Las Vegas odds say the Eagles are the favorites at +325 to win the NFC and go back to the Super Bowl. They’re the second choice at +800 to go back and win their second-ever Super Bowl.
History tells a different story. The last time an NFC team lost a Super Bowl and went back the next year was the Minnesota Vikings in 1973-74, when they lost both Super Bowls VIII and IX. That was almost 50 years ago. The last time an NFC team lost a Super Bowl then went back the next year and actually won the Super Bowl was the Dallas Cowboys in 1970-71, when they lost Super Bowl V and won Super Bowl VI. That was over 50 years ago.
Here’s another piece of history that doesn’t bode well for the Eagles in 2023. Of the last five NFC teams to lose a Super Bowl dating back over 10 years, three — the 49ers in 2020; the Rams in 2019 and the Panthers in 2016 — failed to even make the playoffs the following year and the other two — Atlanta in 2017 and Seattle in 2015 — got knocked out of the playoffs before the conference final.
Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who won a Super Bowl with the Rams and lost two, one with the Rams and one with the Cardinals, explained it as well as anyone in an interview with me in 2006.
“There is something to it,’’ Warner said of the Super Bowl Loser Jinx. “It’s just a tough thing to get past. The one loss that bothers me more than anything is the game we lost to New England [in Super Bowl XXXVI]. It’s hard to forget. We were on the biggest stage and didn’t play our best game.
“And the thing is everybody watches the Super Bowl. Everybody. So everywhere you go that offseason you’re being asked about the game and, ‘What happened?’ It’s even worse when you’re supposed to win. It carries over. That’s why you see [Super Bowl losers] start the season slowly. And sometimes they never recover.’’
So, the Eagles, who in 2022 won the NFC for the second time in the last five years have a lot to overcome to make it back to the Super Bowl for the third time in six years. And they seem to be aware of it.
Despite being the betting favorites, veteran center Jason Kelce knows what lies ahead for his team in 2023 isn’t going to be easy.
“We‘re starting, in my mind, from ground one,” Kelce said before the team began its first OTA in May. “We’re starting from the very bottom again and we’re installing all the plays — this is what you have to do. You have to approach it like it’s a completely new team in a completely new year. You keep trying to get better and you keep trying to improve. We’re going to have to earn it the same way we did last year. They don’t just hand it to you in this league. In some ways, it’s going to be harder. When you do win and have a successful year, all offseason, all the offenses are looking to steal things that you do well. All the defenses are looking to stop the innovative, creative things that you’re doing. So you have more eyes on you. You have more time being spent around the things that you do structurally. We have a lot to prove and it’s going to be even harder to have a really, really good season.”
The bar has been set. Anything less than getting back to the Super Bowl will not be considered a “really, really good season.’’ To the tough, sometimes critical fans who packed Lincoln Financial Field eight Sundays a year, it might even be considered “a bad year.’’ And to some of those same fans even getting there won’t be enough. The Eagles will have to win the Super Bowl for 2023 to be a success.
Here’s a look at what can go right and what can go wrong for the Eagles as they open camp later this month.
Nobody, including the Eagles brain trust, saw what was coming from the quarterback in 2022. If the Eagles knew what they had, there would not have been flirtations with Russell Wilson and DeShaun Watson last offseason. Sticking with Hurts proved to be the best decision the team made in years, just ahead of trading for A.J. Brown. Hurts had an MVP season, losing the award to Patrick Mahomes, but his play was more than worthy of consideration. And the fact the team went 0-2 in the games he missed and 13-2 in games he played showed his true “value’’. Hurts passed for 3,701 yards and ran for 760. He combined for 35 touchdowns (22 passing, 13 rushing). The team went as Hurts went. And that likely won’t change in 2023. One question is how the young QB will react to his new long-term contract, but a bigger one might be how the rest of the league reacts to him. He’s no longer a surprise.
There will be several changes on both sides of the ball for the 2023 Eagles. Offensively, the team lost running back Myles Sanders to free agency and will try to replace him and his 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns with some combination of free agent addition Rashad Penney, trade acquisition D’Andre Swift and holdovers Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. Penney and Swift have both been bothered by injuries in their careers. Right guard Isaac Seumalo also left as a free agent and could be missed. He will be replaced by either second-year man Cam Jurgens, a pure center, or rookie third-round pick Tyler Steen. The offense will again be paced by its passing game with Hurts, Brown, wide receiver Devonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert.
Defensively, there will be five new starters as the team’s top five tacklers all left as free agents. The biggest loss was defensive tackle Jason Hargrave, who had 11 sacks and 10 more tackles for a loss in 2022. Again, the team will count on young players, second-year man Jordan Davis, a first-round pick in 2022 and rookie Jalen Carter, their 2023 first-round pick, to fill the huge void. The defense also lost its top two linebackers — T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White. Two undersized players in second-year man Nakobe Dean (5-11, 230) and veteran Nicholas Morrow (6-0, 216) appear to be the replacements. Both starting safeties, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who led the team with six interceptions and Marcus Epps, are also gone. Veteran free agent Terrell Edmunds and impressive rookie third-round pick Sydney Brown will get the chance to replace them.
Not only will the team have several players in new, key positions, the men coordinating both the offense and defense will be different as well. Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen left to become head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and defensive coordinator Jon Gannon left to become head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. The team stayed in-house to replace Steichen, who some in the league think will be sorely missed. Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, who only has two years of NFL experience both with the Eagles, was promoted to replace Steichen. This will be the 36-year-old Johnson’s first time calling plays in the league as well. The team bypassed popular secondary coach Dennard Wilson to replace Gannon and instead hired one-time Temple assistant Sean Desai, who was Seattle’s associate head coach in 2022. Before that, the 40-year-old Desai spent 2013-2021 with the Chicago Bears.
On paper, the Eagles have one of the more daunting slates in the league. They will play 11 games – two against the Cowboys and Giants, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City, Buffalo and Miami – against teams that went to the playoffs in 2022. Of the six games against non-playoff teams, they face rival Washington twice, (who beat them once last season), Aaron Rodgers and the Jets, and Bill Belichick and New England. The Eagles are a perfect 12-0 against the Jets in their history. On the flip side, the Eagles have lost seven straight to Seattle and haven’t won in Seattle since 2008. The toughest stretch of the season comes just after their bye, Nov. 12. In order the team will play at KC, Buffalo, San Francisco, at Dallas and at Seattle.