It is easy to focus on the end result of the 2017 campaign, with the Eagles winning the first Super Bowl in franchise history. That was indeed a magical moment, but you don't want to forget the overall season.
Doug Pederson was preaching that message to his team this spring, telling them to focus on the journey and not just the destination. They don't win the Super Bowl without all the hard work that started back in April 2017. That's when the Eagles started building the chemistry that would help them overcome tremendous obstacles all year long.
Injuries? No problem. Crazy road trips? No problem. Brutally cold weather? No problem. Facing a historically good Vikings defense? Not even a hint of a problem. Facing arguably the greatest coach and greatest quarterback duo in NFL history in the Super Bowl? No problem.
We waited all year for the dreaded trap game, where the Eagles might have overlooked an opponent. It never happened. The team stayed focused all year long. That has to be one of Pederson's proudest achievements. His team stayed in the moment.
With each key injury, we kept thinking that this would be the one the team couldn't overcome. There was no panicking. Instead, backup players embraced the opportunity to play. You also have to give credit to the coaching staff. They made schematic adjustments and found ways to help the backups succeed.
One of the things that made 2017 so special is just how much fun the players had. I've watched the Eagles for more than 30 years, and I've never seen a team have that much fun. The players genuinely seemed to love each other. They were more like brothers than just teammates.
They celebrated all year long. This wasn't about taunting opponents or promoting individuals. These were group celebrations that were creative and fun. Fans couldn't wait to see what the players were going to do after scoring a touchdown or coming up with a big interception.
This was an incredibly selfless team. There was no 1,000-yard rusher or receiver. The ball was spread around every week. No player demanded the ball come his way. That allowed the coaches to build creative game plans. They didn't have to worry about feeding the ball to any one guy to keep his ego satisfied.
Jim Schwartz rotated pass rushers in and out. He had seven key players and was able to mix and match them as he wanted. No one complained. Everyone got plenty of chances to get after the quarterback.
Schwartz did some creative things with his secondary. He moved Malcolm Jenkins around all game long. He used Corey Graham in multiple roles.
The funny thing about all this is that Pederson preached competition last spring. He had his players competing on and off the field. He wanted them to push each other. Sometimes that can lead players to resent each other. Instead, it brought out the best in the Eagles and helped them to develop the chemistry that made them a great team.
Rookies and newly acquired veterans will need to embrace the same mentality if the 2018 team is going to have a great year and contend for a championship. I think Pederson preaching about the importance of the journey is his way of reminding the returning players about everything that went into becoming a championship team.
You have to be tough and selfless. You have to work hard. You have to compete every day. You have to be ready when called upon to contribute. The Eagles didn't win last year just because of star players. All 53 guys on the roster played a role. That truly was a team, not just a collection of players.
The 2018 team needs to learn lessons from last year, while also adjusting to different circumstances. As Pederson mentioned to the media last week, the Eagles are no longer underdogs. They are now the hunted.
Think about Week 4, for example. The Eagles will be on the road to face the Titans. That is hardly much of a rivalry game. You can bet the Titans won't look at this as just another game. This will be their chance to measure themselves against the reigning Super Bowl champs. The Eagles are going to get everyone's best shot.
Sometimes that kind of pressure can help a team to play better. Other times, it can rip the team apart. The Eagles return most of the championship roster and improved in some areas. If this group can embrace the challenge, they could be a great team by the time January rolls around and the postseason begins.
Pederson pushed all the right buttons last year. He knew what to say to keep his players focused. He knew how to motivate them. He knew when to be positive and when to be critical. This will be a big test for him.
Pederson can look back to his history for guidance. He was part of the 1996 Packers team that won the Super Bowl. He was back in 1997. The Packers went 13-3 and made it all the way back to the Super Bowl. They lost to John Elway and a great Broncos team, but Green Bay had an extraordinary season overall.
Minicamp and OTAs are over now. The players get to rest and relax, a little, for the next five weeks. Then it will be time for Training Camp and the upcoming season.
I think Pederson and his players are going to have another big year. I don't know if it will be as magical as 2017, but I'm looking forward to another exciting journey.