The Green Bay Packers in the 1960’s. The Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970’s. The San Francisco 49ers in the 1980’s. The Dallas Cowboys in the 1990’s. The New England Patriots in the 2000’s.
Every single team became, and to this day remains for many, one to be rabidly despised. Just for being so good.
Welcome to the 2010’s and perhaps, just perhaps, the dawning of a new era.
The Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles have never been the kind of football franchise viewed as merely “another opponent”. There’s not a single franchise worth of opposing fans who don’t follow the word “Philadelphia” or “Eagles” with a specific mono-syllabic word. They are viewed by many as malcontents, thugs, dirty players, home of law-breakers, scoundrels, cheats, rapscallions, purveyors of prodigious plunder, and the kind of guys that would go out of their way to help Granny across the street and leave her in the middle of traffic just for laughs.
They players not only welcome every nasty moniker, but they smile as they go about their work. Their fans follow suit in a proud and, to the haters, arrogant fashion. It’s a badge of honor to be a fan of any Philadelphia team and be despised.
There is no doubt this is the year Andy Reid either fulfills all the promise and confidence this organization has shown in him, or he begins looking for a good realtor. Eagles President Joe Banner didn’t exactly kick his Head Coach in the derriere during an off-season interview, but he did indicate the boot toe is warmed up and ready to go. This isn’t a shocker, because Reid has thus far shown a quizzical propensity to fall short.
Most coaches would cough up a lung to have his numbers. Twelve seasons as conductor with only two losing campaigns, and one doesn’t count because it was his first year picking up the mess left behind by the spectacularly overrated Ray Rhodes. Still, judgment at this level comes in hardware.
2005 marks the only true disaster on Reid’s Philly dance card, and here he gets something of a pass. More band-aids than at an exercise-oriented summer camp populated by computer geeks, but little doubt Reid also made some horrific choices to help torpedo the season. Stuck with Mike McMahon at QB after Donovan McNabb went down and out, and failing to bust Terrell Owens for his nonsense a lot sooner than he did, the Eagles dropped every single division game. Lowlight of that season had to be at home against Seattle, coughing up 42 points and scoring nary a one.
If the front office was going to pull the trigger on Reid, that would have been the easy time to fire. There were very few, if any, indicators he had control of the players and was flailing about looking for answers in every wrong place. Add to that the next season Philadelphia lost to New Orleans in the NFC playoffs, and then “capitalized” with an 8-8 season in 2007? There were more calls for Reid’s resignation than bulk orders for Cheeze-Whiz at “Famous Philly’s Family Sports Pub”.
Then Reid screws up everyone’s plans and winds up in the playoffs the next three consecutive seasons. It’s not his fault Michael Vick was picked in the end zone by Green Bay’s Tramon Williams to send them packing last season. Still, with a record of having been to the playoffs nine times during his Eagles tenure and only one Super Bowl appearance to show for it, patience over the Eagles in Philadelphia is shorter than the list of excuses for Samari Walker trying to explain why he was gobbling down a snack of marijuana during a recent traffic stop.
So now Reid, who has final say over every personnel call, has boxed himself into a corner most every other coach in the NFL would give anything to inhabit. He has used the new CBA and the ensuing free agent signing period to masterful advantage.
Philadelphia could have the best shutdown secondary in the League with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel (if Samuel drops the prima donna act and decides competition is better than whining). DE Jason Babin brings 30 career sacks from the “Say, didn’t you use to be competitive?” Tennessee Titans. To those forgetting Cullen Jenkins in the defensive discussion, wait until he starts dropping QB’s on the turf like so many flies. Vince Young is gladly playing second fiddle to Michael Vick, who despite still being a pariah to many over his dog fighting conviction, could be on the verge of becoming the most feared QB in the game.
Add it all up and start collecting tea leaves from the various pundits and prognosticators with the NFL woven into their DNA. The consensus is the Philadelphia Eagles are hands down, no doubt, don’t you dare even think for one split second about questioning me young man, favorites to emerge from the NFC pack and own the field in Indianapolis. Winning a Super Bowl and finally give Eagles faithful something to stick in the face of opposing fans instead of “our Santa is tougher than your Santa” every year when there’s even a whiff of snow come home game time.
Hang on. Deep breath. Exhale. Back to Earth. Nice, slow bite of the cheesesteak.
Winning the Conference is certainly not a given. Calendar check. August? Point to the faint of heart.
Atlanta‘s secondary has a lot to prove and a rebuilding offensive line will make things dicey early on. Chicago has a much better chance now that Kristin Cavallari won’t be in the stands wearing her “I Heart Jay” jersey. New Orleans has to be considered a strong favorite with Newton now on the team, and….excuse me?….it’s Cecil, not Cam? OK, move along people. Nothing to see here. Aaron Rogers won’t suddenly become a mere mortal, and the Packers receiving corps could be the most dangerous anywhere. Eli Manning has a ring to his credit, yet is still considered “over-rated” by so-called expert wags that seem to miss almost 22,000 yards passing in 7 seasons. Still, those 25 picks in 2010 do not bode well for the Giants fortunes. Seattle has the equivalent of a roster barely out of football diapers and could be in for a long fall.
The single most worrisome issues for the Eagles have little or nothing to do with competition on the field. It’s competition in the locker room and reigning in a very health dose of ego that has to bring pause.
Reid has already shown a propensity for failing to note player gripes and issues around the training table. While there’s nothing wrong with players getting under the skin of those competing for playing time and, in the case of offensive players, getting their hands on the ball more than others for personal pride and/or contract bonuses, Reid has got to shut this down immediately and keep the audio in-house, away from the probing pens and microphones of the media.
Vince Young could start for a number of teams, but has to re-establish himself on and off the field after injuries and a very public blow up with Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher and team ownership that cost both he and Fisher their jobs. A good case can be made that Young simply had a moment of pique tossing his pads into the crowd after he was kept out of reentering a game the Titans lost. Fisher erred badly in replacing him with Kerry Collins and then Rusty Smith. Young knew it. Owner Bud Adams knew it. The stats proved it. The only person with blinders on was Fisher. There is no doubting Young has plenty of gun and grit left in that arm and body. All he has to do now is prove it.
But the most distressing note and potential crisis being faced by the Eagles, even before they play a single down?
Comparing themselves to the 2010-2011 Miami Heat.
Note to Eagles players about the Heat comparisons.
Pre-season preening. Guarantees. Dallas 4, Miami 2. Mavs win 3 straight after losing Game 3. LeBron James choke. Punked by Mark Cuban.
Santa and his minions will not be amused.