Tag Archives: Super Bowl

In 1902, the new Philadelphia baseball rivalry spilled over to pro football

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The 1902 Philadelphia Athletics  (pic) rivalry with the Phillies spilled over to pro football

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, one of the biggest sporting days in the world. It is estimated that well over 100 million people worldwide will tune in to watch the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams battle to become this year’s champions of the National Football League at some point.

The game won’t hold the same edge-of-your-seat passionate interest that last year’s game did here in Philadelphia. A year ago, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated New England in a thrilling 41-33 contest to capture the first-ever Super Bowl crown in franchise history.
As soon as this year’s game ends and the last of the chicken wings, pizza, and beer has been consumed here in Philly, local sports fans will begin to much more seriously consider the upcoming Philadelphia Phillies baseball season.
The Phillies pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Clearwater, Florida exactly ten days from today for the official start of 2019 spring training camp. The position players will join later that week, and the first game of the Grapefruit League season is scheduled for Friday, February 22.
A fun fact that most Phillies fans are probably not aware of is that there was once a Philadelphia Phillies professional football team in town. In fact, there is a direct link, as the football team was actually owned by the baseball team.
In 1902 a first-ever attempt to form a pro football league took place right here in Pennsylvania. And in fact, that formation was a direct result of the beginning of the baseball wars the previous year with the formation of the new American League.
The Phillies had been in existence as members of the National League since the 1883 season, though they were often referred to as the ‘Philadelphia Quakers’ during their first seven seasons. The NL had been founded seven years earlier, on February 2, 1876.

Ben Shibe (2nd from left, front row) was the original owner of the Philadelphia Athletics – both the baseball and football versions. (Bain News Service/WikiCommons)
Founded on January 28, 1901 the American League set out to become an alternative “major league” and expand opportunities for both players and fans to participate in the game at the highest levels.
During the 1901-02 seasons there was outright war between the more established “Senior Circuit” of the NL and the new kids on the block, the “Junior Circuit” of the AL. The two would finally establish a ‘Pax baseball’ following the 1902 season, with establishment of rules regarding player contracts as well as a World Series between champions of the two leagues.
But while that initial war was still being fought, the idea of professional football was brought into the fray. Phillies owner John Rogers started a football team named after his baseball club. Ben Shibe, owner of the Philadelphia Athletics in the AL, decided to start one of his own in response.
Out in Pittsburgh, the Homestead Library & Athletic Club had what was considered the best football team in the nation made up of professional paid players. The team was funded by Pittsburgh Pirates minority owner William Chase Temple, and had not lost a game during either their 1900 or 1901 schedules.
Football promoter Dave Berry took many of those Homestead players and formed a pro team called the Pittsburgh Stars. The team is believed by many to have remained funded by either Temple or the Pirates majority owner, Barney Dreyfuss.
That was the extent of what became known as the National Football League in 1902: the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Athletics, and Pittsburgh Stars. And to avoid confusion for modern fans, that “NFL” was to have no relation to today’s league.
There were many players who were involved with both the football and baseball teams, and so this led to the football season not opening until early October in 1902. Due to Pennsylvania’s “Blue Laws“, which forbid most activities from being held on Sundays due to religious reasons, all of the 1902 NFL games took place on Saturdays.

The 1902 Philadelphia Athletics pro football club was owned by Connie Mack and the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics baseball club. (unknown/WikiCommons)
The official schedule was for each team to play the other two times, followed by a championship. At the season’s conclusion, the Athletics and Stars faced off in a match that was being billed as the championship in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving Day.
After a delay due to payment of the A’s players, the game finally got underway. The game was described as “an even match” where “both teams played their best”, but it settled nothing as the two teams battled to a scoreless tie.
A second game was quickly scheduled to see if a victor could be determined. In that rematch, the Stars came out on top by an 11-0 score. Thus, Pittsburgh would remain the champions of professional football.
The A’s would later defeat the Phillies in a game that was billed as the City Championship, but it was a bittersweet win after the defeat by Pittsburgh. The overall final records for the three teams along with the points for and against were as follows: Pittsburgh Stars (3-2-1, 39-22), Philadelphia Athletics (3-2-1, 34-44), Philadelphia Phillies (3-3, 41-34).
And that was that for the first-ever National Football League. With the settlement of disputes between the National and American Leagues in baseball, the attempt at carrying over the rivalry to pro football died off.
On the baseball diamond, the fledgling Athletics would prove far more successful than those early Phillies as the new century was dawning. The 1902 Phillies went 56-81 while the Athletics went 83-53 and won the second-ever AL pennant.

