There has been much lamenting and gnashing of teeth in Eagles Nation over the past week or so as players like Lito Sheppard, Sean Considine, Correll Buckhalter, and most especially Brian Dawkins have either been traded away or left the team via free agency.
You also have the two twin towers of the offensive line for the past decade, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, very much in doubt as to their own returns for next season. Tight End L.J. Smith is shopping his services and is believed not wanted back by the Birds. These players make up a huge portion of the success that the Philadelphia Eagles football team has enjoyed over the past decade.
But as they leave it is important to note that this current Philadelphia Eagles management team of owner Jeffrey Lurie, team President Joe Banner, and GM/Coach Andy Reid almost always knows when to say ‘when’ with a player, no matter that player’s reputation or popularity. From Duce Staley to Jeremiah Trotter to Hugh Douglas, the Eagles knew when it was time to say goodbye.
T.O. moved on to the Eagles greatest rival, the Dallas Cowboys, and put up some great stats. He has also continued his controversial ways, and has helped the Cowboys achieve exactly nothing of note as a team in his two seasons in ‘Big D’ thus far.
Since the end of Andy Reid’s first season as head coach in 1999, and since Donovan McNabb took over as the starting quarterback, the Eagles have fashioned a regular season record of 92-51-1. They have had just one losing season in that stretch, the injury and T.O. drama-marred 2005 season following their Super Bowl near-miss vs. New England.
They have won five NFC East titles, and are coming off a 2008 season that saw them advance to the NFC Championship game for the fifth time. Eagles fans are easily among the handful of most passionate and knowledgeable fan bases in the entire NFL community. They are also notoriously emotional. They form bonds with their heroes that are commendable, but that would be disastrous if such emotion was demonstrated similarly and then operated on by the organization.
The Eagles brain trust has to make difficult decisions to remain competitive year-in and year-out. Ask an Eagles fan if he would trade one single Super Bowl victory for ten losing seasons and most fans would take the Super Bowl.
Ask the team management if they would prefer to win one Super Bowl and then lose for a decade, or continue to be a competitive club that wins division titles and is in the playoffs most years over the next decade, and I would bet the management would take the latter.
That is because management is smart, whereas fans generally are not. ‘Smart’ in this respect meaning that there comes a time when every player has to move on, and management has to make those tough decisions no matter what the fans feel.
It has happened with the popular players already mentioned, and it will happen sometime in the next couple of seasons with players like McNabb, David Akers, and Brian Westbrook. Father Time catches up with everyone, including pro athletes, and especially pro football players who take a pounding in one of the most violent sports ever devised by man.
The management team in charge of the Philadelphia Eagles pro football team has proven itself over a decade that it knows what it is doing in keeping the team a strong competitor every year in perhaps football’s toughest division.
A great deal of leadership has aged and is now moving on as the team says goodbye to Dawkins and Thomas and perhaps to Runyan. But my money right now is on that management team to further develop the players still on the roster, and to bring in more complimentary players via the draft and free agency.
I would bet that the Philadelphia Eagles will remain strong competitors. Due simply to their track record, if for no other reason, I for one have faith in Eagles management to keep the team a winner.