NFL Free Agents 2011: 5 Reasons Philadelphia Eagles Aren't NFL's Miami Heat
2010 was the year we learned to hate the Miami Heat. Have the Philadelphia Eagles taken their place in 2011?
That is one eager opinion, after the Eagles capitalized on the short amount of time that NFL teams have been allowed to sign free agents. They have signed several of the big names available, including cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive linemen Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, quarterback Vince Young, offensive lineman Evan Mathis and running back Ronnie Brown.
Babin summed it up succinctly on Twitter: "I feel like we are the Miami Heat of the NFL..." (He would later add, "except we win the last game...")
But let's calm down for a second.
Philadelphia may have collected an impressive variety of free agents, and in greater numbers than last year's Heat, but the situations are far from parallel. What the Miami Heat did last year was entirely unique, and there is more to repeating the situation than simply signing big-name players.
Here are five reasons why the Eagles are not football's version of the Heat, and why hopefully no one should expect them to do this anytime soon.
1. Lack of Superstar Status
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Last year, the Miami Heat signed three of the best players in the NBA, two of whom are easily in the top five. This year, the Philadelphia Eagles have signed perhaps one or two who are among the best at their respective positions.
When you think of basketball, LeBron James is one of the first names that comes to mind. Dwyane Wade is probably not far behind. They are two of the most predominant faces in the sport.
When you think of football, do you first think of Nnamdi Asomugha, a guy whose name you probably couldn't even spell if I hadn't just typed it for you? (No offense; it's just a really difficult name.)
I bet you don't think of Evan Mathis, either, or Jason Babin. Heck, you probably haven't even considered Vince Young much at all recently, given that his former team, the Tennessee Titans, wouldn't even re-sign him after their 38-year-old quarterback retired.
2. Little Anticipation
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The eventual whereabouts of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were discussed at length for years before their eventual decisions (and "Decision") were made.
Pundits dubbed last July the "Summer of LeBron." Websites deliberated what these stars would look like in various new uniforms. ESPN.com even had a "Free Agent Slot Machine" to give online users a chance to see where eight of the high-profile free agents, including the Big Three, would end up. (The page now shows simply where everyone actually signed.)
The NFL, meanwhile, had that little lockout thing going on, so no one was particularly concerned with where the primary free agents were headed until they knew a 2011 season was going to happen. Nnamdi Asomugha, arguably the biggest name available, wasn't bandied about incessantly for the last two years.
Certainly, the end result frustrated a lot of NBA fans—seeing James, Wade and Bosh uniting on one team not only disappointed individual fanbases, but also those who like to see a little competitive balance as well. But that anger and rejection were magnified by the tremendous amount of media coverage those three, especially King James, received during the months leading up to the ultimate conclusion.
Right now, New York Giants fans and Dallas Cowboys fans (and disgruntled New York Jets fans who drooled over a potential Darrelle Revis/Asomugha pairing) are rightly showing animosity towards their rival, but it is unlikely that the Philadelphia Eagles will become the villains of the NFL, as the Miami Heat have become for the NBA.
3. Andy Reid, the Voice of Reason
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As soon as LeBron James teamed up with his friends last year, the general reaction was, "Wake me up when the Miami Heat are playing the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals."
Although that consensus was half-right, its true significance lied in how everyone assumed the Heat would dominate the league as soon as the Big Three hit the court together.
There have indeed been some proclaiming that the Philadelphia Eagles will be the team to beat next season, but not everyone is anointing them the Super Bowl champions just yet.
In fact, head coach Andy Reid is telling us what we all know is true.
Reid told ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike that little can be said until the season actually begins. "Obviously, dreams aren't reality," he said, "so the reality will come when I get my hands on them and we get them into practice and start grinding here like the other guys are grinding. That's reality."
It's so simple, yet so spot-on—no one wins championships on paper. Somehow, a great majority of people forgot that little fact before the 2010-2011 NBA season began.
4. Philadelphia Versus Miami
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Location, location, location. That's a contributing factor as well.
When LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in South Beach, it became an instant attraction. The Miami Heat were popular before, but Florida sports fans are sometimes perceived as being apathetic.
Philadelphia could be said to be the polar opposite. Philly fans are passionate about their teams, even booing one of the most universally beloved figures when their Eagles were playing poorly.
The Eagles have been perennial playoff contenders for the most part in recent years, but they've notoriously fallen short of the ultimate goal several times. The Donovan McNabb era ended with nothing more than the Eagles being Super Bowl runners-up, although Philly fans are no less driven to reach the promised land.
They might like their chances more with a beefed-up secondary and defensive line, but they didn't need any extra motivation to come to games, unlike the crowds in Miami.
5. Football Versus Basketball
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Football and basketball are both team sports, but that doesn't mean the significance of the team entity is equal.
In basketball, one individual player can single-handedly change the outlook for a team. If you need evidence, just look at the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James and then the version without him.
Three highly talented players can make an impact in basketball like in no other sport, which is why the Miami Heat, without the strongest of reserves backing their Big Three, went as far last year as they did.
Football, meanwhile, depends on the 53-man unit. Individual talent cannot compensate for team chemistry. Every play involves the 11 men on the field working together.
Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie may form the most lethal secondary the NFL has seen in years, but if Michael Vick struggles, the Philadelphia Eagles likely won't get very far.
Even football teams that have had the best players in the league (e.g. Barry Sanders' Detroit Lions) have failed to reach the pinnacle of their sport.
The Eagles have a crop of very talented players, but none are capable of making the individual impact that the Heat's Big Three can.
Philadelphia may very well have an incredibly successful season, but it will not be in the path of the present-day NBA villains, the Miami Heat.