|Looking Back; Looking Ahead|
I'll remember this season as a real roller-coaster ride, from high to low to high to low, unfortunately. I cannot remember many seasons that had as many highs and as many lows as this one, all in the same season.
I thought coming out of training camp the Eagles were a team with Super Bowl potential. There was no doubt in my mind and the feeling was that if they stayed healthy, their chances were as good as anybody in the NFL at winning the whole thing. And they did stay relatively healthy. I mean, you're talking about a team not having to put players on injured reserve. This team was right there. There probably wasn't a team in the National Football League that stayed healthier.
That doesn't mean they were able to go into games with guys at a 100 percent because we all know Brian Westbrook was never 100 percent. It was remarkable he was able to drag himself out there for almost every game. We saw what Jon Runyan had to deal with throughout much of the season just to prepare for the games. But when you look at teams like the Ravens and some of the others that had 15, 16 people on injured reserve, this team was relatively unscathed.
I think there's a very good foundation here, absolutely. You start with the fact that this team has one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League. I know he is criticized from time-to-time because of the position and Donovan did have his slump period in the middle of the season. But he came back and even in Arizona he shook off a first half that was not his best and put together some tremendous drives in the second half. He actually took the team from an 18-point deficit to a one-point lead. So he did bring them back and he did play well. The reason this team is not in the Super Bowl had nothing to do with Donovan McNabb.
Of course I agree with bringing back Donovan and Andy. Andy Reid is still the coach that took this team to five NFC Championship games in eight years and the fact of the matter is that Andy has been an outstanding coach. You look at a guy like Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh. He won it in his 13th year. So Andy's going to get this team to a Super Bowl again and I truly believe they're going to win.
This offseason depends on what the Eagles do in terms of their free agents. I think it's clear that there is age at the tackle spot and I think it's unlikely that they will be bringing back both Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas. So I would think getting an offensive tackle in the draft is right up there with the top priorities.
I also believe that running back is an absolute key. You have to get a top-caliber running back, and I don't think you go outside for that. I don't think you test free agency and you go for somebody there because running back, the big thing is how many miles do they have on them. And you never know. You want fresh legs and that's a player coming out of probably three college seasons. And there are some very good ones out there this year.
I would say that offensive line and running back are priorities. Not that I don't think Westbrook will be back. He's still one of the great backs in the National Football League. But I think there's a good chance Correll Buckhalter moves on because he's a free agent. And I think it's important for this team to bring in a fresh, young running back with great talent.
As far as defense is concerned, it's tough to tell because I don't think there are any gaping holes in the defense. But it seems very, very likely that this team is going to lose Lito Sheppard so I think you need another top corner. And I also wouldn't mind seeing them bring in another talented, pass-rushing defensive end. I don't think you can ever have enough of those.