Philadelphia Eagles fans are facing yet another tough morning after today—one that has very little to do with way too much food, too much drink and more than enough Madonna.
Many of us are sobering up to the fact that 46 (or if you prefer, XLVI) of these Super Bowls have been contested, and 44 of them have been played without the Philadelphia Eagles. Even more troubling, all 46 of them have been won by other franchises.
As if you needed another reminder of our drought and misery on this morning after, this next stat hits even closer to home. The NFC East has won almost the lion's share of these Bowls, with a combined 12. The Washington Redskins have won three (same coach, three different quarterbacks), the New York Giants have now won four (whether taking advantage of wide-right, short field goal attempts, catches from backups with sticky helmets or dominant opposing players playing at about 50 percent strength) and the hated Dallas Cowboys have taken a handful. Enough said.
Philly fans of a certain vintage (no, I'm not quite there) can bask in Van Brocklin, Bednarik and company taking the title game over the Green Bay Packers in 1960. This was a great achievement—the only playoff loss that Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr and company ever suffered. It was also 52 years ago (okay, 51-plus) and in the pre-Super Bowl era.
Super Bowl XLVI put many Eagles fans in a very difficult position. Do we root for a fierce rival, the dreaded Giants from up the turnpike, or do we put our leather lungs in service of the New England Patriots, the team that beat us (perhaps dishonestly) 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX?
Need I remind you of the unofficial nicknames for that February 6, 2005 clash:
The Did Donovan Upchuck Bowl
The TO / It's All About Me Hyperbaric Recovery Bowl
The Illegal Videotape Bowl
The Sh&t, We Coulda Beat 'Em Bowl
You get the point, and you remember all of that and much more...
Regardless of whom you were trying to root for, or root less against, the pain of yet another season's world championship going somewhere else—let alone to such a rival—is palpable this morning.
The pain is exacerbated when one also considers that this was the season that Eagles fans were told that they had the team. The Dream Team. That angle has been worked to death, but how about this, if only for irony's sake?
The man who made that ill-advised "Dream Team" boast, backup quarterback Vince Young, won exactly one game for Philly this year. You know who he beat—those same New York Giants, 17-10, in North Jersey. The win brought the Eagles to 4-6 and dropped the eventual Super Bowl champs to 6-4. This was the Giants' second straight loss of a four-game losing streak.
It looked like the Giants were in free-fall once again, and in truth, only a choking Cowboys team (who coughed up a 37-34 game at home to the Giants in Big D three weeks later) gave the Giants the NFC East and a spot in the playoffs. Yes, if the Cowboys had held on to a lead that evening before self-destructing, this great Giants team would have lost six straight games. Indeed, this juggernaut fell to the woeful Redskins the very next week.
Give the Giants credit for firing on all cylinders during this postseason run, but this was a team that was fortunate to win what proved to be a subpar NFC East with a 9-7 record. Of course, the 2007 New York Giants also looked like an underachieving team before they suddenly got it together and squeaked into the playoffs with an underwhelming 10-6 record. You know what happened in that postseason.
The NFL is becoming like Major League Baseball. The best team in the regular season doesn't always win, or more to the point, rarely wins the championship. And yes, the Eagles certainly had the personnel to win a weak NFC East this year, despite the first-year (overmatched) defensive coordinator and all of those "dreamy" offseason acquisitions. If they simply coughed up one or two fewer of those (what were there, about 112 of them) fourth-quarter leads, they would have made the playoffs.
Instead, we were treated to a lucky-to-be 8-8 team that looked disorganized and disinterested for most of the season. That is ancient history now, and who is to say that the Eagles would have found enough game to beat the likes of Green Bay in the playoffs. Not me, not yet.
The only Eagles team to make a postseason run since their Super Bowl XXXIX runner-up finish was, if you recall, the 2008-09 bunch who rallied from a 5-5-1 start (and midseason malaise) to win four of their last five regular season contests to snatch the final, No. 6 NFC playoff seed.
From there, they won at Minnesota, and then beat the Giants to actually assume a favorite's position in Arizona. And then, even after scoring three-straight come-from-behind touchdowns, they fell just short. Some blame the offense. I saw it more as the defense failing to stop the Cardinals on what seemed like a 15-minute, clock-killing-in-slow-motion, game-winning drive. No matter: The Birds (you know which ones) fell short.
The exact scenario changes each year, and this year's finale even brought a smile or two to the nauseating visage of Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin. Yes, if there were a way for the NFL to decree that neither Coughlin or Belichick could win last night, I would have been in favor of it.
But what's the use, Eagles fans? The more the details change, the more the results stay the same.
For 46...or is it XLVI.. years. And counting.