Eagles 'unselfishness' code for having no divas? | Jeff McLane
The Eagles' success can be attributed to many things - talent, execution and coaching the most - but does seemingly having no prima donnas make winning easier?
The Eagles lead the NFL not only in touchdowns but in group celebrations.
Is there some correlation? Have they scored more touchdowns because they have an unselfish group of players, or are they willing to share the spotlight because they have a better record than any other team?
Rarely do such cause-and-effect questions provide answers. And in the case of sports teams, the roots of success are often talent, execution, and coaching. But there also ancillary reasons for winning, and in the case of the Eagles' 9-1 start, one of the most cited by coaches and players is the team's collective unselfishness.
The Eagles have the NFL's third-ranked offense and yet they've had only one player eclipse 100 yards rushing or receiving in a game. They have a top-eight defense in 11 major categories and not a single defender in the top eight in tackles, sacks, or interceptions.
"Everybody has a big part of this thing," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday. "It's the way they practice during the week and prepare. They are very disciplined that way. That's why I think you're seeing the success of the team.
"Can winning mask some of the blemishes? Yeah, it can, but these guys don't let that sort of creep into their mind-set."
Losing can often have the opposite result. The imperfections – both on the field and off — become more pronounced. You can bet there are selfish players on the Eagles. But when the majority aren't and everything is clicking, who would dare step out of that conga line?
"We all want the same success. Prima donnas, I don't know, I mean I'm pretty sure we've got some guys," Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said. "But at the same time they'd never show it. … As long as you're winning, everything goes a lot smoother."
The Eagles have had their share of prima donnas over the years. It would be easy to blame past failures on the select few because they have never won a Super Bowl, but arguably the biggest diva nearly willed the Eagles to a championship himself.
Terrell Owens, however, played at least some role in the epic implosion of the 2005 team. And while the Eagles' long dry spell without a playoff victory can be pinned onto the shoulders of many, Pederson's squad has been devoid of characters such as, for instance, DeSean Jackson or LeSean McCoy, who needed additional attention.
"We really don't have any of those," Eagles tackle Lane Johnson said. "I had a lot of fun with those guys. But as far as [now], a lot of guys push their egos aside. … It may just eliminate some of the distractions, so you're able to focus on what you need to focus on. Even though some of that stuff is humorous, it doesn't really help you win."
It helps when the coach is seemingly without ego, although that isn't necessary. Pederson has stood out of Howie Roseman's way when it comes to personnel and he was willing to accept an alpha dog former head coach in Jim Schwartz to run his defense.
He has been open to player advice whether during weekly leadership council meetings or from quarterback Carson Wentz, who has increasingly had a say – however minor – in the offense. Having a solid core of veterans who believe in Pederson has made it easier for the locker room to embrace outsiders and the occasional malcontent.
"You're always going to have a couple guys on your roster that you have to manage. That's every year," Pederson said. "But if you've got enough good character people, and we've got plenty of good character guys on this team, coaches, players, that just sort of eliminates itself."
Wentz has increasingly set the standard. His positivity has affected everyone down to the 53d man on the roster. Chris Long, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots last year, said that Wentz has the same qualities, as it relates to leadership, as Tom Brady.
"When your quarterback, your superstar, doesn't act like a superstar, he acts down to earth, treats everybody with respect, he leads by example, there's going to be a trickle-down effect," Long said. "And that's a similarity here."
In New England, players must check their egos at the door. Coach Bill Belichick's taciturn ways dominate the culture. Personalities are tempered.
"Everybody knows when you go to New England what you're getting yourself into. It's tough," Blount said. "But it's a winning organization and usually when guys go there they'll do anything to stay a part of it."
Center Jason Kelce and safety Malcolm Jenkins downplayed the idea that the Eagles have more self-sacrificing players than before or its significance. Jenkins, who won a Super Bowl in New Orleans, said the Saints had larger-than life personalities in both the locker room and on the coaching staff before he rattled off names like Reggie Bush, Jeremy Shockey, and Sean Payton.
He said they didn't have prima donnas, though, and that the Eagles don't either.
"We obviously have talent, a tight-knit group that plays hard, prepares hard, so you have success," Jenkins said. "I think everybody's searching for a complicated answer and it's simple."
But when running back Jay Ajayi, who came to the Eagles earlier this month amid a report that he was a problem in Miami, has seemingly fit into the locker room, and when Jeffery, who was signed to be the No. 1 receiver and accepts a lesser role and is often the one conducting group celebrations, there's a sense the Eagles' success is partly related to individual unselfishness.
"I think it's really cool for me to see how excited other guys get when other guys score," Wentz said. "Maybe another guy was open on the play, but his buddy scored and we're all celebrating together. I think that's just a sign of a really close team. I think that's what we are."