I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down. I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down – Chumbawamba
The Eagles were down in 2020, no doubt about that. A 4-11-1 record? In Philadelphia? This team? No way.
Well, way. It was an ugly season, which launched the Eagles into a coaching change and here we are, a football team with a new head coach in Nick Sirianni and a young and energetic coaching staff surrounding him. It is, in many ways, a clean sweep for an Eagles team that only three seasons earlier won a Super Bowl.
Hey, we all know this: Every team has these kinds of seasons every now and again. In Jeffrey Lurie's era as Chairman & CEO, there have only been a few seasons to rival 2020 – 3-13 in 1998 (the final year of Ray Rhodes), 6-10 in 2005 (oh, T.O.?!?!), 4-12 in 2012 (the final season of Andy Reid). The measure of an outstanding NFL franchise, and the Eagles have certainly been one of the best in Lurie's tenure, is to "get up again" quickly and return to the postseason.
Consider since the time of Lurie's purchase of the team in 1994-95 the "dry" periods of Eagles football. They can be broken down into three clumps of seasons …
As the Rhodes years wound down after he reached the playoffs in 1995 and 1996, the challenges became apparent: The Eagles didn't have an answer at quarterback once Randall Cunningham was finished in Philadelphia – Rodney Peete, Koy Detmer, and Bobby Hoying all had their moments, just not enough of them – and the roster fell apart. The Eagles didn't make the playoffs in 1997 and the 1998 season was a flat-out disaster in every way and Rhodes was finished after four seasons, replaced by Reid.
The Eagles hit it in 1999 in the NFL Draft, taking Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb No. 2 overall and then reaching the playoffs five straight seasons, including four straight trips to the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl appearance. The Eagles dipped after that, missing on the playoffs in 2005 and then in 2007, but the Eagles were deep playoff contenders for most of Reid's seasons. As we've learned that is not easy to do.
The frenzy of signing veteran free agents in the post-work stoppage period provided a lot of excitement for the Eagles heading into the 2011 season, but that didn't translate to victories. A 31-13 win over the Rams on opening day offered some optimism, but then the season went splat and the Eagles were 4-8 after 12 games before finishing the campaign with four consecutive victories. The 8-8 record wasn't much to get excited about, but then the Eagles opened the 2012 season with three wins in their first four games and … then it went all downhill – in a big, big way. The Eagles lost 11 of their last 12 games to finish 4-12 and Reid's tenure ended.
Chip Kelly's Eagles won the NFC East in 2013 and were 9-3 before struggling down the stretch in 2014. The Eagles of 2015 were a mess and Kelly's time as the head coach ended after three seasons. Doug Pederson was hired in 2016 and the rebuilding began. One season later, the Eagles won a Super Bowl.
So, if history is any indication, the Eagles are going to rebound from the 2020 season. They are in a "transition" period, as Lurie indicated at the press conference announcing Pederson's dismissal, and we all know the challenges the team faces with regards to the 2021 NFL salary cap. There is a lot of work to do and the Eagles understand that because, well, they've been through this before.
This is a great test for a football organization. You're gonna get knocked down in the NFL. It happens to every team and it can, as we have witnessed, happen in very short order. The mark of the best franchises is the ones that get back up again and find the postseason quickly and stay there. That's what the Eagles are facing as they turn their attention now to the roster, to their strategy for free agency (which opens on March 17), and the NFL Draft (the first round is on April 29).
Philadelphia needs a big offseason retooling the roster. It's the path to climbing back to the top of the NFC East, the NFC, and, ultimately, the NFL.