Just over three years ago 67,612 fans crammed into the U.S Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to watch Doug Pederson’s Philadelphia Eagles upset the odds and win the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl.
The 41-33 victory over the much fancied New England Patriots was supposed to be the beginning of a bright new dawn for the Eagles but unfortunately, that never materialised.
Just three years later, the game’s MVP Nick Foles has left Philadelphia,as has the coach who masterminded that famous victory against Bill Belichick’s Patriots.
The Eagles now find themselves at odds of 11/2 with sports betting sportsbook 888 to top the NFC East next season – for context, those are the longest odds of any team.
In this article we put those odds to the test and analyse whether or not The Eagles can improve upon last season’s shambolic showing.
(Memories of 2018 felt a long way off last season as Eagles fans were forced to endure one of the worst seasons in recent memory.)
What’s the 4-1(1)-1 on last season?
Do you see what we did there? Okay, now we’ve cleared that up let’s start with the painful process of acknowledging that last season happened and attempting to explain why it happened.
Whilst not many Eagles fans went into last season with a great deal of hope, no one expected the team to perform just as badly as they did, but what was it that caused the team to underwhelm so dramatically?
Well, injuries certainly played a part in the team’s languorous efforts out on the field. Injuries are of course par for the course, but the Eagles really did seem to suffer last season more than most, setting an NFLrecord for the most different starting line-ups in a season.
Add into that the fact that the once sagacious Doug Pederson seemed crippled with self-doubt and you have all the ingredients for disjointed and jittery performances, which is what Eagles fans were served up time and time again last season.
Finally, far too many of the Eagles players were going the wrong way in their development trajectory last season. As fans we are used to looking at limited players and lumping our hopes on them improving next season or the season after.
One thing we rarely consider is the opposite happening, which is exactly what occurred at the NovaCare Complex. Nate Gerry and Zach Ertz regressed, whilst other players who were expected to improve stalled and stuttered.
With all that in mind, what can the Eagles do to improve next season and ensure that we’re not writing a similar article in 12 months’ time?
(Doug Pederson was the fall guy for the Eagles last season, but was his sacking justified?)
Doug Pederson had been there and done it, but that experience was not enough to save his job and arrest the Eagles slump last season.
His departure made room for first time coach Nick Sirianni to step in and take the reins in Philadelphia. The 40-year-old coach’s attitude has raised optimism levels amongst the fanbase, but all of that excitement does come with a caveat.
Sirianni is young and inexperienced and will make mistakes with this team. He will mismanage his team at times, he will make calls that turn narrow victories into narrow defeats and he will have fractured relationships with some of his players.
None of that is a reflection on Sirianni’s potential as a football coach, but rather they are just facts of life. Inexperienced coach’s make mistakes, no matter their playing history or how much they have studied.
What the organization needs to do to help Sirianni is to back him by surrounding him with experienced operators and giving him as much guidance as possible throughout the season.
This should cushion the fall when mistakes are made and allow Sirianni to learn from downturns without being overwhelmed by them.
Carson Wentz had been a problem for the Philadelphia Eagles for some time before the 2020 season wound down. His decline at quarterback appeared to be terminal and what was worse for the Eagles was Wentz’s complete and utter abnegation to playing second fiddle to a more consistent quarterback.
Whilst many fans understand the reasons for Wentz’s departure, few are happy with the organization’s choice of successor Jalen Hurts. That’s because the 22-year-old has thus far being unable to prove that he has the ability to be a consistent performer at this level.
The hierarchy in Philadelphia appear to have recognised this and attempted to surround Hurts with good playmakers and willing catchers. The partnership between Hurts and DeVonta Smith for example could prove fruitful for the Eagles and give Hurts the confidence boost he needs to fill Wentz’s cleats.
(There is real pressure on Jalen Hurts this season but hopefully those around him can help to shoulder some of that burden.)
The 2021 Outlook
If the Eagles do everything right in supporting Sirianni and supporting Hurts as well as managing to steer clear from quite as many injuries, what can they expect from next season?
The optimists out there will point to the 2016 offseason that saw Brandon Graham turn a struggling team into one that would end the next lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
Last season was much worse than 2016 though and Graham has not had the opportunity to make as many sweeping changes this summer as he did back then. A dramatic turnaround culminating in a Super Bowl victory is therefore incredibly unlikely.
What fans in Philadelphia can instead hope for is a season with a clear trajectory of improvement and development. Sirianni needs to inspire fans with some barnstorming performances and show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel.