Have we sold our football soul?
Nine months ago, a little more time than it would take to gestate Rosemary’s baby, we were celebrating the most improbable of Philadelphia championships. Now that we’ve had time to reflect, even as the 2018/19 season kicked off it was difficult comprehend just how improbable it really was. As we see this season spiral out of control like Linda Blair’s head, it really begs the question. How the hell did we win that Super Bowl anyway?
Halloween was just a few weeks ago, but the scariest night of the year may have been last Sunday when the birds tanked to a pitiful Cowboys team in front of a salivating home crowd sending them into a scene from The Purge. There were certainly more “Boos” that night, anyway. As the team trotted into the tunnel after mustering a measly field goal in the first half, I was reminded of an age old sports talk radio adage on slow news days:
“Would you trade one Super Bowl victory for 20 years of irrelevance?”
What if someone actually made that deal? What if someone said the incantations, performed the rituals, and made an unholy deal with Beelzebub himself, allowing us an incredible championship. A night that brought grown men to tears and made memories that will last forever, but has doomed us to decades of head scratching, coffee table flipping, and screaming in agony.
Let’s start with the coach. Doug Pederson, who going into his second year, was questioned locally as to whether he was the right guy to lead this team. He was already being overshadowed by his defensive coordinator and fingered nationally as potentially the worst head coaching hire in the NFL. How did everyone have it wrong on this guy? Even Doug’s supporters couldn’t have seen this coming. His blend of gut and analytics has prompted a shift in the way NFL games are called. It’s clearly visible across the league. 4th and Doug is thing, and it’s beautiful. Beyond the season, Doug’s Super Bowl was like watching someone who’s never been in a casino before dominate the craps table for three glorious hours epitomized by the time he let Nick Foles blow on his dice before rolling a hard 4 to win a months rent with the Philly Special.
Speaking of Nick Foles, how does the same guy who closed the season against the Raiders and Cowboys looking completely inept, stumble his way through the Falcons, and then turn into a QB with Favre’s guts, Manning’s accuracy and Montana’s acumen? To make matters even more vexing, he steps down from Olympus this season acting like Sampson with a buzz cut against the Falcons and Bucs.
Many fans this year will point to injuries as a possible scapegoat to justify what’s shaping up to be a lost season, but last year’s team was just as hamstrung. The 2017 team made a playoff run without their starting RB/punt returner, left tackle, special teams leader, middle linebacker, oh and MVP candidate QB. Everyone of those injuries is to a key position. Teams who lose just one of those positions have a hard time keeping up that high level of play, but the Eagles only got better.
Oh there are other examples of supernatural intervention: Elliot’s 61 yard field goal, Rodgers injury, Carson teleporting out of pile of Redskins, favorable replay reviews in XLII, and Brady’s inability to catch a floater (regardless of inflation level) just to name a few.
Why are the Eagles mediocre (bad) this season? The team isn’t vastly different. Sure there may be a few more injuries, particularly before this week, but same head coach, same defensive coordinator, same tight end plus a first round draft pick, wide receivers plus Tate, offensive line plus Peters, line backers plus Hicks, and defensive line plus Bennett. Oh right, and we have our MVP caliber quarterback healthy.
I’m only left with the feeling that someone made that unholy bargain, dooming us to 19 more years of irrelevance, maybe it was even Doug himself or Howie (anything would be worth another dagger to the Chip Kelly era). Maybe they both had their hands on the planchette as it skittered around the ouija board?
While I’m gluing together the pieces of the last object victimized by my rage from watching Ezekiel Elliot’s “feed me” gesture, it dawned on me. The question may not be if the deal was made, that’s a foregone conclusion. The question now is are you okay with it?