The actual American pro football league that we know today would not form until 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA), changing to the National Football League (NFL) for the 1922 season.
The Philadelphia Eagles have won the NFL title four times: 1948-49, 1960, and last year’s 2017 championship. The Philadelphia Athletics would win five World Series crowns: 1910-11, 1913, 1929-30. The Philadelphia Phillies have captured a pair of World Series titles: 1980, 2008.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Wait, there was once a Philadelphia Phillies – professional football team?

Can the 2018 Eagles do what the 2009 Phillies could not?

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Despite Utley’s heroics the Phillies fell just short in repeat world title attempt

Tonight is the 2018 NFL season opener between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons. That would be the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, by the way. Those words still look and sound so glorious, do they not?

The Birds and their fans will celebrate their title one final time with the raising of the first-ever Super Bowl banner at Lincoln Financial Field this evening. But after that, the game will begin. The football calendar will officially turn to a new season.
In that new 2018 season the Eagles will be defending an NFL championship for the fourth time in franchise history. It marks just the second time in the last 35 years that a Philadelphia major pro sports team will attempt to repeat as a champion.
Philly fans remember well the last time it happened Just nine years ago the Philadelphia Phillies played the 2009 season as defending champions of Major League Baseball.
The long playoff run and Fall Classic triumph had been punctuated by a Halloween parade around City Hall and down Broad Street to Citizens Bank Park.
The Eagles experienced pretty much the same thing. A long playoff run, early February Super Bowl, parade this time up Broad Street from the stadium area and out the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum.
There was a shorter than normal off-season as the Phillies did the banquet and awards circuit that winter and then returned to Clearwater for spring training in February 2009. The Eagles had a month shorter off-season as well. While the Birds and their coaching staff were prepping for the Patriots, the rest of the NFL was already getting a jump on 2018 preparations.
As far as personnel were concerned, the 2009 Phillies returned largely the same cast of lead characters who had won the crown. The only change among starting position players came with Raul Ibanez replacing Pat Burrell as the left fielder.
On the mound, the biggest change at the start was that young lefty J.A. Happ stepped into the starting rotation in place of the Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton combination from the previous year.
cliff-lee-catches-popup-world-series-game-1-4fb7b002d3ee4cbc_medium.jpg

Lee arrived at the July 2009 trade deadline to provide a needed shot in the arm.
Those Phillies had to make a big injury adjustment when Brett Myers hit the DL for three months in late May. You probably won’t recall that they gave Antonio Bastardo five June starts, or that they signed Rodrigo Lopez and plugged him in for five July starts. But you will recall that they traded for Cliff Lee and signed Pedro Martinez in July, bolstering the rotation for August and beyond.
There was a World Series hangover at the beginning of the season. Six weeks in, the Phillies went through a stretch in which they lost six of eight games. On Friday, May 15, the 2009 Phillies woke up with a 16-16 record. And then it all changed.
Following that mid-May rough stretch, the Phillies went on a five-game winning streak. It began a stretch that saw the club capture 19 of their next 26, moving them to a season-best twelve games over the .500 mark and to a four-game lead in the NL East.
And then the bottom seemed to again drop out. A loss on Friday, June 12 began a horrendous stretch in which the club dropped 11 of 13 games. Despite falling to just three games over .500 they remained atop the division, but barely. With just a half-game lead, they once again turned things around.
From June 27 to the MLB All-Star Game break the Phillies went 11-4, hitting the break with their lead back up to four games. They didn’t let up when play resumed, winning their first five. It kicked off a 10-2 run that pushed their record overall to 58-40 and stretched their division lead out to seven games.

