Why this Eagles’ Super Bowl loss should hurt beyond the obvious originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
GLENDALE, Ariz. — This should hurt.
That might seem pretty obvious. The ghost. The Eagles’ losing in the freaking Super Bowl should hurt. Oh really?
But it’s not just that the Eagles lost the Super Bowl on Sunday. Heck, they played a really good game, especially on offense. It’s that they squandered a chance to win one like we may never see again.
Everything was right there for the Eagles and they couldn’t get it done in their 38-35 loss.
Think about everything the Eagles had going in their favor this season and on Sunday:
• They had a quarterback on a rookie deal playing at an MVP level. That’s rare and it created an opportunity to build a talented roster around Jalen Hurts. The promising news is that Hurts was incredible on Sunday night (aside from one major blunder) and there’s a good chance he’s going to keep getting better and be an MVP-level quarterback for years to come. But he had a cap hit of just over $1.6 million in the 2022 season. If the Eagles give him a major extension this offseason — and they’re expected to — then that number is about to skyrocket.
Whenever the Eagles figure out Hurts’ next contract, they will backload it to give them some breathing room in the short term, but it is undoubtedly going to make roster construction more difficult. The Eagles were getting so much out of Hurts relative to his salary in 2022 and that will likely continue in 2023… but the big payday is coming and it won’t be any cheaper than around $45 million per season.
• This offense, the one that was great in the Super Bowl, scoring 35 points, belongs to Nick Sirianni. But there’s a reason he turned over play-calling to Shane Steichen in the middle of last season. Steichen had a natural feel for it and was a wizard at times this season. Now, Steichen is being hired away by the Colts and that’s going to hurt. Who calls plays next season? Will it go back to Sirianni? Will it be presumed OC replacement Brian Johnson? How about passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo? At least, the Eagles have a strong base of offensive coaches and are in better shape than some teams would be after losing their OC.
Maybe one of those guys is great at calling plays, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll be any better than Steichen was this season. We know Steichen was good at it and it really helped the Eagles in the 2022 season. They’re about to go into an unknown territory with whoever calls those offensive plays in 2023.
And there’s a chance the Eagles could lose defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon to the Cardinals. While Gannon isn’t the most popular guy in Philly right now, he did have the No. 2 defense in the NFL and if he leaves, it means the Eagles will have lost both coordinators.
• Give a ton of credit to the Eagles’ medical staff, their sports science staff and their trainers. Because the Eagles were an incredibly healthy team this season. Having 22 of 22 starters on both sides of the ball in the Super Bowl is almost unheard of and the Eagles accomplished that feat in 2022. Sure, some of those 22 were banged up but the fact that they were all out there at all is amazing . Some of this is controllable and the Eagles did a great job with that this season. Sirianni’s whole strategy was to keep his team healthy by limiting practice time, increasing the amount of walkthroughs and strategically planning off days, especially in training camp.
But some of it comes down to luck too. Not to knock the Eagles, but they got a ton of injury luck this season and it’s hard to imagine duplicating that in future seasons. They really had just one significant season-ending injury this year and it was to rotational defensive end Derek Barnett, who suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the season. It would be great to see the Eagles stay this healthy in the coming years, but it seems unlikely.
• The defense that was carved up by Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl was extremely talented and it’s hard to imagine the Eagles are able to put together a more talented defense in future years under Sirianni, especially after a huge portion of cap space is allocated to Hurts. Are the Eagles ever going to have a better duo of cornerbacks than Darius Slay and James Bradberry? Are they ever going to put together a better defensive line than the one that led the charge in a 70-sack season?
And now you have to remember that a ton of starters on this defense are set to become free agents in March: Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Linval Joseph, TJ Edwards, Kyzir White, Bradberry, Marcus Epps, CJ Gardner-Johnson.
Even if the Eagles wanted to run this back next season, they wouldn’t be able to. So it’ll put more pressure on Howie Roseman to draft replacements who are cheaper and can play immediately. That’s not impossible. The Chiefs were able to play this season with a few rookie cornerbacks, but there are no sure things. And Roseman was able to plug-and-play several free agents in 2022, which doesn’t always work as smoothly as it did for the Eagles in 2022.
• The Eagles have a really strong base on offense going forward with Hurts, DeVonta Smith, AJ Brown, Dallas Goedert, Jordan Mailata and Landon Dickerson. All of those players are still pretty young and should be here for the long haul. But Jason Kelce is getting close to retirement, we don’t know how long Lane Johnson has left and Isaac Seumalo and Miles Sanders are going to be free agents. As long as the Eagles have Hurts and as long as he continues to play at this level or perhaps improves, the Eagles should have a good offense. But it’s not like this side of the football is really as young as you think.
• The Eagles faced the easiest schedule in the NFL in 2022, according to that Football Outsiders. They’ll have to play a first-place schedule in 2023. Of course, the Eagles were 9-1 against teams that finished with a winning record this season, so they took care of everyone. But they also beat Daniel Jones and Brock Purdy/Josh Johnson on their way to the Super Bowl. That’s not a knock on what they did; they took care of business. But it’s hard to imagine that being the same path again.
• And finally, because of a lot of those things above, the Eagles had a 10-point lead entering the second half of the Super Bowl and watched Mahomes hobble off the field late in the second quarter. And they still couldn’t finish the Chiefs off. They became just the second team in NFL history to enter the second half of a Super Bowl up 10+ points and lose. The only other was the Falcons, when they had their epic collapse against the Patriots.
The good news is that the Eagles are a stable franchise. They have good ownership, a general manager who has already put together two Super Bowl teams and a head coach who got them there in his second season at the helm. All that is working in their favor.
But it’s hard to get to the Super Bowl. Andy Reid was here 14 years and got to one. Doug Pederson was here 5 years and got to one. Sirianni will enter Year 3 with one appearance under his belt, but there’s no guarantee he’ll get back anytime soon.
Do the Eagles have a good chance? Sura. According to PointsBet, they have the fourth-shortest odds to get to Super Bowl LVIII at +800, behind just the Chiefs (+550), Bills (+600) and 49ers (+750). But there are never any guarantees.
And it’s hard to imagine things lining up for them better than they did this season.
That’s why this one is going to sting for a long time.