I just finished ESPN's "The Last Dance," an extraordinary 10-part documentary following Michael Jordan's 1997-98 season with the Chicago Bulls, the final year of a remarkable NBA run during which the Bulls captured six championships in eight seasons. Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, ended his Bulls tenure on top as he broke the ankles of Utah Jazz defender Bryon Russell and drained a jump shot to provide the winning points in Game 6 of that NBA Championship Series.
It was some of the best sports television I've ever enjoyed as the 10 parts traced the life of Jordan from his childhood days in Wilmington, North Carolina through his collegiate seasons at North Carolina to the NBA, to a dramatic shift to professional baseball at the minor league level and then a return to the NBA, where Jordan and the Bulls pulled off their second three-peat and Jordan cemented his on-court legacy.
Everything about the series was brilliant – from the behind-the-scenes footage, to the current interviews with key figures from the era, to the recollections from Jordan so many years later, and the raw emotions of the moment – and it got me thinking about the 2020 Eagles and the task that is ahead.
There is no Michael Jordan on this team, but that's not the point. The Bulls required some time to put together a championship team. Then they re-tooled the roster and came back with another three consecutive championships and while Jordan was clearly the dominating presence, he required the right pieces around him and then the championship chemistry spun together from the center of the universe, Jordan. The dynasty was a team effort, then, from upper management to the locker room, scouting, the public relations department, the marketing and sales staff, the ticket department, and the team security.
That is how championship teams win. Everyone plays a part, and everyone understands the role. All of the pieces are moving in the same, unified direction – and if you think Dennis Rodman was an outlier in this scenario, I disagree. I would call him "unique" for his off-the-court ways (and blowing off a practice during a Finals Series is stretching it, I know), but Rodman was there when the Bulls needed him. He backed up his erratic behavior – and everyone sacrifices for the greater good.
The Eagles won Super Bowl LII because they had a good football team, a roster put together expertly, some breaks during the course of the season and, more than anything, trust in each other, in the entire organization, and an unsurpassed level of confidence starting with Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Head Coach Doug Pederson.
And a World Championship was won.
That was the 2017 season, the past tense. We're three full seasons later. Every team in the NFL is 0-0 and conducting an offseason unlike any other. Pederson has the team in its virtual offseason program and things are going well and the players are responding, and the head coach is trying to do even more to create that special chemistry even with the pieces scattered throughout the country. Pederson is emphasizing "trust" and "stronger together" and he's had the players send in workout clips and compete for the offseason championship belt, trying to implement fun and competitiveness into the process. Pederson has brought in speakers like Phil Jackson and Steve Kerr (according to Brandon Graham), both of whom were prominently featured in "The Last Dance," men whom the players would hear and understand and to whom they would relate.
That "trust" extends beyond the locker room, of course. When the NFL and the respective states clear the teams to return to their practice facilities and Training Camp begins, whenever that is, an entire organization comes more into the picture. It's going to require a collaborative, cohesive, and integrated effort to make it all work as seamlessly as possible.
Watching "The Last Dance" brought back incredible memories of watching Jordan, first as he and the Tar Heels defeated my Temple Owls in the NCAA Basketball Tournament in the 1984 East Regional Second Round in Charlotte and all the way through his NBA career. His level of talent and competitiveness was unmatched. It's certainly interesting that, as an NBA executive with the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats, Jordan has yet to craft a winner. On the court, he could control so much of the game. Off it, he relies on others to put the ball in the basket, and that's clearly a problem for Jordan.
More than that, though, it reminded me from a team perspective how it really does require a village to win it all. We're in uncertain times with an unpredictable future ahead. Pederson's mantra of "trust" is appropriate. Trust, from the top on down, is the foundation on which to build a Super Bowl winner, now more than ever. The virtual offseason program is one thing for the football coaches and players. The remainder of the organization is in its own virtual offseason, which everyone needs to respect. The roles change, the responsibilities blend, and everyone works together to create a championship environment for the football staff, the fans, the City of Philadelphia.
While Jordan was amazing, and this is not in any way a slight to him, the Bulls winning all of those titles was more than just one man and his best-in-the-world talents. It was Jordan and everything and everyone around him working together to make the pieces fit.
In football, the ultimate team game, the concept goes to another level and with the current world, it's at a level we've never experienced. Everyone has to do his/her part. Stay the course. Know your role. Do what is best to win for everybody. That's what the Eagles did in the 2017 season. That's what is needed now as the Eagles start their fifth week of the offseason program, looking for a victory one day at a time.