Philadelphia Eagles

Could the Eagles Have Enough Magic to End the Franchise's 53-Year Title Drought?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 1: Head coach Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles talks with quarterback Nick Foles #9 during a timeout in the fourth quarter during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field on December 1, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Cardinals 24-21. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 26, 2013

Could this be the year? The Philadelphia Eagles are one win away from locking up the No. 3 seed in the NFC standings. The odds certainly aren't in your favor in that spot, but let's keep in mind that none of the last three Super Bowl winners had first-round byes. 

They talk about peaking at the right time. Philly is coming off its most convincing win of the year and has won six of its last seven games overall. 

They talk about needing good quarterback play. Nick Foles is the NFL's highest-rated passer. 

They talk about needing to be healthy. On their most recent injury report, the Eagles listed only seven players, five of whom were probable. They've lost only one starter—wide receiver Jeremy Maclin—to injured reserve, and that was half a calendar year ago. 

This is Chip Kelly's first year on an NFL coaching staff. No head coach in that position has ever won a Super Bowl, and very few have even come close. But kelly's team has a special feel to it this year, and we know that this snakebitten franchise is due. 

Brad Gagnon/Piktochart

What have diehard Eagles fans been forced to endure since then?

 

The dark ages: 1961-1977

During this time period, the Eagles went 73-142-9, which was the worst record among teams that were active for that entire stretch. They put together only two winning seasons out of 17, going through six head coaches and three different ownership groups. 

NFL/AFL's worst teams, 1961-1977
Winning %Winning seasons
Philadelphia Eagles.3682
Denver Broncos.3954
Houston Oilers.4295
New York Titans/Jets.4294
Buffalo Bills.4318
New York Giants.4355
Pro Football Reference

 

Super Bowl No. 1: 1980

Dick Vermeil, hired in 1976, and Ron Jaworski, acquired in 1977, brought a steady presence to the franchise, which made the playoffs four straight years between 1978 and 1981, winning the division and making its first Super Bowl in '80. 

Despite the fact Philly beat Oakland 10-7 at home during the regular season, it lost Super Bowl XV handily to the Raiders. Oakland led 14-3 at halftime, and longtime Eagles fans won't likely ever forget the toss-up third-quarter touchdown pass from Jim Plunkett to Cliff Branch that put the game away.

The Eagles started the next season 6-0 but closed out the year with five losses in six games, including a first-round playoff defeat at the hands of the rival Giants. The wheels came off in the strike-shortened 1982 season, leading to Vermeil's somewhat sudden retirement. 

 

The mini dark ages: 1982-1987

A six-year stretch of losing seasons to wind out the Jaworski era. 

 

Good, never great: 1988-1998

Buddy Ryan and Randall Cunningham became the next head coach-franchise quarterback duo to revive the organization. They made the playoffs three straight years between '88 and '90, with Cunningham going to the Pro Bowl all three seasons, but they were one-and-done each time. 

Ryan was a divisive figure, and his controversial nature is what many of us remember him for first. That and this awesome tribute rap from his players:

That's a shame, though, because his defenses were tremendous, and those teams had a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. They couldn't get over the hump before Ryan was fired in 1991.

They'd only make the playoffs three times over the next nine years, winning a pair of Wild Card Games under Rich Kotite and Ray Rhodes. 

 

Four straight division titles: 2001-2004 

Brad Gagnon/Piktochart

Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb became big-time coach-quarterback duo No. 3 in '99 and had the Eagles contending on a yearly basis early in the 21st century. They went to four straight NFC title games between '01 and '04, winning the NFC East on all four occasions. But they once again could never finish in January. 

Their only Super Bowl appearance during the Reid era was a tough-to-swallow three-point loss to the Patriots in 2004. You know, the game in which McNabb allegedly became sick on the final series.

Beyond that, the Eagles once again fell into a "good, not great" stretch, winning two more division titles in 2006 and 2010 before Reid ran out of string in 2012. 

Still, Eagles fans will never forget 4th-and-26:

 

Rejuvenation: 2013

Here the Eagles are, one win away from returning to the postseason with yet another new superstar head coach-quarterback duo.

And while Chip Kelly certainly gets a lot of attention, the big difference this year is that nobody really expected him and Nick Foles to contend as quickly as they have. In fact, few expected Foles—a third-round pick in 2012—to become anything more than a lifetime backup. 

So maybe that's the difference. Jaworski, Cunningham, McNabb and their respective head coaches had a little more time to raise expectations that were already sky-high. Now, the Eagles have a lot less to lose. 

So maybe, beyond the odds, this is the year. Eagles fans can only hope. Their team will need five more wins and can't afford a single loss, starting Sunday night in Dallas.

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