When DeSean Jackson juggled that 62-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of last year’s NFC Championship Game, he was certain the Philadelphia Eagles were headed to the Super Bowl.
Instead, some Kurt Warner-engineered heartbreak followed and Jackson found himself searching for diversions during America’s annual football holiday.
"I only watched a little bit of the Super Bowl because I thought we should've been there," Jackson told the Philadelphia Daily News this offseason. "When Santonio Holmes made that (Super Bowl winning) catch in the end zone, the first thing going through my mind was that it should have been me."
Jackson and the Eagles are sure it can be them in Miami this February. What goes unspoken is that if it’s not, it might never be.
Sure Andy Reid shocked longtime Bird fans by using the team's first two picks in the draft to add two skilled players on offense, but the truth remains that the franchise’s most critical player is at least approaching the twilight of his career.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb is 32, still seeking a contract extension he knows he might never get and working on his third or fourth life in Philadelphia. Only last November, McNabb found himself benched at halftime of a game—to the glee of more than a few longtime Philly sports talk show callers.
While McNabb’s ensuing run screamed he wasn’t done just yet—and lifted a team that was only 9-6-1 during the regular season into playoffs—it far from guarantees a controversy-free season.
This is Philadelphia after all—a town that's already getting a little cranky with closer Brad Lidge just months removed from his run of World Series perfection.
Backup quarterback Kevin Kolb has already mouthed off about how it’d be frustrating for him to see the Eagles sign McNabb to an extension.
While the Eagles wide outs may be nearly young enough to be High School Musical fans with first-round pick Jeremy Maclin joining the second-year Jackson, there’s a good chance they may never have a better quarterback throwing them footballs than McNabb. Sometimes your best chance at a Super Bowl comes very early in your career.
Even with Jackson, Maclin and second-round running back pick LeSean McCoy, the Eagles are a must-win now team. Reid showed this when he traded three draft picks for left tackle Jason Peter, despite Peter coming off a down year in Buffalo.
There is no conference championship game loser curse equivalent to the Super Bowl loser jinx—as Eagles' fans well know from the head-banging experience of those three straight NFC Championship Game losses in the early part of this decade.
Still, this hardly insures that Jackson and the Eagles will get right back to where they left off.
The Super Bowl chance is there though. The Eagles need to grab on before the opportunity and McNabb are gone.