Like there was anyone else? But this comparison is more for my generation’s Rocky movie, 2006’s Rocky Balboa.
Though the movie itself couldn’t hold a candle to the initial Rocky movies, it provides a clean ending to the chronicling of Rocky Balboa's life and boxing career.
Rocky laces up the gloves and steps into the ring, one last time, to battle it out with the next big thing, Mason Dixon. Though he fights valiantly, he comes up just short as Dixon wins in a split decision.
Why does Dixon win? Because Rocky is old, that’s why.
In his prime, Rocky was a shirtless assassin capable of exacting brutal punishment while brokering Cold War peace. But in the most recent cinematic installment, the joints are creaky and his bones are brittle.
How does this relate to the Eagles in '09?
In recent years, the Eagles have seemed to be a franchise on the decline with Donovan McNabb descending towards mediocrity and veteran players fleeing for free agent dollars.
But the ’08 season saw something of a renaissance as the Eagles came up just a few moments short of a Super Bowl berth. This, combined with an outstanding draft, has generated an understandable buzz about the 2009 season.
But the expectations are unrealistic.
While the Eagles did retool their offensive line and addressed offensive skill position depth, their defense has taken a couple of uppercuts to the chin.
Defensive mastermind Jim Johnson is battling a serious form of skin cancer, and the defensive face of the franchise, Brian Dawkins, migrated west through free agency.
On the surface, these developments wouldn't appear to be cataclysmic.
But they are representative of a bigger dynamic.
Players and coaches come and go. On paper, roster holes can seemingly be plugged—but the locker room dynamic is a curious thing.
Dawkins’ departure is a crippling subtraction to the Eagles’ defensive foundation. He can be replaced, but the immeasurable aspects of his contributions cannot be.
Just as Rocky pressed on in the ring, so too will the Eagles continue to contend for NFC preeminence. But the foundational cracks are readily apparent, and they will keep the Eagles from their ultimate goal.
Make no mistake; the Eagles will be very good. But they won’t be heavyweight title good.