The Eagles are all in.

Amid a rush of stunning free-agent signings, I typed out those words one late July evening in a cramped, overly air-conditioned trailer set up next to the team's Lehigh University practice fields. A short time earlier, the Eagles had swooped in to sign Nnamdi Asomugha, widely considered the prize of free agency and a name at the top of many fans' wish lists.

The phrase - which gained traction when it was repeated by team president Joe Banner - was meant to capture the bold aims of late July, when within two days the Eagles traded for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, signed Jason Babin and Vince Young, and then topped themselves by adding Asomugha.

The line has run through my mind recently for several reasons. For one, it's possible that the Eagles will be all out by the end of this weekend, a possibility no one imagined when the team went on a spending spree to augment a roster that had won the NFC East in 2010.

Also, as the season winds to a close and a thorough evaluation of what went wrong approaches, there has been a subtle effort to cast this team as a young one that maybe had learning to do.

It's an excuse that falls flat on its face, especially when considering the way the team embraced the "all in" concept in happier times.

It arose at the end of an adrenaline-charged, sleep-deprived week of unprecedented NFL activity. Within five days the league's lockout ended, training camps opened, and the Eagles added four former Pro Bowlers.

They had a new defensive coordinator; star receiver DeSean Jackson was holding out; fellow receiver Jeremy Maclin was out with a mysterious illness; and a rookie, Casey Matthews, was getting first-team snaps at middle linebacker.

All those story lines were blown away by two days that included the trade of quarterback Kevin Kolb for Rodgers-Cromartie and unofficial deals with Babin and Young. By Friday, July 29, the Eagles were set to announce the Babin signing when they delayed an early evening news conference, offering no explanation.

We soon found out why: they also had landed Asomugha.

Fellow beat writer Jeff McLane was handling the Babin and Young story, so the Asomugha piece fell to me. Both our names would go on the byline - Jeff had dug up important information to support the story - so we conferred about the angle.

The news of Asomugha's signing would be widespread by the next morning, so we wanted a broader picture, and concurred that the veteran acquisitions were a sign of how intent the Eagles were on winning a Super Bowl - now - as Andy Reid entered the final three years of his contract.

Deadline looming, I began with the first thing that came to mind: "The Eagles are all in." I showed it to Jeff. He was on board. Most of the rest of the story wrote itself.

The next day Banner met with reporters.

"Somebody wrote the words, 'The Eagles are all in,' " he said at one point. "That's how we look at it."

Even with potential problems at safety and linebacker, it seemed that the Eagles had enough strengths to outweigh their weaknesses and at least contend for a championship.

The players, Banner said, embraced the expectations.

"They're not afraid of a goal as high as, 'We must win the Super Bowl to feel satisfied with the season,' " he said.

Banner's mention of "all in" made it part of the lexicon around this team - not as prominent as Young's infamous "dream team," but, unlike the quarterback's description, endorsed by management.

Now, though, instead of looking toward a playoff run, the Eagles need help to just stay alive one more week. At best, they will finish 8-8.

It's been clear for a while that the Eagles would fall far short of expectations, but the gap remains remarkable. As the season winds down and a reckoning looms, though, it's only fair to hold them to the same high standard they embraced in more heady days.

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com,
or @JonathanTamari on Twitter.