We're assuming you heard of Kelce's perceived retirement plans by now. He isn't the only career Eagle pondering his future. Cox is doing the same. Every man must think of his mortality at some point, right?

Here's something of note if you missed it. Fletch was a guest on Cam Heyward's podcast, Not Just Football with Cam Heyward on February 8th. 2023's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner and the man who has played his entire career in Philly had a lot to talk about.

Seven minutes into the episode, Heyward asked a question. "If you could play with any current or past D-lineman, who would you choose?" Cox offered a nice response, "I played with [Ndamukong] Suh, uh... You? That's the truth. Definitely you. The respect you have for the game, the respect I have for the game, the way that you play the game, the way that I play the game, like, definitely, that would have been nice."

Heyward was much obliged to Cox and expressed his appreciation to his fellow future Pro Football Hall of Famer. This begs the previous question. What if the 33-year-old had actually played for Pennsylvania's other NFL team? Mike Tomlin is defensive-minded and one of the league's most revered coaches. One could have imagined the possibilities.

Following the decision of the New England Patriots to move on from Bill Belichick after 24 seasons, Tomlin is the longest-tenured NFL head coach with one organization now. The Steelers have been home to Tomlin since hiring hm in 2007. Pittsburgh is also known for its long history of success and stability. They've only had three coaches in their history. That would attract just about anyone.

The Steelers have qualified for postseason play 11 times under Tomlin. They have won seven division titles, made two Super Bowl appearances, and won one of them. The organization has won eight AFC Championships, and six Super Bowls in its illustrious history.

Cox is taking his future "day by day" as he mentioned on Kay Adams' Up and Adams program one day before appearing on Heyward's podcast. While nothing is definitive for him and he has always mentioned wanting to remain in Philly, there were times when his exit seemed possible.

He may decide to retire this offseason. He may not. Most would assume he'd remain in Philly, but following his chat with Heyward, it's interesting to imagine him in a Steelers jersey. One could only imagine how much different pro football in Pennsylvania would have been had that been the case.

Cox has been loyal to the Eagles. The veteran ultimately has earned the right to look out for his best interests after all the years he has dedicated to the city and organization. Philadelphia needs to look out for what is best for the club as well.

It may not be in the Eagles' best interest to bring Cox's back on another one-year deal in 2024. This may indeed be the end of an era for the organization. Multiple players employed with the team for over a decade - Graham, Cox, and Kelce, may either retire or be members of other teams next season.

Might Philly have won Super Bowl LII had Cox played there? Might Tomlin have another ring? We'll never know the answer. Thank goodness for that. Fletch is a future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, and we were lucky to have seen him play in Philly.

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