Being a fan of a team like the Philadelphia Eagles, one has to find ways to keep the Super Bowl interesting without having a vested interest. There are some reasons that are limited to a personal level, such as having a friend or relative who cheers for one of the two combatants. More often than not, with the constant-changing of personnel in the NFL there are former Eagles players and coaches that have a significant role in the game. Last year, for example, there was some level of reason to cheer for both the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. Longtime Eagles Kicker David Akers was on San Francisco and former Philadelphia special teams coach John Harbaugh was the head coach for Baltimore.
In the 2014 edition of the Super Bowl, aside from the fact that the two teams are arguably the two best in the NFL, there is not a whole lot to latch on to as far as an Eagles fan. There are not many former players holding down important roles on either teams. On Seattle, I would say that defensive lineman Chris Clemons is the former Eagles with the most significant presence. That said, Clemons was only on the Eagles for a couple of seasons (’08-’09) and had not yet peaked as far as a pass-rusher.
On Denver, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie represents a more substantial role in former Eagles history. The cornerback was acquired prior to the 2011 season in exchange for quarterback Kevin Kolb. The former pro bowl defensive back was supposed to, along with Nnamdi Asomugha, make up the strength of a rebuilt Eagles defense.
After three strong seasons with Arizona, DRC along with a 2nd round pick was looked at as a major coup as far as trading off a quarterback with no future with the team. The Eagles had felt first-hand what Rodgers-Cromartie brought to the table and felt they had a talented player to start alongside Asomugha.
While Nnamdi will always be looked at as the real sore-spot of the 2011 overhaul, Rodgers-Cromartie was a tremendous disappointment in two seasons in Philadelphia. He had just three interceptions (all in 2012) and never put together any stretch of consistency as far as being a serviceable, let alone lockdown cornerback. Along with the now-retired Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie was not brought back by the Eagles in 2013.
Instead, the Denver Broncos would be the latest contender to take a chance on the talented, yet sporadic Rodgers-Cromartie. He would head to a team that had just seen their promising season derailed by poor secondary play against the Baltimore Ravens, and felt that bringing in DRC’s talent could help stabilize a debilitating link.
Sure enough, Rodgers-Cromartie has been an impressive fixture on the Denver defense. At 27 years old, and at two-years/$10 million, the 27-year-old has proved to be a bargain for the AFC champs. He has hauled in three interceptions and has flourished in the role of facing the opposing team’s top receiver. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has been able to elicit consistency from the rangy DRC and, especially with Von Miller on the shelf, he has become arguably the team’s most important defender.
So is Rodgers-Cromartie and his ability to string together a strong season in Denver a year after being unable to do so in Philadelphia enough to have you cheer for the Broncos? Honestly, for me DRC is not significant enough a factor to rally behind but if I had to answer it would be no.
Much more than Asomugha, DRC was a gamble to hitch the starting cornerback position to. He had impressive athleticism and a decent track record, but inconsistency was an issue for him. The idea of what Rodgers-Cromartie could be was much more tantalizing than any sort of elongated performance from the former Cardinal.
DRC always seemed somewhat soft from an emotional standpoint. Not that we were expecting him to be, but there would be no way of calling him a leader in the locker room and, by his own admission, he crumbled with the rest of the team as the losses piled up. Now with a strong roster with a fixed leadership group in place with the Broncos, Rodgers-Cromartie has been able to flourish with less pressure on him.
On the official first day of Super Bowl week, Rodgers-Cromartie caused a bit of a ripple when he made an announcement about the future of his career. Given his young age, an announcement like the one made by DRC was peculiar, to say the least
#Broncos CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie says he may retire if the Broncos win. For real. “I set a goal of 5 years, I’ve played six.”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 27, 2014
This message tells you all you need to know for Rodgers-Cromartie. Heading into this year with the Broncos, he was nothing more than a mercenary. Only a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations like the Broncos could take a chance on a talent like DRC, knowing they could offset the disappointment if he did not pan out. The yield for taking a chance on the former Eagles cornerback was calculated and now justifiable.
Prior to the trainwreck that was the Eagles 2011 season, one could have argued that the Eagles were a team that was gearing up for a Super Bowl run, similar to the 2013 Broncos. As disappointing as it was to see Rodgers-Cromartie fail as an Eagle, it’s difficult to get as upset with him given the circumstances. He did not sign a gargantuan contract like Asomugha and come up short on the terms set out by both sides. He was part of a trade and he played out his contract before becoming a free agent. He did not hold the organization hostage by any means and cannot really be looked at as the most disappointing cog on the ’11-’12 Eagles teams.
I would blame the failure of DRC in Philadelphia much more on coaching and the locker room environment than misevaluation of talent. His performance in Arizona and now Denver has shown that Rodgers-Cromartie is a player that can contribute on a Super Bowl contender. Regardless of what it was that prevented the defensive back from flourishing in Philadelphia is a mystery to me. At the end of the day, I am rooting for the Broncos but Rodgers-Cromartie’s presence there is in no way a factor toward that. Instead, DRC is just another of several reminders around the league of players that, for whatever reason, the Eagles could not tap into and get a championship-level performance from.