PHILADELPHIA — General manager Howie Roseman captured the feeling while he was walking off the field after his Philadelphia Eagles’ 38-7 rout of the New York Giants Saturday in the NFC divisional round.
“That’s nice! That’s nice!” Roseman repeated out loud to a security guard — and he has a point. Just two years after going 4-11-1 and pressing the reset button on the franchise by firing head coach Doug Pederson and trading quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles are headed back to the NFC championship game.
It’s one of the quickest rebuilding jobs in the modern NFL. The Eagles won Super Bowl LII in February 2018, had to find a new franchise quarterback and head coach after 2020, and are right back in the Super Bowl mix as a dominant team closing out the 2022 season.
Through a series of shrewd moves, the Eagles have risen from the bottom back to the top in just a two-year span. While a lot of the roster pieces from that team have moved on — only eight players remain from the 2017 roster — they’ve had a few veteran stalwarts stay with the franchise as it regained form.
Like veteran center Jason Kelce, a five-time All-Pro who was a key player on the championship team and has been a huge part of the Eagles’ ability to quickly get good again.
“There’s one thing you have to credit Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ front office for,” Kelce said after the game. “We’ve turned things around very quickly, which is something that I don’t think you’ve seen too much from other organizations. I think we keep really good people around.”
This is a far cry from the teams who piddle around at the bottom of the NFL standings and never quite get over the hump — for much longer extended periods of time than the Eagles were “down” between their recent peaks of contention. After hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, the Eagles won nine games three times before this year and had only one losing season.
Still, it’s fairly amazing that the Eagles are in this position. They nailed their new head coaching hire in Nick Sirianni. They found their new starting quarterback in Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, selected wide receiver DeVonta Smith in 2021 and then made a blockbuster trade for receiver A.J. Brown last offseason. They also acquired Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay for just a third- and fifth-round pick three years ago, and signed linebacker Haason Reddick, who had 1.5 sacks Saturday, last spring in free agency.
Kelce isn’t surprised by how quickly the Eagles were able to form a new superpower amid the intensely competitive NFL.
“We kinda did it quick when we did it with Doug,” Kelce said. “I think we do it well here. We have down years and we move on, it’s not a full sale. We kind of keep some semblance, keep some guys around and important pieces and I think that helps that transition happen a little more. Credit to the front office, [team owner] Jeffrey Lurie, the hires that they’ve made in these transitions have been huge.”
Kelce seems to have this team-building thing figured out: sign the good players and coaches, and let them work.
“I mean, look at all the guys we signed here on defense that are making crucial improvements to what we’re doing out there on the field,” Kelce said. “Offensively, we’ve continued to grow and they had the foresight to bring Jalen in here, who has turned into an unbelievable player, and A.J. Brown, who is not a bad guy to bring into the mix.”
The 12th-year center made it seem like it was light work to get back to being the apex predator in the NFL — and based on his experiences with the Eagles, it’s hard to fault him for feeling that way. This team is dominant and they’re more than capable of harnessing all the talent and new additions to this roster and winning another Super Bowl.
Actually doing so is a whole different challenge, but this franchise and organization have shown the rest of the league that rebuilding stretches don’t have to take so long.
“We have a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches.” Kelce said. “It’s not that difficult of a recipe — if you get it right.”