Think about the team Nick Sirianni inherited.
The Eagles went 4-11-1 last year, and only two teams in the entire NFL won fewer games – the Jets and Jaguars, two perennial doormats. They lost seven of their last eight games, and their 11 losses were by an average score of 30-19.
Their quarterback – the only Pro Bowl player they’ve drafted since 2014 – desperately wanted out and left behind an NFL-record amount of dead money. They were in salary cap hell. Their leading receiver was Travis Fulgham. Their star center was mulling retirement.
If there was hope, it was hard to see.
Welcome to Philly, Nick.
This team was a flat-out mess when Sirianni was hired last January, and now they’re in the playoffs, and I don’t care who they played or what quarterbacks they beat or how easy their schedule was or any of that.
I do not care.
Not even a little bit.
Because when you think about where this team was and where they are now, it’s remarkable no matter what the circumstances.
The Eagles are a playoff team, and they don’t have to apologize to anybody for it.
In the span of a year, they’ve gone from the 5th-worst record in the NFL to the 9th-best record in the NFL, and they’ve done it with a rookie head coach and a 23-year-old quarterback in his first year as a starter.
And they’ve done it after a 2-5 start that included four embarrassing, lopsided losses in a 29-day span.
If you don’t think what the Eagles have accomplished is special, consider this: Since 1990, when the NFL expanded to 12 playoff teams, 156 teams have been 2-5 after seven games.
The Eagles are the 9th out of those 156 teams to reach the postseason.
And consider this: The Vegas over-under for the Eagles was 6 ½ games. They’re sitting at nine with a game to go.
And consider this: The Eagles’ five-game improvement – from four wins last year to nine wins so far this year – is 3rd-biggest in the history of a franchise that dates back 88 years.
What this team has achieved is rare, and it shows us all what’s possible when you have a coach who knows how to get players to believe in him and believe in themselves.
At 2-5, this team never wavered. They never stopped trusting Sirianni. They never turned on each other or abandoned the process.
“We just bought in to who we are, bought in to what we could be and trusted in the grind in approaching every day the way we do,” Jalen Hurts said Sunday, after the Eagles beat Washington for their fourth straight win and sixth in their last seven games.
“Trust in the grind” is the perfect motto for this 2021 Eagles team, because it’s taken on the personality of a coach who constantly preaches focusing on the moment and ignoring what’s already happened and what’s to come.
It started with the veterans – Kelce, Fletcher, Rodney, B.G. – and one by one everybody else on the roster bought in to what Sirianni was preaching and that's how the 2021 Eagles became a team. A pretty good one.
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The focus was on the process and not the results, and that’s why when the Eagles reached that low point leaving Vegas 2-5 after another embarrassing loss, they stayed together and continued to believe.
Because the focus was never on 2-5, it was on the next practice, the next rep, the next game.
“When you’re 2-5, if you look at how you’re going to get four wins in a row or whatever it is or how you’re going to get back to 9-7, that mountain looks really tall to climb,” Sirianni said.
“But when you focus on one day, one meeting, one walkthrough, one practice at a time, it becomes way more manageable. I’m thankful to this team and the guys we have on this team that fought through hard times.”
This is a special year, a special team.
Not because of who the Eagles played or who they beat but because of who they are and what they are.
The Eagles have three 1st-round picks on the way, a promising and improving young quarterback and a Coach of the Year candidate running the show. They have talented young players like DeVonta Smith, Jordan Mailata, Dallas Goedert, Miles Sanders, Landon Dickerson, Josh Sweat, Avonte Maddox and T.J. Edwards.
The future looks bright, but I’ll tell you what. The present isn’t too bad either.