Though the team would drop eight of the next 11 contests, Lee had arrived to inject some life – not to mention a stopper to the rotation. He got the win in two of the three victories during that rough stretch.
The rest of the way, those 2009 Phillies were never seriously challenged within the division. Charlie Manuel‘s squad clinched a third straight NL East crown with a 10-3 romp over the Houston Astros at Citizens Bank Park on September 30 and then coasted through the final four games.
In the NLDS the Phillies faced a real challenge from the Colorado Rockies but fought them off in four tough games. Then for a second straight season, the club overcame the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS in five games.
For the first time in history the Phillies returned to the World Series for a second consecutive year. That is exactly what the Eagles will be trying to accomplish. It’s a tough road. There were ups and downs along the way. But the Phillies had the best team in the NL, and they proved it over the course of the long season and two tough playoff series.
The 2018 Philadelphia Eagles look very similar. The Birds are again one of the strongest teams in football, but there will be challenges along the way. They will take some hard shots. They might even go into a losing stretch of games.
But given health from most of the key players, there is no reason that in the end their talent cannot take them back for a shot at a repeat. The Phillies had that shot and came up just short.
In that 2009 World Series the Phillies ran into a talented and experienced New York Yankees squad. They even handed the Yanks a 6-1 thrashing in the opener at Yankee Stadium.
But New York got a gutsy performance from A.J. Burnett in Game Two to even the series, then out-slugged the Phillies to take two of three at Citizens Bank Park. Up by three games to two, the Yankees put the series away with a convincing 7-3 victory in Game Six back in the Bronx.
Thinking back on it, that World Series defeat was disheartening. The Phillies were no longer the world champions. But they were still a strong ball club. They would get a couple more serious shots at another ring. Though they came up short, it was a magnificent run.
This is what looms ahead for these Philadelphia Eagles. They are the champions, but there are other talented teams out there. The Eagles look right now to be the best team in the NFC East. Get into the playoffs, have Carson Wentz and most of the supporting cast healthy, and anything can happen.
The 2009 Philadelphia Phillies showed that repeating as a champion is not an easy task, even for a supremely talented team. But just because those Phillies came up short doesn’t mean this Eagles team will. It’s about fighting through a long season and earning a shot in the playoffs.
That’s all these Birds and the fans should be looking at right now. The game in front of them. The season ahead of them. Get that playoff spot and take a shot in January at the repeat. Fly Eagles, fly!

Finally Eagles, Finally!

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“Fly Eagles, Fly!” is the official fight song for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League.

After winning the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history last night, we can at least temporarily change those first three words of the song to “Finally Eagles, Finally!

The Eagles and New England Patriots threw haymakers at one another all night long on Sunday night during Super Bowl LII in Minnesota in a game that was reminiscent of the climactic fight of the film “Rocky II“.

In that epic slugfest, Philly’s favorite fictional underdog fighter, Rocky Balboa, traded big blows with and ultimately defeated a legendary unbeatable champion named Apollo Creed.

Last night it was a real, live legendary champion named Tom Brady who was throwing bombs at the Eagles. For most of the night, Brady found the Birds weak spots, landing punishing shot after punishing shot.

But the Eagles kept taking those shots and answering back with big shots of their own. Leading the way was a man every bit the underdog that the fictional Rocky had been in that film series.

Nick Foles has had big moments as an NFL quarterback before, including in an Eagles uniform. But his career had gone a bit off the rails over the last couple of years to the point where he was ready to retire from the game.

Given another shot at NFL life, Foles was signed by the Eagles for the 2018 season. Brought in to serve as a backup to rising stud Carson Wentz, most Eagles fans thought – in fact hoped – that Foles would never see the field.

As everyone now knows, the unthinkable happened. Wentz led the Eagles to the NFL’s best record and was the leading NFL MVP candidate. But it all seemed to evaporate when Wentz suffered a debilitating knee injury, ending his season in a Week #14 victory in Los Angeles.

