How the Philadelphia Eagles Built a Super Bowl Champion


When the clock hit 0:00 and the confetti began to fall from the rafters, a surreal feeling imbued the city of Philadelphia and Eagles fans everywhere: the Philadelphia Eagles, a team long tormented by its constant failure in attaining its first NFL title since 1960, just won their first Super Bowl. Thanks to the heroics of backup QB and game MVP Nick Foles, who played as near-perfect a game as one can play in the Super Bowl, the Eagles torched the Patriots defense to the tune of a 41-33 win.

While it may have taken only a moment for this surreal feeling to wear off and for Philadelphia to begin the arduous process of burning itself to the ground, winning the title was a process that began in the offseason, as any coach or player will tell you. Going beyond even that, the process of creating the 2017 Eagles roster, a meticulous task that resulted in the most talented team this season, began half a decade ago, with a long-time coach in the opening stages of a great rebuild. It was a difficult journey, one that spanned three coaches, featured an outcast quarterback return to the fold, and will perhaps lead to even more success in the coming years.

2012 Draft

Fletcher Cox (1st round), Mychal Kendricks (2nd), Vinny Curry (2nd), Nick Foles (3rd)

Andrew Luck may have gone No. 1 overall, but the 2012 Draft will now forever be known for giving the Eagles three of the starters on its championship roster this year. While Andy Reid may have been run out of town for the questionable play calling and team management over his final years on the team, he has always had a keen eye for talent. Drafting Cox was wise as he’s now the team’s best pass rusher on the best defensive line in the NFL, Kendricks is a longtime starter at linebacker, Foles is the Super Bowl MVP, and a depth piece in Curry turned out to be one of the most pivotal moments in team history.

2013 Draft

Lane Johnson (1st), Zach Ertz (2nd)

After winning just four games in 2012, Reid got canned, and the Eagles drafted offensive tackle Lane Johnson and tight end Zach Ertz. Almost five years later, Johnson has established himself as the best lineman on what has been voted the best offensive line in football. Meanwhile, Ertz has evolved into one of the best receiving TE’s in all of football, and his touchdown late in the fourth quarter proved to be the winning score of the Super Bowl.

2014 Draft

Jaylen Watkins (4th), Trey Burton (Undrafted)

Chip Kelly’s 2014 Draft was largely a disaster, with first-rounder Marcus Smith epitomizing a class that did not last long in Philly. However, finding two diamonds in the rough in CB Jaylen Watkins and TE Trey Burton — whose touchdown pass to Nick Foles became the play of the game — provided the Eagles with two key playmakers.

2014/2015 Offseasons

Brandon Graham, Malcolm Jenkins

During two tumultuous offseasons under Kelly, the only free agent signings to still play valuable roles on the Eagles roster today came in the form of DE Brandon Graham and safety Malcolm Jenkins. This year, Graham’s 9.5 sacks and an opportune strip-sack of Tom Brady in the waning moments of the Super Bowl were invaluable contributions to Philly’s success. In the secondary, Jenkins, now a team captain, has become a cornerstone of the defense due to his play on the field, as well as his emotional leadership.

2015 Draft

Nelson Agholor (1st), Jordan Hicks (3rd)

WR Nelson Agholor, while initially cast off as a bust, took flight in 2017. His eight TD’s on the season and status as deep ball threat plagued defenses all year, and his 84 yards in the Super Bowl provided a stable target for Foles to work with. Linebacker Jordan Hicks, while often injured, has established himself as a leader on defense, and teammates sorely missed his play after a midseason injury.

2016 Offseason

Chip Kelly fired; Howie Roseman regains personnel decisions again

Doug Pederson announced as coach; Jim Schwartz named DC; Frank Reich named OC; John DeFilippo named QB coach

Brandon Brooks, Rodney McLeod, Nigel Bradham

After a disastrous 2015 season, the Eagles sent Chip Kelly packing, which opened the door for not only Doug Pederson and excellent coaching staff but also allowed for GM Howie Roseman to regain powers lost to Kelly. Roseman’s navigation to the No. 2 overall pick should become the model for GMs everywhere, and his ability to scout incredible talent has become evident, with nearly all of his moves panning out. As for player acquisition, plenty of members in this fearsome Eagles defense came over during this offseason, with safety Rodney McLeod and LB Nigel Bradham playing crucial roles in this year’s Super Bowl run. Brooks, meanwhile, solidified an already strong offensive line.

2016 Draft

Carson Wentz (1st), Halapoulivaati Vaitai (5th), Jalen Mills (7th)

In one draft, the Eagles morphed from a franchise with little direction after the ouster of Chip Kelly into a franchise with limitless potential. After multiple trades up in the draft, Philadelphia shocked the world and traded up for the No. 2 overall pick, eventually selecting QB Carson Wentz on draft night. Before a late-season injury, Wentz looked like a real MVP candidate, with his 33 passing TD’s only surpassed by Russell Wilson, but I didn’t have to tell you that. When LT Jason Peters went down midseason, Vaitai took on the daunting challenge of replacing one of the cornerstones of the Eagles’ line. He met the challenge head-on and impressed many with his adaptability. Mills, a gem taken in the final round of the draft, played in seventeen games this season with 125 total tackles and three INTs.

2017 Free Agency

Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery, Foles again, Chris Long, Patrick Robinson, Timmy Jernigan, LeGarrette Blount

WRs Smith and Jeffery proved invaluable to Wentz in his second pro season, as their reliability and playmaking spread the field and allowed the young quarterback to throw downfield with confidence. Both receivers made big plays in the playoffs as well, with Jeffery’s incredible catch in the first quarter providing the opening touchdown of the Super Bowl. Long and Jernigan added such a playmaking depth to the front line of the defense that teams had trouble running the ball all season, and Robinson’s pick-six against the Vikings flipped the momentum for the rest of the game. The signing of Foles, a QB who had familiarity with much of the roster, proved invaluable once Wentz went down for the season, and his 375 passing yards in the Super Bowl paved the way for Philly to win its first NFL title in over fifty years.

2017 Draft

Derek Barnett (1st), Rasul Douglas (3rd), Mack Hollins (4th), Corey Clement (Undrafted)

The 2017 Draft provided defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz with the finishing touches on his defensive line. Derek Barnett, who broke Reggie White’s —yes, that Eagle’s legend — Tennessee sack record while in college, impressed all season, starting almost immediately and recovering the crucial Tom Brady fumble to all but seal an Eagles’ Super Bowl. Douglas and Hollins, while not integral to the Eagles’ success, greatly contributed when called upon and should find larger roles in the future. Clement, however, initially had to earn his spot on the roster and found one when fellow RB Donnel Pumphrey had to be placed on IR before the season. Clement’s versatility in the offense proved invaluable, and his key touchdown in the third quarter of the Super Bowl proved to be the difference.

2017 Season

Jay Ajayi, Jake Elliott

When K Caleb Sturgis went down early in the season, Pederson signed Jake Elliott to replace him, and the Eagles felt his impact immediately. His game-winning 61-yard field goal to defeat the Giants became a crucial victory, and he had an almost perfect record after that. During the middle of the season, Roseman struck gold again, trading just a fourth rounder to the Dolphins in exchange for RB Jay Ajayi, who took over the Eagles’ workload in the run game.

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Published on 2/7/18 at 8:00 AM EST. Photo credit: Sports Illustrated.
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