The Kansas City Chiefs represent what every NFL franchise wants: Long-term stability in the front office with a strong draft record, a head coach who has an established program and experienced coaches around him, a roster that features a star quarterback and Pro Bowl pieces around him, and an organization that knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl and how to be in contention virtually every season. So, understanding the opponent, Sunday is a terrific test for an Eagles team that has some of the above pieces and is working toward achieving the other elements on the list.
To beat Kansas City, the Eagles certainly know they have to play a great football game Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. They know they have to take advantage of the opportunities that will come their way. They know that their mistakes – penalties, turnovers, dropped passes, missed tackles, etc. – must be minimal.
In a short week coming off a tough loss and now owning a two-game losing streak, the Eagles are in an early-season moment: They've got some adversity to face. This is a testing time for a first-year head coach implementing his program, a quarterback making his eighth NFL start, and a roster that is learning how to win together.
"Moving forward, I think it's about the attitude that you have, the actions that you have and that will breed into belief and confidence and executing and doing the things we want to do," quarterback Jalen Hurts said. "This is how it's supposed to be. We're going to attack the situation we're in and everything we're in and continue to grow."
The Eagles are not a finished product with what they're building. In the stage of development the Eagles are in, taking into account the big picture, one eye is on the present and one eye is on the two-to-three-year snapshot of a football franchise. When Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie made the decision to end the tenure of Head Coach Doug Pederson following the 2020 season, he used the word "transition" to describe the state of the Eagles. It was a fair characterization for a team that had pointed so many of its resources toward the most recent window of seasons that produced a Lombardi Trophy and three playoff appearances and, inevitably, a "next phase."
And that's where the Eagles are right now, in that "next phase." They've integrated youth into the lineup to complement their veteran presence. They're still growing into the offensive and defensive schemes introduced by Head Coach Nick Sirianni and Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen, along with Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon six months ago at the start of April's offseason program. There have been setbacks in the form of season-ending injuries to two key players – defensive end Brandon Graham and offensive guard Isaac Seumalo. There has been growth illustrated by the production of young players like Hurts and the young wide receivers and defensive linemen.
Through three games what we've seen of the Eagles has been pretty much on target for what you'd expect with a team that is still learning about itself: A strong Game 1 win in Atlanta, a missed-opportunities loss to the 49ers, and then a loss at Dallas that was disappointing for everyone.
So now it's time to rebound into another challenge.
On the other sideline on Sunday is Andy Reid, one of the game's great head coaches, of course. He spent 14 seasons in Philadelphia and by the time he was finished here Reid was recognized as a top-shelf head coach. His coaching days weren't all bright and sunny, though. Reid's Eagles in 1999 lost their first four games – a blown-lead loss to the Cardinals, an ugly 19-5 slog defeat to Tampa Bay, a 26-0 domination by Buffalo in Week 3, and then a 16-15 loss to the Giants that featured a safety, two field goals from the offense, and a Bobby Taylor interception return for a touchdown.
Four games into his head coaching career in Philadelphia, Andy Reid was not a legend. He was a developing head coach trying to find his way in the league and learning about his personnel every day, including a rookie quarterback in Donovan McNabb. The Eagles won in Week 5 that season when Pederson, then the starting quarterback, found wide receiver Charles Johnson on a 28-yard touchdown pass with just over one minute to play and the Eagles won their first game, over the Dallas Cowboys at Veterans Stadium.
The Eagles finished 5-11 in 1999. It was a "transition" year for the football team, which we all know then launched into a long era of success – just missing the ultimate prize.
With all of that in mind, the point is this: It takes time to build a program and restock a roster and develop a championship culture and do all the things the Kansas City Chiefs have done in the seasons they've rebuilt their franchise with Reid in charge. The Eagles know that. They know where they are at this season. They know they learned some positives about themselves in Atlanta. They know they kicked themselves for squandering the chances they had to defeat San Francisco. And they know how they were beaten by the Cowboys in every phase of the game.
The Eagles own all of this. And now they own a new opportunity early in this 2021 season to go toe-to-toe against one of the best teams the league has to offer. They know they have a chance on Sunday to "continue to grow," as Hurts said. They know they will be on the field and they will compete with Kansas City and they will play hard and they will have to be at their absolute best to win this game.
This is what Sunday represents for the Eagles – a chance to measure up, on the rebound after Monday's loss, against a Super Bowl-contending football team. How they respond will be a revealing experience to consider both in the short team and in the big picture as the Eagles put their football program together with an eye on long-term, consistent, contending success.