Another Week, Another Winless Opponent… Can the Eagles get to .500?

Six weeks into the 2013 season, the parity and unpredictability of the NFL is proving itself yet again. The New York Jets and Cleveland Browns are both 3-2. Houston and Atlanta, popular preseason picks to play in the Meadowlands this February, are a combined 3-7. The Pittsburgh Steelers have not won a game. Also, the Philadelphia Eagles, at 2-3 under first-year head coach Chip Kelly, lead the NFC East and would play a home playoff game if the season ended today.

Of course, so much can change so quickly in the NFL, and all the statistics just mentioned could be irrelevant in two weeks. The one statistic that Eagle fans everywhere would like to see stay the same is the last one: their team hosting a playoff game. The task this week is to beat a reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers team to earn a 3-3 record on the season and build something that fans haven’t experienced in nearly three years: a meaningful winning streak.

Nick Foles is in at quarterback for an injured Michael Vick and this means a number of things. Obviously, it means another year of Vick having to hear the “you can’t stay healthy for 16 games” charade. More importantly, it changes the Eagles’ offense. Since day one, Chip Kelly has said that he does not need a mobile quarterback to run “his offense” and he will adapt “his offense” to the skill set of the players he has to work with. This would mean no read-option and much less running out of the shotgun, as Foles possesses nowhere near Vick’s athleticism. The running threat of Vick has opened up gaping running lanes for LeSean McCoy on read-option plays and shotgun runs all year long. As a result, McCoy is the NFL’s leading rusher and having an All-Pro season. When Vick was taken out of the game last week vs. the Giants, “Shady” was keyed in on and bottled up. Chip Kelly must adapt his offense this week to keep McCoy effective against a stout Tampa Bay defense. McCoy keep the Bucs honest so they can’t zone in on Foles and force him to beat Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson, and their excellent secondary.

Despite the Buccaneers talent and production on defense, they are what their record says they are: 0-4. Along with only averaging 11 points per game, they have been a team in turmoil. They are fresh off the Josh Freeman drama and head coach Greg Schiano is gradually losing his locker room. Now Freeman is in Minnesota, and rookie Mike Glennon had a very underwhelming debut at QB against the Arizona Cardinals. This would all seem to bode well for an Eagles team coming off a nice win in New York. Unfortunately, the Eagles are not a team that can take anybody lightly. They need to show up and simply outplay the Buccaneers, not assume they’re more talented and can just coast in the Florida sun. Yes, the Eagles won in Tampa last season, but it took a last-second TD to win it. If that one pass falls incomplete, it’s a different story.

There are reasons to be worried. The football gods have not kind to the Eagles when facing Tampa Bay. The 2002 NFC Championship Game, the last game at Veterans Stadium, was arguably the most devastating loss in franchise history. In 2006, The team rebounded from two first-half pick sixes thrown by Donovan McNabb to take a late one point lead in Tampa, only to see Matt Bryant sink them with a 62 yard field goal as time expired. Right now, Tampa Bay is a fresh team off their bye week, facing the Eagles at home and due for a win. Also, on the field this season, the Eagles defense has yet to put together back-to-back solid defensive efforts. Not even good, just solid. A strong outing against a poor offense would be a huge step forward for defensive coordinator Bill Davis, who vows to build a feared unit here.

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In both of the Eagles’ wins, they have had to score 30+ points. They also put up 33 in a losing effort against San Diego. Despite the fact the Buccaneers are due to finally win a game, I think the Eagles prevail in a different way than normal this Sunday. I don’t see Nick Foles putting up 30 points on this Tampa Bay defense. The Eagles’ defense started to catch some fire last week and now they get an opponent that is abysmal moving and scoring the football. This game will likely be the lowest scoring game of the Kelly era to date. The Eagles will take what Tampa gives them and score their share of points, force two interceptions against Glennon, and pull of the road win to get to 3-3. Dallas beats Washington on Sunday Night Football to get to 3-3 and set up a battle for first place in Philadelphia on October 20. I think this season’s about to get real exciting.

Eagles 20, Buccaneers 16

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A Giant showdown awaits… What this Game Means for the Eagles

When many sit back and reflect on their current situations in life, they oftentimes say to themselves “What a difference a year makes,” whether that be a good thing or a bad thing. In the Eagles’ case, it’s more like what a difference a month makes. Largely due to a busy personal schedule, and partially due to a lack of words or answers, it’s been a nearly a month since I posted on this site. My last post is a recap of the opening Monday Night game against the Redskins when hopes in Philadelphia were sky-high and it felt more like 2004 than 2012.

