The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
Welcome back to the Poll Rewind series!
As you probably know already, each 5 o’clock club post ends with a poll question. Usually, the results are forgotten within a day or two, but no longer!
Over the course of the off-season (From now to July 2018) we will be re-visiting some (not all) of the results of polls that were published from June to December 2017.
Several of the writers on Hogs Haven — Ken, Mark, James Dorsett & Cadillactica — have agreed to help me out with the poll reviews by adding commentary so you aren’t stuck with my voice all the time.
For today, though, the comments are mine.
It’s been a week, but I’m still traumatized
We go back to 7 September 2017 — just prior to the opening week game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The pre-season expectations for the Eagles weren’t very positive. The article that day reflected that.
An Eagles season that started (sort of) with an extremely successful NFL draft held in the City of Brotherly Love was looking like it was going to be a hard slog on the field for 17 weeks.
Peter King had listed the Eagles at #23 in his pre-season power ranking.
Pro Football Focus had the defensive secondary ranked dead last.
Basically, preseason expectations weren’t high.
Running back issues
Even Eagles fans were very concerned about the backfield. Donnel Pumphrey, their draft pick, hadn’t looked impressive in preseason (he ended up on IR most of the season). LeGarrette Blount, signed from the Patriots, was seen as a limited and aging back, and Darren Sproles — like the Redskins Chris Thompson — was seen as being too small to carry the load, and he himself was getting older.
NJ.com turned out to be a bit clairvoyant, saying:
“This is a position where Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas could look to significantly upgrade either via trade or following roster cuts, particularly if a younger player who is a better scheme fit than Blount becomes available.”
Of course, the trade with Miami to bring in Jay Ajayi did a lot to strengthen the team in the second half of the regular season, and all the way through the playoffs.
It’s all about Wentzylvania
The one thing that everyone seemed to agree on was that the Eagles were going to rise or fall on the shoulders of their second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz. Wentz had started hot in the first three games of his rookie season before cooling off, and leading the Eagles to a weak overall record of 7-9, but by winning the final two games of 2016, the team had offered some reason for hope.
The Poll Question
Where do the Eagles finish in the NFC East in 2017?
- Last 35%
- Third 26%
- Division Winner 26%
- Second 13%
The fact that the poll said that the majority of fans expected the Eagles to finish last in the division was no real surprise. The entire pre-season had been spent talking about how weak the Eagles were expected to be.
At that point I hadn’t yet learned not to ask this type of poll question just prior to a game. Opposing fans — especially prior to a division game — show up on Hogs Haven in large numbers and skew the results.
The only surprise here is that the Eagles fans who visited the site and voted in the poll didn’t drive the “Division Winner” option to the most popular answer. But they weren’t actually expecting much from their own team. Bleeding Green Nation had spent a long off-season preparing for a long difficult 2017.
Howie Roseman is a genius
The Eagles went from worst to first in the division, but they did much more than that. Chip Kelly had gutted the roster and destroyed the culture in Philly.
Kelly was sacked late in the 2015 season. Two seasons later the Eagles had competent coaching and a championship roster.
Howie Roseman was the architect of a roster makeover that happened using creativity and liberal use of trades to change old talent into new talent. I’m not even going to try to re-construct all of his roster moves in this space — if you want to know, that’s why God invented Google — but here’s a mini-rehash courtesy of NFL.com:
Just look at the Eagles. A year ago, Chase Daniel sat as the understudy to a work-in-progress Carson Wentz at quarterback, while Nick Foles pondered his future as a soon-to-be-released backup to Alex Smith in Kansas City.
Beyond the quarterbacks, a trio of key cogs on offense -- power back LeGarrette Blount and wideouts Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith -- would all arrive through free agency, while Super Bowl hero Corey Clement was nabbed in the spring as an undrafted free agent. Receiver Nelson Agholor, meanwhile, was tossed about as possible trade bait after two underwhelming campaigns in Philadelphia.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Foles, Jeffery, Smith, Blount, Clement and Agholor combined for 414 of Philadelphia’s outrageous 538 total yards in a stunning win over New England.
We all know that the Eagles brought home their first Lombardi Trophy, and the fact is, the Eagles did it in pretty impressive style.
They went 13-3 in the regular season, earning the #1 seed in the NFC. During the season, they lost Darren Sproles early. The starting LT, Jason Peters, went out for the season. The centerpiece of their offense, Carson Wentz, went out for the season. Kicker Caleb Sturgis was lost for the season, and replaced by an unproven rookie. Sidney Jones spent the season on the NFI list, unavailable to play. Jordan Hicks, starting middle linebacker, was lost for the season.
The receiver group, which had been a real weakness in 2016, came together well in ‘17. Nelson Agholor finally figured out how to play in the NFL. Free agents Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffrey turned out the way the Redskins probably hoped Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Brian Quick would when they were signed.
The defense played very well, finishing 11th in yards and 6th in points given up during the regular season.
But what made the season feel a bit like a Cinderella story was the play of Nick Foles, who just enjoyed a day at Disney World as the super bowl winning quarterback.
Had the Eagles ended up playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Super Bowl LII, people generally might have dismissed the victory as an unimpressive fluke to mark the end of a lucky season in which the Eagles played a sub-par set of opponents; the fact that Philadelphia knocked off the Patriots means that no luster can be taken off the victory.
Rooting for the end of the world
NFL fans, and NFC East fans in particular, found themselves between the Devil and the deep blue sea prior to the Super Bowl; after all, who would you root for?
The Philadelphia Eagles? No. Never.
The New England Patriots? The evil empire... the Dark Lord... TB12?
This “Sophie’s Choice” superbowl was so unpalatable, that most non-Philly and non-NE fans were actively hoping that the world would be destroyed by an asteroid prior to kickoff so they wouldn’t have to face the fact that either the insufferable Philly fans were going to get their first super bowl win, or the insufferable New England fans, and their obnoxious owner were going to bring home another Lombardi trophy.
Unfortunately, the world didn’t end before the game.
For 34 years, since the Redskins beat the Miami Dolphins 27-17 to become Super Bowl champs, Washington fans have been able to laugh at the only team in the division that had never brought home a Lombardi Trophy.
All of that ended on 4 February 2018 when the asteroid flew by harmlessly, yet hundreds of internet memes died forever as Tom Brady’s Hail Mary to Rob Gronkowski fell, as harmlessly as that asteroid, to the turf with the clock at 00:00.
If you think Philly fans were insufferable before, get ready; Redskins fans have now entered a new — tenth — circle of hell that Dante could never have imagined.
What do you expect from the Eagles in 2018?
This poll is closed
NFC East winner, but lose the first playoff game
Playoffs, but no super bowl
Lose the super bowl
They bring home the Lombardi Trophy again
What do you expect the Eagles to do with their first draft pick in 2018 (#32)?
This poll is closed
trade up for an earlier pick
trade down into the second round