The Eagles think they have everything figured out.
That’s a dangerous way to go about your business in the National Football League. Last year’s magical run to the Super Bowl had plenty of lessons in it. The trick is learning the right things from those lessons.
In many ways, the Eagles did learn. In too many others, they learned the wrong thing.
Getting to a Super Bowl makes every team think it knows how to get to a Super Bowl. Outside of New England and, lately, Kansas City, that’s just not true.
As back-to-back blowout losses to the two best teams in the NFC clearly show, there is no formula to making a Super Bowl. Heck, the Eagles’ 10-1 start was a big hint that things would be different this season.
The Eagles, so dominant all season last year, spent the early part of this fall winning close games by the skin of their teeth through superior talent and a liberal sprinkling of good luck.
Through it all, as the Eagles kept winning, the mantra was that they hadn’t played their best football yet. Here’s a thought, maybe that was the Eagles’ best football.
Maybe the Eagles aren’t a dominant football team. You’d get no argument from Dallas or San Francisco.
Maybe trying to duplicate what made last season so exciting isn’t the best way to get back to a Super Bowl.
You can’t duplicate the injury luck the Eagles had last year. From practically the first day of preseason, the Eagles ran out of injury luck. This winter has been a never-ending process of shuffling and rearranging the lineup to account for key players who were unavailable for one reason or another.
Last week alone, the Eagles had cornerback Darius Slay have knee surgery and guard Cam Jurgens miss the Seattle game with a chest injury. Even quarterback Jalen Hurts missed a couple of practices with flu symptoms.
Hurts, who has battled a nagging knee injury all season, didn’t join the Eagles on the team flight. He flew out on a separate flight with the hopes of avoiding getting any of his teammates ill.
On the field last year, the Eagles got better-than-average performances from their journeyman corps of safeties and linebackers. This year, the Eagles figured they could repeat that same performance. That process hasn’t quite worked out as well as the team hoped.
Eagles fans knew that it wouldn’t be easy. The fans have long memories of too many times when their Super Bowl hopes were dashed prematurely.
The Eagles front office should have known better. There are just too many examples to ignore.
The 1980 Eagles had a more talented roster than the Wild Card Raiders that won that Super Bowl. Reggie White and Randall Cunningham never got a shot at winning a Super Bowl.
Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb went to five NFC title games but just one Super Bowl, where Tom Brady and the Patriots prevailed. After that, the Eagles proclaimed themselves the NFL’s “Gold Standard.”
The Eagles did win it all in 2017, beating those same Patriots with the Philly, Philly. A year later, the repeat effort stalled against New Orleans.
It’s not just the Eagles, either.
Philly fans have ample experience with unmet expectations.
The Flyers have been trying to win the 1976 Stanley Cup for nearly 50 years now.
The Sixers keep trusting the process that gave Julius Erving and Moses Malone only a single title. Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson and Joel Embiid have yet to replicate that feat.
The Phillies won two titles but real sustained success, dynasty style, just hasn’t happened. The Phils came close in 1983. In 1993, Macho Row gave it a go, which led to more failed attempts.
After their second title, the Phils compiled the greatest pitching rotation of all time and still won nothing else. Even the current Phillies got to one World Series but stalled trying to make a second trip.
And that’s right where we are today. The Eagles thought they had it all figured out.
But did they?