The Packers Should Be Jealous Of the Eagles’ Reinvention
After winning the first Super Bowl in franchise history after the 2017 season, the Philadelphia Eagles have found their way back five years later. This feat was possible in large part thanks to their ability to retain only core core players, rebuild through intelligent drafting, and capitalize on opportunistic free-agent signings.
Howie Roseman’s work in charge of the Eagles roster was particularly notable in reinventing that team. And it has understandably made Green Bay Packers fans jealous of Philadelphia’s ability to get back over the hump for another shot at a title.
When Nick Foles, Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles scooped the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February 2018, it was hard to see that win as the start of a possible dynasty. The most important position was known to be unclear. Then-promising Carson Wentz’s sophomore year was cut short by a cruciate ligament rupture, and Philadelphia would allow him to be the franchise quarterback once he was healthy. After an up-and-down 2018 season for Foles and Wentz, Roseman and the Eagles stayed with the younger player and gave Wentz a four-year, $128 million extension. Wentz had a good, but not great, 2019 season, prompting Roseman to select Jalen Hurts as position insurance in the second round of the 2020 draft.
The circumstances under which the Philadelphia Hurts and the Packers picked Jordan Love in the 2020 draft were undoubtedly different. Still, the reaction from both fandoms was similar (ie, not good). Brian Gutekunst’s idea of using a first-round pick on a quarterback after three straight trips to the NFC Championship game was (and still is) a bit of a head-scratcher, while those cheering (and covering) for the Eagles need more help wanted for Wentz, either as a pass catcher or on offense.
After benching Wentz (ironically) in a Week 12 game against Green Bay in 2020, Roseman, Pederson and Philadelphia gave Hurts four starts to see what he could do. Conversely, the Packers never offered Love an extended opportunity to audition for the job. Fueled by his personal vendetta against choosing love, Aaron Rodgers earned back-to-back MVPs throughout the 2020 and 2021 seasons. If Love and Hurts ended up on opposite teams, there’s certainly a scenario where Love is in the Super Bowl right now while Hurts is stuck in limbo behind Rodgers on the bench.
What Roseman has done, and should be given the most credit for, is baiting his mistake (Wentz’s expansion) while still receiving exceptional value in return. If Wentz had brought back a first-round pick and a third-round pick in the draft, how much would Rodgers have done for it? Obviously a lot more. But moving away from Rodgers would have been (and remains) a much more difficult decision.
With hurts in place, Roseman made another difficult decision, parting ways with his head coach just three years after winning a Super Bowl. The Packers parallel here would cling to Mike McCarthy for perhaps a season or two too long, clinging to the Lombardi Trophy-clouded haze of what the Super Bowl season and subsequent 15-1 campaign looked like. The decision for Pederson to leave Philadelphia was mutual. Nick Sirianni immediately made his mark on the team, taking them to the brink of a title in just two seasons.
This year, Philadelphia’s Super Bowl roster features just seven remnants of the team that won the 2018 title, notably Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson on the offensive line and Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham on the defensive line. Replacing 46 other positions in five years is quite a roster change.
Meanwhile, the core of the Packers from the 6-9-1 team from 2018 is still largely intact, with 11 players remaining on the 2022 roster: Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, David Bakhtiari, Dean Lowry, Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Randall Cobb, Marcedes Lewis, Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, and Mason Crosby.
These players share several traits ranging from expensive (Rodgers, Bakhtiari, Jones, Clark, Alexander) to close personal friends with the starting quarterback (Bakhtiari again, Cobb, Tonyan, Lazard). The restructuring of those contracts has financially crippled the Packers this season and beyond.
On the other hand, Philadelphia didn’t have to play the same games as Gutekunst and Green Bay and had a lot more flexibility to pounce on chances. Take this past offseason for the Eagles, where they signed cornerback James Bradberry to a one-year contract, traded AJ Brown and signed him to a four-year Megadeal extension, and signed and renewed Haason Reddick. The common thread between these three moves? They all earned second-team All-Pro honors.
A common retort from the former Packers manager (and Twitter must follow) Andrew Brandt is that they don’t sign many street free agents because they are concerned about signing their own players for overtime. While that’s true, there was a lot of loyalty at Lambeau Field, with extensions given to players and positions they might not have received had they come from another team.
The point here is that when the Eagles were presented with an opportunity to make difficult decisions, they did the opposite of what the Packers did in similar (but admittedly not identical) situations to return to the Super Bowl. However, stepping away from the two most important roles in an NFL franchise — quarterback and head coach — isn’t an easy decision when a team is winning.
There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for making it to the Super Bowl. But in the 12 seasons since Green Bay was last there, it feels like they’ve taken the same approach over and over to achieve similarly disappointing results. The Philadelphia Eagles’ ability to completely reinvent themselves in five short seasons is something Packers fans should not only be jealous of, but also hopeful for what the world will be like in Green Bay after Aaron Rodgers.