From 2000-05, under then-coordinator John Harbaugh, the Eagles' special teams unit finished in the top 10 of the league five times, according to Dallas Morning News columnist and Pro Football Hall of Fame voter Rick Gosselin's annual rankings which are the considered to be the standard by which all teams are judged. In two of those six years, the Eagles were atop the NFL leaderboard.
On Wednesday, Gosselin released his final tally for the 2016 season. Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp's crew came in first for the second time in three years (2014). The Eagles have been in the top five in all three of those campaigns.
"There's been a long legacy of playing really well on special teams here with the Eagles," Fipp said by phone on Wednesday, just moments after receiving the news that the Eagles came in first. "I think we inherited some of that legacy and it's been passed down from the guys way before us. We're just picking up the flag and carrying it further. I think there's definitely a standard and an expectation that when you're playing special teams for this organization you have to play at a high level. That really has nothing to do with me. It's set by guys who played a long time ago and then it's set from the very top of the organization, by Mr. (Jeffrey) Lurie, and it all trickles down."
The Eagles impacted the game in every way on special teams this past season. The Eagles ranked second in the NFL with a franchise-record 27.3-yard per kickoff return average, thanks to a promising rookie year from
Fipp arrived in Philadelphia in 2013 along with punter
"The most important thing is that the young guys buy into what the older guys do. The older guys really teach those guys our standard and expectations. All of those guys individually are very prideful players. It doesn't really matter what the job is, they are going to take pride in it," Fipp said.
"I've been fortunate to be a part of a group of guys who really have high standards, expectations of themselves. Because of that it's much easier for me. Those guys all want to be great players and they're self-driven. That's probably the biggest secret to the whole thing is finding guys who want to be great both individually and collectively."
The Eagles' recent success on special teams under Fipp has set the tone for what's expected out of the players from the time they arrive for the start of the offseason conditioning program in April. At the same time, though, Fipp has to hit the reset button. The core players are for the most part in place. Veterans who have been starters for a long time - tight end
"Last year means nothing. Rankings are nice, but at the end of the day it really means nothing. The bottom line for us is we want to contend as a team for championships and playoffs. We've got a lot of work ahead of us to get there," Fipp said. "Fortunately, we do have some great players to start with, but we've got a lot of work to do both in acquiring players and also bringing the best out of the players that we've got in this building. We're excited about the future. We're excited to get to work here."