Incentive manifests itself in many ways.
The most remarkable dynamic associated with the Eagles' leap to relevance is the team's commitment to execution. They are an incredibly selfless collection of players that have succeeded at a rate of 10 wins and 1 loss. It is an astounding and unpredictable turnaround from the 7-9 team from a year ago, but, thanks to upgrades and Band-Aids, completely valid. They are no fluke.
The sum of this team is greater than the parts, and this sort of alchemy only happens with universal buy-in. There is no formula for this chemistry. It takes talent and character, sure, but the key ingredients here might be insecurity and redemption.
The Birds boast an inordinate number of key players whose professional futures are unsecured, whether through contract expirations, salary cap complications, subpar play, or a combination thereof. They also have a handful of players who would rather forget 2016.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson was an NFL backup quarterback for 13 years. He's an expert when it comes to career insecurity, and how it can compel a greater commitment to winning. He acknowledged that it is helping his team win now.
"That's always a fine line there, when you have as many players playing on one-year deals. Of course, I've sat in those seats before as a player," Pederson said. "Everybody wants to play, obviously. [And] everybody wants to have the next contract or get the next contract."
Stars usually get their money. The rest of the players burnish their resumes when they play for teams that make deep playoff runs. Winners get rewarded.
"I try, as best I can, to communicate to them: 'Hey, listen, the better you play and the better we do as a team, then you'll get what's coming to you,' " Pederson said. "Maybe at the end of the season; or, if it's not here, it's rewarded somewhere else."
His communication has worked. The Eagles entered 2017 with the singular focus of cornered men, huddled in a bunker, desperate to prove themselves.
The best examples are probably defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and linebacker Nigel Bradham. Both entered the season on expiring deals and faced free agency after 2017. The Eagles extended Jernigan through 2021. Bradham said they have not engaged in talks with him. Bradham is 28, in his seventh season and is the fulcrum of the No. 1 rushing defense in football. He isn't worried.
"When you win," he said, "everybody eats off that."
It's a hungry team.