It is easy to forget that the 6-0 Eagles only won four games in 2020. That team had Doug Pederson as the head coach, Carson Wentz as the quarterback, Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham, and Jalen Reagor as the top-three receivers, Zach Ertz as the number one tight end, and a defense that ranked 20th in points allowed, 29th in interceptions. Reaching the bottom two years ago is what prompted veteran GM Howie Roseman, hired in 2010, to hit the gas in an effort to get better immediately.
It’s working. Perhaps with an assistant from watching what Les Snead has been up to with the Los Angeles Rams since 2012 and taking notes. How did the Eagles go from 4-11-1 to 9-8 last year to 6-0 to start this season?
Similar to: Rams trading down in 2012
The Eagles had the number six pick in the draft last year and decided that even though they wanted a receiver, they didn’t need him to be Jaylen Waddle. So they traded down with the Dolphins from six to 12, but then traded up again to secure Devonta Smith by going from 12 to 10 with another deal, this time with the Cowboys.
Coincidentally, Les Snead also made a second first round trade with the Cowboys once: In 2012, the Rams had the second pick of the draft but decided they didn’t need Robert Griffin III. So they traded down from two to six with Washington, then again from six to 14 when Dallas wanted to move up for Morris Claiborne. The Rams picked Michael Brockers.
The Lesson: Sometimes one trade isn’t enough
Cut Ties with Top Pick from 2016
Similar to: Trading Jared Goff
Both Snead and Roseman traded up to draft a quarterback in 2016. The Rams made it to one and decided that Goff was a better prospect than Carson Wentz. The Eagles were perfectly happy with Wentz at two. Both quarterbacks reached the Super Bowl within three years. Both signed extensions. Both were traded before those extensions really got going.
It’s not easy to admit defeat with a top pick. Especially a top pick who has at least been a serviceable quarterback, if not sometimes a good quarterback. That’s hard for general managers to do. But Snead and Roseman both made that difficult decision in 2021. Goff was traded as part of a package for Matthew Stafford in late January, while Wentz was moved to the Colts for first and third round picks in March.
The Lesson: Don’t be stubborn by holding onto a bad pick
McVay-like OC Hiring
Similar to: Sean McVay
This article by The Ringer’s Robert Mays in August of 2019 specifically mentions Nick Sirianni as one of the examples of a coaching hire that mimics the “wunderkind success” of someone like Sean McVay. The Eagles fired Pederson, another difficult decision because Pederson had won the Super Bowl only three years earlier, and replaced him with Sirianni. The move was called “Sean McVay-like.” Though Sirianni was heavily criticized by the media for, I guess, not doing press conferences 100% perfectly right out of the gate, but Philadelphia rebounded from a 2-5 start to make the playoffs as a 9-8 wild card.
It’s not too dissimilar from McVay’s quick turnaround in L.A., going 11-5 in his debut, one year after the Rams had been 4-12.
The Eagles were 26th in scoring before Sirianni, 12th in scoring last season, and are currently fourth in scoring this season.
The Lesson: Don’t hire who the media tells you to hire
Trade 1st Rd Picks
Similar to: Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks
What could be more closely associated to Snead’s Rams than “F them picks”? Roseman has never been shy about trades, and he’s certainly making a lot more first round picks than Snead, but the Eagles weren’t going to be standoffish this year. They got aggressive.
Holding picks 15 (from Miami/Waddle), 16 (from Indianapolis/Wentz), and 19 (their own), the Eagles decided to keep wheeling and dealing. Roseman traded up from 15 to 13 so that he could acquire the best defensive tackle in the 2022 draft, Jordan Davis. Yes, Aaron Donald was also the 13th pick in the draft, coincidentally.
And then with pick 18, Roseman decided to trade it to the Titans for receiver A.J. Brown. This was another “all gas, no brakes” move, as Philly had now added DeVonta Smith and Brown with first round picks in back-to-back years. Even though Roseman had already wasted a first rounder on Jalen Reagor and a second rounder on J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Like Snead, Roseman knew that just because you miss on one wide receiver, you don’t stop trying.
Roseman had also traded his other first round pick, sending it to the Saints in early April for a 2023 first round pick. So that’s pretty “F them picks,” if you ask me: The Eagles had three first round picks, they picked Davis, and they traded the other two.
The Lesson: F them picks
Sign Edge Help
Similar to: Leonard Floyd
Floyd was a first round pick who didn’t quite live up to the hype with the Bears, but he was still good enough to get a sizable contract and opportunity. Reddick was a first round pick who didn’t quite live up to the hype with the Cardinals, but was good enough to sign a one-year deal with the Panthers, then a multi-year contract with the Eagles. The timeline is very similar to Floyd’s. Reddick has 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in his first six games in Philadelphia.
The Lesson: Sign pass rushers
Trade for Edge Help
Similar to: Von Miller
A year after the biggest midseason trade was L.A.’s acquisition of Von Miller, the Eagles just traded for former Rams edge Robert Quinn on Wednesday. Quinn is not of Miller’s Hall of Fame level, but he did have 18.5 sacks last season.
The Rams went into the playoffs last year with Donald, Miller, Floyd. The Eagles are 6-0 and looking to win the number one seed with Fletcher Cox, Quinn, and Reddick. Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, another coincidence, was a Rams scout from 2009 to 2011.
The Lesson: You don’t stop building the top of your roster when the season starts
Similar to: Jalen Ramsey
The two highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL next season: Slay is number one, Ramsey is number two. Philadelphia got Slay at a huge discount, compared to Ramsey. Roseman only had to trade third and fifth round picks for Slay. Ramsey cost two firsts. But at times they are the top two cornerbacks in the NFL. The Eagles’ acquisition of James Bradberry, a cap casualty of the Giants, has had an immense pay off already.
Remember, last season the Eagles were 29th in interceptions. This year, they’re second. And fourth in points allowed. Philadelphia has already gotten three interceptions from Slay and three from C.J. Gardner-Johnson, a castoff from the Saints roster. Nobody had more than two interceptions on Philly last season. Bradberry has two interceptions and nine passes defensed already, with a pick-six. Could those veteran pickups be similar to Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters?
The Lesson: Cornerbacks cost a lot, sometimes
What’s next for the Eagles?
So if the Eagles want to follow the Rams’ Super Bowl business model, what comes next? The Eagles are reportedly not done trading or trying to make trades. And they have a lot left to work with: Two first round picks in 2023, one first and two second round picks in 2024.
Snead traded two firsts at midseason for Ramsey. He traded a second and a third for Miller. Quinn only cost a fourth. The Eagles could trade for the biggest names on the market, if they want to really push all-in for a quarterback and they’re supposedly snooping around Alvin Kamara. If not Kamara, Philly is still expected to trade for a running back, which could hamper Snead’s plans to add a running back. (Do the Eagles want Cam Akers?)
The Eagles are also one of the teams being connected to Panthers pass rusher Brian Burns, but the cost would be at least one of those first round picks. But remember, this isn’t “be nice to the picks.” This isn’t “Well, trade a first round pick, but only if you’re absolutely certain.”
Will Roseman be willing to truly f them picks? We saw Snead turn that attitude into a Super Bowl championship last season. But it takes some guts. If the Eagles don’t do it, the Rams are certainly capable.