The Philadelphia Eagles are an unknown commodity in the NFC East with a new head coach in Nick Sirianni and a new starting quarterback in Jalen Hurts. Coming off a four-win season, NFL on CBS analyst Tony Romo had some surprising revelations when I asked him about the team and their chances in the NFC East.
"I think the Eagles are going to be a surprise team," Romo said on a conference call last week. "If you go in and think they're really not ready, they could shock a lot of people and go 10-6 or 11-5 very quickly. That's an uphill battle right now but I still think they have a lot of talented players and the coaching staff is good. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Eagles have a great season this year."
In an interview with CBS Sports, Romo discusses the Eagles and Jalen Hurts heading into the 2021 season -- and also previews Sunday's Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns matchup he'll be calling with Jim Nantz.
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Last week I asked you about the Eagles and the NFC East. You said you thought they could win 10-11 games this year. That caught my eye a bit. Can you elaborate on why you feel they can be the surprise team in that division?
Romo: "Did I say 10 or 11 (laughing)? The Eagles are so under the radar in some ways because of some stuff that happened in the offseason and last year. But you got to remember, they are not far removed from being a Super Bowl team. The biggest reason -- and I've said this before -- they have great ownership and it starts from the top. They hired a really good coach in Nick Sirianni, I think he's really smart.
"I just think they have a lot of good players. People don't realize their offensive line is far healthier this year than last year. Just that by itself makes them way better. You tell me what do you think of their offensive line?
Kerr: "I think it's one of the best in football."
Romo: "See I agree with you. When they're healthy on the offensive line, the game is super simple. When you don't have a good offensive line, the game is fast, and you have to come up with new ways to come up with and counter balance that to move the chains. Wirth a good offensive line, you can just mash them and you can just throw it here, do that. Then you can wait and take your shots and you are allowed for people to run double moves, you're allowed for people to get to the second level and the third level. I didn't think they had that opportunity last year.
"This team is much better than people understand. They've had defensive linemen that have been good for years. Fletcher Cox is still there? Well, guess what -- you're going to have a good D-line. That group has been good for a long time. If you have a good offensive and defensive line, you are not that far away from being a really good football team.
"I really believe now their job is just to use their personnel and I know they were talking about this is going to take some time and everything, but I think they're underselling the possibilities of how they can control the line of scrimmage. That's why I was saying they could win that many games."
Guess this year is the prove it year for Jalen Hurts then?
Romo: "It's a prove it year for every quarterback I feel like. 'This is the year' -- well every year is like that because if you lose a lot of games you might be somewhere else. That happened to Carson right? It's just a situation where I believe the offensive line didn't help make it easier on him and on top of that things just snowballed.
"But at the same time Jalen came in. He had an opportunity and took advantage of it. He played really well right out the gate. I think it's going to be really -- without studying it completely yet and I certainly will before we do a game -- but the Eagles have the ability to make the game simple. The game can be slower for him and he'll have an extra second in the pocket because of the offensive line -- and you can run the football. You can run play action, you don't have to just drop back and pass under duress consistently to move the chains.
"I think he has a really good opportunity in front of him. He's surrounded by a better cast of players than people realize."
When we talked during the Super Bowl, I remember discussing the Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady "G.O.A.T" debate. Mahomes didn't need to beat Brady to enter that conversation, but that win would have definitely helped his chances. Do you think he can still reach that pinnacle?
Romo: "These are the fun ones. Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers -- these are the standard quarterbacks already in the NFL and will be as long as they're playing. That's not changing. Patrick Mahomes is so good -- this guy is literally in his fourth year as a starting quarterback, fifth year in the league -- the fact that this guy is in this discussion shows me how amazing this kid really is.
"I wouldn't put anything past him. Obviously I said that because I was thinking this is such a huge game and you don't get matchups like this in real sports. You have the legend that's toward the end and the legend in the beginning and they're playing. You can see the future here.
"You just don't put anything past Patrick Mahomes. This guy could win four (championships) in a row and no one would be shocked. But it's hard to win because injuries happen, free agency, coaches come and go. It's hard to maintain that level of consistency and greatness that Tom Brady has shown.
"If there is anybody -- that's the kid who has the chance."
I wanted to get to Baker Mayfield since you're calling the Chiefs and Browns this week. What do you think Mayfield needs to do to elevate his game and take Cleveland to the Super Bowl?
Romo: "It's not just the quarterback right, but you're going to have to go through some of the game's best quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl. He's going to have to go through Mahomes, Brady, Rodgers, Josh Allen -- are these guys that are great. Baker is really good too, but that's the reality of the game. You're going to have to take your team down at some point in the playoffs and have a big drive. Your defense is also going to have to have a big stop.
"Just last year you look back, Chad Henne converted on a third-and-18? That sometimes is out of Mayfield's control, he had nothing to do with that. So he had his team in a position to do that. Now your job is to say as a player you're looking at yourself 'I could have done something to put my team in a better situation before so that situation wouldn't have come up.' Sometimes it takes more than that.
"For him, it's just about improving and continuing to get better. And things will happen the way they should."
*In addition to his CBS duties, Romo is still the ambassador for Corona -- which started the Romotivation campaign in time for football season. Romo, a fan of the nickname, says he's embracing the ups-and-downs of a season as a fan and keeping "an optimistic perspective through it all."