When the Eagles travel to Cleveland this weekend, it will seem like they are visiting a Midwest version of their own team.
The connections between the two franchises are bountiful. Browns president Mike Holmgren was head coach Andy Reid's mentor. Browns general manager Tom Heckert was the former general manager in Philadelphia. Browns head coach Pat Shurmur was a longtime assistant coach under Reid. There are many other former Eagles working in personnel, coaching and playing for the Browns.
Even though these two teams only meet once every four years, they will know each other like they are division rivals because of all of the coaching and player connections. Does that help the Eagles as they prepare for the season opener or will it hinder them?
"I mean, you can go back and forth. (Browns defensive coordinator) Dick (Jauron) was here. There are a lot of things that are tied in. Bottom line is, you’ve got to go play," Reid said. "The playbook and knowing the plays, you don’t know when they’re going to dial them up. I don’t know when Pat (Shurmur) is going to dial them up or Dick’s going (to dial them up). They don’t know when we’re going to dial them up on our end. So, it comes down to, you call them, guys go execute and everybody does their job as good as they possibly can do."
Shurmur believes that more time would be wasted if he tried to gameplan for the Eagles different than any other team.
"I think you can overdo that. I think what’s important is that we watch what they do on film; we evaluate their personnel and then we try to do what we do and match it up the right way,' Shurmur said. "I think that can be overstated and then you get into that he said, she said and I know they’ll do this so we’ll do this. I think that more times than not you screw yourself up and I don’t know if other coaches believe that, but we have to play the Eagles to some degree by just watching them play and forget the relationships. I think that’s the message."
On top of the close ties, the Eagles and Browns played each other on August 24 in the third preseason game. Typically, that game is the dress rehearsal for the regular season, but neither team wanted to put a lot on film to be dissected this week. The Browns, however, did play their starters for almost the entire first half.
"You have a good (sense of their personnel)," Reid said. "The guys that didn’t play or haven’t played in the preseason or played limited, limited snaps in the preseason, you know, you probably don’t have as good a feel on those guys as you would have if they would have been in there. But I still think you have an idea. Yeah, you have an idea of the guys for the most part."
The Eagles and the Browns both run similar offensive and defensive schemes. The coaches for the two teams know one another's philosophies. When it's time to line up Sunday, knowing the tendencies of the opponent will certainly help. But the game will be won and lost based on talent and execution.
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