Eagles: Worst to first, bleakest to brightest

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
12:00
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly deserves full credit for reversing the direction of a Philadelphia Eagles franchise that had lost its way over the past few years.

The Eagles’ 2013 surge is only part of the story, though, just as their 4-12 record in 2012 was only part of the reason fans were so despondent.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles, Chip Kelly
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesLess than a year after inheriting a mess, coach Chip Kelly has the Eagles in first place with a young quarterback (Nick Foles, right) to build around.
This time a year ago, the New York Giants were still the defending Super Bowl champions. Washington was making a late-season charge to a division title with the league’s most exciting young quarterback coming into his own. Dallas -- well, the Cowboys, then as now, were stuck in their perpetual Tony Romo-era revolving door.

With Andy Reid on his way out, Michael Vick on his way down and Nick Foles going 1-5 in his tryout as a starting quarterback, the Eagles didn’t just look like a bad team in 2012. They looked like the NFC East team with the bleakest short- and long-term outlook.

A year later, the division is upside-down. Kelly has his team in first place. Foles has emerged as the likely franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future. LeSean McCoy is among the top running backs in the league. The defense has been the most consistent in the NFL in terms of points allowed over the past two months.

On Monday, Dallas was destroyed on national television by the Chicago Bears. It was the Cowboys’ second humiliating prime-time blowout in just over a month. That revolving door continues to spin.

The Giants still have coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning. They still have those two Lombardi trophies they won in five years. New York’s 5-8 record might be an anomaly, but it’s hard to get around the idea the Giants are on the downside of their recent run.

And then there is the shocking collapse in Washington. Robert Griffin III has been benched by coach Mike Shanahan as the team plays out the string with a 3-10 record. The down year will benefit St. Louis, which owns Washington’s first-round pick in 2014 as part of the trade that brought Griffin to D.C.

It is way too early to write Griffin off. He is too young and too talented for that. But it seems very likely Washington will have yet another new coach next season, and it’s hard to imagine owner Dan Snyder getting that process right after all these years.

A year ago, Eagles fans would have traded their team’s prospects for Washington’s in a heartbeat. They would have taken those two Super Bowls the Giants won on Reid’s watch. And Dallas, well, they probably wouldn’t have been that eager to swap places with Dallas fans.

But now? The Eagles have not only gone from worst to first, they’ve gone from bleakest to brightest. Kelly and Foles and defensive coordinator Bill Davis deserve credit for fixing the situation in Philadelphia. But the downturn elsewhere in the division happened by sheer luck, and it only makes the Eagles’ prospects look better.

Phil Sheridan

ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter

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