Seven players on the current Eagles roster were part of their Super Bowl championship team in 2018.
Among those seven is a core core four — Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox — all of whom have been with the team for more than a decade and are an invaluable resource for head coach Nick Siriani as he navigates what what will happen. A circus week in preparation for the 2023 Super Bowl in Arizona, where the team arrived Sunday.
“What an amazing ride it’s been with these four guys — Kelis, Fletch and BG,” Johnson said before leaving for Arizona. “A lot of players don’t get that experience with a core group of guys like that. I’m grateful to be around these guys.”
Johnson, a right tackle, in his 10th season, Kelce, a center, in his 12th season, Cox, a defensive tackle, in his 11th and Graham, a defensive end, in his 13th — and not just the longest. Moderate player on the Eagles but longest tenured professional player in Philadelphia.
All four have been there and done it … and desperately want to do it one more time.
All four are foundational pieces — literally and figuratively — in Philadelphia, spanning two-plus years from Chip Kelly to Doug Pederson’s five years at the end of the Andy Reid era, including the franchise’s first Super Bowl title and Its curious and clumsy include. Departure, now to Syria.
So, the core four has excelled under four different head coaches and played with seven different starting quarterbacks. Those players are the glue, which is not lost on the current head coach.
“When I first got the job here, I said I’m not like the other first-year head coaches,” Siriani said. “I had these incredible players who were at the top of the mountain, who have played in this league for 10-plus years — two on the offensive line, two on the defensive line — and know what it takes. That’s our Obviously a huge advantage for the football team.
Together, the core four have been part of seven winning seasons, including four NFC East titles, five playoff berths and one Super Bowl championship.
“Since the day I’ve been here, that’s all they’ve talked about,” said Eagles defensive tackle Jeon Hargrave, who joined the team in 2020 after playing in Pittsburgh. “They tell me how they felt when they went to the Super Bowl and all the memories they had. It’s great to have people who have done it before.
A serious factor in this postseason ride is that each of the core four knows full well that Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Chiefs could be their last game together. They hope not, but no one ever knows for sure, do they?
Cox is 32 years old and will be a free agent after the season. The contracts of Kelce, 35, and Graham, 34, are set to make this their final year, barring restructuring. “I feel like BG and I have been married for 11 years,” Cox joked with reporters last week.
Kelce recalled talking to former Eagles tight end Brent Celek during the 2017-18 season when Philadelphia was a Super Bowl finalist about how precious those opportunities are.
“I miss him. [saying] How he went to the NFC Championship his second year (2008) and how he thought he was going to be back there every year … like, ‘We’ll get them next time,'” Kelis said.
The Eagles lost to the Cardinals in the 2008 conference title game.
“Then it took another eight or nine years to get back there,” Kelis continued. “So, there’s a sense of urgency. We have a great roster and you’re only going to get so many opportunities to do something special in this league.
Cox’s advice to the team’s younger players has been simple.
“Just try to stick to your routine,” she said. “It will be hard, but don’t change a thing.” I just try to tell the guys to stay the same.
Graham’s message has been similar.
“I told the guys to make sure you have fun when you have time, but when we’re between those lines or in those meetings, let’s make what we do so that we able to execute that game plan,” Graham said. “Because we didn’t come this way to be embarrassed.” We didn’t come all this to start playing now. Keep it constant.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts has embraced the advice of a core four in his third season.
“They’re definitely guys we can rely on for experience,” Hurts said. “Experience is the greatest teacher. It’s definitely rewarding to be around these guys.”
Each of the Eagles’ core four has beaten Father Time. Now they just want to beat the Chiefs.
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