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Lawlor: Perspective Key In Building Eagles

Posted Jan 14, 2017

There has been a lot of talk among the fans and the media since the season ended about where the Eagles are as a team. Head coach Doug Pederson said he thought that the team was close. He didn't really go into length about exactly what "close" meant, but I took that description to mean being a winning team. You can certainly make a strong argument for that. They finished 7-9 playing the toughest schedule (opponents had a .559 winning percentage) and in arguably the strongest division in the NFL. The Eagles lost six one-possession games. They were literally a few plays from being a winning team this season.

The Giants just had a breakout season, going 11-5 and getting to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. That's impressive, right? Yes and no. The Giants did win 11 games. The problem is that the Giants won eight of those games by a touchdown or fewer. They found ways to win, but they weren't necessarily a strong team. They were held under 20 points in each of the last five regular season games. They had a veteran quarterback and an outstanding group of receivers, but the Eagles gained more yards and scored more points than the Giants. That should be a concern to them. A rookie quarterback with limited weapons led a more productive.

The Giants got to the playoffs and showed they were not a legitimate title contender. They dominated the Packers for more than a quarter, but only held a 6-0 lead. Once Aaron Rodgers thawed out (Green Bay is cold whether you live there or not), that game was a blowout. The Packers scored 14 points late in the first half and took control of the game with ease. They won 38-13, and remember that the Packers were missing their top receiver (Jordy Nelson) and forced to play a wide receiver at the running back position due to injury. The Giants couldn't compete with a banged-up team.

I don't bring this up to taunt the Giants. Clearly, I would never do that (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). The point is that while they did find a way to win 11 games, the Giants weren't a really good team. Back in 2007, the Giants won 11 games and then the Super Bowl. That team was really good. Some coaches love to say you are what your record is. I have never liked that saying. Records can be deceiving.

That brings me to a point that Howie Roseman made when he met the media recently. He talked about 10-6 not being good enough. The goal of a team should not be to win 10 games and get to the playoffs. The goal should be to really compete for a championship. You normally do that by winning 12 to 14 games, so that you can get some homefield advantage during the postseason. Whether that is one game or multiple games, playing at home can be a big help to winning in January.

Roseman isn't saying you must win a certain number of games to be a serious contender. Back in 2010, the Packers went 10-6 and won the Super Bowl. That record was deceiving. They were top 10 in the league in yards and points on both offense and defense. That was a balanced, talented team. Green Bay proved to be special as it was the only team in NFL history to never trail by more than a touchdown in an entire season. That team lost a couple of games in overtime and two other games when Aaron Rodgers was injured, but anyone watching them could see it had special potential.

The Eagles went 10-6 in 2013 and 2014. Those were solid teams, but not special. Roseman doesn't want to build solid teams. He wants to build a title contender. He wouldn't give an answer when the media asked him about the Eagles being close. This is where perspective becomes an important factor.

As coach, Pederson is focused on here and now. He wants to win the game right in front of him. He's not thinking about 2017 or 2018. Pederson saw the Eagles in so many close games that it is easy for him to think the team isn't that far away from winning.

Running the Eagles is very different. Roseman has to think about the future as much as the present. His job is to build the roster up so the team can compete for a title. Roseman won't know how close the Eagles are to his vision for a while. He needs another offseason of free agent signings, trades and draft picks. That will give him a better idea of where the roster stands (on paper). The preseason and then the 2017 season will then give him a realistic idea of where the Eagles really are.

This isn't about the Eagles having a three-year or five-year plan. Roseman is trying to build the roster to be as strong as possible. You can't put a specific time frame on that. It all depends on the players the Eagles are able to bring in. The Eagles have a strong foundation in place, but they still need more talent.

Anytime a discussion like this comes up, I can't help but think about Marty Schottenheimer. His teams won 12 or more games five times, but he never made it to the Super Bowl. Schottenheimer was an old-school coach. His teams were built “not to lose.” They didn't turn the ball over. They didn't commit penalties. They ran the ball and played good defense. You can win a lot of games from September to December playing like that, but the postseason is different. You can't rely on other teams making mistakes in the playoffs. You have to play to win.

I think the aggressive nature of Carson Wentz and Pederson will help the Eagles in this regard. Pederson showed this year that he is not afraid to take chances. He would even make multiple aggressive moves in one game. Wentz, especially late in the season, showed a desire to make plays. He made some frustrating mistakes as a result. That's OK. It is always easier to have a coach and a quarterback learn to be more conservative than it is to get them to take chances.

Roseman and the personnel department need to find the Eagles some good players in the next few months. Pederson and his staff need to figure out how to get the current players to perform better in 2017. None of this is easy, but then again neither is trying to win a championship.

Being “good enough” isn't good enough. The Eagles have their sights set much higher than that. Getting to the playoffs in 2017 would be a step in the right direction, but the men running the organization won't be happy until the Eagles are competing for titles every single year and then finally bring one home.


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