The Eagles: 12-4 Or Bust

That's the least any self-respecting Birds fan should expect this season. Isn't it?

Because the stench of the Eagles’ final two games of the ’09 season was so overpoweringly foul, it was practically impossible for fans to remember the 11 wins that came before the twin embarrassments in Dallas. No one recalled how the Birds charged to the finish, overcoming a slow start to win six straight before being thoroughly outclassed by the Cowboys.

​That makes sense, since losing two straight important games to the team you hate the most is enough to make a fan forget that good even exists in the world. Endure a couple brain-beatings like that, and life is nothing but pestilence, famine, hunger, destruction and endless coverage of Brett Favre’s return to action. [SIGNUP]

​There has been another curious by-product of the Dallas debacles: lowered expectations. Ever since the ’09 season ended Eagles fans have behaved as if their favorite team was middle-of-the-pack outfit hoping to contend for the playoffs, not a squad capable of reaching the Super Bowl. That’s pretty odd, since for just about a decade, the expectation level has been extremely high. Eagles fans have demanded a championship, and nothing else has been acceptable.

​Now, the climate has changed. Eagles fans want their team to win big, but the feeling going into the 2010 season is one of patience. This is, after all, a young team. It needs time to grow and develop. And when it does, look out. Just wait until these young offensive guns get comfortable. That’s when you’ll see something. And the defense is coming along, isn’t it?

​You have to be kidding me.

​From this vantage point, it seems as if Eagles fans have gone soft, that they’re ready to give the team a get-out-of-jail-free card for the 2010 season. Oh, sure, they want to win, but there isn’t the same roiling fury that creates a climate in which anything less than a Super Bowl victory will be a crashing failure. The edge isn’t there. The anger seems to have abated.

​I can’t understand that, because if you look at the ’10 team, especially in the light of last season’s 11-5 finish, one would imagine the expectations must be higher. There have been no significant losses from the ’09 outfit. Even Brian Westbrook’s departure doesn’t count, since he missed so much of the last campaign. Sheldon Brown’s gone, but a shaky hamstring limited his effectiveness for much of the season. Kevin Curtis? Chris Gocong? Jeremiah Trotter? Nothing to see here, folks.

​Stewart Bradley is back at middle linebacker after missing the ’09 campaign with a torn ACL. Ernie Sims has been added to upgrade the second line of defense. The Eagles drafted Nate Allen to improve the free safety position, which was awful last year. Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Ricky Sapp were all imported to help improve a pass rush that was Trent Cole and not much else last year. And now in his second year, coordinator Sean McDermott should be more comfortable and savvy.

​So, how could the defense not be improved?

​The offense returns its main weapons — DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy. They’re all a year older and presumably better. The line should be improved once Jamaal Jackson returns from the knee injury he sustained late last season. And, if we believe many fans and media, the quarterback position has been upgraded considerably, with classic, West Coast passer Kevin Kolb in place of the smiling, worm-burning guy Who Just Couldn’t Get It Done for the previous 11 seasons.

​If the Eagles were coming off an 8-8 campaign, it would be one thing to consider 2010 a season to tread water, especially since most of the core returns and the draft produced few, if any, players capable of making immediate, significant impacts. But that’s not the case. This team was 11-5 last year. It has lost only one significant starter. It returns its MLB, should be better in the secondary and ought to have an offensive line that just about replicates the quintet that was so highly praised before last season. Anyone who settles for less than 11-5 must have some other reason for the lowered expectations.

​Wait a second. No. It couldn’t be.

​The quarterback?

​You mean Eagles fans are giving Kolb a break?  

​That’s the only possible explanation. Since Kolb is a first-year starter, he deserves a break. That’s dead wrong. He’s a fourth-year player in a league where moral victories don’t exist. Each NFL season must stand on its own, and preparing for a 2010 journey without the same level of edgy anticipation as before runs counter to the past several years of fan behavior. Kolb must be held accountable every week, just as Donovan McNabb was. If the defense lets down late, it’s Kolb’s fault for not scoring more points early. David Akers misses a game-winning field goal? Shouldn’t have been necessary, if Kolb put the ball in the end zone. Dropped passes, poor protection, lack of pass rush, no running game are all on him, too.

​You can’t have it both ways, Eagles fans. Either you stick to the standards you demanded of McNabb or admit that your dissatisfaction with Number Five was personal, not business. Last year, the Eagles went 11-5 and failed miserably. Anything less in 2010 must be considered a complete disaster.

​The season starts in three weeks. Time to get your minds right.


• Now that’s the Roy Oswalt we expected to see. His last two starts have been exactly what the Phillies need from their third starter spot. Now, if the offense can just pick it up, the Braves are in trouble.
• Enjoy the Shawn Andrews show, Giants fans. He appears healthy. It seems as if his psychological problems are under control. As for his desire…well, get ready for plenty of drama.
• Here’s wishing Tra Thomas good luck in the next chapter of his life. As the Eagles’ offensive line struggles to find consistency, plenty will pine for the stability Thomas brought to the tackle spot for so many years.