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At season’s end, Eagles see reason to ‘hold heads high’


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At season’s end, Eagles see reason to ‘hold heads high’



There is training camp and then the preseason, regular-season games and then the playoffs, the Super Bowl, free agency, the draft, draftniks explaining how they all got the draft all wrong, and then minicamps. Then it all starts again.

The NFL calendar is like that. It’s seamless, an eternal wave designed to keep customers fixated on what comes next, with barely a pause to enjoy what just occurred. As for the Eagles, there would be a day and a half for that after a 31-15 season-ending loss Sunday in Tampa. So they took whatever they could from a 9-9 season that was better than most expected, then turned almost melancholy about it ending.

They’d earned that much.

"It’s like anything,” T.J. Edwards said, zooming from the NewsControl Compound amid the clean-out-the-lockers routine. "You look at the bad, and the things we could have fixed, or what we could have done. But you also look at the good and how far we came as a team, just getting to know one another and the chemistry that was built throughout the year.

"You go through a lot of adversity during a year. But to say you were able to do it with a team that didn’t ever want to give up – even in the last game we were fighting to the very end – it’s something that makes you want to hold your head up high.”

There was nothing about the Eagles’ season to command a rush-order appendix to the franchise encyclopedia. They were good, not great, and were right to be defined by their inability to defeat any playoff teams. Yet for what they had to work with and for where they were after seven games, the way they bonded to maximize their potential was worth acknowledging.

"You have to remember all the things that went into making us the 2021 Eagles, the meetings, the practices, the training camp,” Nick Sirianni said. "And you get sad, sad because it is over. But you are so happy that it happened.”

It happened and it wasn’t a reason to laugh, not for what Jeff Lurie forks over every payday. But the occasional .500 season can be enjoyed, and that’s what Rodney McLeod was thinking Sunday. A heavy contributor to the Eagles’ only Super Bowl championship team and thus aware of the greater purpose of a football season, there he was expressing a fondness for a team that didn’t even win a postseason game.

At 31 with an expired contract, McLeod knows that the next time he is introduced at the Linc it likely will be to window-rattling applause at the five-year championship-team reunion. But if the 2021 Eagles ever want to quietly get together and exaggerate stories, he’d likely make it a point to show up early and stay late.

"The seas change every single year,” the veteran safety said. "My future here is unknown. This is not how I wanted it to end if this is the last time for me. But at the end of the day, I am proud of my guys, proud of what we were able to overcome this year and what we were able to do with this team.”

Not every mediocre professional team is that way. Few are, really. Typically, the players demand to look forward, and that is the healthy, professional approach. But that’s what made the drumbeat from the Eagles so different in the hours following a disaster of a postseason performance: They did not want to let it go.

"We look at what we did, everybody counted us out,” Fletcher Cox said. "It was, ‘Fire everybody.’ But inside the building, we knew the culture that Mr. Lurie has created and the culture that Nick has brought in. And nobody was giving up. We didn’t let that outside noise get to us.

"Take a look at what we did. Look at where we came from. We were 2-5 and we could have just checked out. But we didn’t.”

The plan, solid and responsible, is for Sirianni to add to what he began to build this season. That will require changes, some major. Cox doesn’t know if he’ll return. McLeod doesn’t know if he’ll return. Jalen Hurts must grow as a quarterback. The Eagles have loaded up on cap space and have collected three first-round draft choices for a reason, and it wasn’t so new players could sit behind the 2021 crowd and take pride in being a one-and-done playoff team.

"Next year,” Hurts said Monday, "begins today.”

As it should. But a gust of respect was not out of order, either.

"We’re just appreciative of the moment and cherishing the moment,” McLeod said. "Because this team will never be the same again.”

It shouldn’t. It can’t. It won’t. The NFL does not function that way. Nothing stands still for long.

Every once in a while, though, it’s OK if, briefly, it does.


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I'm glad the players didn't quit on the team, but let's be honest. A mediocre Eagles team did well in the 2nd half of the season due in large part to a soft schedule. String those wins together against a murderers row of playoff teams and everyone takes notice. As it is, they beat some bad teams, so I guess they don't completely stink as a team, but they need a lot of upgrades.

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