Super Bowl or bust; there's no other way to define a successful season for the Philadelphia Eagles this year.
To make sure we're on the same page of what "Super or bust" means, I expect, as should everyone else, the Eagles to play in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, February 5, 2012 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and win.
Hey, if you don't believe me, listen to what the Eagles' owner, Jeffrey Lurie, said to the media on Thursday, August 4, during his annual state of the team address:
"We only have one goal. We've won so many division titles. We've been in five championship games, a Super Bowl. The only goal for us is to win the Super Bowl. We've kind of done it all and now, as it is every year, it's a primary and very sort of total focus."
Maybe you think that's something any owner would say.
Stop lying to yourself. Only a select group of owners would talk this way, and Lurie fits into that group.
Lurie went on to prove that you can still have those expectations while respecting the rest of the NFC and not labeling the Eagles as a "Dream Team."
"We're about as far from a dream team as you can be," Lurie said. "We're playing catch-up. The only dream team I know about is the Green Bay Packers. We dream to become as good as the Green Bay Packers and hold that trophy. And going into last year you could say the New Orleans Saints because those are the dream teams. They're the ones holding the Lombardi Trophy."
All of the teams he mentioned might knock the Eagles out of the playoffs, or even prevent them from making it into the postseason. If either scenario unfolds, you can chalk it up as a failure.
The Eagles could go 16-0 in the regular season and roll through the playoffs. But if they lose in the Super Bowl, it's a failure.
On the other side, if they can sneak into the playoffs at 10-6 or worse and still bring the first Vince Lombardi trophy to Philadelphia, you can crown their season as a success.
It's no longer good enough to make the playoffs, advance to the NFC Championship Game or make it to the Super Bowl. The only thing the fans, players, coaches and owner will accept is a parade down Broad Street celebrating a championship for the first time since 1960.
And if you accept anything less heading into the season, you're either afraid of putting yourself out there or you fear injuries.
Those who are true Philadelphia fans know what it's like to get your gut punched in by the Sixers, Flyers, Phillies and Eagles. But that's the beauty of being a Philadelphia fan. We're tougher and more resilient than fans in New York, Boston, Chicago or L.A.
We take the body blows and occasional knockout shots, and we're ready for the next figurative punch. If you fear having your heart ripped out again, go away. It's part of being an Eagles fan and, more importantly, a Philadelphia fan.
I get the concern about injuries. But they cannot change how fans view the season.
Imagine a year where Mike Vick goes down for the season, one of the three standout cornerbacks, Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, blows out a knee and the offensive line fails to start more than five games together.
I'd say that, if that unlikely scenario played out, the season would be viewed as a disaster, the same as if the Eagles finished the year 6-10. The only difference with injuries is that they allow the fans and the team to accept moral victories.
But what if the Eagles get nickel-and-dimed with injuries throughout the year to role players and an occasional starter?
Fine. I'll just point to the Green Bay Packers winning the Super Bowl with 15 players on the IR, including the starting tight end, Jermichael Finely, the starting running back, Ryan Grant and a starting linebacker, Nick Barnett.
Don't give yourself an excuse to fall back on. It's just as bad as someone who isn't willing to put themselves on the line before the season starts. Grow a set already.
Come to grips with reality, and acknowledge that the Eagles were the most aggressive team during free agency, bolstering a defense which hurt them last year.
They even strengthened their offense by signing a running back who can be used in short-yardage situations, drafting Danny Watkins to solidify the right guard position and signing Ryan Harris to add depth at right tackle.
The only question mark on offense is DeSean Jackson. But with so many other strengths, the Eagles should be able to overcome any obstacle he could present if a contract extension doesn't come through and he decides to leave camp.
No one knows if the Eagles are going to win the Super Bowl this year. But anything less than a win has to be viewed as a failed season, and yet another instance of the Eagles getting close.
And please don't tell me that places like Cleveland or Detroit would enjoy having this much success.
No. They dream of being like the Green Bay Packers.