I have been spoiled as an Eagles fan.
I know that, and I'll admit to it. No, I have never seen a Super Bowl champion—as any Giants or Cowboys fan would gladly remind me—but I have certainly been blessed to see my team qualify for the playoffs seven times in ten years, including five trips to the NFC Championship Game.
It's difficult to pick a favorite team out of all the Eagles squads during my lifetime. I am tempted to pick the '91 Eagles—a team with arguably the greatest defense in the history of professional football, a team that featured the most controversial coach in recent years, and a group of 11 guys on the defensive side of the football that NO team wanted to play.
However, I wanted to keep it to teams I actually remember, and I was just two years old during the '91 season.
My earliest recollection of an Eagles game would be that 58-37 massacre of the Detroit Lions in the NFC Wild Card Game, a game in which at one point, when we had a 51-7 lead, I innocently turned to my dad and asked, “Do you think we'll get 100 points?!”
The obvious choice to me for my favorite team is the '04 Eagles, the only one of Reid's favorite teams to qualify for the Super Bowl. This was a team that rolled through the regular season to a 13-1 record, dismantling its opponents along the way.
And this was a team that finally slayed the NFC dragon, defeating Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons behind dominating performances from both the leader of the offense (Donovan McNabb) and the leader of the defense (Brian Dawkins).
There's just one reason that this team is NOT my favorite.
I know, I know, when he was an Eagle in '04, he was great. He caught an Eagles single-season record 14 touchdown passes in only 13-and-a-half games and put up a heroic performance in the Super Bowl.
And even his attitude, which had been the major problem during his reign in San Francisco, was great for the majority of the season (other than a minor blip during the 27-3 loss to Pittsburgh in Week Nine, when Owens was caught on camera yelling at McNabb).
But looking back at that season five years later just reminds me of T.O.
His messy divorce from McNabb and Reid that subsequently led to him being suspended and then deactivated for the last half of the '05 season. And I can't even think of T.O. without hate and anger.
I almost put the 2006 season as my favorite.
That season was a roller coaster ride to say the least. It provided me with some of both my favorite and least favorite memories as an Eagles fan.
Lito's 102 yard interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to beat Terrell Owens and the Dallas Cowboys in Week Five was probably my single greatest regular season moment as an Eagles fan.
We swept the Cowboys that year, winning a Christmas Day showdown against Tony Romo. It was an Eagles squad that became the first team in history to win three straight away divisional games in December.
There was Lito's tumbling Monday Night pick with 15 seconds to play to secure a narrow 27-24 victory against Carolina and keep the Eagles alive in the NFC playoff hunt. And there was the outstanding play of Jeff Garcia, Brian Westbrook, Shawn Andrews, and Brian Dawkins down the stretch.
Yet, I can't put the '06 season as my favorite.
I am a huge McNabb fan, a diehard supporter of No. 5, and I just can't justify having my favorite season as an Eagles fan a year in which Jeff Garcia was our primary quarterback.
With this in mind, there is no doubt in my mind the 2008 Philadelphia Eagles are my favorite team of all-time. Hopefully the '09 season will surpass last year, but as of now, this stands as my favorite of Reid's 10 seasons.
This '08 season had it all.
It was a roller coaster ride for the ages. There were times when I wanted to put my fist through a wall, but there were many many moments I will never forget.
This season tested the character of the team more than any year under Reid.
McNabb was playing for his pride, his reputation, his job, EVERYTHING. And he was phenomenal in the last five games.
I've never been more proud.
His first game following the benching was a four-touchdown performance against the eventual NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals. And it was on a primetime game on Thanksgiving night in front of a national audience.
Talk about clutch.
In the final five games of the season, McNabb led the Eagles to four huge wins to stay alive in the playoff hunt, including a 44-6 pounding of the Dallas Cowboys in a Week 17 playoff game, a game that truly showed the heart of this Eagles team.
