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Eagles Put Team First In 9-1 Success Story

Posted Nov 23, 2017

Jeffrey Lurie wanted it this way when he spoke of “emotional intelligence” late in the 2015 Eagles season. A coaching change was in the midst and Lurie outlined some of the attributes he wanted in the team’s next head man ...

Jeffrey Lurie wanted it this way when he spoke of “emotional intelligence” late in the 2015 Eagles season. A coaching change was in the midst and Lurie outlined some of the attributes he wanted in the team’s next head man.

"You've got to open your heart to players,” Lurie said in late December of that year. “I would call it a style of leadership that values information, all the resources that are provided, and, at the same time, values emotional intelligence.”

The trickle-down impact from Lurie’s outline has come to fruition: Head coach Doug Pederson, a former player in the league for 13 seasons, understands his players, the dynamics of the locker room, and the challenges of the long, grinding season. Pederson’s ability to communicate in a two-way manner and to foster a positive, selfless environment from the minute he became head coach in 2016 has paid dividends.

“I think if there was one word to describe why we’re having so much success and playing the way we’re playing is ‘unselfish.’ The guys here are playing for the team, not for themselves,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We’re just doing our jobs and trusting that the guy next to us is doing his job.”

Indeed, the Eagles have defined “team” in the 9-1 start and in no game has that concept been more pronounced than in Sunday’s win at Dallas when five different players scored touchdowns in the 37-9 win over the Cowboys. The team’s major offensive weapons are sacrificing personal statistics for the good of the team.

No Eagles pass catcher is on pace for 1,000 yards receiving. No running back is on pace for 1,000 ground yards.

Doesn’t matter a bit. The Eagles lead the NFL with an average of 32 points scored per game and they’re third in the league with 378 total net yards per week.

Alshon Jeffery, a Pro Bowl receiver in Chicago, only talks now about winning football games. Running back LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in touchdowns last season with 18 in New England, but he’s willingly shared the backfield spotlight with rookie Corey Clement and the newly acquired Jay Ajayi. The former Dolphin is a perfect example of the team’s mentality: A 20-carry-a-game running back in Miami, Ajayi has 15 carries in two games with the Eagles.

Both wins.

“It’s different than what I’ve been used to, but at the same time it’s all about winning football games,” Ajayi said. “I knew my role coming here would be different, and I’ve accepted that. This was a 7-1 team when I got here. I walked into a locker room that was winning without me. I’m just here to help keep it going.”

Long before Ajayi arrived, the mentality of “team first” was ingrained. It started for Pederson upon his hiring, as he brought a relentlessly positive approach, understanding the outside negatively players endure. As the Eagles opened 3-0 in 2016 and then lost nine of their next 11 games in the season, Pederson didn’t change.

His upbeat nature was noticed. And appreciated.

“We all know that Coach has our backs, and we have his,” right guard Brandon Brooks said. “It’s been really positive here since Day 1.”

Now, the Eagles are 9-1 with a rebuilding 3-7 Chicago team in town on Sunday. As you might imagine, the focus is on winning this game. Nothing else matters.

“The bottom line is winning the game, bottom line,” Pederson said. “I don’t go into a game saying, ‘Jay, you’ve got to get 100 yards rushing. LeGarrette or Alshon, you’ve got to have 100 yards receiving.’ It doesn’t work that way. We don’t design the offensive plays to work that way. If it happens, great.

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“Listen, the guys just want to win, and it doesn’t matter who’s hot in the game. Our quarterback is so well-prepared, knowing exactly where to go with the ball in the passing situations. We ask him to do so much in the run game. And it’s all part of the process, and these guys have bought in 100 percent, and they prepare that way. You see it on gameday. They’re just all making plays and they’re all contributing right now.”

The word is “unselfish.” It’s the way the players describe the personality of the football team. And it’s working. Everyone is buying into what Pederson is saying. Quarterback Carson Wentz talked on Wednesday about the “cliché” of “winning each day” but that’s how this team thinks. The laser-focused approach is keeping the Eagles zeroed in on the task directly in front of them.

“We just want to keep winning,” Jeffery said. “It’s something special here. Winning, that’s the goal and nothing else.”

Said Wentz, summing it all up: "It's really shown all the way back to OTAs, Training Camp, we were spreading the love. I think it's really cool for me to see how excited other guys get when other guys score. I think that's a sign of a really close team. I think that's what we are."

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