A month later, the Eagles have (to put it mildly) tumbled back down to earth. The Week 2 loss to San Diego was certainly a disappointment, but fans were able to move on because the offense looked just as good as it did Week 1. When Andy Reid and the Chiefs came to town Week 3, the Eagles’ offense was turnover-prone and nonexistent aside from a long LeSean McCoy touchdown run and a 61-yard run by Michael Vick. Then, with ten days to prepare for Peyton Manning and the near-unstoppable Denver Broncos, the Eagles hung in the game until the third quarter. Then, the bottom fell out in the blink of an eye and the Eagles were suddenly down by 39 and limping out of Denver at 1-3.

In the span of 11 days, the Eagles went from being 1-0 and the talk of the NFL to 1-3 and feeling like 2012 all over again. Since beating New York 19-17 on September 30 of last year to improve to 3-1, the Eagles have won just 2 of sixteen games. That’s right, 2-14 with 8 straight home losses. The fans are tired of the losing. While it was reasonable to expect the Chip Kelly regime to take time to build, the fans are just sick of losing, and rightfully so.

Like most situations, there is a light at the end of the tunnel here. Dallas leads the NFC East with a whopping record of 2-2. Behind the Eagles are the 1-3 Redskins and the 0-4 Giants. The Giants team that the Eagles face this Sunday is an utter mess. They can’t protect Eli Manning, they can’t run the football, and they can’t defend. All bets are off when the Eagles and Giants collide, however, as the two teams know each other so well. Also, the Eagles have already played their hardest part of the schedule. They just faced two unbeaten teams and could have beaten one if they didn’t turn the football over. They face two winless teams in their next two games and do not face another team that currently has a winning record until the Lions (3-1) on December 8.

So, what to expect Sunday? An interesting game, for sure. No Eagles-Giants game is boring, and this game should continue that trend with both teams fighting for their seasons. With their offensive firepower and lackluster defense, the Eagles find themselves in shootout after shootout. If they can pull out the road victory in New York and the Cowboys lose to Denver, the Eagles will tie for the lead in the NFC East.

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The hardest part of the equation here is winning in New York. The Eagles need to take care of business and win for just the third time in the last seventeen games. Just typing that statistic makes me cringe. This may turn out to be nothing more than a rebuilding season for the team, but with the state of the division and the current offensive pieces in their prime, the Eagles could still make a run at the postseason. It would be fun for the fans, fun for the team, and a great start for this new era in Philadelphia.

The fans are tired of losing. The team has to be as well. Last week’s blowout loss in Denver was the perfect opportunity to completely forget about the previous game and completely focus on the New York Giants. It’s time to start winning games and get the lifeless feeling of 2012, one that’s lingered far too long into 2013, away from this team once and for all. With tempered expectations, I see the Eagles pulling out a win this Sunday. They can’t afford to wait any longer, it’s time to get the season back on track right now.

Eagles 34, Giants 23

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A Big Win with a Little Bit of Perspective

What more could Eagles fans have asked for? Well, some. The Eagles nearly relinquished a 33-7 second half lead. Michael Vick took more hits than one would like and was noticeably limping by the end of the game. The offense all but stalled after a spectacular LeSean McCoy touchdown run early in the 3rd quarter. Several second-half drives were killed by penalties that simply cannot continue.

But for a team that was expected by ESPN the Magazine to lose this game 41-0, not too bad.

A win to kick off the Chip Kelly era and a strong, uplifting 1-0 start (not last year’s narrow escape in the opener in Cleveland) made fans, coaches, and players jubilant. There are countless positive things to say about this game. The offense started fast and furious, ending up with 24 first-half points (2 more on a safety). Aside from taking a few too many hits, Michael Vick was phenomenal. LeSean McCoy had a career game, the first of many explosive ones for him. DeSean Jackson was back to his Pro Bowl form of 2009 and 2010. Last but not least, the defense surprised almost everybody by completely shutting down the Redskins in the first half. They were stout, confident, and opportunistic. All four linebackers: Ryan, Kendricks, Cole, and Barwin, played lights out. For the first three quarters, the Eagles flat out embarassed the Redskins on their home turf.

