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November 21, 2022

John McMullen: Eagles' gamble on big names must end in a championship

From connectivity to opening the door of the NovaCare Complex to a band of mercenaries intent on stealing a ring, the Eagles’ have quickly morphed from the little engine built on intangibles to a George Steinbrenner-like collection of stars.

On Sunday it worked out wonderfully with Linval Joseph, who has been in the organization for four days making a case for the best defensive player on the field in a rare double-digit fourth-quarter comeback 17-16 win over Indianapolis. It was he organization’s first since the famed Miracle at the New Meadowlands in Dec. 2010 when DeSean Jackson walked it off with a punt return TD.

This version of the Eagles has gone from the underdogs the city always frames them as to the heavy favorites in the NFC at 9-1 who might as well start arriving to the sound of the "The Imperial March" from "Star Wars" if and when Jordan Davis, Avonte Maddox, and Dallas Goedert return from injury.

Since the trade deadline, Howie Roseman has brought in Robert Quinn, Joseph, and Ndamukong Suh to play half a season and a playoff run. That’s it.

The brass at the NovaCare Complex is the NFL’s “Not-F@#$ing-around crew,” onboarding Quinn to help a pass rush that was already top five in the league using every available advanced metric. Then came piling on seven Pro Bowl berths and five All-Pro nods as the response to allowing 3.1 yards per carry and a back-breaking 11-yard run Brian Robinson and the Washington Commanders a week ago.

The hint there is that the loss against Washington was as well-rounded as the previous eight wins with the offense’s inability to stay on the field while playing with too much tempo, the always shaky special teams, and the back seven’s worst communication day since Week 1 in Detroit. Combining that with the just-poor enough run defense on early downs creates the perfect story of a mediocre team with a limited quarterback pulling off the upset.

The reactions to that in general were probably overkill, preferring the flamethrower to the surgical knife of self-correction en route to a probable 14-or-so win season.

There are positives, though, and they start with no one being able to claim the Eagles aren’t trying to win. The organization is doing everything possible to make sure this particular championship window isn’t wasted.

Every action creates a reaction and Nick Sirianni’s first core coaching principle is the aforementioned connection. The coach might seem a bit too Ted Lasso-ish at times for some, but his philosophy is real and it’s one of the reasons why Roseman believes you can bring in outsiders without upsetting the apple cart.

More so, the Eagles’ three mercenaries are good teammates, lauded in their previous stops, even Suh, who developed a bit of a reputation for the two games he missed over the years and not the 191 he played. Darius Slay, who was with Suh in Detroit, even said the big defensive tackle taught him how to be a professional.

The Bears are essentially paying Quinn to play for Philadelphia and Joseph and Suh got the same deal, a $250,000 signing bonus, $750K in base salary, $250K in per-game roster bonuses, plus $1.25 million in potential incentives. If all goes to plan, they will both pocket $2.5M and a Super Bowl ring.

The calculated gamble will play out on the field and the early returns are positive. Joseph with four stops and Suh with three against the Colts with the Hollywood moment being the new duo sharing a sack.

Sirianni’s five core coaching principles – connecting, competition, accountability, football intelligence, and fundamentals – are both trumped or perhaps helped by Roseman’s plan to get the most difference-making players.

And who knows?

In the 1,347th prequel or sequel perhaps Lasso is in charge of the Empire and maybe Miles Sanders was onto something in the offseason when he reimagined Vice Young’s “Dream Team” to “All-Star Team.”

It’s championship or bust in Philadelphia.

John McMullen is a contributor to and covers the Eagles and the NFL for Sports Illustrated and JAKIB Sports. He’s also the co-host of “Birds 365,” a daily streaming show covering the Eagles and the NFL, and the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at Follow John on Twitter: @JFMcMullen