With the Philadelphia Eagles’ shocking win against the New York Giants this past Sunday, dubbed “New Miracle at the New Meadowlands”, Eagles fans are once again hopeful that this just might be their year. With a list of decisive wins, a new do-it-all running back in LeSean “Shady” McCoy and a quarterback in Michael Vick who is quite simply, super human, the Eagles are looking good. But frankly, the Eagles are sort of like the Brooklyn Dodgers of football. It’s always been “wait ‘til next year.” It’s been like that since...1961. Ugh.
Let me put this into perspective.
1960 was the last time the Philadelphia Eagles won a world title. The Super Bowl hadn’t been invented yet. It was still simply called the “NFL Championship”. In that game, the Eagles beat Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers. People sometimes forget that Lombardi actually lost a championship. According to some football historians and players who were around at that time, the 1960 Eagles were considered a fluke. Until this very day, former New York Giants and Washington Redskins legend Sam Huff echoes the same sentiment calling them “lucky.”
It’s hard to argue as the Eagles went a not-so-good 47-74-5 for the rest of the decade. They were one of the worst teams of the 1960’s.
The 70’s were even worse. From 1970 to 1975, the Eagles’ record was a paltry 27-53-4. They were easily the laughing stock of the NFL. Then, in 1976, with nothing to lose, the Eagles hired young Dick Vermeil, fresh from leading UCLA to a Rose Bowl victory over Ohio State, to be their new head coach. The prevailing attitude in Philadelphia was, “whatever.” Things went as usual in ’76 with the Eagles going 4-10. In 1977, they went 5-9. In 1978, they scorched the dizzying heights of 9-7, and their first playoff birth since 1960. In 1979, they went 11-5 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. For the first time in a LONG time, the Eagles were getting better…and better…and better. Then…..
The year was 1980. Things in Philadelphia were cookin’. Rocky II had been released the previous year and made Philadelphia an even more romanticized sports town than before. Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins and the 76ers were regularly beating up the competition on their way to a showdown with the Lakers in the NBA finals. Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and the Flyers cut and slashed their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose and the Phillies made history as they won their first World Series in team history. “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” by Philly’s own McFadden and Whitehead became the soundtrack for the entire city and a hit on the pop charts.
If the Eagles could make it to the Super Bowl, it would be the first time in history where a city would have all of its professional sports teams in the finals in the same year.
Dick Vermeil did indeed take his Eagles to the Super Bowl. We all hoped that we could even up our city’s finals record at 2-2 as the 76ers and Flyers both lost their Championship bids earlier in the year.
The Eagles finished the regular season 12-4 barely – and I mean barely – inching out the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title. They dispersed of the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round, 31-16, and in glorious fashion, ousted the Cowboys in the NFC title game, 20-7. The Eagles were on their way to their first Super Bowl appearance. Philly was going absolutely nuts.
The upstart, new-look Oakland Raiders were the Eagles’ Super Bowl opponents. Under new head coach, Tom Flores, the Raiders entered the playoffs as a not-too-scary wild-card team. The Eagles had even beaten them in the regular season. Could the “lucky” wild-card Raiders beat the seasoned, getting-stronger-by-the-year Eagles in the Super Bowl?
After that 1980 season, the Eagles went on a downward spiral. They were eliminated in the wildcard round by the New York Giants the following year. The first NFL work stoppage happened mid-season in 1982. Didn’t matter, though. The Eagles clearly didn’t have the electricity they had in 1980. Dick Vermeil retired and the Eagles went through a rough couple of years in the mid-80’s.
Buddy Ryan came to town in 1986 and in his harsh, braggadocio (but funny) style told the world that the Eagles would not only get to the Super Bowl, but would win the Super Bowl. Of course, we believed him. I mean, he was the legendary creator of the “46” defense which no offense could figure out for years. We had Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter, Keith Byars, Seth Joyner, Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons, Eric Allen, Andre Waters, Keith Jackson and the great Reggie White came over from the USFL. What team couldn’t win a Super Bowl stacked with talent like that?
The Eagles, that’s who.
During the Buddy Ryan years, the Eagles wreaked havoc on the NFL, routinely making the highlight reels, routinely sending multiple players to the Pro Bowl, routinely selling out stadiums wherever they went.
With no Super Bowl title.
After a few quick flashes of greatness under Rich Kotite and Ray Rhodes throughout the 90’s, the Eagles had yet again hit rock bottom. Enter Andy Reid in 1999.