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Many fans, including myself, were able to exhale following this game. After so much anticipation of something so unknown, the Eagles treated their fans to a performance not seen at all in 2012. For the first time in what seems like forever, I personally cannot wait for the next game, the home opener vs. San Diego this Sunday. There is a buzz around the team, and everyone is excited to see what happens next. The questions on everyone’s minds are about whether this torrid offensive (and even defensive) pace can continue.

They say once is a fluke, twice is a trend, three times a habit. While the Eagles certainly hope this particular “once” isn’t a fluke, it is far too early to jump the gun and deem the Eagles a playoff team. If they can repeat Monday’s performance in this Sunday’s game vs. San Diego, then vs. Kansas City, and again vs. a bona fide Super Bowl contender in Denver, then let’s talk. It is very possible that this is a terrific Eagles team. However, it is also fair to wonder whether the amount of plays Kelly runs will take its toll physically on the team. It is fair to wonder whether the defense can repeat Monday night’s effort after a shaky preseason. It is fair to wonder if Vick can stay healthy to keep the offense performing at this high a level. It is also fair to wonder if opposing defenses will catch up to Kelly and his system.

To say the least, it’s early. Last year the Eagles started 2-0, then 3-1. Look how that turned out. Hope, excitement, and anticipation are through the roof. However, for now, it must be tempered. Enjoy the ride, this season is going to be fun to watch unfold. For the next few weeks just take in the action, enjoy the unique situation the Eagles are in, and pray for wins along the way. There is a very likely chance the Eagles are a team to be reckoned with.

This week, it’s all about beating San Diego and getting to 2-0. The Chargers are traveling cross-country on a short week after collapsing vs. Houston on Monday night. For the Eagles, the Chargers are very beatable, especially at home in a much-anticipated home opener. There have been countless questions about players buying into a coach who never coached or played in the NFL prior to this year. I stated in an earlier post that the most effective way to get players to buy into a program is to win games. Chip Kelly is off to a fantastic start in that regard. Now it is time to stay humble and keep winning.

2013 is bound to be an incredible and entertaining ride. Where it ends up, nobody knows. Truly anything is possible, and that reality has fans boundlessly excited. San Diego is next on the list and cannot be overlooked. The focus is not on Week 3, Andy Reid, and the Chiefs nor is it on Week 4 and Peyton Manning. 2-0 is the next stop on the Kelly train.

Prediction: Eagles 26, Chargers 19.

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On the final Sunday without football, Lets talk Week 1…

The wait has felt like forever since the fateful afternoon of December 30 in the Meadowlands, one that turned out to be Andy Reid’s swan song with the Eagles. After the long wait until minicamp, then the long wait until training camp, then the long wait until the preseason games, the most recent long wait (the regular season) is drawing to a close. This is the last Sunday without football for the next five months, meaning this week begins the official preparation for Week 1 and the Washington Redskins.

The first Monday Night Football game of the season will feature the much-hyped, if not controversial, return of quarterback Robert Griffin III to the Redskins’ starting lineup. RGIII will also share the national spotlight with the man making one of the most anticipated coaching debuts in recent memory, Chip Kelly. Next Monday will also mark the first clash between Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III, two electric athletes at the quarterback position who have been compared countless times.

RGIII has taken the league by storm in just one season, similar to what Vick did a decade ago. Never before had a quarterback devasted defenses with his legs like Vick did, forcing opposing coaches to develop new defensive concepts to defend him. 10 years later, RGIII and the Redskins re-introduced the read-option concept, something defenses have yet to figure out. Vick, now 33, is still one of the most electrifying playmakers in the game and appears rejuvenated under new coach Chip Kelly. Watching these two quarterbacks collide head-to-head is more than enough for the casual fan to tune in to this game.

Personally, I don’t like to predict every Eagles game because it is naturally hard for me to pick against my team. However, through all the storylines and subplots in this matchup, I am predicting the Eagles to defeat the Redskins and give Chip Kelly a win in his debut.

FedEx Field is going to explode with excitement at the return of their franchise quarterback, and they should. However, when push comes to shove, Robert Griffin III is not even nine months removed from ACL surgery. Sure, he has looked good running around in camp and in pregame warm-ups this preseason, but regular season games are an entirely different scenario. I compare the current RGIII situation to a similar one the Eagles encountered in 2007.

