If you’re anything like me, a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan, you know all too well the agonizing sting of defeat.
Moreover, you are used to disappointment and the perpetual search for answers. "Why?" seems to be the perennial cry of the Eagles faithful.
This year, 2010-2011, was supposed to be ours. We had one of the best quarterbacks in the league, its most explosive offense and the second longest-tenured coach in the NFL.
Alas, our dreams were shattered again, and we missed the big game—again.
But there is prudence to the question, “Why?”
Why, for example, do the people of Philadelphia expect a championship? Is it because, perhaps, the Phillies have secured two World Series championships and seven National League pennants? Or maybe because, despite being in the '70s, the Flyers have won two Stanley Cups? Even the 76ers have a couple of championships under their belts. Maybe that’s why.
Or maybe it was more to do with the fact that Eagles are one of the oldest franchises in the league, founded in 1933, and though they won three NFL championships, they have never won a Super Bowl.
Maybe it’s because Andy Reid is one of the most successful coaches in the league with a record of 118-73-1. He’s been to five NFC Championships and one Super Bowl, but with the exception of the 2004 NFC Championship Game, he has lost all of them.
It could be because from 1999 until 2009 the Eagles had not only one of the best quarterbacks in the league (with stats rivaled only by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning), but also the best quarterback in the history of the franchise. Donovan McNabb boasts 225 touchdowns and 111 interceptions and an overall passer rating of 80.1. With few weapons to choose from, McNabb put the team on his back on numerous occasions.
Or maybe, just maybe, it could have something to do with the fact that Eagles have been the winningest NFC team since 2010. In fact, the only teams in the league that have been better over the same time frame are the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. You know what those two teams have in common? You guessed it.
Thus, it’s safe to say that people of Philadelphia have every right and reason to expect that at some point their team will end up with a Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season instead of a myriad of questions as to why they don’t.
What do they do?
There were those who called for the head of Donovan McNabb, and they got it. During the 2010 offseason he was shipped off to the division rival Washington Redskins. Though McNabb didn’t do so well in his first season in Washington and the Eagles won the division, the end result wasn’t that much different than when he was in Philadelphia. They won the division for the sixth time but lost in the first round, at home, to the Green Bay Packers.
Not long after the season ended, Andy Reid, now becoming famous for making guarantees he can’t keep, fired defensive coordinator Sean McDermott after assuring the world he was safe for another year. McDermott was the aide under the late, great Jim Johnson, who was renowned for his use of exotic blitz packages. Because of his schemes, the Eagles became known as one of the best defensive teams in the NFL.
However, in 2010 the Birds allowed 31 touchdown passes and a diminished rushing attack, and the 34-year-old McDermott, in only his second season, was sent packing. Supposedly Jim Mora may be coming on board to take on the task of making the Eagles a defensive powerhouse once again.
While the defense suffered recently, is that really the reason the Birds haven’t won the most coveted prize in sports?
I say no.
The Eagles are notorious for making seeming nobodies into big somebodies, but they’re also known for not keeping star players who could make a big difference down the line.
Imagine if, for example, the Eagles didn’t jump the gun and release Brian Dawkins when he still had some fire left in him. Or if they held on to Will Witherspoon. Imagine if they draft well on defense this year; say they pick up Ahmad Black from Florida or make a move in free agency for Seattle’s David “Heater” Hawthorne. You think that might make a difference?
Just like with Donovan McNabb, there are those calling for the head of Andy Reid. His stubbornness in relying almost exclusively on the pass even when he has a good (potentially great) running back in LeSean McCoy, and even when his quarterback is struggling down the stretch (Vick threw all six of his interceptions in the latter part of the season), has garnered a fair amount of criticism from the Philadelphia faithful. A coaching change is in order, some say.
Now, Reid is a great coach, of that there is no question, but he has yet to lead the Birds to the promised land, so firing him is the only option—starting over from scratch with a new coach and a new scheme.
I don’t buy into that. All Reid is known for some questionable play calling. Keep in mind the Eagles’ most recent loss was because of missing two field goals and a poor decision on the part of Mike Vick. Reid coached his team well this season, as he does every season, and to let him go would be a huge mistake on the part of the Eagles.
What really needs to happen is Reid needs to run the ball more and get some offensive linemen to protect his QB and relieve some of the pressure. He also needs to be smart and hold on to Vick. Some are suggesting that Kevin Kolb may be a better choice going into the future, but Vick is only 30 years old and fully capable, as we witnessed this season, of playing at a high level.
Reid needs to keep the team he has, maybe make some additions in problem areas and let the team mature together. If he does that, if he’s allowed to do that, there is no question in my mind that he and the Eagles will have a formula to become one of the elite teams in the NFL.
Will he do it? More importantly, will he be allowed to do it? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.