Amid the feeling of intense disappointment, there is this from linebacker Haason Reddick, who spoke in the locker room at the NovaCare Complex on the morning the team held its exit physicals, locker cleanouts, and season-review conversations with their position coach along with Head Coach Nick Sirianni. It is the most depressing day of an NFL season, a reminder that there is only one team that feels good when it is all over.
"People have to understand, there are 32 teams in the NFL and only two teams get to go to the Super Bowl. Win, lose, or draw, we were one of those teams," Reddick said. "I know we didn't get the job done, but we were one of those teams to make it out of 32 teams. The way we connected this year, the way we built and grew this year as a team, man, it's going to look different, but we're going to have guys come back that know what it looks like. We're going to have guys coming back who know what it takes to get to the Super Bowl and that's why I have no doubt.
"We have great character on this team, we have great players on this team, great coaches. We're going to come in, connect like we did this year, continue to build that bond, grow again, continue to fight for it, fight for our goals. Hopefully, next year we can get to the Super Bowl and win it this time. We saw how the process works, how to get to the Super Bowl."
In other words, let the comeback be greater than the setback.
"It stings. It stings," quarterback Jalen Hurts said. "But I'm embracing everything that comes with it and I'm embracing the challenge ahead. This team will have that mentality moving forward. I'm going to have that mentality and there is a true eagerness to move forward with the right intensity, the right focus, the right type of fortitude."
Hurts is a big reason for the organizational optimism – he was absolutely brilliant on the Super Bowl stage accounting for 374 total offensive yards, four touchdowns, and a two-point conversion made of sheer will, strength, and determination. The Eagles will continue to build around Hurts and allow him to be the best he can be, and many of those pieces are already in place with a great offensive line in front of him, star pass catchers down the field, and a high degree of promise in the backfield.
There are certainly questions here, and there are going to be tough decisions to be made moving forward, but that's the theme of every offseason. The roster is going to have change, as Reddick said and as is the case each season.
Philadelphia also has the advantage of having draft capital in the form of two first-round draft picks – Nos. 10 and 30 – among its six selections and also understanding that Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman has options with both of those first-night pieces. Who knows what becomes of 10 and 30? The Eagles have to figure out where they are going with the current roster and the players scheduled for unrestricted free agency, among them running back Miles Sanders and right guard Isaac Seumalo on offense and linemen Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, and Fletcher Cox, linebackers T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, defensive backs James Bradberry, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and Marcus Epps on defense. There is the matter of replacing coordinators Shane Steichen, now the head coach in Indianapolis, and Jonathan Gannon, who is taking the top job in Arizona.
It starts right away: The NFL Combine begins in two weeks, the team's offseason program begins a week after that, free agency opens with contract negotiations between agents and teams on March 13, and the NFL Draft is on the clock on April 27.
Roseman, as we know, is the best in the business at keeping one eye on the present and one eye on the future, so it's not like any of this is a surprise. His 2022 Eagles Rookie Class includes defensive tackle Jordan Davis, center/guard Cam Jurgens, and linebacker Nakobe Dean, all of whom are hungry to make the jump and earn significant playing time. All three showed signs of being those kinds of players, and Roseman's Plan of Succession is very well strategized.
There is certainly an emotional and physical demand a long Super Bowl run extracts from a team, so the Eagles will have to manage that, but this team has been there before. Nobody suggests this is going to be easy, but nothing is easy in the NFL and the rest of the league isn't feeling sympathy for a team that had such a wonderful 2022 season and a dominating postseason run to the Super Bowl, only to lose in the final seconds of the ultimate victory.
Everything is about competition here, so embrace it. That's what the Eagles are going to do as they transition to looking forward. The 24-hour rule is in effect, says Hurts, who one year ago was the overriding question about this football team. That was the theme back then, right? Could Jalen Hurts become a "franchise" quarterback for the Eagles?
Nobody is asking any longer, are they? Hurts has become an elite player, the kind of 24-year-old star and leader around whom a franchise builds, and that is what the Eagles will continue to do as they begin the climb back to the top of the league. We're all 0-0 right now, in the same place as last year but with a far brighter and more confident outlook of what is ahead.