The Eagles and the long run

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
10:08
AM ET
Yes, that was an Eagles song, "The Long Run," and yes, it's in my head now that I wrote that headline and probably will be there for a while. I used to hurry a lot, I used to worry a lot, I used to stay out 'til the break of day...

Jones
Kelly
But a lot of you who are reading this probably don't know that song and are here instead to read about the Philadelphia Eagles, a football team that wears green and plays its home games at the intersection of Broad and Pattison there in the City of Brotherly Love. I was reading this from Sheil Kapadia about that particular football team, which has a new head coach and a GM with a new level of power and is working to strike a difficult balance:
They’re focused on laying the foundation for a winning program, and they’d like to be competitive in 2013. As we’ve seen in the past, dramatic turnarounds, even for teams coming off of 4-12 seasons, are possible.

Then again, the Eagles know they’re not especially close to fielding a Super Bowl-caliber roster. In the past, they thought they were a player or two away. They went for it, reaching on draft picks and making questionable decisions that ultimately led to last year’s disaster.

And so, Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman are fully aware that there are still holes on the roster, even though all of the team’s major offseason moves have been made.

“When you look at the draft, it’s a long-term investment for your football team,” Roseman said. “If you start trying to predict who’s going to be on your team a year, two, three years from now, you’re going to make mistakes, and we understand that.”

Sheil's piece looks specifically at the way the secondary has been addressed this offseason, with the free-agent signings of Kenny Phillips, Patrick Chung, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and the late-round drafting of Earl Wolff and Jordan Poyer. Along with holdovers like Brandon Boykin and Nate Allen, that's the group from which the Eagles will work to piece together their 2013 secondary, and even Kelly admits that group isn't teeming with sure things.

But this is why it's important for the Eagles and their fans to keep things in perspective in Kelly's first season as coach. Yes, it's possible they field a playoff team, but that would be a bit of a surprise considering where they were last year and the number of changes that have been made. I think Eagles fans can be patient if they see signs of a coherent and directed long-range plan, and the way the Eagles have operated their offseason shows a commitment to down the road. Yes, you could rush out on the free-agent market and "fix" your secondary by signing the top cornerbacks out there. But the Eagles did that, remember? Just two years ago? And it didn't work out too great. Better to assemble a group of guys you like -- draft picks, young free agents, injury bargains -- and coach them so that starters eventually emerge.

That could make for some tough times in the short term. But a lot of great coaches have had poor first seasons while they worked to build their program. Kelly's predecessor was one. Not everybody pulls off what Jim Harbaugh has in San Francisco, and no one deserves to be saddled with such expectations. The Eagles are being careful and responsible in their approach, putting pieces together they believe will ultimately add up to something great, while leaving themselves open to the reality that they'll have to tinker and make more changes along the way before it looks the way they want it to look. They can go the distance, they'll find out, in the long run. (In the looong run.) They can handle some resistance, if their love is a strong one. (Is a strooong one.)

What's that? Now it's in your head, too? Sorry about that.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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