There are probably a few Philadelphia Eagles who were—and still are—embarrassed by what took place one year ago. Only one man uttered the phrase "Dream Team," but that's all it took for the entire squad to develop a brash reputation. They seemed to lack focus and were too slow to come together as a family and, as a result, failed miserably on the field.
There are a multitude of reasons why this year can be different. The principal distinction from 2011, many believe, is that potpourri of veteran stars that was constructed somewhat hastily following the lockout has had time to mesh, and they'll surely benefit from that.
Yet there's another element now at play. One that no one is particularly comfortable discussing, mainly because we're understandably skittish about turning a tragedy into a football story. Garrett Reid—Andy's oldest son and a man who struggled with drugs throughout his adult life—died suddenly Sunday at the age of 29.
Of course, this is more important than football, but that doesn't mean it won't affect the sport. It will, and it might end up changing the Eagles' short- and long-term future.
Sport is emotional, and football is radically emotional. For the first time since his son's death, Andy Reid left his first family at home today to rejoin his second family. And if adversity brings families together, both the Reid family and the Eagles family have an opportunity to strengthen their respective bonds in an ode to a fallen comrade.
Because of who Garrett Reid's father was, his death automatically was not in vain. This story has tentacles capable of reaching drug abusers on the verge of seeking help, as well as parents who could reconsider where their focus lies.*
Yet the tragic development could, and should, help bring this Philadelphia team closer together. It should be added incentive for 53 rich men—many of whom are older than Garrett Reid was—to stop and consider their goals and dreams.
Most will never admit it, but a large share of professional athletes are millionaires first and title-chasers second. They grow up dreaming of raising the Lombardi Trophy, but they often get caught up in the business of sports. They become brands, and they lose sight of those original aspirations.
That's nothing new, and it'll never change. But even for the Eagles, who employed Garrett Reid and considered him a family member, something good can come from Garrett's death.
They can rally in Garrett's honor.
A lot of these players were close with Garrett Reid. He was, in many ways, a peer, and his shocking death should remind these seemingly infallible gladiators that they're as mortal as everyone around them. "There's always next season" doesn't apply on more than a single level.
Only one man on this roster (Cullen Jenkins) has a championship. The rest of them have to use tragedy as fuel. This is the best chance most of them will ever have to win a title. Garrett Reid's death could reinforce the urgency that exists, and it could give this Philly team something else—someone else—to battle for.
"Our entire season will be dedicated to Garrett," Michael Vick said today, via PhillyMag.com. "And I'm personally dedicating my season to coach and to my teammates. This season will be dedicated to Garrett starting tomorrow."
That might be the edge the Eagles need to win the first championship in franchise history. If that happens, they'll have honored Garrett Reid in the most appropriate way I can imagine.
* We'll never know if Reid's hectic work schedule had anything to do with the problems his sons encountered, but many people are drawing their own conclusions. As a result, Garrett's death could still have a positive impact on parents.