Down the stretch, McNabb tossed nine touchdown passes against just one interception. In the 10-3 loss against Washington in Week 16—a game in which most of the football world thought the Eagles were subsequently eliminated from playoff contention—McNabb was harshly criticized for his inability to lead the Eagles to so much as a single touchdown.
However, he did manage to throw for 230 yards without an interception on 46 attempts to a less-than-mediocre group of receivers, all while leading the Eagles down the field on the final drive of the game, completing a pass on the last play of the game that would have been a game-tying touchdown had Reggie Brown not ran his route a yard short of the end zone.
This Eagles team set the franchise record with 416 points scored, breaking the mark of 415 put up by the '02 squad. And the defense was one of the best in the league, led by Pro Bowl and future Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins, playing his final season in midnight green.
What a team.
This was a group of 53 guys left for dead and a coach who took more abuse than any in the league. This team rebounded from three straight losses (technically, one was a tie) to qualify for the playoffs.
The following week, the Eagles easily handled the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, winning by two scores on the road. McNabb was solid, the offensive line held one of the top defensive lines in the league without a sack for the third time of the season, and Samuel added another interception, almost for a score.
And the Eagles came within a defensive stop from an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl.
Watching DeSean Jackson throughout the season was a joy.
Sure, there were the occasional blemishes—the “fumble” at the one-yard line against Dallas. However, for every miscue, there were a bunch of great moments.
The 55-yard reception on the first play of his NFL career. The 60-yard punt return in the same game. The punt return to the house against Washington.
The bobbling 62-yard go-ahead touchdown catch against Arizona in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game, in which I jumped so high off the ground in celebration I felt like I was flying.
Our favorite All-Pro running back, Brian Westbrook, had what football fans refer to as a “down year,” but he still produced a new career-high 14 total touchdowns.
The defensive line was perhaps the best it's ever been under Reid, with underrated stars Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley anchoring the tackle positions.
The secondary featured two Pro Bowlers (Asante Samuel and Brian Dawkins) and an All-Pro (Quintin Mikell), and finished third in all of the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed per game.
And the only starter in the defensive backfield NOT to receive a personal accolade— Sheldon Brown—had arguably the finest year of the bunch, allowing a grand total of zero touchdowns in the regular season.
Weapon X was a terror in his last year as an Eagle, whether it was knocking down fumbles from Ben Roethlisberger or forcing fumbles of Tony Romo in the regular season playoff game.
This team lost six games and tied another, but very easily could have finished 15-1.
The Monday Night loss against Dallas could have easily been a win had McNabb and Westbrook not fumbled a handoff in the fourth quarter, but marched down the field for a touchdown.
In the Chicago game, the Birds had four tries from the one-yard line to score a touchdown and couldn't do so, although I swear on my life Buckhalter crossed the goal line on that last carry.
Against Washington, it shouldn't have been that difficult to hold onto a 14 point lead.
To beat the Giants simply required either a third-and-one or fourth-and-one conversion, and a subsequent go-ahead touchdown.
There were about a million different opportunities to win the Cincinnati game, as there were in the final Washington game.
The only true loss that couldn't have been a win was the Ravens game. This was a game in which Ed Reed and company simply outplayed our quarterback(s), handing this '08 Eagles team its only loss of the season of over one score.
To be extremely competitive in 15 of 16 games says something about the Eagles.
Yet what I like best about this Eagles team is the '09 version.
All the problems from last year have been fixed.
The front office has added a fullback. Not one who also plays defensive tackle, but one with Pro Bowl-caliber experience.
The team has rid itself of underachieving tight end L.J. Smith, one of the most useless players under Reid's tenure. There are new playmakers—a Brian Westbrook clone at running back in LeSean McCoy, and another DeSean Jackson type of game-changing receiver in Jeremy Maclin.
This team has it all: McNabb still in his best years, more speed than in an Olympic sprint, and a defense that is the strong suit of the team. And don't forget those dangerous return men.
The '08 Eagles were great. My favorite team of all-time, no question.
But I bet I will like the '09 Eagles even more.
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