Philadelphia Eagles: How They Lost Their Position as Philly's Darling

Mike HaasContributor IIJuly 27, 2011

Andy Reid has never led the Eagles to the promised land.
Andy Reid has never led the Eagles to the promised land.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Let's flash back to February 2003. The Eagles had just finished a remarkable run to their first conference championship game under Andy Reid and featured one of the most electric young players in the league in Donovan McNabb.

The Phillies were coming off an uninspired 80-81 season.

The Sixers were two years removed from soullessly destroying a lovable NBA Finals team, and would lose in the second round of the playoffs.

The Flyers were an old team in the middle of a solid but ultimately disappointing season under Ken Hitchcock.

The Eagles were poised to capture the hearts and imaginations of the city for a generation. For the next four or five years, they did.

Fast-forward to present day. The Phillies are the unquestioned top dog on the Philadelphia sports scene. The plucky, young, exciting Flyers are tugging at the city's heartstrings. Even the Sixers were more watchable than they'd been since Allen Iverson left.

The Eagles? Well, let's just say the outlook isn't as rosy.

The Eagles have become the team that's destined to disappoint. A decade of heartbreak and unfinished business has stained the Reid legacy so badly that the only way to recover would be to win a Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, that doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon. How did things go so wrong?

The easy answer is to say that the Phillies won a championship, and the Eagles never did. But it's more complicated than that.

Here's the real reason: Every single year, Eagles fans have been able to pick out noticeable flaws in the Eagles' game plans. And every year, Reid, Banner, Lurie et. al summarily ignore those needs.

Fans ache for a top-flight starting pitcher, and Ruben Amaro, Jr. nets Cliff Lee. And Roy Halladay. And Roy Oswalt. And Cliff Lee, again.

Fans scream for a legitimate starting goaltender, and Paul Holmgren signs workhorse Ilya Bryzgalov.

Meanwhile, those same fans clamor for a cornerback across from Asante Samuel, and the Eagles net, um, Ellis Hobbs? Dimitri Patterson? Those weren't signings as much as accidents.

Anyone can look at the Eagles as currently constructed and notice a ton of holes: at defensive end, in the linebacker corps and in the defensive backfield.

And yet, through the first two otherwise frantic days of free agency, the Eagles have done precisely...nothing.

Well, that's not entirely fair. They've let go of their veteran punter and kicker, their starting middle linebacker and a handful of other players.

But Kevin Kolb is still with the team, and nobody else has jumped on board. And there's the difference.

Phillies fans are wondering whether Hunter Pence or Heath Bell might be the player to put their team over the top.

Flyers fans are wondering whether Bryzgalov might be the missing piece.

Eagles fans, meanwhile, are wondering whether the lack of a second corner might expose the secondary again; whether the team has already blown whatever leverage they had in dealing Kolb; whether a DeSean Jackson holdout might torpedo the season.

On the bright side, fans have other places to focus their attention. Sadly for the Eagles, they are.