It’s easy to see how this past season’s success could have set up a trap.
The Eagles improved from a four-win team in its last year under Doug Pederson to a nine-win team that made the playoffs in its first year under Nick Sirianni.
So there might be some natural temptation to go for it in 2022 — all in — but Howie Roseman claims he isn’t getting sidetracked from his mission. This is still a steady climb.
“I think until you're really talking about a team that is hosting home playoff games and getting the 1 and 2 seed, you're in building mode,” Roseman said on Wednesday. “I think that's where we are right now.”
That’s really where they should be.
Because Roseman could convince himself that the Eagles are just one or two pieces away from being serious contenders … but are they? That’s not to diminish the Eagles’ success in 2021. They did some good things, they have some great pieces in place and the arrow is pointing up.
But they also didn’t beat a single playoff team all season and were simply outclassed in the wild card round against the Bucs. That game might have shattered any illusions some folks had about how close this team is to being legitimately in the mix.
Like a lot of things, this comes back to the quarterback position. Roseman and Nick Sirianni were pretty strong on Wednesday in their endorsement of Jalen Hurts, saying he’s their quarterback as they begin to look forward to the 2022 season.
That doesn’t mean that if GM John Schneider in Seattle calls Roseman to gauge his interest in Russell Wilson that Roseman wouldn’t answer. He owes it to himself and the team to explore every option. But it also doesn’t seem like Roseman is in the mindset to mortgage the future for one player, even if that player is a no-doubt future Hall of Famer.
“For us, what we are doing right now is we are evaluating our team and continuing to figure out ways to build,” Roseman said when asked about the possibility of trading for a quarterback. “We are not happy about the fact that our season ended in the playoffs. We want to build a team that has home playoff games, gets to play in front of our fan base and really build a team that gets a bye.
“Those opportunities, those assets you talk about, allow us to continue to build and really helps us add good players to this team. Our job is to look at everything, to evaluate every position, every player. We do that not only for right now in this moment, but we also do it so we have information when players become available at any position.”
The Eagles have three first-round picks in this upcoming draft, which is a chance to add three potential cornerstones to their franchise for the next decade. So instead of using those picks to get one player, the Eagles say they’d rather build around Hurts going into his third NFL season.
Maybe Hurts isn’t the long-term answer. Heck, I’m skeptical of that too. But giving him an extra year as the starter with a better cast around him makes plenty of sense given the state of the roster.
“I think for us, we have to do whatever we can to continue to help [Hurts] develop,” Roseman said. “And how do we do that? By surrounding him with really good players, players who continue to grow. That's a huge part of developing, they grow. How they are in their second year is not how they are going to be in year four, five, six and seven. And they are also products of the people around them. That's on us to continue to build this team.”
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Back in 2017, the Eagles caught lightning in a bottle during that Super Bowl run and it was understandable when they tried to run it back the next couple of years. In doing so, they got a little out of character, sacrificing the future for the possibility of immediate success. Roseman, to his credit, has since admitted as much. They did get back to the playoffs the next two years but lost in the divisional round in 2018 and the wild card round in 2019.
Those decisions put this rebuild, retool (whatever) a little behind schedule. So it’s a good sign that Roseman isn’t ready to abandon the long-term plan at the first glimpse of success.
In reality, rebuilds in the NFL aren’t super long either. With the draft ammo the Eagles have and if they figure out the quarterback position — granted, that’s a big if — they might not be that far away.
The early returns on the Eagles’ draft class from 2021 are looking good. If they do that again in a few months, they might be on to something.