In artful style, Eagles celebrate journey that’s ‘not done yet’
PHILADELPHIA » Even before Jason Kelce took to the microphone, dressed like a Mummer’s sequined mashup of a swami and a matador, to call the haters on the carpet, the past loomed large on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Thursday.
The Eagles center dragged it out of the subtext and into the limelight, going down the roster and listing the flaws that contributed to this group of football players amassing in Philadelphia. Peppered with expletives, through a hoarse voice that went nearly silent in his apoplectic recall of Mike Lombardi’s now infamous declaration of Doug Pederson as the NFL’s worst coach, Kelce highlighted the cracks that made the Eagles so perfectly imperfect. He held a special place in his five-minute speech for Howie Roseman, whose demotion and re-ascent to directing football operations set the tone for resilience that has epitomized the Eagles’ Super Bowl run.
But as often as the world champion Birds dipped into their past Thursday afternoon, they also cast a glance toward the future. And no one was more unequivocal than the guy who caught the touchdown that made the difference in Super Bowl LII.
“I promise this ain’t going to be the last time we’re partying on Broad Street,” tight end Zach Ertz said.
The convergence of past and present wasn’t limited to the millions lining the parade route Thursday, those who waited so long for the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title and who carried the sentimental lore of so many lost friends and relatives who didn’t survive long enough to see the day. The respect for Eagles of the past who never summited the Super Bowl mountain was obvious, from owner Jeffrey Lurie’s thanks to the many former players in existence to the boisterous ovation lavished on newly elected Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins. The current crop of Eagles reflected that veneration in their wardrobe preferences, with Jason Peters (Dawkins), Brent Celek (Harold Carmichael) and Fletcher Cox (Jerome Brown) sporting vintage jerseys.
Kelce brought those messages into the near past, rattling off the laundry list of knocks on just about everyone joining him on the stage, himself (too small, the pundits said) and Lane Johnson (“can’t lay off the juice”) most hilariously included. The point was how pervasive the underdog mentality was for everyone on the team, from a nine-time Pro-Bowler like Peters that some deemed too old to a coach like Pederson that many adjudged too inexperienced.
“You know what an underdog is? It’s a hungry dog,” Kelce said. “And we’ve had this in our building for five years. It’s a quote in the old locker room that has stood on the wall for the last five years: ‘Hungry dogs run faster.’ And that’s this team.”
As this team moves forward, it appears to be a group not
sated by a single championship, even one 57 years in the making, nor one built for a singular run at the Super Bowl. Beyond the sudden questions about their quarterback position borne of an abundance of options, the club has smartly spent the 2017 season solidifying its long-term core, with deals for franchise anchors like Cox, Ertz, Brandon Graham, Alshon Jeffrey, Timmy Jernigan, Malcolm Jenkins, Kelce and others. The backfield of Carson Wentz and Jay Ajayi has room to grow together, and the team still has a first-round talent in Sidney Jones stowed away from last year to bolster the ranks.
It’s not, then, idle chestthumping when Lurie declared, “We are just beginning.”
“We are not done yet,” Pederson chimed in. “We have more to go. This is what we want, to be playing football in February.”
No one epitomizes that mindset with as much poignancy as Wentz, the quarterback who became a spectator to Nick Foles’ Super Bowl MVP performance. The ring for the second-year QB, a legitimate MVP candidate who set a franchise record for passing touchdowns (33), is inherently conflicting, a lifelong goal stopped just short until Foles took the baton and crossed the finish line.
Once Wentz’s torn knee ligaments return to full health, the Eagles have their readymade antidote to a Super Bowl hangover in a signal-caller out to prove that there’s more to be won.
“I hope y’all can get used to this,” was how Wentz capped his short speech before a mic drop.
It could be a piece of the past that the Eagles one day soon will look back on as yet another decisive moment.
Center Jason Kelce had the most lively speech at the Eagles’ championship celebration.
The Philadelphia Eagles make their way along the parkway at Eakins Oval as they head to the Philadelphia Art Museum for the championship celebration.
Eagles players Fletcher Cox and Chris Long wave to fans during their Victory Parade on February 8.