The NFC Team of the Decade: The Philadelphia Eagles

James WilliamsonSenior Writer IAugust 3, 2009

Everyone is talking about how the Patriots are the team of the decade, or how if the Steelers repeat, they should be the team of the decade.

Yet, both of those teams are from the American Football Conference. So, who would represent the National Football Conference if the question was asked about who was the most dominant from that conference?

Out of nine Super Bowls, the National Football Conference has won only two, in the 2002 and 2007 seasons. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the first one and the New York Giants captured the second one.

However, are either of these teams the team of the decade? Not in my opinion. The Buccaneers never repeated the same success they had in 2002 or even came close to it.

The Giants make a great argument since they won the Super Bowl and went to one in 2000, so it is tempting to put them there. Very tempting actually, but I'm going to pass on them and go to a bird that has given me a lot of pain.

The Philadelphia Eagles have been the best team in the National Football Conference this past decade barring New York wins another Super Bowl this final year.

I mean really, how can you not pick them? Let’s start with some numbers for those stat-addicts out there.

1.  92-51-1 in the regular season. The second best in wins is Green Bay with 84 and third goes to the Giants with 80. They beat every team in the NFC by at least half a season.

2.  Seven winning seasons to one .500 season and only one losing season in which Donovan McNabb got severely injured for a large portion of the season.

3.  Six winning seasons with 10 or more wins.

4.  Seven playoff appearances.

5.  Ten playoff victories, five championship game appearances, one Super Bowl appearance, and the team they have now is definitely a contender.

6.  Five times they have been in the top 10 ranked offenses, and seven times they were in the top 10 ranked defenses.

7.  Twenty of their players have been selected to the Pro Bowl at least once.

If you look at the numbers by themselves, that's quite a list of accomplishments.

But, how about we look at where this all started?

To use the famous lines, from Sophia Petrillo of the hit comedy, Golden Girls. "Picture it!"

Philadelphia, 1999. It is early January and the championship games for a berth in the Super Bowl are between the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC, while the Denver Broncos are looking to repeat as champions as soon as they dispose of the New York Jets.

Meanwhile, there will be a week of waiting for these games, and the Philadelphia management makes big news for Philadelphia fans to get their attention.

They have decided to hire Andy Reid, the former quarterback coach for the Super Bowl Packers, as the new head coach for the 3-13 Eagles.

Now, after conversing with good friend and Philadelphia fan, Dan Parzych, I have gotten a personal viewpoint as to the events of this time.

To paraphrase Dan, the Philadelphia fan base was disappointed to say the least. They were not thrilled with Andy Reid because he had never been a head coach. This guy was just Brett Favre's babysitter in a sense.

Dan wanted Mike Holmgren, who had been the head coach of that Packer team. Also, Brian Billick had been available.

So, to sum up the reaction of Philadelphia in one word: "HUH?!"

That was just the beginning though. This was around the time that the University of Texas was in the spotlight for having the best player in college football and arguably, in its entire history.

Ricky Williams had won the 1998 Heisman Trophy and had broken the NCAA Division I-A career rushing record previously held by Tony Dorsett with 6,279 yards.

He had run for 318 yards and six touchdowns in one game against Rice University. All the scouts were giving him high marks. Even former running back, Eric Dickerson, said that this guy reminded him of Earl Campbell, except faster.

Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, and Earl Campbell. All three of these men are in the Hall of Fame as the three best running backs of their generation.

To put it simply, the city of Philadelphia wanted Ricky Williams, period. No one else.

The Eagles had the second overall pick and everyone was praying that the Cleveland Browns, who had the first pick, would pass over Ricky Williams.

However, Andy Reid wanted a quarterback, and this was the year to get one.

The 1999 draft had five quarterbacks taken in the first round, and Philadelphia chose the best one of the five with Donovan McNabb.

When he was first drafted, the city of Philadelphia booed so loudly that Paul Tagliabue, the commissioner announcing the draft choices, could barely finish his sentence because of the noise from the Philadelphia fans at the draft wearing jerseys that had Ricky Williams’ number on it.

No one knew or even thought that these few decisions were the start of something truly great.

To go along with Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, the Eagles also hired the recently deceased Jim Johnson, as their defensive coordinator. He was the man who turned the defense around.

The Eagles already had Brian Dawkins on the roster since 1996, but his first Pro-Bowl came in 1999, the year all these changes happened. Coincidence? I think not.

Because of Jim Johnson’s teaching at defense, the Eagles have a definite Hall of Famer in Brian Dawkins. Dawkins has been a complete free safety.

I learned from Paul Zimmerman that there are two basic kinds of safeties. One that is a great hitter, he puts fear and intimidation into the receiver every time he tries to catch a ball and after the catch is made, puts pain into their body.

The other is a ball hawk. He’s the kind that doesn’t scare the receiver; he scares the quarterback who doesn’t want to throw the game away. Very great at playing the ball in the air and probably played receiver in school, so he has great hands.

Brian Dawkins is both. He is a free safety that shows leadership to the front seven by his deadly collisions and then to the secondary by his ability to take the ball out of the air and possibly return it for six points.

From the 1999-2008 seasons, he has been to the Pro-Bowl seven times and made first team All-Pro four times.

21 sacks, 34 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries, three defensive touchdowns and 723 tackles.

If that is not a Hall of Famer then I’m in the wrong business.

After the 1999 season that was a 5-11 season, to break the new team in, the Philadelphia Eagles exploded onto the NFL in 2000 with an 11-5 record, and a trip into playoffs. They became the saviors instantly.

What happened to Ricky Williams? Ricky Williams had too many personal problems with himself and drugs that he never truly became the player he should've been.

Donovan McNabb has played at a level of excellence to the point where he would get my vote for the Hall of Fame, Super Bowl or no Super Bowl.

Jim Johnson took the defensive players, no matter who they were, and made them successful with his ability to change blitzes and cause pressure from anywhere.

Through his amazing skills, the Eagles have had one of the deadliest defenses in the past decade, and he was the only coach that I can truly say scared me.

He had these dead eyes when on the sidelines, and those eyes told me that he was going to hurt the offensive players on the other side of the ball, and I mean really hurt them.

Andy Reid was named Coach of the Year in 2002 for his work in Philadelphia and despite family problems; he still has come through for the Eagles.

Without any great receivers, he and Donovan McNabb have reset the Eagles’ franchise records with 97 wins and 29,320 passing yards.

Then there are the great highlights like 4th and 26, or the McNabb scramble against Dallas, or the 24 consecutive completions record or even the game where McNabb played on a broken ankle.

Also, being 14-6 against the Cowboys doesn't hurt either.

There you have it folks. The NFC Team of the Decade and going. For all we know they could complete Philadelphia's dream and win the Super Bowl this year. They certainly have the talent.

All I can say is that these men have made football fun in Philadelphia for the past decade, and they are ready for another season.

In memory of Jim Johnson (1941-2009)


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