Insiders

Franchise Turning Points: NFC East

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The Talking Heads posed the question “Well, how did I get here?” in the 1980 song “Once In A Lifetime.”

It’s applicable to anyone, of course, with football fans and their respective favorite teams being no exception. Football Insiders is taking a division-by-division look at the turning point in each franchise’s recent history that can answer that very question.

We’ve already taken a look at the entire AFC, so our NFC journey begins in the East — just like TV programmers would want it to.

Philadelphia Eagles
Turning Point: Hiring Chip Kelly

For better or for worse — and the jury is still out on the verdict in this particular case — the Philadelphia Eagles have mortgaged their present and future to fit the mold of Chip Kelly, who is trying to prove the high-flying system he used at Oregon can succeed in the NFL.

It’s certainly been exciting to watch an offense that has ranked in the top three in scoring both of his seasons in Philly. But can it be successful?

While the Eagles haven’t suffered a losing season under Kelly, they’re also without a playoff win.

This season figures to be the one that defines the direction of the franchise under Kelly as he has taken a college-coach level of control over personnel decisions. Philadelphia’s rash of trades and free agency signings has made for one of the more intriguing offseasons in recent memory, and you get the feeling there will only be more wackiness as the draft approaches.

We’re all in Chip’s World right now. The next season or two should tell us whether he’s a revolutionary or a quack.

Dallas Cowboys
Turning Point: The many whims of Jerry Jones

No franchise has a tougher turning point to nail down than Dallas, because it is impossible to figure out exactly where it is the Cowboys stand in the grand scheme of things.

One thing is certain — Dallas is no longer the class of the NFL. They were when owner Jerry Jones decided the Metroplex wasn’t big enough to fit the egos of he and Jimmy Johnson following a pair of Super Bowl victories.

The Cowboys still had enough talent left over to steal another Lombardi Trophy under the watch of Barry Switzer, but it’s been mostly mediocrity since the Big 3 of Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin rode off into the sunset.

But last year a rare show of restraint by Jones may have factored in the team’s AFC East title. His pleas to draft Johnny Manziel were ignored. Instead, Dallas took Notre Dame guard Zack Martin, and he helped solidify the most improved offensive line in football.

The more Jones trusts those around him to make football decisions, the better off the Cowboys will be.

If he continues to sit back and let Jason Garrett and company do the work, that means the Cowboys should be a perennial playoff team and potential Super Bowl contender. If he meddles too much, the Cowboys aren’t far from a fall back into a perpetual state of 8-8.

New York Giants
Turning Point: Trading for Eli Manning

When Eli Manning pulled out his blankie and refused to play in San Diego, the Giants became the beneficiaries. Traded to New York for Philip Rivers during the 2004 Draft, Peyton’s little brother has somehow gone on to win one more Super Bowl than his more talented kin.

Manning and the Giants have pretty much reflected one another for the entirety of his career — when he’s good, so are they. When he isn’t, they’re in trouble.

Fortunately for Giants fans, Playoff Eli doesn’t bear much resemblance to Playoff Peyton. Eli had 15 touchdowns and two interceptions in the eight playoff games that led to Super Bowl victories in 2007 and 2011.

New York has missed the playoffs the last three seasons, but with a healthy Victor Cruz complementing Odell Beckham Jr. next year, Playoff Eli may get another chance to shine.

Washington Redskins
Turning Point: RGIII’s knee injury

After years of ineptitude under owner Daniel Snyder, the Washington Redskins finally found their savior in the form of quarterback Robert Griffin III — a guy so likeable that he was making everyone forget the team was even owned by the thoroughly detestable Snyder.

And then disaster — or maybe it was karma — struck.

RG III was the NFL’s Rookie of the Year in 2012, looking like a potential rival to Andrew Luck as the quarterback of the future. But he sprained his LCL in Washington’s 15th game, then was rushed into a playoff start against Seattle he clearly wasn’t ready to handle.

His lack of mobility set him up in a position for an even worse knee injury, tearing his ACL and LCL. He has not been the same player, or person, since.

The previously Teflon Griffin has been seen as spolied by some observers in the two years since, and has sputtered to a total of 20 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and 5 wins in the 20 games he’s started after the knee injury. This season will determine whether he is still the quarterback of Washington’s future.


About Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey can vividly recall most significant NFL events going back to Walter Payton's final game in 1987, including the ones that didn't make him cry. Since 2008, his full-time job has been covering college football, specifically McNeese State, for the Lake Charles (La.) American Press. Free time is spent informing, amusing or annoying you for Football Insiders.