Donovan McNabb had torn his ACL in November 2006 but was on track to return for the 2007 opener. Everyone had raved about how good McNabb looked that summer throughout camp. When the regular season came around, expectations were that McNabb and the offense would pick up at the torrid pace they left off in 2006. However, the Eagles started 2007 with back-to-back losses. In Week 4, McNabb was sacked twelve, yes twelve, times in an ugly loss at the Giants that dropped the team to 1-3. McNabb was not the same early on that season because he had limited mobility coming off knee surgery. By late October and into November, McNabb started to move around much better and showed more flashes of his mobility. By December, McNabb was fully healthy and led the team to three straight wins to close out the year.

The bottom line is this: Recovery from a major knee injury as a mobile quarterback takes time. RGIII will make his share of plays against the Eagles, but it is unfair to expect him to be the same as he was last year. Yet.

Because of the precedent that Adrian Peterson set in 2012, many expect RGIII to bounce back from knee surgery and be the same, if not better, right away. While I don’t put that past RGIII, I don’t expect it from him.

At the same time, don’t expect Michael Vick and the Eagles’ offense to do what they did last time they faced the Redskins on Monday Night Football in Washington. On that magical night in 2010, Vick hit DeSean Jackson for an 88-yard TD on the opening play. He went on to account for 6 TDs (4 passing, 2 rushing) in a 59-28 rout.

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In the end, the Eagles defense will stop a rusty Redskin offense just enough times and force a timely turnover or two. As the Eagles’ QB, Michael Vick has never lost to the Redskins in a game he started and finished. Kelly’s offense, led by Vick, will put up enough points to give the Eagles a win in Chip Kelly’s debut and start the season 1-0. Prediction: Eagles 30, Redskins 17.

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Kelly Picks Vick… So Now What?

After seven months on the job, yet sooner than some anticipated, Chip Kelly has decided who will be the quarterback of his offense in his first year as Eagles’ head coach. The man is none other than Michael Vick, Andy Reid’s quarterback for the past three years in Philadelphia. Upon Kelly’s hiring, many felt that Vick could be rejuvenated due to success Kelly has had with mobile quarterbacks in the past. Doubters said that he lacked the ability to make quick decisions, something required in Kelly’s offense. Either way, Vick is the man in Philadelphia for 2013 and we are bound to find out just how well Kelly can actually utilize him.

Vick has been nothing short of spectacular so far this preseason. Nick Foles did not play bad by any stretch of the imagination, but Vick went above and beyond to snatch the job. Vick also seems as comfortable and confident he has since he was the MVP runner-up in 2010. The looming question is whether the Eagles will see the 2010 Vick or the injury and turnover-prone Vick from 2011 and 2012.

The truth is anything is possible. One would believe based off his training camp and preseason performance that Vick will make a smooth transition to this offense and the Eagles are primed to win games. That is entirely possible. Also, there is a very realistic chance that we have not seen the end of this quarterback controversy.

Since taking over for Kevin Kolb in Week 2 of the 2010 season, Vick has missed 12 starts due to injury. Even if he plays well early on this season, the injury bug could bite yet again and we will see (in all likelihood) Nick Foles, who proved he is capable of running Kelly’s offense. Anyone who has watched the Eagles over the years knows that one or two good games by a backup immediately means a quarterback controversy (ask A.J. Feeley and Donovan McNabb).

Kelly selecting Vick to be his quarterback this season means several things. One, Vick executed this offense the best of any of the quarterbacks throughout camp and the preseason. Secondly, Kelly is trying to win now. There is no “rebuilding.” Players and fans know that Kelly is trying to win this year by going with the 33-year-old Vick as opposed to starting Foles or Matt Barkley and letting them develop over time. Kelly’s choice also means that he recognizes Vick as the leader of the locker room. Vick’s teammates look up to him as a role model after all that he has gone through in life. Vick also takes on a larger-than-life persona among his peers, as many of his younger teammates grew up idolizing Vick on the Atlanta Falcons in the early 2000s. This made the decision to start Vick a popular one in the locker room. Not to mention, when the Riley Cooper drama took over the locker room a few weeks ago, it was Vick who took it upon himself to bring the team together. He spoke about giving Cooper a second chance, something Vick is obviously very familiar with.