In stepped a cold Foles. With no training camp, having taken no game snaps all year long, the 28-year old in his sixth season was suddenly put under center for the NFC’s top team.

It was a no-win situation for Foles. If the Eagles collapsed at that point, blame would all go to the Wentz injury. If they lost at any point in the playoffs, there would always be those who would wonder “what if Carson” had stayed healthy?

In retrospect – if it had to happen at all – the timing of Wentz’ injury could not have been better. His great play had been the biggest key in the Eagles having clinched a playoff berth. He put the team in position to finish as the top overall seed in the NFC playoffs.

That timing allowed Foles to come in and play in two full games and parts of two others before the playoffs would begin. It was just enough time to get him up to game speed and ready to perform once again on the big stage.

Perform he would. Foles threw for 246 yards and managed the game well as the Eagles held off the tough defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons by 15-10 in the Divisional Round.

Taking it up a notch, Foles put on a show in throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles crushed the Minnesota Vikings dreams of hosting the Super Bowl in their home town with a 38-7 victory in the NFC Championship Game.

That all led to last night, and the battle with Brady and his Patriots. Brady threw for an unreal Super Bowl record 505 yards and three touchdowns.

But for nearly every Brady drive of excellence, Foles had an answer. He threw for 373 yards himself, and matched the great Brady with three touchdown passes of his own.

He also did Brady one better. While Brady dropped a possible TD reception on a second quarter trick play, Foles caught one tossed by tight end Trey Burton. Foles thus became the first player in NFL history to both pass for and catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

The game itself was much like those fictional Balboa-Creed battles. Big shots. Back and forth action. When each seemed within a blow of landing a knockout punch, the other would come roaring back to life.

After the two teams traded early field goals, Foles was first to put his team into the end zone when he connected with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on a 34-yard TD pass with 2:41 to play in the first quarter.

Halfway through the second quarter, former Patriots’ running back LeGarrette Blount bulled his way in from 21 yards away with the help of strong blocking from his teammates to give the Birds a 15-3 lead.

That lead nearly got even bigger. On their next possession from the New England 43-yard line, Foles tried to connect with Jeffery down along the sideline at the eight-yard line.

The receiver nearly made a tremendous one-hand catch. But the ball somehow flipped out of his hand, and popped directly to Duron Harmon for the only interception that Foles would throw in the entirety of this postseason run.

At this point, I was feeling a bit cocky that my pregame 41-10 prediction in favor of the Eagles was going to materialize. I would turn out to be only halfway correct.

Brady became nearly unstoppable for much of the rest of the contest. He started by leading New England on an eight-play, 90-yard drive, aided along by a key defensive holding call. When James White rolled in from 26-yards out, the Pats had cut their deficit to just 15-12.

However, Foles answered right back, leading the Eagles down to the Patriots one-yard line with just :38 seconds remaining in the first half. The key play of the drive was a 55-yard catch and run by rookie RB Corey Clement, who had a tremendous game in all phases.

On fourth-and-one, coach Doug Pederson could have kicked a field goal, putting points on the board for his team as they entered halftime. But Pederson showed all night long that he wasn’t playing it safe. His team was going to play to win.

Pederson called for a schoolyard trick play, and his players ran it to perfection. Clement would find himself right in the middle of things once again.

Foles lined up in the shotgun to take the snap, but then suddenly split out to the right as a receiver. The direct snap went to Clement, who started to his left, then pitched the ball off to backup tight end Trey Burton, who was moving right.

While all this misdirection was happening, Foles had slipped off unseen into the right side of the end zone. Burton threw a perfect strike while on the run to Foles, who cradled the TD reception into his arms. The Eagles thus took a 22-12 lead into the locker room.

After a lengthy halftime break in which Justin Timberlake put on quite a song and dance show, the action continued with Brady remaining hot.

Leading the Patriots on an eight-play, 75-yard drive, Brady found his favorite target on half of those plays. Rob Gronkowski had receptions of 25, 24, and 14 yards. Then he snared a 5-yard TD catch, and just a couple minutes into the second half, it was again a three-point game.

