Saturday, December 22, 2012

How the Eagles lost their wings

Not a soul can pinpoint exactly when or how it happened.  Did it happen after the Eagles gave the Cowboys their first playoff win in umpteen years and in doing so being the first time the Reid-McNabb regime went one-and-done in the playoffs?  Did it happen upon trading Donovan McNabb?  Keep in mind that McNabb is still the last Eagle quarterback to win a playoff game.  Did it happen after inking Michael Vick to a rather substantial contract?  What about that "dream team" blather being uttered by back-up QB, Vince Young?  I believe it was a combination of all of these events and then some.

The End of an Era

I to this day believe there has been no quarterback who has received more undeserved criticism than Donovan McNabb.  From the day he was drafted he was booed which would eerily foreshadow what was to come.  I get it, the guy didn't get it done.  He didn't bring a Super Bowl to the City of Brotherly Love, but there is no doubt McNabb had a positive impact (much more positive than negative) on that franchise.  You talk about a man who was the subject of an abundance of criticism throughout his career that one could think that he was a criminal.

The 1-4 record in NFC Championship games are well-documented.  The throwing up in the Super Bowl is well-documented.  He didn't get it done.  It's simple and I get that, but at the end of the day, the man was responsible for a gargantuan amount of regular season success.  Sporting a 98-62-1 regular season record, won nine playoff games (9-7), won four NFC East crowns (not including 2006 led by Jeff Garcia), and he did it all with respectable numbers.  There is no telling what the Eagles could have done if he didn't have multiple seasons derailed by injuries.  He also made the Pro Bowl six times.  This was by no means a scrub.

The guy could play professional football yet at the end of the day, it was never enough.  He couldn't get it done and was eventually ran out of town after a defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys.  It wasn't just that the Eagles lost, it was the fact that they were blown out by a team who hadn't sniffed a playoff win in over a decade and at the same time was the first time ever Reid and McNabb went one-and-done together.  The marriage was over and they would trade him to Washington Redskins.  In hindsight, it appears as if the Eagles made the right decision seeing as how McNabb's career would end, but I don't believe Washington and Minnesota were good fits for him.  I believe McNabb had another good two years left in him had he spent them with Philly.  However, Philly seemed to believe that Kevin Kolb was their savior so they turned to him.  Which I believe was one of many mistakes and contributed to the fall of the Eagles.

The Return of Mike Vick

Vick literally bailed out the Eagles in 2010 and it started in Week 1 after Kolb was injured against the Packers and Vick would engineer a near-comeback win.   A season mired by injury, Kevin Kolb would be relieved by Mike Vick who would go on to go 8-3 as the Eagles starter.  He would have by far the best season of his career.  Leading them to an NFC East crown.  Finishing with a 21:6 TD:Int ratio with over 3000 yards passing, over 600 yards rushing with 9 rushing TDs, and a 100.2 QB rating.  Although it wouldn't end well seeing as they lost to those same Packers again in the Wildcard.  The Packers would go on to win the Super Bowl and Eagle fans were left wondering 'what could have been' once again.  It would lead to an offseason that would once again end up being a huge mistake.

Trying to Buy a Championship

Over the years it's been proven that you just can't buy championships.  The Washington Redskins have proven that and so have the Dallas Cowboys.  Building through the draft (or undrafted free agents) has always been the blueprint to building a championship team.  The Eagles would add themselves to that exclusive list of trying to buy a championship and failing.  Not only did they give Mike Vick a huge payday, but they would give a huge contract to Nnamdi Asomugha.  They also handed out contracts to Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young, Ronnie Brown, and Jason Babin.  It seemed as if every time you looked up, the Eagles landed a coveted free agent.  In hindsight, it has proven to be a mistake just as it happened with previous teams.  Trying to buy a title can lead to chemistry issues and guys being handed starting jobs without truly working hard for it.  Competition within camp is always the best way to build an organization and when you are bringing in high-priced free agents, it's hard to achieve that.

As it also happens, Mike Vick came down to earth from his 2010 season.  In 2011, he looked nothing like the Vick from the previous season and he couldn't stay healthy either.  The wheels had already fallen off after 2011.  Vick's downward spiral would continue into the 2012 season, and now he's lost his job because he was predictably injured again and even when he was healthy, he was turning the ball over way too much.

Entitlement

What ran rampant in the preseason of 2011 was a certain dream team remark by Vince Young.  As a diehard Cowboy fan, I know all about entitlement.  You think you have a team good enough to win a Super Bowl so you become entitled and think you deserve it.  Completely disregarding the fact that you have to go out there and win football games.  That's been the Dallas Cowboys for years.  Thinking that just because they are America's Team and have a storied history, that teams will just lay down and the championships will just continue to pile up.  The Eagles thought because they had one of the most talented teams in the NFL and were due for a Super Bowl run, meant that they should become some sort of a dynasty.  This is the NFL and the other teams just happen to be professional too.  This isn't a watered-down sport and it's any given Sunday.  It may not have been Young's intentions, but he put a huge target on the Eagles back and put unrealistic expectations on the shoulders of men who weren't ready for it.  Not only that, but Vick's comments regarding a dynasty was over the top as well and it illustrated once again that this team had a sense of entitlement.

Conclusion

Through it all, I believe the fall of the Eagles happened mainly because of trading McNabb, trying to buy a championship, and their sense of entitlement.  Not only that, Andy Reid's firing has been long overdue.  It's not that Andy Reid isn't a great coach because he is.  Only God knows where the Eagles would be had he not signed on to be the head coach in 1999.  The bottom line is you just can't keep a job in this league as long as Andy Reid has without getting it done on the big stage.  It's just the way it is.  I'll be the first one to tell you that I'm not a big fan of coaches being fired, but it's time for a change in Philly.  The Eagles have lost their wings in the way the Cowboys did after Jimmy Johnson.  Making bad personnel decisions, having bad drafts, giving out bad contracts, and walking around with an undeserved sense of entitlement.  But at least with the Cowboys, they won Super Bowl rings before they fell off a cliff.  The Eagles didn't win a single Super Bowl after winning the division six times since 2001, going to four straight NFC titles games (2001-2004) and a Super Bowl berth (2004), not to mention another NFC title appearance in 2008.  It's just a damn shame, and now the Eagles will fly off to irrelevance for an extended period of time.  Fly, fly, fly, fly.

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