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Chip Kelly made the right decision selecting Michael Vick as his starter for 2013. The Eagles are not committed to him beyond this season, making the Vick-Kelly experiment a low-risk, high-reward situation. Due to Vick’s injury history, we still may see Foles and/or Barkley play this season. The final win-loss record of the Eagles behind Vick this season is anybody’s guess, but this decision is a testament to Chip Kelly realizing who the leader of the Eagles is and taking another giant step toward fully winning this locker room over as a head coach.

Next step: Winning games.

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Is Donovan McNabb Hall of Fame worthy? Yes.

“He never won a Super Bowl.”

It is the number one criticism against Donovan McNabb. It is the sore thumb that stands out in what was otherwise a terrific career. One less costly interception in Super Bowl XXXIX in February 2005, one less upset stomach in that game, or even a fully healthy Terrell Owens, and McNabb could be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and this might not be much of a debate.

McNabb and head coach Andy Reid delivered a decade of football excellence never before seen in Philadelphia. No other quarterback/coach combination in the history of the franchise won with more consistency than Reid and McNabb did. Now, one of the hottest sports debates in the wake of his official retirement from the NFL and his number 5 jersey, is whether Donovan McNabb belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame.

After being booed on draft day in 1999 by Eagle fans who wanted the team to select running back Ricky Williams, McNabb started a few games down the stretch during his rookie year before breaking out in 2000. He flipped the Eagles’ record of 5-11 in ’99 to 11-5 in 2000 and won his first career playoff game. He also finished as the runner-up for MVP to St. Louis’ Marshall Faulk. Each of the following three seasons (2001-2003) saw McNabb lead the Eagles to the NFC East title and the NFC Championship Game.

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Each championship game ended in heartbreaking defeat, however, especially the last two when the Eagles were heavy favorites.

In 2004, McNabb utilized the addition of Terrell Owens to take the NFL by storm and lead the team to a 13-1 record before resting after securing home-field advantage. That year, McNabb and the Eagles got over the NFC Championship hump in their 4th attempt by defeating Michael Vick and the upstart Atlanta Falcons. They then went on to Super Bowl XXXIX vs. the New England Patriots.

Despite throwing three touchdowns, McNabb also threw three costly interceptions. That plus terrible clock management in the fourth quarter cost the Eagles what would have been their first Super Bowl win.

Terrell Owens splitting the locker room along with an array of injuries doomed the 2005 Eagles. McNabb played well but couldn’t stay on the field for a full season in either 2006 or 2007. He led the Eagles on a magical December run in 2008 after his infamous November benching. For the fifth time, he led the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game where they came up short again, this time in Arizona. 2009 was McNabb’s final season with the Eagles despite making the Pro Bowl for the sixth time and leading the team to an 11-5 record. The Eagles fell flat to Dallas in both Week 17 and the Wild Card round. Due to McNabb’s expiring contract after 2010 and Kevin Kolb’s status as the future, McNabb was shipped to Washington on Easter Sunday 2010 for a pair of high draft picks.

McNabb and Mike Shanahan never saw eye-to-eye and the season was a rough ride for both men until McNabb was benched in Week 15. Things didn’t improve for Donovan in Minnesota in 2011, and he was on the bench by Week 7 for rookie Christian Ponder. It was a dark finish, and that is the last time he suited up in an NFL uniform. So, what is McNabb’s legacy? Surely somebody with the accolades he earned in Philadelphia would be in line for a Hall of Fame opportunity, right? Or do his shortcomings with the Eagles and his disastrous final two seasons negate his Hall of Fame credibility?

Call me biased, call me delusional (feel free to leave comments in the comments section below), but I believe Donovan McNabb should be a Hall of Famer. He might not be first ballot, but he eventually deserves his place in Canton, even if a 60-year-old Donovan McNabb takes the podium in 2036. Simply put, McNabb has bona fide Hall of Fame credentials.

Statistically, McNabb holds virtually every Eagles franchise passing record. McNabb ranks 17th all-time in passing yards, ahead of the likes of Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jim Kelly. Only twelve quarterbacks in the history of the game won more regular season games than Donovan McNabb. All twelve are either in the Hall of Fame or will be someday (ex. Brady, Manning). These twelve include quarterbacks who have NOT won a Super Bowl such as Warren Moon, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino. Despite the two disastrous seasons at the end of his career, McNabb managed to post a .612 career winning percentage. McNabb has the fourth-best touchdown to interception ratio of all time, throwing interceptions in only 2.2% of his passes. He is also only the third quarterback, joining Hall-of-Famers Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton, to throw for 35,000 yards and run for 3,500 more.