Not to be outdone, Foles again drove the Eagles back right away. An 11-play, 85-yard drive culminated with a 22-yard TD pass to Clement, and the Eagles were back up by 10 again at 29-19.

And then Brady got the ball back, and guess what happened? Yup. Eight-play, 75-yard drive resulting in a 26-yard TD pass to Chris Hogan making it a 29-26 game. That was how the third quarter would end.

Early in the fourth, a 42-yard field goal by Jake Elliott pushed the Eagles lead out to 32-26. That gave Brady the ball back, and he remained unstoppable.

A 10-play, 75-yard drive led to a four-yard pass to Gronkowski for the touchdown. When Stephen Gostkowski booted the extra-point, New England had their first lead of the night at 33-32.

With 9:22 to play, Foles got the ball back, trailing for the first time. On a third and six play from his own 29-yard line he found TE Zach Ertz for seven and a first down. But three plays later, with the clock showing under six minutes to play, the Eagles faced a fourth down.

On fourth and one from their own 45-yard line, Pederson faced another key decision. The odds said to punt, try to pin the Patriots deep, have the defense hold Brady, and get the ball back in better field position.

But as I said earlier, Pederson didn’t come to U.S. Bank Stadium to play it safe. He came to win. And so he rolled the dice again, going for it on fourth down. Foles came through once again. A quick hit to Ertz over the middle resulted in a two-yard gain and another first down.

Seven plays and three more minutes off the clock later, Foles again found Ertz, this time streaking towards the end zone. Foles hit his tight end in stride at the five. Ertz turned up field, took a couple of strides, and dove into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

With just over two minutes remaining and holding a five-point lead, Pederson called for a two-point conversion attempt. For the second time in the game, the Birds failed to convert, and the Eagles held a 38-33 lead.
Brady would get the ball back with one timeout and the two minute warning in his pocket. This was way too much time and opportunity for any Eagles coach, player, or fan to feel anything but uncomfortable.
The Eagles clearly needed someone on the defense to step up with a big play, which really hadn’t happened the entire game. Now, at the biggest moment, that big play would finally come.
Brady began at his own 25, and immediately completed a pass to Gronkowski for an eight-yard gain. It looked to all the world as if he was ready to begin yet another late-game drive to victory.
On second down and two, Brady again dropped back to pass. But this time, the Eagles defense charged through the Patriots line.
Brandon Graham reached Brady, bursting the football from his hands. Derek Barnett pounced on the loose ball, recovering a fumble that now stands as the single most important defensive play in Eagles history.
Foles took over and drove the offense back down the field once more. That drive resulted in key points put up on the scoreboard in the form of a clutch 46-yard field goal from Elliott. The Eagles now had a 41-33 lead. But Brady would get the ball back with just over a minute to play.
On the ensuing kickoff return, Patriots coach Bill Belichik showed that he wasn’t going down without a fight, calling for a reverse. Once again it would be Clement who would come up big, this time on special teams. The first man down field on the kickoff coverage, he disrupted the return enough that the Eagles were able to pin the Patriots deep.
Brady was forced to begin at his own nine-yard line. He had no time outs, and just :58 seconds to drive his team to a touchdown. He would then still need to be successful on a two-point conversion just to force a tie and send the Super Bowl to overtime.

The Eagles defense stiffened, and the pass rush put relentless pressure on him. Three plays later the Patriots faced fourth and ten, still at that nine-yard line. And then Brady tried to miraculously raise his team from the canvas one last time.

Completing passes to his two favorite targets, Danny Amendola and Gronkowski, Brady got the first down and then drove the Patriots out to midfield with nine seconds remaining. There was enough time for one last-gasp ‘Hail Mary’ play.

The plan was for Brady to throw up the ball in the end zone, hoping that the massive Gronkowski could out-leap and out-fight the Eagles defensive backs. That, or have him tip the ball to Amendola or one of the other receivers.

As Brady dropped back to pass, the Eagles put on another strong rush. Graham nearly got him again, but the New England QB slipped away and stepped up for one final heave.

