Everything points to the Eagles being even better than they were a year ago and just about everybody is picking them to win NFC East. For the first time in a long time, everything is sunny in Philadelphia.
And that is troubling. It seems like every time Philly fans have a reason to feel good about things – maybe even a little smug at times – that’s when the rug gets pulled out from under them.
The most recent time came just a couple of years ago, when the Phillies were easily the best team in baseball, with an All-Star loaded lineup and a pitching staff for the ages. The Phillies won more games than any team in baseball and more games than any Phillies team in history – then lost badly in the first round of the playoffs. Things have gone downhill ever since and it could be a long, long time before they get better.
And let’s not forget how optimistic 76ers fans were just two years ago, after their team pulled off a blockbuster deal for All-Star center Andrew Bynum. He gave the Sixers a legitimate big man for the first time in a long time. And, along with exciting point guard Jrue Holiday and on-his-way-to-stardom shooting guard Evan Turner, Bynum gave them a legitimate chance to contend for, at the least, an Eastern Conference championship. Finally, the Sixers were on the right track –and then Bynum derailed them and now the Sixers are on what seems like a 10-year plan to return to glory.
Plus it seems like it was just yesterday that the Flyers pulled off a blockbuster deal for goalie, the final piece to the puzzle the Flyers have been trying to put back together.
Anyhow, back to the Eagles. One of the most fun things about last year’s NFC East title was that it was so unexpected. Almost everybody had low expectations for Chip Kelly’s first year as coach and even the most impatient Eagles fans realized it would take a little time for their heroes to adjust and adapt to Kelly’ frenetic pace, as well as a completely new system on the defensive side of the ball. And if you had told those Eagles fans that quarterback Mike Vick would get injured and they would have to depend on second-year QB Nick Foles, well, they would have been thrilled with a .500 record.
So, the Eagles won 10 games and the division and now, with a full season under their belts and a much higher comfort level in training camp, everbody seems optimistic this season will be even bigger and better. With an innovative coach and what appears to be a young, franchose quarterback – as well as the best running back in the game – the sky’s the limit.
Unless, of course, you’re Chicken Little, and then the sky is falling on you. And despite all the positive signs, there are danger signs, as well.
As it always does in the NFL, it starts with the quarterback. And there’s no question Foles had an amazing season last year. But that was last year, and just as Foles and the rest of the Eagles offense have had a full season to learn Kelly’s offense, opposing defenses have had a full season – and lots and lots of video tape – to learn how to stop it.
There’s no question that Foles snuck up on people last year and there are still plenty of people out there who think his 2013 season was a fluke, a lightning-in-a-bottle season that will be impossible to repeat. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows and nobody will know until, say, early in November.
The Eagles as a team are no longer underdogs in the conference, either – last year they were a consensus choice to finish last, but they won’t have that luxury this time around. Plus there’s one more very big roadblock on their way to the Super Bowl, and it’s the same roadblock that has stopped many teams that had a good season the previous year – a much harder schedule. For the Eagles, that means games against playoff teams like Seattle, San Francisco, Carolina, Indianapolis and Green Bay.
So, the Eagles could be better and do worse, no matter how optimistic their fans are as we head into the 2014 season. But at least they should be interesting, and that’s all we can really ask for in the second year of a rebuilding program.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.