More importantly than all-time statistics, Hall of Fame quarterbacks transcended the era in which they played. They were an elite quarterback consistently throughout their tenure. McNabb burst onto the scene as not only a proficient passer, but an electric runner. During the decade from 2000-2009 only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre won more games or threw more touchdown passes. In that span, McNabb also led the Eagles to nine playoff wins, five NFC Championship games, and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIX. Many will argue that nobody did more with less; as McNabb had the likes of Todd Pinkston and James Thrash to throw to before Terrell Owens arrived in 2004. When discussing elite quarterbacks of the 2000s, Donovan McNabb is right there with Brady, Manning, and Favre.

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In addition to his on-the-field accomplishments, Donovan is the type of individual the NFL would want enshrined in their Hall of Fame. He has never been in any trouble off the field, and has been a phenomenal ambassador for the game. His resilience and leadership in times of difficulty is something fans and more importantly those who played with him will always remember. There are few people in McNabb’s class when it comes to class. Being a terrific role model on and off the field by itself does not earn a place in the Hall, but it helps to round out his resume.

Donovan did have his tragic flaws. He was unable to win the big one, so to speak, and often failed under pressure in those games. He was infamous for oftentimes throwing at receivers’ feet or behind them on crossing routes. Toward the end of his career, McNabb’s conditioning became an issue and he became hard to coach in Washington and Minnesota. This caused his career to end more prematurely than many, including himself, anticipated.

However, through all of the ups and downs, Donovan McNabb deserves a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The quote that best sums up McNabb’s career is this: “He may not have won THE big game, but he won a lot OF big games.” This statement also applies to Hall of Famers Dan Marino, Warren Moon, and Jim Kelly (especially Kelly and his four Super Bowl losses). Based on statistical comparison to current Hall of Fame quarterbacks, his elite status throughout the entire 2000s, and his personal standing in the NFL, Donovan McNabb belongs in the Hall of Fame. He may not be elected in his first year of eligibility in 2017, he may not in 2018, he may not in 2025.

But someday, Donovan McNabb belongs among the greats.

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2008: Looking Back at the Year that Was in Philadelphia

It’s hard to believe that five years have passed since one of the most remarkable years in Philadelphia sports history. Many of us may have not fully realized what was happening at the time. In hindsight, I personally viewed that year as a stepping stone to a prosperous era of Philadelphia sports all the way around. How na├»ve I was. I was old enough (16) to appreciate what was happening right before me. But five years later as I write this, the Phillies are approaching the end of an era while there is uncertainty, some may say optimism, surrounding the other three major teams.

Early on in that year, the 76ers were taking their first major strides since the Allen Iverson trade of 2006 and marching their way into the playoffs. Andre Iguodala was looking like a potential franchise player and Andre Miller was a phenomenal veteran presence at point guard. The Flyers had rebounded from an abysmal 2006-07 campaign. A flurry of moves in 2007 brought in Danny Briere and Kimmo Timmonen among others. This combined with the rising stars of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter took the Flyers all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Pittsburgh, completing a remarkable turnaround. The Flyers were set for years to come and eventually peaked when they represented the East the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. Each night during April and May of 2008, there was a Philadelphia playoff game to watch. One night it was the Flyers, the next it was the Sixers. Little did I know that was just the beginning.