He couldn’t have made a better throw. Brady’s long pass was on the money. The ball came down just inside the end zone, and Gronkowski was right there, leaping to make the catch. However, he was swarmed upon by a gaggle of Eagles defensive backs.

The ball was swatted around, appearing to bounce off two or three players before finally falling harmlessly to the turf. There were no flags, the clock was at 0:00, and the Philadelphia Eagles were finally world champions.

13 years ago, Brady and the Patriots had defeated the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Now in a rematch of sorts, the greatest quarterback in NFL history had done battle with one of the biggest underdogs in NFL history.

Like that showdown fight in “Rocky II, the underdog had defeated the defending champion.

All of that tells you the story of the game. But it fails to convey the emotion that comes with being a fan of that underdog. I have been such a fan for something like 47 years.

My earliest memories of the Eagles are from the opening of Veteran’s Stadium for the 1971 season. My age peers and I lived through mostly losing teams in those early Vet years with quarterbacks named Pete Liske, John Reaves, Roman Gabriel, and Mike Boryla.

Finally, an energetic young coach named Dick Vermeil arrived, and we began to believe that we could join the NFL’s elite. Though we had many great moments and great players over the next four decades, even reached the Super Bowl twice, we could never claim the ultimate victory.

There were no guarantees that it would ever come either. Just ask fans of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, both with loyal and passionate fan bases.

For 86 years in the Bosox case, and for 108 years in the Cubbies case, generations of fans were born, lived a full life, rooted on their teams for decades, and died never experiencing a World Series victory.

No, there was no guarantee that any of us would ever live to see the Eagles win a Super Bowl. But last night put an end to all of the frustration.

When Graham knocked the ball from Brady’s hands and Barnett recovered it, a realization hit me that I would not allow myself to feel all night. The Eagles were about to win the Super Bowl. Seriously, tears began to well up in my eyes.

Those emotions remained exactly that raw for the next 15 minutes or so of real time, the final two minutes of the game time. Could the Eagles pick up the one more first down that they needed to drive the stake through Brady’s heart? No. Could the defense stop him on fourth down at his own nine, driving that stake through his heart? No.

But could the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League pull one final miracle out of his bag? Could he add one more unbelievable last-second play to his personal highlight reel? No as well.

What Vermeil, Ron Jaworski, and Bill Bergey were unable to do, these Eagles finally did. What Buddy Ryan, Randall Cunningham, and Reggie White were never able to do, these Eagles finally did. What Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, and Brian Dawkins were never able to do, these Eagles finally did.

As the Eagles players, coaches, and families began to celebrate on the field nearly a thousand miles away, at my house, with those tears now fully in my eyes, my wife and I embraced. Out on the streets of Philadelphia, tens of thousands poured out onto Broad Street from north to south to celebrate.

The Philadelphia Eagles had finally won the Super Bowl. And like our fictional hero decades ago, they did it as underdogs. It only made the victory that much sweeter.

Team owner Jeffrey Lurie took to the stage to accept the Super Bowl trophy. GM Howie Roseman, for whom this victory must be justifiably ridiculously sweet, took part in the trophy celebration.

Foles was honored as the Super Bowl MVP, joined on stage by his quarterback brother Wentz, who will now hope to one day lead the team back to this moment.

There will be a parade here in Philly on Thursday. Millions are expected. It will be a street party like none this town has ever seen, and with the Flyers of the 1970’s and the 1980 and 2008 Phillies, I’ve seen some pretty big ones.

Finally, Eagles fans, it was our turn to see our heroes on the stage accepting the Lombardi Trophy, green and white confetti pouring down on them. It was our turn to party late into the night. It was our turn to know that championship feeling. Finally, Eagles fans. Finally!

The Andy Reid Era

Another NFL season has now finally come to an end with my hometown Philadelphia Eagles failing to win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. That’s 0-46 if you’re counting at home.

To listen to some fans around these parts, you would think that Andy Reid has been the head coach for all of them, that he is to blame for the team never having won the Big One.

Let’s get a little perspective.

