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Armando Salguero: Philadelphia Eagles — From Coach Firing, QB Trade and Flower Jokes To The Playoffs

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The Philadelphia Eagles are a long way from the quarterback trade and coach firing that was meant to reset the organization for a future that was, well, actually in the future rather than during this season.

They’re far from that mid-October trade of three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz that cleared $5.5 million in cap space and raised the question that maybe there was a fire sale afoot.

The Eagles are definitely a long way from the moment after the seventh game of the season — and fifth loss — in which coach Nick Sirianni compared his team’s growth to germination or some other botanical process.

“This is what I said to the team today,” you’ll recall Sirianni shared with reporters when the Eagles were 2-5 this season. “I said the results aren’t there right now, but what’s going on here is that there’s growth under the soil.

“I put a picture of a flower up, and it’s coming through the ground, and the roots are growing out. The roots are continuing to grow out. Everybody wants to see results. Shoot, nobody wants to see results more than us, right? We want to see results too.

“But it’s really important that the foundation is being built and that the roots are growing out. And the only way the roots grow out every single day and they grow stronger and they grow better is if we all water, we all fertilize, we all do our part, each individual, each individual coach, each individual player, everybody in the building, that we do our part to water to make sure that, when it does pop out, it really pops out and it grows.”

Sirianni was roasted on social media and by pundits for the analogy. That was some 10 weeks ago.

The Eagles have a 7-2 record since.

And after firing Doug Pederson, trading Carson Wentz and Ertz, and being the butt of jokes and the stars of memes, the Eagles are in the NFL playoffs.

How do you like them now?

“Everyone has a job to do and when we we’re not playing good, there was criticism,” a vindicated Sirianni said this week. “…My job is to block out the outside noise, whether it’s telling me that I’m really good – and this is how I want our players to think as well – or whether it’s telling me that I stink, and that my catchphrases about growing roots stinks.”

Even if that were true, there is no doubt the Eagles have grown by leaps and bounds — perhaps unexpectedly — this season.

And it’s easy to say unexpectedly because this is Sirianni’s first season as an NFL head coach and this is quarterback Jalen Hurts’s first full year as the team’s starting quarterback.

Yet the Eagles are headed for a playoff visit, most likely with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in two weeks.

Growth.

“As a football team, we’ve connected so much,” Hurts said Tuesday. “We’ve come together so much. We’ve grown together and we spend a lot of time with one another, and I think it’s shown throughout the course of the season.

“And to have every unit believing and having that confidence in one another, it’s important. And you get guys that have different roles in different situations and you have to be out of yourself and into the team, and I think we’ve definitely done a good job of doing that this year.”

Hurts, by the way, is a perfect spokesman to speak on the Eagles’ growth because he’s basically led that spurt — with both his play on the field and his maturity.

Before this season began, you may recall, the Eagles seemed to be stocking up draft picks from Indy and Miami to be in position to find a franchise quarterback in the 2022 draft. Hurts seemed to be little more than Philadelphia’s bridge quarterback.

But 26 touchdowns (16 passing and 10 rushing) and 3,928 total yards later, Hurts can no longer be dismissed as the team’s future backup to a 2022 first-round pick — certainly not during the current four-game win streak.

And while his game has grown, with scrambles in which his eyes stay downfield to make off-schedule throws that affect games, Hurts has also grown up.

Take that railing incident in Washington over the weekend, the one in which a section filled with fans nearly fell on Hurts as he walked into the tunnel.

Hurts handled that with aplomb in the moment. And Monday he wrote a letter to the host Washington Football team and NFL officials asking the issue be remedied by something other than the zip ties the WFT stadium workers immediately applied to the railings.

“I tried to handle the situation with a lot of poise and some compassion for the people who fell down but, really, I know it could have been so much worse,” Hurts said. “And it kind of didn’t hit me until after the fact, having some time to reflect about it and think about it.

“I just wanted to see what could be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again, that’s all I really care about. That’s a very tragic incident and it could have been much worse — much, much worse. But I just don’t want it to happen again.”

There is a question about whether the Eagles, playing the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday in their regular season finale, will play their starters. Sirianni has declined to say for sure.

Hurts has not declined.

“I love football and I’m preparing as business as usual,” he said.

Business will eventually focus on that future the Eagles were supposed to be all about next season. But making the playoffs this season is a feat — one no one predicted when the team was 2-5 and flower jokes abounded.

“I think it’s a great accomplishment for us, something we worked really hard for throughout the year in overcoming so many different things,” Hurts said. “And we have the opportunity to do something special so we want to take advantage of it.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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