I guess this is an admission of sorts (not that you are unaware of this, but just saying): I've been here for a long, long time, dating back to my Eagles Digest days that started in 1989, and through many of those early years players had an, um, unflattering view of the organization. There was an exodus when free agency in the NFL started (it was called Plan B free agency back then) and the general perception of playing for the Philadelphia Eagles was just not a positive one.
That all changed when Jeffrey Lurie purchased the team in 1994 and had the first full season under his stewardship a year later. There is absolutely no question in my mind that, had Lurie owned the team a couple of years earlier, he would have done everything possible to keep superstar defensive end Reggie White on the team. Instead, then-Owner Norman Braman was fine with White leaving the Eagles and signing with the Green Bay Packers, a disaster for this football team all the way around.
Without question, the Eagles are now a premier organization and the wins and losses reflect that. The Eagles have been an enormously successful franchise since Lurie took over and that continues with a bright and prosperous and hopeful present and future for the team, as Lurie discussed last week at the NFL Annual Meeting.
We know the worldwide reach the Eagles have, we know the incredible passion of the fan base and how it dominates this region, and we understand and appreciate the environment Lincoln Financial Field presents when the team plays there.
Monday was a chance to gain a different perspective with new defensive lineman Kentavius Street – call him "Street" only; that's his preference for clarity because he's heard too many times people butcher the pronunciation of his first name – who agreed to terms on Friday on a one-year contract and then arrived in South Philadelphia on Monday, took his physical, met the team including coaches, athletic trainers, the equipment staff, the strength and conditioning team, and a whole lot of staff members as he toured through the NovaCare Complex and did some media and maybe the best part – lunch.
The role Street will have in 2023 remains to be seen, of course, but he's been a good rotational player since recovering from a pre-2018 NFL Draft knee injury and last season was a valuable part of the New Orleans Saints line rotation. He thinks his best football is ahead of him and he could be right: There is a ton of tread on the tire of a sixth-year defensive lineman who last season played 46 percent of the snaps in the Saints' defense and had 3.5 sacks and career numbers across the board.
What was enlightening to see, and to be reminded of, was Street's reaction to being here, to actually being an Eagle for a few hours, and the immediate reaction he gained from the team.
"It's been amazing he said, smiling and laughing. "I wanted to make sure it was as heartfelt as it seemed. I feel like a lot of times when you have visits like this you feel, 'Aw, it's good. It's great.' But no, this has been, like, the greatest – what, like six hours? – being around an organization I've ever experienced. Everyone is smiling, everyone is happy, been so inviting, welcoming. It's a lot of love in this organization. I really like that," Street said.
"I really feel like everyone loves what they're doing here."
Taken in that vein, then, it's probably the best first impression a team can provide. The Eagles have long talked about the "culture" of the organization, of the building, and creating that and maintaining it is incredibly challenging given the transient nature of the NFL. It all points back to Lurie and the people he has around him and the respect everyone feels from the top down.
The Eagles are a destination location in the NFL and that is not to be taken lightly. There is no question that there are other factors to consider when players are making decisions on where to play – finances, positional opportunities, playing time, scheme, etc. – but let's be clear: Culture has a lot to do with it, too. Players love being in the NovaCare Complex, a home away from home. They love, honestly, how much the organization gives back to the community. They love playing in Philadelphia, one of the great football and sports cities in the world. They love the interaction with the fans, who players understand really, really, truly care.
It takes a village to be a top, top, top organization and that's what the Eagles are and will continue to be.
"I've been watching these guys since I was a puppy," Street said, invoking the names of past Eagles like former safety Brian Dawkins and defensive end Trent Cole. "Fletch (tackle Fletcher Cox) and BG (defensive end Brandon Graham) have been setting the standard for defensive linemen for a long time now and having the opportunity to be in the building with these guys, going to practice, going to war with these guys, is going to be huge. I think it's going to add so much to my game. Just being able to pick their brains, see what they see, react on how they react, pass rush how they pass rush. Try to add that to my game, I know I can only get better, I can only add to what Fletch has been doing, what BG has been doing.
"Go in here and fulfill my role to the utmost capabilities of what I can do."
Isn't that the kind of player an organization wants? Someone who knows nothing is going to be handed to him, someone who has worked hard to get to where he is, and someone who appreciates, truly appreciates, the opportunity in front of him.
That's how the Eagles are built, and taking all of this into the proper context and understanding where the organization was so many years ago, it's nice to have someone walk into the building and feel it right away.