The Philadelphia Eagles regular season record in the ‘Andy Reid Era’ is now 126-81-1. He has guided the team to 9 playoff appearances in 13 seasons, with an overall 10-9 record in the post-season. He has guided the Eagles to 7 NFC East titles, and 9 times under his watch the Eagles have been ranked either #1 or #2 in the NFC at season’s end. He led the team to the 2004 NFC Championship, it’s lone Super Bowl appearance during his tenure.

I began watching the Eagles around 1971-72 when Veteran’s Stadium opened with Eddie Khayat at the helm. Watched through the regimes of Mike McCormack, Dick Vermiel, Marion Campbell, Buddy Ryan, Rich Kotite, and Ray Rhodes.

During that time: 204-216-6, 10 playoff appearances, 1 Super Bowl appearance over 28 seasons.
Khayat – overwhelmed. McCormack – great player, mediocre coach. Vermiel – overly emotional, burned out quick. Campbell – defensive whiz, not a head man. Ryan – big mouthed defensive genius, zero playoff wins, more bark than bite. Kotite – ’nuff said. Rhodes – no comment, politically incorrect.

In short, Andy Reid is by FAR the best coach the Eagles have had in my 40 years following them. In fact, you can stretch that back through Jerry Williams, Joe Kuharich, and Nick Skorich – he is the best coach the Eagles have had in my half-century of LIFE.

One day, Andy Reid will either be fired, or resign, or not have a contract renewed, or die, and he will no longer be the Eagles head coach. Many will be joyous on that day. I personally believe that they will find the old saying true: the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. This goes too for the folks at the local radio station that the Reid-haters follow like zombies.

WIP frankly stinks as far as being a “sports talk” station. They cover the Eagles too much, pay short shrift to the other sports, including the Phillies who should have been followed much more over these last half dozen to dozen years. They try to make the news rather than report it. They stoke negative emotional fires in the fans. They lie and claim they are just reflecting, when in fact they are orchestrating.

I love the Philadelphia Eagles, and I love Andy Reid and the job he has done as their head coach. For me, the bottom line will NEVER be about simply winning a Super Bowl. I would HATE it if some coach came in and over 8 years won a Super Bowl, but had six sub-.500 seasons. And frankly, those who loved that theoretical Super Bowl win, who could “die happy now” having witnessed it, and who danced gleefully on Reid’s coaching grave as they gloated? I would love to hear them during the losing years talk about the brilliance of their one-season winner.

Because YOU passionately hate Andy Reid, you do NOT love the Eagles more than me. You will NOT celebrate a Super Bowl won under his regime or another coach’s regime more than me. You are not more passionate or knowledgeable than me. You are simply a hater. You don’t like Reid because he doesn’t rat out his players in press conferences. You don’t like Reid because he doesn’t manage a clock well, despite a record to the contrary. You don’t like Reid because he is too fat.

Face it, haters, nothing, not even winning a Super Bowl, will ever be enough. If Andy Reid and the Eagles ever do win a Super Bowl together, you will say that he should have won more. He was lucky. He had to finally win one after getting there so many times. Blah, blah, blah. Your team will have reached the mountaintop finally, and you simply will not enjoy it as much as you should because of your blind hatred for Reid as he is carried off the field by his players. Yes, they will carry him off.

If it were simple frustration, that I totally understand. It’s where I am at right now. To know that after the Giants winning their 4th Super Bowl yesterday, that our NFC East divisional rival Cowboys (5), Giants (4), and Redskins (3) all have multiple Super Bowl crowns while we have none is frustrating. To know that we fielded a better team many years than each of those teams makes it more frustrating. To know that we have been good enough to have won a Super Bowl over the last decade extends the frustration.

But you’re beyond frustrated. You hate. That is legitimately sad, and it reflects poorly on your judgement and character.

Next year is the final year of Andy Reid’s contract, unless he is given an extension, if he even wants one. I hope he either gets it, or walks out the door with the Lombardi Trophy, or both. But no matter what, when the Andy Reid Era is over, I for one, and I bet there are many in retrospect, will always look back with fondness on this time, the greatest era in the modern history of the Philadelphia Eagles.

