By Dave Spadaro
What made the 2017 Eagles’ Super Bowl season so special is that the locker room functioned as never before. A team-first, no-egos approach worked wonders for the team on the march to winning Super Bowl LII. Head coach Doug Pederson worked hard to create that culture, and the effort paid off with a championship season.
Well, that team is no longer these Eagles. As free agency opened in the NFL, the Eagles were aggressively making moves and challenging the roster. Faced with tough decisions in the NFL’s salary-cap world, the Eagles made some moves met with concern. Salaries were jettisoned. Trades were made.
The old gang ain’t coming back together for 2018.
The debate in the next many weeks as the Eagles continue to upgrade the roster — they certainly believe they are doing just that — is going to be whether, for example, the Eagles have made themselves better along the defensive line with Michael Bennett. And just how much will the Eagles miss wide receiver Torrey Smith’s speed and big-play ability in the offense?
But the real question is what happens with the Eagles’ in-house chemistry? How can they possibly duplicate that remarkable esprit de corps from last season? That the Eagles lost so many players with season-ending injuries and had ready replacements in place to keep the team winning all the way through the Super Bowl was, certainly, a credit to the coaching staff for developing the players and making sure they were put in positions to play well, and it’s also very much a kudos to the players themselves for filling so many holes created by the injuries.
The intangible in the entire Super Bowl equation was the locker room love. The Eagles had themselves a true brotherhood that put the team first in every regard, and we saw how that commitment made a difference on the field. The Eagles never flinched in the face of adversity. They never let a world of doubters seep into their team structure.
That team structure is going to be different in 2018. It’s too early to say whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
It’s just a different thing now.
No question it’s tough for fans to see some of the favored players leave town, players who were here long enough to make an imprint in the region’s fiber. Unfortunately, that’s business in the Not For Long. The Eagles won a Super Bowl on Feb. 4. Less than six weeks later, the shine from the Super Bowl has faded into reality: It’s on to next year for everyone.
This is football version of the chicken-vs-egg theory. How much of winning is talent? How much is chemistry in the locker room? The Eagles want to replicate what they did in 2017 in every way and that includes locker-room culture. With 53 players and 53 different personalities, an NFL locker room is unlike any other. It is a bubbling cauldron of emotions every day.
What the Eagles have done, out of necessity mostly, is change the dynamic. As much as on-field ability is a factor, so is the fit in the locker room. Let’s see how that develops as the roster changes in the next couple of months.