For the second straight offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles "won" free agency, yet have set themselves up to fail in the regular season.
Last year, it was the "Dream Team"—a term christened by Vince Young and adored by the media. It was preseason hubris taken to an extreme previously witnessed only at Miami Heat fan gatherings. Young was wrong, of course, as the Eagles finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
On paper, though, Young was correct, that was a dream team. It was a 10-win team that had added Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie in free agency.
The Eagles had also (according to the media and their fans) had a fantastic draft. Danny Watkins was billed as a plug-and-play guard who would dominate sooner rather than later, Jaiquawn Jarrett would fill the hole at safety, and Casey Matthews was a huge steal in the fourth round!
All three have yet to reach their supposed potential.
After Young's dream turned into a nightmare, the leaky ship began to be dismantled. Young himself was cut and will back up Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo. Asante Samuel was shipped to Atlanta for a seventh-round draft pick. Ronnie Brown is off to San Diego, where he will be third-down back and occasional Wildcat.
With 2011 behind them, the Philadelphia Eagles set their sights on 2012 and had another fantastic offseason under new president Don Smolenski.
Where will the Eagles finish in the NFC East in 2012?
The draft was a thing of beauty—plugging holes with great fits and some of the best at their respective positions. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin are all expected to play key roles in their first season as Eagles. Kendricks is even penciled in as the starting strong-side linebacker.
Free agency was even better!
DeMeco Ryans was acquired from Houston via trade to plug a monstrous hole at linebacker. Demetress Bell was signed to protect Michael Vick while Jason Peters recovers from injury. The Eagles also kept three of their own key players—locking up DeSean Jackson, Derek Landri and Evan Mathis.
This time, the Eagles bypassed the backup quarterback to give out such ill-advised preseason proclamations and went right to the starter, as Vick proclaimed that the Eagles "have a chance to develop a dynasty."
Remember, this is the same Eagles team that hasn't won a playoff game since 2008. Sure, the Eagles have a chance, but so do 31 other teams in the NFL. Matt Millen had a chance to develop a dynasty for the Detroit Lions as well, but he stunk at his job. Until the Eagles actually start winning games, that dynasty talk is symptomatic of the same proverbial illness that led Young to call the 2011 Eagles a "dream team."
Just like last year, the Eagles are playing in one of the toughest divisions in football. The three other teams in the NFC East all got better the past year, keeping pace with the Eagles if not outright outpacing them. As easily as the Eagles could be first in the division, they could be third.
The team will rise and fall with Vick. If he is the pocket passer that we saw in his first year in Philadelphia, playoffs are right around the corner. If he regresses as he did last year, it's another season in the tanks. It's just that simple.
Vick's greatest asset, Peters, will be missed, especially if it's King Dunlap instead of Bell who is manning the left tackle spot. Dunlap is a fine player, but he's never shown that he can handle a starting role.
The skill position talent is still excellent. LeSean McCoy is a beast, Jackson is still a speed demon and Brent Celek is poised to break out. However, that group will only be as good as Andy Reid's coaching and offense will take them. The luster has come off Reid a bit in recent seasons, and for good reason. Opponents have him well figured and he hasn't done a good job of counter-punching with new wrinkles on offense.
The defense should be better with Cox, Ryans and Kendricks, but they were supposed to be better last year as well. So much rests on Juan Castillo (who still hasn't proven he deserved a move from offensive line).
Now, settle down, Eagles fans. This doesn't (necessarily) have to be a doom and gloom piece. No one is predicting five wins or mass firings after the season—but that outcome would be just as likely as Vick's dynasty talk coming true.
The Eagles are not the powerhouse they believe themselves to be, and that hubris has put them in a bad situation. This is a team with many question marks and zero answers to date.
Until the Eagles focus on winning on the field as they do making headlines in the offseason, they're just setting themselves up for failure. This is a team that has, literally, set itself up to fail in the worst of ways. This isn't just high expectations, it is false confidence—something that crushed them in 2011 and could do so again in 2012.
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."