By now, we all know that these last 11 years have been the most successful run in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles. Andy Reid has the most wins in team history, along with 8 playoff appearances in 11 years with one trip to the Super Bowl, and has boasted a list of players who are future bona-fide NFL legends like Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook, Jevon Kearse and David Akers, among others.
But still…..no Super Bowl title.
What in the world is it? Are the Eagles just playoff-jinxed? It’s painful to remember losing three consecutive NFC Championship games. It’s painful to remember Donovan McNabb walking to the line of scrimmage being down by 10 in the Super Bowl with 5 minutes to go. It’s painful to remember the Eagles losing a playoff game in which they couldn’t see (The “Fog” Bowl – Chicago, 1988). It’s painful to remember the Arizona Cardinals’ offense taking almost 8 minutes off the clock in the final period as they methodically undressed the Eagles defense on their way to their first Super Bowl berth.
It’s painful being an Eagles fan.
At the risk of sounding insane, I think this just might be the Eagles best chance to take it all. As the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb era progressed, I believe the rest of the NFL figured out their formula. Frankly, it never changed that much. It was a great formula, but in the playoffs, it’s apparent that every one of the Eagles’ opponents knew exactly what they were going to get most of the time. I guess that’s the one downside of keeping a consistent coaching staff—everyone eventually figures out all your tricks.
But this year, I get the sense that all of the Eagles’ opponents aren’t quite sure what’s coming. No one can quite figure out what to do with Michael Vick. His legs are just as fast as ever, his arm is as much of a cannon as ever, but most of all, he seems to be a much better overall quarterback than ever. It’s obvious that he scares the daylights out of his opponents almost more than he did as an Atlanta Falcon.
Think you got Vick shut down? Fine. Let’s go to DeSean Jackson. Can we say it now – he is the most electric WR in the league. He doesn’t catch that many balls per game, but every catch he makes is a major one. He gets into the open field and it’s safe to say it’s all over. Though he only has 45 catches this season, he has 1,024 yds. That’s an eye-popping 22.8 yards per catch. Don’t think opposing defenses aren’t aware of that. We don’t need to mention his punt return skills, do we? Heh, heh….
Think you got Jackson shut down? Fine. How about LeSean “Shady” McCoy? In the midst of all the Vick madness this year, McCoy has gained 1.036 yards on 194 carries. That’s an average of 5.3 yards per carry. That’s big. Not to mention, he’s also caught 74 balls for 551 yards. He’s the new all-purpose king in Philly.
Add Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek to this offensive mix, and you’d have to believe that defensive coordinators around the league are scratching their heads.
The defense, which had already been the Eagles’ Achilles heel, has taken some bad injury hits this season. Starting MLB Stewart Bradley is out with a dislocated elbow after already missing time earlier this year with a concussion. Rookie FS Nate Allen, who was having a very good year, is now done for the year with a torn Patella Tendon. Rookie DE Brandon Graham is also done for the year with a torn ACL.
However, the defense has one seriously super-bad cat. I mean, a real bad cat. Asante Samuel. He’s missed four games this year due to injury and he still leads the NFL with seven interceptions. At one point this season, I was wondering if he was quietly wearing “stick-um.” The Eagles defense for the rest of the way lies in the hands of Samuel and venerable DE Trent Cole who quietly has nine sacks this year. With two games left in the season, Cole could quite possibly have his third double-digit sack total in six seasons.
But as much as I hate to say it, these are the Eagles. Look, I’m sorry to sound so negative, but look at the Eagles track record. Eagle fans have been pathetically optimistic for the last 49 years, man. It’s time to do this. The 76ers haven’t won a title since 1983, but at least they won then and they’ve been back to the finals since. The Flyers haven’t won since 1975, but they’ve been back to the Stanley Cup Finals numerous times since and it looks like they’ll be knocking on the door again if they keep playing like they’re playing this year. And of course, the Phillies are in a period of glory. The Phillies have been the premiere team in the National League for the last three years, if not the last five.
Eagles, the time is NOW! Don’t blow the magnitude of this “New Miracle of the New Meadowlands”. Don’t blow the triumphant return of Michael Vick. The highlight reels of the 1980 NFC Championship game are getting old. That can no longer be our “most memorable game”. The city is burnt out on “wait ‘til next year” comments with the Eagles. We’re tired. We’re tired of watching these great regular seasons go for naught.
With the Eagles’ core players still having not yet reached their peak, they still carry a sense of mystery to the rest of the league. I hope the Eagles can be like Michael Connelly and cash in on that mystery and finally end this 49-year drought.