Photos courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles

For Eagles fans, the past season was quite the blow – watching A team that was filled with so much promise, basically hit the wall. A total collapse, many said. And yet, as true Philly fans do (once they finish complaining), everyone now looks to the future. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro takes a behind-the-scenes look at what lies ahead. Chin up. Shoulders back. And fingers crossed.

We were all in the joyous glow of the Thanksgiving weekend and the start of the holiday season when quarterback Jalen Hurts sprinted 12 yards into the end zone in overtime as the Eagles defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-34, pushing their record to 10-1. Hurts accounted for five touchdowns on the day, head coach Nick Sirianni improved his record to a gaudy 33-12, and Philadelphia retained the best record in the entire NFL, something they held outright or shared since the first week of the 2022 regular season. 

Remarkable. Breathtaking. A team that had made a living on coming from behind all season did it again – with the help of a 59-yard field goal by Jake Elliott, in windy and rainy conditions, to send the game into overtime. It truly, truly felt like anything was possible, including another deep playoff run for an Eagles organization that came within a whisker of winning Super Bowl LVII just that last February.

Anything. Possible. Sky is the limit.

 “Our guys know how to win. Why do our guys know how to win? Part of that’s a product of what we’ve done here the last couple years. Part of that is a product of we’ve got some guys that are still here from the 2017 Super Bowl team. Part of that is we got a lot of guys from Georgia that have won a lot. We have a lot of guys from Alabama that have won a lot,” Sirianni said after that Nov. game. “Again, I think the most important one is that we’ve done it together, right? You can win at all these different places, but when you find ways to win together, nobody flinches, right?” 

“I get it – me as the head coach, Jalen as the quarterback, we’re going to draw the most scrutiny.”

“I just felt like that’s what it was. We’ve been in this situation before. That shows the mental toughness of our guys. I’m happy. I’m happy. I’m glad that we can learn from this. I think that’s my emotion that I have, I’m extremely happy that we found a way to win this football game.”

On the 50th night after that win over Buffalo, the Eagles walked off the field in Tampa with the season over. “Anything possible” became six losses in seven games, including an embarrassing 32-9 loss in the Wild Card Playoff round to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team the Eagles dominated in a Week 3, 25-11 win. Instead of all the positive energy that flowed following the win over Buffalo, the players were sullen, lifeless, shocked.

A team that had played on the edge to build a 10-1 start tipped over the cliff and had a historic meltdown.

“There is no excuse for the inability to not do what we wanted to do on the field out there and the consistency that we wanted,” Hurts said. “It’s about the results. We didn’t get the results we wanted.”

And that’s a wrap, folks. Life moves quickly in the National Football League, and by the time 48 hours had passed from that defeat in Florida, players had cleaned out their lockers and headed into uncertain futures – including the pending retirement decisions of some key Eagles. Shortly after that, the team changed out its offensive and defensive coordinators, bringing in Kellen Moore and Vic Fangio, respectively. The story for now is what happened to the Eagles in the 2023 season – a flurry of turnovers, coaching changes, a defense unable to get stops, unsettling reports of locker room whispers and general unhappiness – but rather what the team has in store for the near future.

Sirianni stays as the team’s head coach for his fourth season, surrounded by his third pair of coordinators. He’s acknowledged that things are going to have to change – to what degree remains undetermined. The listless performance of his team down the stretch in ’23 is something from which to learn.

“You’d better believe I’m thinking after that 1-6 finish, after starting the way we started and doing the things we’ve done in the past, that I’m thinking I’m going to prove them right again, and we’re going to prove them right,” Sirianni said. “We’ve got to re-prove ourselves. We’ve got to go prove it again. That’s how I feel right now. That’s how I’m attacking this off-season. That’s how I’m attacking this upcoming season as we get ready for it. Just hungry to be able to prove myself again to Mr. Lurie [Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie] and the faith that he’s had in me and Howie [Roseman, general manager] and the faith he’s had in me, and the rest of the team and the city.”

So, what is the plan? The most important order of business is returning Hurts to Most Valuable Player-level quarterback, as he was in 2022. He was out of sorts for most of this past season, despite accumulating 38 turnovers, tied for the league best. Hurts turned the ball over 20 times in 2023 (he had only 8 giveaways the previous season) and his rushing numbers – a key component to his effectiveness – dropped from 760 yards and 4.6 yards per carry to 605 yards and 3.9 yards per carry.

The most important position in sports is quarterback and the Eagles invested their franchise in Hurts, who signed a five-year contract extension last April through the 2028 campaign. He needs to be great for the Eagles to be great, and he needs to do it with his fourth offensive coordinator in five professional seasons.

“The one thing I do know about Jalen is when there are things of his game that he needs to improve, he goes to work and he busts his ass to do that,” Sirianni said. “I think there was a lot of questions after that first year about some things, about could he be the passer or whatever the questions were, and he came out and put together an MVP-type season the following year. Just the way he threw the ball, the way he delivered the ball, accuracy, all those different things, he just continues to grow.” 

“I get it – me as the head coach, Jalen as the quarterback, we’re going to draw the most scrutiny and the most attention and eyes. We understand that in the seats that we sit in, but I know that the things Jalen needs to work on and the things we’ll sit down together and talk about, no doubt in my mind that he’s going to bust his ass to do that because that’s who he is. That’s who he’s been since the day he got here. That’s why he continues to develop in things that people thought was a negative for him in the past that he’s made into a strength.”

With that, the work is underway for the 2024 season, Super Bowl LVIII notwithstanding. The goals don’t change, but the Eagles know they have a quarterback who needs to bounce back and a defense that requires an overhaul.

A lot needs to be fixed, in simplest terms.

“When we walked off the field after the Buffalo game and we were 10-1. I’ve talked about the time machine – I would take a time machine to do that, that would be a beautiful thing, but we can’t,” Roseman said. “I think there would be a lot different narratives being told, and we can’t lose sight of the big picture. We have a lot of good people on this football team. We’ve got a lot of good players. We’ve got a lot of good coaches. We’ve got a lot of good people in this building. I look around this building, I couldn’t be more proud of the people. That doesn’t mean we can’t fight through adversity. That doesn’t mean we can’t overcome this and take this back to the level and beyond that we were at last year.” 

“It’s not going to take a snap of the fingers. We’ve got to work hard. We’ve got to do whatever we can to have the right people, bring in the right people to do that, but we have a lot of those pieces in place. This cupboard isn’t even close to bare.”  

 

 


 

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and is seen and heard throughout the year on television, radio and Eagles coverage everywhere. You can hear his Eagles Live Podcast on iTunes.

 

 

February 2024
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