The Eagles report to training camp in South Philadelphia this week with a couple of things they’ve never had before – the pleasure of being Super Bowl champions and the pressure of defending that title.
And that brings up two all-important questions:
Can the Eagles repeat as Super Bowl champions? The answer to that is a definite yes, as their roster may even be more talented than last year’s and several key players now have an important year of NFL playoff experience.
Will the Eagles repeat as Super Bowl champions? Sorry, but the answer to that is no.
We don’t like to start a new season on a negative note, especially since last season ended on such a positive note. But facts are facts. And even though the Eagles have the talent to win two straight Super Bowls after LI years of not winning any, the cold, hard fact is that history is not on their side.
In more than half a century, teams have won consecutive Super Bowls just eight times, most recently by New England after the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The others were Denver (1997-98), Dallas (1992-93), San Francisco (1989-90), Pittsburgh (1978-79 and 1974-75), Miami (1972-73) and Green Bay (1966-67).
In fact, an NFL team is much more likely to not even make the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl. That’s happened 16 times, most recently by Denver in 2016. Other teams that failed to reach the playoffs the season after winning the Super Bowl were Baltimore (2013), the New York Giants (2012, 1991, 1987), Pittsburgh (2009, 2006, 1980), Tampa Bay (2003), New England (2002), Washington (1988), San Francisco (1982), Oakland (1981), Kansas City (1970) and Green Bay (1968).
Why is it so difficult to repeat as Super Bowl champion and, in many cases, even come close? For one thing, the NFL has more parity than any other professional sports league, which is why it’s not uncommon for a team to go from last to first in its division in one season like the Eagles did last year, and it’s also why a team can go in the other direction just as easily.
Plus, the NFL playoffs are a one-and-done deal, which means a team that has one bad game or even one bad play may not survive. Pro sports such as baseball, basketball and hockey have seven-game series and in that format, the best team almost always wins. The cream will rise to the top, but only if it has enough time to get there.
Because of that, a lot of things can go wrong in the NFL, whether it’s an untimely injury or a fluky bounce of the ball. Last season, the Eagles could have easily lost their first-round playoff game to Atlanta, when the Falcons had the ball on the Eagles’ 2-yard line with about a minute to play. A fourth-down pass by quarterback Matt Ryan to wide receiver Julio Jones was incomplete, and if those two Pro Bowl players had hooked up in the end zone as they had done dozens of times in the past, the Eagles’ 2017-18 season would have ended with a crushing defeat instead of an exhilarating victory. It truly is a game of inches and in this instance, those inches went the Eagles’ way – but there is no guarantee that it would happen again. Even the Super Bowl could have been lost if the Patriots had made a good play here or avoided a bad play there.
Plus, there’s the mental and emotional part of it, and nobody knows how the Eagles will deal with their new-found notoriety. Former Giants coach Ben McAdoo doesn’t think they’ll deal with it very well – in fact, not only does McAdoo doubt the Eagles will win the Super Bowl, he doesn’t even think they’ll win the division.”
“When I think Philly – how much success has Philly had?” McAdoo said in an interview with The New York Post. “I think they’re going to have a hard time handling success.”
Of course, those comments were made by a guy who got fired because he never had to handle success, but his point is valid. The Eagles aren’t going to sneak up on anybody this season and nobody knows how the team that thrived as underdogs last season will react to being top dogs this season.
The Eagles have so much going for them – a franchise quarterback, a productive running game, a playmaking group of receivers, the best offensive line in the NFL, the deepest defensive line in the NFL, a bunch of young, talented defensive backs and a coaching staff that does a terrific job of getting the best out of all of them. That’s why they could win another Super Bowl.
What the Eagles don’t have going for them is history. And that’s why they won’t.