For the Eagles, 2008 was about putting a disappointing 8-8 record in 2007 behind them and rebounding behind a fully healthy Donovan McNabb (2006 ACL tear) and a hungry group of veterans that had another run or two left in them. The season started out with a bang; thrashing St. Louis, losing shootout for the ages in Dallas, and beating Pittsburgh in a defensive struggle at home. Jim Johnson’s defense was clicking in what was sadly his last year as coordinator. McNabb was indeed all the way back and the Eagles cruised to a 5-3 start. In November, the Eagles began to struggle badly as they tied the lowly Bengals before getting annihilated by the Ravens on November 23. In that Ravens game in Baltimore, Donovan McNabb was benched by Andy Reid at halftime and it appeared to be the end of an era as we knew it. However, Reid went back to McNabb on Thanksgiving night vs. Arizona after Kevin Kolb played even worse that second half. McNabb responded big time. He put together three phenomenal games in a row before a 10-3 disaster loss in Washington that dropped the Eagles to 8-6-1 and should have ended their playoff hopes. Thanks to Oakland and Houston for winning their earlier games in Week 17, the Eagles made it to the 4:15 kickoff vs. Dallas still alive. The season finale essentially became a playoff game as the winner would take the last NFC Wild Card spot and the loser was finished. The Eagles ran Dallas right out of town in epic fashion, 44-6. They rode that wave of momentum all the way to the NFC title game.

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After all these comebacks during the season, the Eagles trailed 24-6 to Arizona at halftime in the title game. After McNabb put together a brilliant second half, giving the Eagles a 25-24 lead in the 4th, the Eagles seemed like a team of destiny. With the veterans nearing the end of their careers and McNabb playing nearly lights out, the Eagles time seemed to be now. However, the defense couldn’t hold off Kurt Warner on one last drive, and Philly had their heart broken in the NFC Championship Game yet again. Despite the disappointing finish yet again, it was an incredible run and I’m sure many Eagles fans would rather be in that situation than the one they faced in 2012.

That brings me to the Phillies, who despite the success of the other Philadelphia teams, owned 2008. That year will forever belong to them. In 2007, they broke Atlanta’s streak of fifteen straight division titles on the last day of the season. With a core consisting of back-to-back league MVP’s in Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, along with Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels, and Brad Lidge, the Phillies were on the rise and a team to be reckoned with for years to come. The Phillies had a strong regular season in 2008 after struggling in April, and clinched the east during the last week of the season. When the playoffs began, it was clear this Phillies team was different than the previous year’s squad that got swept by Colorado. They handedly beat Milwaukee in the Division Series. Then, thanks to great pitching, a timely “moonshot” home run (Matt Stairs at Dodger Stadium) and a comeback for the ages in Game 4, the Phillies beat the Dodgers to claim the National League Pennant and advance to the World Series.

The city of Philadelphia had not won a championship since 1983. Not one of the four teams. When the Phillies beat the Dodgers and advanced to face the suddenly formidable Tampa Bay Rays in the Fall Classic, there was little doubt that it was the Phillies’ time. They beat the Rays in five games and the city went absolutely berserk. Chase Utley summed it up best in his 5-word speech during the parade (YouTube it, I’m keeping this blog PG).

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Philadelphia finally had its champion. The Phillies were primed for success in the years to come too. They won the pennant again in 2009 but fell to the Yankees in the World Series. They dominated in the regular season in 2010 and 2011 before falling short in the playoffs each time. However, there was no sight more beautiful from 2007-2011 than seeing the white towels come out each September at Citizens Bank Park. That’s when you knew it was playoff time in Philadelphia and the Phillies were gearing up for another championship run.

Now it is five years later. Watching this Phillies core age and struggle is a sad sight to see. They are a mediocre team right now and there is a strong possibility that the Chase Utley era will end within the week. The 76ers and Flyers both missed playoffs in the 2012-13 season. The Flyers are set up for possibly a strong rebound year, while the Sixers are in full rebuilding mode. The Eagles are the talk of the town with new head coach Chip Kelly looking to take the NFL by storm. With this optimism comes uncertainty, as many college coaches with no NFL experience have flamed out at the pro level. Kelly also does not know who his quarterback will be and many are not even convinced that any of his options are the answer. The Eagles could surprise a lot of people and make a playoff run this year, or it could be another dismal season like 2012, one Eagles fans are not accustomed to.

Clearly, and unfortunately, times have changed. 2008 will go down as one of the best years in Philadelphia sports history. At the time, we may have recognized what was happening with our teams but could not fully appreciate the legacy of that year. In 2013, maybe sooner than many of us anticipated, we can. So much has changed in five years and fans are now able to look back and appreciate what each Philadelphia team accomplished that year, especially the Phillies. It may be a few years before any Philadelphia team reaches the level they were at five years ago, let alone all of them at the same time. While we are left with hope, yet uncertainty, we can truly look back at the year that Philadelphia teams gave their fans in 2008, one that will be cherished by generations to come.

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