With a second consecutive 7-9 year in the books, the Eagles head into the offseason once again disappointed with the result of their play. But, 2016's seven-win season couldn't be more different than the one the team finished with in 2015.
Unlike that year, Philadelphia successfully showed it is growing, improving and becoming a team that competes to the very end, until the last play is finished. So, although the players didn't want to pack up their lockers on January 2, they did so with hope for what the future will bring.
"It definitely feels different. I feel like last year we were trending in the wrong direction at 7-9, where now I feel like we're trending up," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "It's different when you have stability at the head coaching job, you got stability at the quarterback position, and now you feel like we just got to build around that and add a few things here or there. Hopefully, we can have an uneventful offseason for once, but the feeling is definitely different than in years past.
"There are a lot of things that we did that we're proud of. It's kind of one of those integral parts of the growth process, I think, that the team is going through. Everybody is disappointed with the outcome, but we learned a lot of lessons. We learned about ourselves. I know we're really optimistic about moving forward."
The Eagles were 1-6 in one-score games during the regular season and only three losses were decided by more than 10 points. Two of those three defeats were at the hands of the now-NFC West and NFC North champions, the Seahawks and the Packers.
Such was not the case in 2015. That season, Philadelphia lost five games by 10 or more points and three games by 20 or more points, including a painful Thanksgiving Day blowout against the Lions.
"We took some bad ones the year before where we were like, 'Wow, we're not even in this game at all,'" wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. "We were in every single game (this year), so the narrative changed from this team needs to get a lot better to this team needs to finish games. That's a totally different thing. Now we just need to get to the point where we learn how to win."
"The long road that we did have, obviously you see at the end that we didn't give up," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox explained. "I've been on teams where people are like, 'Alright, we're not going to make it. Let's go out here and get these games over with.' But, that wasn't this team. We went out and won the last two games of the season. It says a lot about this team and the direction that we're headed to."
After enduring a five-game losing streak, the Eagles finished out the year with back-to-back victories over division opponents. Clearly, their solid play was too little, too late to salvage this season, but the wins against the Giants and Cowboys show that Philadelphia has a solid foundation moving forward.
Now, the team needs to take the lessons it learned and apply them in 2017 and beyond.
"When you look at it, it's three plays in one game, three plays in this other game, one play in this other game. It's crazy but that's why you have to make sure you pay attention to detail in those moments," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "I think a lot of young guys got to experience those moments this year, and I think when we put ourselves in those next year, we'll make those plays."