It happens every year. An NFL team wins the Super Bowl. The team then becomes the apple of the eyes of 31 other teams.
Whatever unique strategies and philosophies said Super Bowl team employed to win the Lombardi Trophy become the new formula for others to study and incorporate into their own program.
The Philadelphia Eagles are now that team. From their “Philly Special” trick-play touchdown against the Patriots in Super Bowl LII to the brilliance of backup quarterback-turned-Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, the Eagles’ roster and coach Doug Pederson’s approach are now making their rounds around the league.
Even the archrival Dallas Cowboys didn’t mind tweeting this panel discussion from their dotcom team about how Jerry Jones’ crew could emulate the Eagles and “return to glory.”
Our staff writers discuss which aspects of the Eagles the Cowboys can emulate to return to glory.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) February 6, 2018
On Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said he had already incorporated some of Pederson’s concepts — which he observed during joint practices last year in training camp — into his own playbook.
Frank Reich, who just left his Eagle offensive coordinator post to become the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach, said at the combine he is planning to borrow from Pederson’s aggressive play-calling approach.
Frank Reich credited his time with Tom Moore in Indy the first time and Doug Pederson the past two seasons on how to be an aggressive play caller and not stop pushing in games.
— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) February 28, 2018
But can the Eagles’ model truly be copycatted?
The Eagles won 16 of 19 games and the Super Bowl for a variety of reasons – elite quarterback play, depth at critical positions, a relentless pass rush, and Pederson’s aggressive coaching were chief among them.
Some concepts, like Pederson’s fourth-down trigger finger, can be replicated. Coaches around the league will surely study Pederson’s success on fourth down and see its benefits. Others, like finding the right locker-room chemistry, aren’t an exact science.
Schematically, the Eagles’ use of run-pass options can matriculate around the league, although several teams have already implemented RPOs into their offensive system.
Much like how the spread, two-tight end formations used by the Patriots earlier this decade fueled a movement that enhanced the role of the pass-catching tight end, RPOs are likely to see an uptick thanks to the Eagles’ success with them under both Carson Wentz and Foles.
But many components of the Eagles’ championship run are either more difficult to mirror or were already commonplace around the league.
The Eagles bolstered their depth at key positions, especially in the trenches, by signing veterans to short-term deals – a deviation from the team’s past strategy, but a blueprint historically used by teams leery of free-agent binging.
LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long, Patrick Robinson, Alshon Jeffery and Tim Jernigan were all additions via free agency or trade on deals of either one or two seasons. Torrey Smith signed a three-year deal structured like a one-year deal with no cap penalty for cutting him this offseason.
The Eagles were also able to lock up Jeffery and Jernigan to extensions during the season because Carson Wentz, their MVP-caliber quarterback, is still playing under his cost-efficient rookie deal.
Teams paying top dollar for elite quarterbacks have less cap flexibility and must be more selective with their extensions, which the Eagles will encounter at this time next year.
The Eagles also received significant contributions from rookies, including 14th-pick defensive end Derek Barnett, undrafted running back Corey Clement, wide receiver Mack Hollins, and third-round cornerback Rasul Douglas. That’s another approach touted by longtime draft-and-develop franchises such as the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.
Pederson’s “emotional intelligence” and connection with a variety of players and egos, often cited as invaluable to creating the team’s outstanding locker-room culture, are characteristics that have often been used to describe Super Bowl champion head coach Pete Carroll.
There were too many different factors, and some significant intangibles, responsible for the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl to think other teams can steal from their recipe.
But inevitably, teams will try.
— Geoff Mosher, a longtime Philadelphia sports reporter, is also a host on @975TheFanatic in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffMosherNFL.