This was a day after to forget and to remember, all for a variety of reasons. The Eagles' 2020 season went down the 4-11-1 rabbit hole and on Monday Head Coach Doug Pederson and Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman held a joint press conference virtually, and then a handful of players jumped into the Zoom world to discuss their thoughts on the failures of the last few months and the hopes for a brighter tomorrow. Defensive end Brandon Graham offered encouraging words. Tight end Zach Ertz became teary-eyed. Quarterback Jalen Hurts reiterated his unquenchable thirst for winning.
And into the offseason we go.
The most compelling words came from Roseman, whom we had not heard from since September when the Eagles put the finishing touches on their first version of the 53-man roster, one that was amended countless times during the course of this COVID-19 season.
By the end, the Eagles' 53-man roster was a mish-mash of Band-Aids to get through the season finale against Washington, with players literally called up from the practice squad that day (cornerback Jameson Houston) to play Sunday night against the Football Team. While the record of the team was not satisfying to anyone, a shoutout here to those behind the scenes who made it work for the Eagles, a team that paid attention to the protocols, that stuck together as an organization to make it through 16 games, and a franchise that genuinely cared for (and continues to care) its players, coaches, and staff. Pandemic-proofing the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field and having the entire team – players, coaches, everybody – stick to the discipline required as an entire organization was a tremendous undertaking, and the Eagles pulled it off.
Now, to the football part of 2020 and, looking ahead, 2021 …
This is where Roseman comes into the picture. He touched on a number of subjects to begin what is going to be a very busy offseason, and while there are no real answers yet, maybe there are some clues to glean, to get a sense of the direction the Eagles are going to take, from what Roseman said …
1. On the future of QB Carson Wentz, of whom Roseman said the idea of trading is "nothing we are talking about": "I don't think it's a secret that we moved up for him (in the 2016 NFL Draft) because of what we thought about him as a person, as a player. We gave him that extension because of the same things. And so, when you have players like that, they are like fingers on your hand. You can't even imagine that they are not part of you; that they are not here. That's how we feel about Carson."
2. On the state of the current roster: "I feel like we did whatever we had to do to try to win a championship in 2017 and when I look at the rosters in 2017, 2018, and 2019, I think objectively those are really good rosters. Obviously, 2017 had a lot of success. 2018, 15 yards from the championship game, and I know when Joe (former Eagles Vice President of Player Personnel and current Jets General Manager Joe Douglas) left to become the GM of the Jets, he even felt like our roster last year was as good as those two rosters, maybe even better.
"But clearly, we are not the same roster right now. We have spent a lot of time here in the last couple weeks when the season wasn't going the right way about studying teams like ours that maybe have had some success, maybe even won a Super Bowl, and then had a down year and what happened and even other sports. A lot of times, as much as we didn't want to do it in the offseason, I think that we have got to look objectively at it and we did do it, is you hang on to those teams. We have this offseason plan, and I think it was a good plan, and I think we pivoted a little bit because of the pandemic, not that that's an excuse because it's not. But I think we pivoted a little bit and we kind of knew in our gut last year sitting here that it was the right thing to do to turn over the team and get more picks and get more young players. I don't think we went full-fledged in that, and that's my responsibility."
3. On selecting wide receiver Jalen Reagor in the 2020 NFL Draft's first round over Justin Jefferson, who was taken by Minnesota one pick later: "I'd say one, obviously the guy you're talking about has had a phenomenal year. It's not like our head is in the sand and we don't see that and we didn't spend a lot of time on that guy. Obviously, I think when you talk to other GMs in this league, if everyone knew what those guys were going to do, they wouldn't even be close to the pick that they were at and there were other receivers taken.
"We went into the draft trying to find the right guys for our team in terms of what we thought we needed to have a better offense. That's with a lot of discussion, with our scouts, with our coaches. There's definitely a lot of opinions on this draft class and this receiver class for sure. I would also say Jalen is a very young player, just turned 22. He missed a bunch of games with injuries. He didn't really have durability issues in college and sometimes those things over a period of time, you know, they play out. I thought about it this morning. I was just thinking about our 2010 draft and how it went with BG (DE Brandon Graham) and the guys that maybe started their career fresh and again, I'm not saying that one guy is going to end up being better than the other at the end of their career, but sometimes guys, it hits later than others for those guys."
4. On if his approach to building a roster changes based on the disappointing 2020 season: "I think there's two parts of that. The fact that we are where we are now, and we're 4-11-1, to not sit there and review everything we've done and see if there's a better way to do it, you know that, would probably be ignorant. So, we have to do that. But by the same time, we have also been incredibly successful. Just because you have one bad moment doesn't mean you're not good at your jobs or you don't have a good process. It happens in this business. Extremely humbling business. And we have to rebound from it, and we have to do better, and it starts with me.
"But when I look at it objectively, too, we've had a lot of hits in free agency. We've had a lot of draft picks here who have done a really good job and we have to get back to that and make sure we attack this offseason. This is, really, besides 2012, we haven't picked because of earning it in the top 10, we obviously traded up for Carson, but we didn't start that year, either that way. That's something we have to hit on, the sixth pick in the draft, in a huge, huge way, and I think that we have the right people to do that. I know that we're going to be incredibly focused on not only that pick, but the other picks we'll have in this draft and hopefully we'll have a bunch of picks and we'll go from there."