I don't know about you, but I went into Sunday's Super Bowl LII without a rooting interest. I don't loathe the Brady-Belichick Patriots as much as many fans do, nor was I all-in with the underdog Eagles.
I just wanted to see a great game. And we did.
The more I've thought about how Philly slayed the dragons from New England, the better I have felt about the Browns' chances to start climbing out of the dungeon of perpetual losing. Here are three things I've been thinking about since the Eagles' 41-33 win over New England:
1. The Eagles went through a stretch of multiple coaches and turmoil in the front office before settling on the right people
Since 2012, Philadelphia has had three head coaches: Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, and Doug Pederson. So it's been a bit of a revolving door trying to get things right. (If you're scoring at home, the Browns have had four different head coaches in that span)
The Eagles were able to beat out the Browns (and everyone else) to get Kelly in January, 2013. He helped get the team back into playoff mode with a pair of 10-6 seasons, but also maneuvered Howie Roseman out of the GM job in 2015 and assumed all personnel decisions.
Among some of the genius moves by Kelly were trading away LeSean McCoy, cutting DeSean Jackson, and letting Jeremy Maclin walk in free agency. The Eagles fell to 7-9 and Kelly was gone by Week 16 of the 2015 season.
Roseman regained control of personnel decisions and completely re-shaped Philly's roster. In fact, 13 of the Eagles' 22 starters in Super Bowl LII were brought in by Roseman over the last two years via free agency, trades, and the draft.
In fact, Roseman made more than 130 transactions in the 2017 calendar year per Philly.com. The Eagles added 23 new players — or 43 percent of the active roster — this season.
You can turn your fortunes around quickly in the modern-day NFL.
2. Scouting, shrewd moves enabled the Eagles to get their franchise quarterback.
Stage one of Roseman's rebuild was simple: “In 2016, it was important for us to get the quarterback position right,” he said last week in Minnesota. “We were going to do whatever it took to make sure that we put a lot of resources in there. We walked out of the (2016) season knowing that… we had hope.”
Enter April 20, 2016.
Roseman had already moved up from the 13th overall pick in the 2016 draft to No. 8 by dealing away Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell to the Dolphins. Next stop, move up to the second pick to draft Carson Wentz. Who would be dumb enough to turn down the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback?
Yup, your very own Cleveland Browns.
Roseman sent five draft picks to Cleveland for the right to move up six spots. The Browns, of course, made more trade-downs to accumulate more picks. Here's how the Wentz scorecard looks:
For the Browns: Corey Coleman, Shon Coleman, Cody Kessler, Ricardo Louis, Derrick Kindred, Spencer Drango, Jabrill Peppers, DeShone Kizer
WR Jordan Payton is no longer with the team.
Houston's first-round pick in 2018
Philadelphia's second-round pick in 2018
For the Eagles: Wentz was good as a rookie. He would have been NFL MVP had it not been for his season-ending knee injury.
Roseman, his top lieutenant Joe Douglas, and Pederson didn't need analytics, stupid water-bottle tricks, or any other odd way to evaluate the 2016 quarterback class. Maybe they wanted Jared Goff more, but they decided that Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich could mold Wentz into a winner. They acted boldly and decisively.
The other thing that Roseman realized is that he needed a veteran in the quarterback room who he could rely on to be ready in case Wentz went down with an injury.
Enter Nick Foles...
3. Solidifying the depth in the quarterback room turned Philadelphia into world champions.
The Cleveland Browns rolled the dice in 2017, gambling that they could get by with youngsters Kizer, Kessler, and Kevin Hogan. They jettisoned veteran Josh McCown, who helped the Jets win five games after the Browns seemed to think that he would be better served to be a coach than a player.
There may have been no bigger mistake made by the Browns in 2017 than that blunder.
The Eagles decided to bring in some insurance, getting Nick Foles back with a two-year contract. They had traded Sam Bradford to Minnesota and recouped a first-round draft pick.
But what if Wentz got hurt? Or what if he went through a sophomore slump?
Better be safe than sorry.
As the Eagles were cruising to the NFC East title and home-field advantage, Wentz suffered the ACL injury in Week 14. Most teams would have been toast.
In fact, only one team had ever won a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback: The 1990 New York Giants. Jeff Hostetler was terrific in that run to the Lombardi Trophy, but let's remember, he had a lot of help. Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, O.J. Anderson, Lawrence Taylor, and on and on.
All he had to do was not make mistakes.
The same was true for Foles. I think it's so telling that he was guided by two guys who made their bones in the NFL as backup quarterbacks: Pederson and Reich.
Philly had a great defense, a terrific ground game, and enough weapons around Foles so that all he needed to do to pilot the Eagles to the Super Bowl was to not make mistakes. And he didn't.
But to beat Brady and Belichick, Philadelphia needed something more from Foles: an elite performance. And he delivered.
I wondered out loud as the game was coming to an end if Foles' performance would have Browns fans willing to part with a first-round draft pick to get him. The answer was largely no, and I agree. First, I don't think Roseman is going to part with Foles until they know for sure that Wentz is ready for the season. Secondly, as well as Foles played in this stretch, he wouldn't have Pederson, Reich, the Eagles' offensive line, the three-headed running back tandem, two terrific tight ends, and everything else Philly brings to the table in Cleveland. I think he could succeed here, but not at the cost of spending a precious first round pick,
Look, the Browns have a LONG, LONG way to go to get to the point where we ever see them in the playoffs, let alone a Super Bowl.
The point is, it can be done. Turnarounds are possible.
You have to have the right plan, the right quarterback, a little bit of luck, and a lot of depth to win. John Dorsey believes he has the right plan. Let's hope he can find some luck and a quarterback, too.