One team, one city and one heartbreak

By Shane Evans
December 1, 2006

Michael Perez

Last season was supposed to be the “off” year. It was supposed to be the year the team suffered from the Super Bowl hangover. It was supposed to be due to the myriad of injuries and the headaches. It was only supposed to be one year.

After stumbling and staggering and scraping through a 6-10 season that left questions to be answered and decisions to be made, the Eagles were primed to revitalize the franchise going into the 2006 season and bring Philadelphia back to the Super Bowl.

Well after an inconsistent first 11 games of the “rebound” year, the team looks just as unimpressive as it did in last season’s still intoxicated with pipe dreams of Jacksonville and injury riddled campaign.

Coming into training camp this summer, the team was one. They were a complete unit, hell-bent on returning to the pinnacle of professional football. Everyone was focused and ready for the grind of the longest camp of any National Football League team. Each player knew his job and wanted to be at his absolute best to start the season.

The month at Lehigh University seemed to fly by as quickly as the thoughts about the prior season left the players minds. They were all ready to prove the critics wrong. The team had been at the top of the league for so long, that they weren’t going to let one year bring them down.

Everything started out so well in the regular season as after five games, the Eagles boasted an impressive 4-1 record, a record that could have easily been an unblemished one, had it not been for one monumental collapse at the hands of National Football Conference East rivals, the New York Giants.

They had it all going. The offense was clicking on all cylinders with a healthy mix of quarterback Donovan McNabb’s howitzer arm and the elusive and lightning-quick legs of the “ultimate weapon” running back Brian Westbrook.

And for the first time since the Super Bowl year of 2004, the defense was on par with it’s offensive counterparts and were shutting down teams left and right, holding All-Pro runner Tiki Barber to 51 yards in week 2 and soon-to-be All-Pro runner Frank Gore to 52 yards in the following game.

In the game that many thought would decide if the Eagles were truly back or not, they trounced the lifeless Dallas Cowboys 38-24 in a game of absolute importance which brought their record to an impressive 4-1. The week following that game was the peak of the season. The city was alive with talks of regaining the NFC East crown, deep playoff runs and gasp.another trip to the Super Bowl.

But to the chagrin of many of the green and silver patrons, that feeling was not to last. Nor come back, or even be hinted at in the following six weeks of the season. The team took a page out of 2005’s playbook and to put it simply, tanked.

Following the elating victory over the hated Cowboys, the team suffered three straight agonizing losses to obviously weaker teams. First against the New Orleans Saints who had a field day with the Eagles secondary.

Next came the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who couldn’t muster 200 yards of total offense, yet were able to send the Eagles packing with an improbable and totally crushing 62-yard field goal as time expired.

To close out the threesome of losses was the most mediocre of them all as the Jacksonville Jaguars came to the Lincolin Financial Field and ran all over the Eagles run-stoppers for 209 yards.

What went wrong? How could the Eagles manage to go from 4-1 to sputtering into the bye week at an even .500? Well, they seemed to fix things coming out of the bye, defeating the Washington Redskins convincingly, 27-3 in week 10.

Everything seemed to go right in that game, and the fact that the rest of the NFC (with exception of the Chicago Bears, 8-1 at the time) was suffering in similar ways, left the door open for a little hope to creep in.

Coming as no surprise to Eagles fans these days, or Philadelphia sports fans as a whole, that hope was slapped away further than Joe Carter’s series clinching home run in the 1993 World Series.

In weeks 11 and 12, the team was beat by a 2-7 team and a 9-1 team. The funny thing is, both teams beat them convincingly. The Tennessee Titans had their way with the defense and after the center of the Eagles universe was plucked from the field because of a freak accident, the almighty men in blue and white shut down an Eagles offense that already had shown little signs of life.

The Colts then continued where the Titans left off and beat a Donovan McNabb-less Eagles team into submission 45-21.

Now sitting in third place in the division with a 5-6 record, the Eagles are going back to the drawing board. Again. Week after week, that seems to be the answer to the lackluster play of one of the league’s formally elite teams.

Luckily for the Eagles, the NFC as a conference continued it’s poor play and by the grace of the football gods, despite their horrid play and loss of their franchise quarterback, the team isn’t out of it yet.

But does anybody really care at this point?

Led by a late-30 something quarterback and an aging defense that can’t tackle the broad side of a barn these days, the Eagles are losing the city’s faith, interest and love. Things need to change in order to regain what they once had.

Unfortunately, that change cant come this season, and if the anterior crucial ligament of #5 don’t heal quickly, next season may be a wash also.

It’s time for the team to change it’s philosophy and bring a spark back to the city. Andy Reid used to hold the match that brought the spark.

Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter were the energy that made the spark a flame. Now, it seems as though the match has been thoroughly dowsed in water and needs to be replaced.

That needs to happen soon so the thoughts about this season don’t resemble to closely those of last season, and if it doesn’t, we may have many more years of those three ugly ‘s’s.stumbling, staggering and scraping.

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Shane Evans

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