Rumors about the Eagles’ intent to get the early-2010s band back together again — the one with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and maybe even LeSean McCoy (?!) — have been flying as of late. The rumor that Jackson and the Eagles have mutual interest in a reunion have been substantiated repeatedly by good, deeply-sourced reporters. The other two, though, are little more than wishful reaches at this point.
Could Maclin return to Philadelphia, where he was revered when he played and mourned when he left? Absolutely. He turns 29 years old in May, still has some of the surest hands in the NFL, and is a well-rounded wide receiver whose veteran presence would be most welcome in the Eagles’ locker room, especially if they draft a rookie wideout.
Will all three (or, to be honest, even two) return next year?
No. Nor should they.
Sideways looks were cast the franchise’s way when they put Howie Roseman back in charge of personnel decisions and plopped Doug Pederson, an Andy Reid protege and, in many ways, a Reid throwback, into the head coaching chair. After the Chip Kelly Experiment, the return to happier times felt like nostalgia for comfort’s sake. Roseman even made a few shrew deals to nab the No. 2 pick in the Draft and take a rookie quarterback. It was 1999 all over again.
But leaning on nostalgia in the leadership structure, while certainly questionable, is more excusable than nostalgia on the field. Football players have terribly short shelf lives. Their careers are, on average, 3.3 years long, so all three subjects of these rumors are pushing expectations as it is. When they thrived with the Eagles a half-decade ago (startling how time works, isn’t it?), they were all in their early 20s.
DeSean Jackson is now in his 30th year on the planet. He hasn’t lost a step, and it’s fair to bet he won’t any time soon because DeSean Jackson is not a normal wide receiver, but that’s a bet the Eagles should probably let other teams take. LeSean McCoy, who turns 29 before next season starts, has run the ball nearly 1,900 times, 45th-most in history and fifth-most among active players. And, despite Kansas City’s surprising success since his arrival, Maclin has struggled to stay healthy (missed five games in two years) and produce at his 2014-level with the Chiefs.
This isn’t to say any of these players wouldn’t be upgrades over what the Eagles have at those respective positions. Jackson would be the team’s best deep threat by a Philadelphia mile. Maclin would be Carson Wentz’s new best buddy, a man to look for on an out-route on every third down. And McCoy would most likely run for 1,000 yards, becoming the first Eagle to do so since he himself did it in 2014.
But in the NFL, the future is rarely written by what once was. If the Eagles wanted to put the band back together from 2013, they might as well just bring Chip Kelly back into the fold.
(Yeah, I thought you’d say that.)
The re-instatement of Roseman and the hiring of Pederson smelled familiar, but those two have proven they have plans for the future.
Roseman jettisoned his starting quarterback with a week before the regular season and threw Carson Wentz, the player whose career will decide Roseman’s, into the fire, making a statement about this iteration of the Eagles: this is his team and his plan.
Pederson, while echoing Reid a bit too much in his use of timeouts and end-of-half clock management, has shown his players he’s not just a re-tread. From time spent in the locker room and talking to players, it’s clear Pederson has the team’s ear. He’s a fiery leader when necessary, a man who understands quarterbacking and also understands how to reach his guys. The end of 2016 showed that Pederson belongs, and has the chops to carve out his own coaching style and career future.
And in the personnel department, the promotion of Joe Douglas to his current draft-board-setting position, and the shedding of Rick Mueller and Joe Pannunzio, while less-splashy moves, make clear the Eagles’ vision of the future. It’s one where Roseman and Douglas are running the show. Douglas has a proven record of success, especially from his years in Baltimore, and if his hiring pays off the way many good football minds think it will, the Eagles are in a good position for the next handful of years, at least.
Nostalgia is lovely for minutes, but lacking in months and years. The Eagles of the DeSean/LeSean/J-Mac years were explosive, and they were thrilling, and they were so much louder and brasher and wilder than any sports fan has a right to hope for from three franchise cornerstones.
But the three never combined for a playoff win. The three were just two games over .500 in four years together. The three were good, but never good enough.
And now the Eagles have moved on to a markedly new era, in the front office and on the field. Which means it’s time to embrace the future, not the past.
You can’t win Super Bowls that have already been won.