NFL Playoff Predictions

There is really only one way to make predictions on the outcome of some game or tournament and have yourself taken seriously, and that is to make them before even a single moment has been played.

So here we are, just moments away from the kickoff of the first game of the NFL playoffs, and that makes it time for my personal predictions on how this month-long tournament will play out.

Let’s start at home with our Philadelphia Eagles. What a tremendous, in some ways over-achieving season it has been for the Birds. When the team left training camp in early September, most fans were planning on a rebuilding year as Kevin Kolb took over at quarterback after a decade behind Donovan McNabb. An 8-8 finish that showed positive signs for 2011 would probably have been considered a success at that point.

But in the opening game against Green Bay, Kolb was injured. In stepped Michael Vick. The rest, as they say, is history. Vick emerged as an uncommon weapon, and an NFL MVP candidate. The team took off behind his acrobatics, bolted to the front of the NFC East, and then capped it all with a rally for the ages in a late December game against the rival New York Giants to take the division crown.

That the team faltered in it’s final two regular season games should not be as much cause for concern as it seems to have become for some fans and members of the media. The team was obviously thrown off by the sudden switch of the Vikings game from Sunday night to Tuesday night due to snow a couple of weeks ago.

That surprising defeat led to the full-scale benching of regulars for the finale against Dallas, as Andy Reid basically gave them a bye week. The result was a close, last-minute loss by the Eagles subs to the Cowboys regulars.

The more important factors for the Eagles entering the opening week matchup are their opponents, and the condition of their own players. The Eagles have lost key contributors in the past couple of weeks, while the Packers have played extremely well since the return to health of their outstanding quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

I want the Eagles to win. I will be rooting hard for it to happen.
I want to be wrong. Because putting a gun to my head, which is what you basically do when you come out in public with predictions, and I will pick the Packers to advance.

Most of Eagles Nation cannot be upset with me, because they feel the same way. In a poll taken at Philly.com, a full 50% of fans believe “The Pack will prevail”, while 38% said the Eagles will “win – barely” and another 12% said “The Birds will win big.”

Let’s call the final score something along the lines of 27-20, Green Bay. The Eagles best chance will be for a beat-up offensive line to find a way to give Vick enough time to make a handful of big plays and have the Eagles win a high-scoring affair. I see the banged-up offensive line and a defense that still needs 1-2 more playmakers falling just a bit short. I hope I am wrong.

So with the Eagles fate out of the way with, time to turn attention to the rest of the tournament. In the rest of the opening weekend, I am looking for wins from Baltimore over Kansas City, New Orleans over Seattle, and Indianapolis over the New York Jets.

I think the Ravens are just physical enough to edge out KC on the road. The defending Super Bowl champion Saints are back, are hot, and are much better than the host Seahawks. And I am going to always find it hard to bet against Peyton Manning at home.

This means that my 2nd round matchups will have New England beating Baltimore, Pittsburgh beating Indianapolis, Atlanta beating Green Bay, and New Orleans beating Chicago. The Pats are just too good right now for anyone.

The Steelers get Manning in wintry western Pennsylvania. The Falcons have too much offense, especially inside their dome. And the defending champs are just better than Da Bears, even outside on the road in winter.

In the respective conference title tilts, I will go with the Pats over the Steelers and the Saints over the Falcons. Again, until someone shows me that I am wrong, New England looks like the best team in football right now. And heading back indoors for the NFC Championship, I will pick Drew Brees over Matt Ryan in what should be an epic title game.

That brings us to the Big Game, the NFL Championship at Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, Texas. With the Cowboys thankfully not in attendance, I am looking for Tom Brady to lead the Patriots to the title for the fourth time in 10 years. This will put the New England Patriots franchise behind only the Steelers (6), Cowboys (5) and 49ers (5) for all-time Super Bowl victories. Brady should be the MVP.

There ya have it. Let the games begin. Again, I would absolutely love for Michael Vick to become a true miracle worker and lead the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl title. The team certainly has some of the top offensive weapons, has the 2nd best head coach, and has a rabid fan base. But it will again be the Patriots year come February 6th, 2011 in ‘Big D’.