The Eagles Won’t Win the Super Bowl in 2012
During the past 10 years of Andy Reid’s tenure here in Philadelphia, the expectation—make that the mandate—for the Eagles has been a Super Bowl championship and the cathartic parade that it would spawn. No matter how much hope and good feeling accompanied the beginning of a season, when the NFL’s final verdict was rendered, fans were angry and felt underserved by the home team when the trophy didn’t arrive here.
While that’s an unreasonable way to expect every year to end, it’s hardly an illegitimate emotion in the long term. The Super Bowl has been played every season since 1967, and there has not been one time where Eagles fans have felt satisfaction. That’s not good, and for years, it was cause for anger and vitriol.
But a strange thing has happened the past two years. Instead of displaying the same myopic, Super-Bowl-or-else approach to the professional football season, Eagles fans have been caught up in the “excitement” created by the team. Last year was defined not by a home playoff stinker against Green Bay but by a remarkable comeback against the Giants, a team known for choking. “The Miracle in the Meadowlands II” was the rallying cry for 2010, not “Failure to Deliver.”
This summer, during the heady talent acquisition that characterized the abbreviated free-agent period, Eagles fans cheered as the team acquired cornerbacks, defensive linemen and offensive backups, conveniently forgetting to look at the shortcomings along the offensive line, the shaky linebacking corps, the scary safety situation and the incredible inexperience in the kicking game. They listened to reserve QB Vince Young, he of the sparkling career totals of 42 TDs and 42 interceptions, christen the Eagles a “Dream Team” and took the bait. In a two-week span, Eagles fans had been transformed from hard-core pragmatists to little kids scrambling to get posters of their heroes to hang on bedroom walls.
It sure was fun to see the team grab all that talent, and the newcomers should make certain areas (cornerback, pass rush) better this year. But there can be no denying the fact that the Eagles are rebuilding, which is a nice euphemism for being out of contention for the Big Prize. There will be no Super Bowl this year, and if the fans I have spoken to represent the majority, that’s okay.
The Birds’ offensive line will start two rookies Sunday in St. Louis, one of whom—first-round pick Danny Watkins—has looked quite overmatched during the pre-season. Starting right tackle Todd Herremans has never played the position regularly before, and even if he moves back to the left guard position he has manned so ably during his time as a starter, that just means shaky Winston Justice is healthy and ready to “protect” Michael Vick’s blind side. Stepping into Herremans’ spot is journeyman Evan Mathis, whom the fetid Bengals saw fit to release. All of this adds up to a lot of pressure for Vick, who needs less time running around, not more.
A couple weeks ago, I discussed the Eagles’ decision to downplay the importance of the linebacker positions. Stopping the run isn’t the team’s first priority, so it will not invest heavily in the three men behind the line. But the safety position is vital to thwarting the pass, and the Birds are hoping a collection of youngsters will get the job done. As for the kicking game, the rookie firm of Henery and Henry was up-and-down during the pre-season, hardly inspiring confidence.
Put it all together, and it spells 10-6—at best. The Eagles have enough to win the weak NFC East, as if that means anything. The Giants are good for a late-season fold every year, while the Cowboys’ defense stinks, and Washington should be relegated to the Southeastern Conference. But in the NFC hierarchy, the Eagles remain behind Green Bay, Chicago, New Orleans and perhaps even Atlanta. They lack the kind of steady defense capable of stopping balanced rivals and don’t have an offensive line that can stem the confusion created by a top-flight D. The Birds should make the playoffs and may even host a first-round game. That may be good enough for you, but it isn’t for me.
In a way, Eagles’ fans new mellow attitude is a good thing. The national approach to professional sports has become far too aggressive and vindictive, so enjoying the ride is a step in the right direction. But the new acceptance—and even celebration—of the organization’s philosophy that almost is good enough is somewhat confusing. Perhaps the trade of Donovan McNabb in the spring of 2010 took the edge off, since there is no one player to blame every single problem on. Face it; no matter how much you may dislike Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner, it’s hard to boo them on Sunday. Since there is no on-field personification of the fans’ frustration, they have lost a way to express themselves. They’re just as dissatisfied but less vocal. That makes sense.
But it shouldn’t change the goal for every season, and it shouldn’t give the franchise a chance to catch its breath. The Eagles haven’t won a Super Bowl, and that’s a crime against the fans. Despite all the dreamy feelings that came from August, the forecast for 2011 features another disappointing February. The Eagles won’t win it all this season, folks.
And that’s not all right.
- No matter what you read in the papers, the Phillies’ bullpen is not deep enough with reliable pitchers for the post-season. There is no way Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are throwing eight innings a night in the playoffs and (we hope) World Series. Last year in the post-season, the Giants used four and five relief pitchers a night. The Phils don’t have that. Let’s hope that’s not a problem.
- The trend in college football toward schools’ wearing hideous uniforms is another example of the grown-ups letting the kids have their way. Maryland and Georgia looked like they were dressed in nightmare paint during the first weekend, but if the kids think it’s cool, administrators will sign off, because it could help recruiting. Who cares about the schools’ images?
- It was interesting to see the Phillies counter Daily News columnist Bill Conlin’s assertion that Chase Utley should be batting second. During Tuesday night’s broadcast, hitting coach Greg Gross was interviewed on air, and he countered the criticism of Utley by saying that since the second baseman didn’t have a real spring training, it was “just a matter of time” until he was producing as usual. Utley has played in 86 games this year and has 385 plate appearances. That should be enough time. Face it; he’s not a run-producer any more, and Conlin is right. Utley should hit second, with Hunter Pence third.