After this season, Eagles fans will never again overlook the importance of the special teams unit.
The Eagles' special teams unit was the worst-hidden secret weapon in the entire NFL this season. The unit was so successful, so dominant, that the Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin named special teams coordinator Dave Fipp's squad the best in the league.
Gosselin releases a year-end recap of the league's special teams performances, compiling every special statistic and coming up with final grades. This season the Eagles snagged his first-place spot, and it wasn't very close. In a system in which low scores are desired, the Eagles finished the season with a 201.5. The second-best grade in Gosselin's rankings? The Buffalo Bills, who graded a 227.5, a full 26 points behind the Eagles.
"Kelly won the NFC East and presided over the NFC's best offense in his debut season. But that first year was a learning experience and one of the lessons Kelly learned was that he needed better special teams," Gosselin wrote. "Philadelphia finished 18th in the NFL in special teams in 2013, so Kelly undertook a sweeping upgrade last offseason."
Last year, the team brought in special teams mavens Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos, traded for running back and punt return dynamo Darren Sproles and acquired undrafted free agent Cody Parkey in the preseason. Those four had an immediate impact on Fipp's squad, bringing the Eagles' ranking up to first place after finishing 19th last season.
Parkey and Sproles are both competing in the Pro Bowl this weekend. Parkey set Eagles franchise and NFL rookie records for points scored in a season, and Sproles set career highs in a number of punt return categories including his league-best average of 13 yards per return.
And the team's success was indicative of the kind of coach Fipp is and the success he's seen in his time in the league. During his two years in Miami as a special teams assistant coach before joining the Eagles in 2013, the Dolphins ranked second (2011) and fourth (2012) in the NFL in Gosselin's overall special teams rankings.
The Eagles' special teams were also ranked first overall in the league this season according to Football Outsiders, after being ranked 25th in the league last year.