The run of success was a good one, a strong one and something that this franchise had not accomplished: 9 playoff appearances in a span of 11 seasons and appearances in 5 NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl.
That kind of sustained success raised the bar, and it made the 2011 and 2012 seasons that much more painful. We expected the Eagles to get back to the upper echelon of the NFC and when they didn't, the crash was more painful than any experienced in a long, long time.
As 2013 comes into focus, piece by piece, the reality is that we just don't know what to expect. The goal remains the same, as it does with every NFL team. You win the Super Bowl or you aren't happy. That's life in this league.
But how can anyone really think they know what Chip Kelly is all about? He had great success in college and he's been great so far as the head coach here. Gosh, I love hearing the guy talk. He has the "IT" factor, if you know what I mean. Now he just has to go out and win football game.
How Kelly feels about the roster, and the changes he has in mind, even in these early stages, only he knows. Kelly hired his coaching staff in the span of three weeks and has not yet explained his choices (he will do so on Monday, and our LIVE coverage on PhiladelphiaEagles.com begins at 1 p.m.). Truth be told, I've never seen such interest in a coaching staff that includes Shaun Huls, the sports science coordinator who "served as the head strength and conditioning coach and combatives coordinator for Navy Special Warfare. The guy trained Navy Seals, a particular love of Kelly's. How that translates to the NFL is tremendously interesting to me.
Anyway, we're at a point where the Eagles, after so many years of the familiar stability, have a lot of change at hand. There is no talk about "Super Bowl or bust" because, simply, who knows? This is a crazy league. Anything can happen and we all acknowledge that. But the Eagles were 4-12 after an 8-8 2011 and, well, just how much are the Eagles going to rip up the roster?
With that uncertainty comes a supremely high level of excitement and anticipation and, yes, uncertainty. The back-to-back bad seasons lead to a lot of questions that Kelly and Co. have to answer and the only way we're going to know those answers is to count the wins in the regular season and, hopefully, beyond.
Now that the coaching staff is resolved, the Eagles have some roster conversations to have and decisions to make. There are a few players -- notably quarterback Michael Vick and both starting cornerbacks from a season ago -- who have contract issues to resolve. Do the Eagles bring Vick back as a starter or competitor for the starting job? How about Nnamdi Asomugha, whose contract bursts to $15.5 million, reportedly, or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is slated to be an unrestricted free agent on March 12? Who stays? Who goes?
It's fair, then, to have reservations about the ceiling for 2013. How does anyone know just how far away the Eagles are from being a Super Bowl team?
So we calibrate as we follow every movement from the team. We discuss, dissect and then reserve evaluation for the results, for the wins and the losses and the ultimate success when the games count in September.
I like what I know so far. I think Kelly is a super-smart guy with a great vision, from what I know of his plans. I like Pat Shurmur very much from prior understanding of his offensive success. I like the things I've heard from Bill Davis and from those who have worked with him.
The rest? I'm like you. I learn in bits and pieces and an accumulation of observations from one day to the next. Win the day! is the mantra around here. It's only fair, then, to take this in small gulps and to reserve praise or criticism until we understand how good the Eagles are when it all comes together and we see the team on the field.
Between now and then, geez, have fun. See how Kelly builds his program. He certainly has his way of doing things, with a very confident strategy, and the aim is the same as it is every day. He's here to win, one day at a time.