Imagine if the Eagles had won just one more game last year.
Where would they be right now?
If they had gone 11-5 instead of 10-6, the Eagles would’ve won the NFC East for the second time in Chip Kelly’s two seasons. And then maybe the chain of circus events that started in January wouldn’t have ensued.
Maybe Howie Roseman would still be general manager.
Maybe Nick Foles would still be quarterback.
Maybe LeSean McCoy, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole and Cary Williams would still be Eagles. And Sam Bradford, Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell and Tim Tebow wouldn’t.
And the Eagles probably wouldn’t be any closer to the Super Bowl title that’s eluded them for the entire franchise history.
One of the most prominent Eagles, Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce, believes the best thing that happened to his team was missing the playoffs.
“I’ve said this before and this might piss off a few people, but in all honesty we started off 9-3, we started off really, really good and we got lucky quite a few times to win games we probably shouldn’t have been in,” Kelce said Friday after an Organized Team Activity [OTA]. “And I think the fact that we ended the season the way we did, didn’t make the playoffs, in hindsight it’s almost a good thing because it forces the coaches, it forced the organization, to re-evaluate what we had.
“And really, guys all of a sudden that are on the bubble, now all of a sudden they know for sure, ‘We need to upgrade there. We need to make an upgrade at this position. We need to do this, we need to do that to improve as a whole.’
“I think we’ve made a lot of really good acquisitions this offseason. I think we’ve got a lot of really, really good football players that are going to be able to help us win football games and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Who knows if the Eagles are more primed to contend for the Lombardi Trophy this season, but Kelce’s point has some merit.
Even if the Eagles had won the NFC East, they still would’ve had Mark Sanchez starting their playoff game, still would’ve had injuries up and down the offensive line and still would’ve fielded the NFL’s second-worst pass defense.
Would they have contained Calvin Johnson and the Lions in a first-round game at the Linc? Maybe. Would they have toppled the Packers at Lambeau Field — the same opponent and venue from their 33-point loss two months earlier — in the divisional round? Unlikely.
Missing the postseason resulted in the now-infamous conversation between Kelly and owner Jeffrey Lurie about taking the franchise from good to great, a discussion that led to Roseman’s removal from all personnel decisions, Kelly’s inheritance of total control and a massive roster overhaul that replaced some very popular star players and Kelly’s handpicked free agents.
Out went Foles, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, James Casey, Herremans, Cole and three-fourths of last year’s starting secondary. In came Bradford, Maxwell, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Walter Thurmond and several other high-profile NFL players whose careers started elsewhere.
It’s been proven that building through free agency isn’t a roadmap to championships, but Kelce believes the Eagles took a different approach than past teams who’ve bottomed out after spending big in the offseason.
“It depends on how you’ve added through free agency,” he said. “We’ve added through free agency guys who are high character, high open-minded guys who want to learn and be a part of the team. I don’t think we’ve gotten any guys that are selfish or are going to be close-minded and not ready to take on the new system. We’ve gotten the right type of people.
“But we’re still building through the draft. I don’t want to say all of a sudden we’re trying to build a team through free agency. I think the moves we’ve made in free agency I’m excited about.”