Since December 2015, the Philadelphia Eagles have undergone a not-so-subtle makeover.
From changing head coaches and starting quarterbacks to vying for attention in a suddenly red-hot NFC East division, the team has been an overt example of the year-to-year parity in the NFL. And unless the Birds rally down the stretch – and get a lot of help – to capture a playoff spot that is now near-mathematically impossible to obtain, here is one writer’s pick for the top five Eagles stories of 2016:
5. Sept. 25, 2016: Eagles beat Steelers to improve to 3-0
After a 4-0 preseason, the Eagles skated to a 3-0 start, knocking off the esteemed Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-3, for a third straight win. As deceiving as the hot start may have been, it opened eyes, making Philly a surprise favorite to contend for the postseason despite having a new coach, quarterback and defensive scheme. The remade Birds looked like division-title material.
4. Oct. 11, 2016: Lane Johnson’s 10-game suspension upheld
To pin the Eagles’ mid-season slide on Johnson, whose second performance-enhancing drugs violation sidelined him 10 weeks, would be a little over the top. But losing a starting right tackle for so long, let alone for something so preventable, is never great. Johnson’s appeal of the league-imposed ban was denied in October, indefinitely shaking up the team’s offensive line.
3. Jan. 18, 2016: Eagles hire Doug Pederson as head coach
After the late-December ousting of Chip Kelly, who lasted less than three full seasons running the show, the Eagles went back to the future by hiring Pederson. Although the coaching search was long and a bit cloudy thanks to reports of the team’s interest in other, bigger-name candidates, it was the ex-Andy Reid disciple whose arrival kicked off a new Eagles regime.
2. March 9, 2016: Eagles trade for the No. 8 overall 2016 NFL Draft pick
Philly drafting North Dakota State University signal-caller Carson Wentz second overall was a better and more impacting story, but it was the Eagles’ sudden jump up the first round that enabled the front office to pick a top-ranked quarterback in the first place. Shipping the 13th overall pick and two of Kelly’s notable acquisitions to Miami, then initiating another, even bigger swap with Cleveland, paved the way for Wentz’s entrance.
1. Sept. 3, 2016: Eagles trade Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings
No story could have been bigger than when the Eagles jettisoned their starting quarterback and thrust Wentz, a rookie, into the Opening Day lineup literally a week before the season began. The move allowed the team to recoup a first-round pick that it lost by acquiring Wentz, but it also reshaped the club’s immediate – and long-term – future in the blink of an eye.