Dear Eagles- Your Fans are With You

Let me start by stating something controversial- I would probably go. If you’re incredibly lucky in life, you’ll get to be a professional athlete. If you are truly blessed, you might win a championship in pro sports. The invitation to the White House to teams who win major sports championships has become a tradition, even an honor. That’s our house, the President lives in it. These athletes earned that moment to bask in the glow of our country. They may never get it again. So I’d go, even with a bad President.

I understand why the Eagles are not though. For many of them, the causes they are protesting are incredibly important and personal. It is their God-given right to speak out and use their First Amendment Rights. This is what our country is about. Even the very President of the United States must honor that right. The Eagles players who chose not to go were right in exercising their rights. President Donald Trump was wrong to disinvite them. Period. Full-stop.

The White House says the Eagles “disagree with the President” and “abandoned their fans.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Fox News showed clips of Eagles players praying to their God to attempt to smear them with the NFL’s controversy about players kneeling during the National Anthem. In fact, no Philadelphia Eagle player kneeled during the National Anthem during their Super Bowl season. The efforts to smear the Eagles players are all about optics and politics, without even taking into account the personal behavior and belief of any of the players. It’s disgusting.

We know that Donald Trump stands with Super Bowl runner-up Tom Brady, who skipped visiting the Obama White House with his team, so none of this should be a great shock. The Eagles players should know a few things, from at least this fan who was down there in the sea of green on JFK Boulevard for parade day:

  1. We Eagles fans support our team.
  2. You’re right to exercise your rights as Americans.
  3. Fly.Eagles.Fly. Super Bowl Champs.

No one likes us, we don’t care.

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Yes, it Happened, Philadelphia.

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I took last week off from writing in the entirety, in part because I was busy, and in part because I didn’t have any fully formed thoughts to say. In the last piece I wrote, I predicted the Eagles would win the Super Bowl- just hours before they did. Even though that was my prediction, I still can’t believe it happened.

When the hail mary from Tom Brady landed incomplete in the end zone, I didn’t really have much immediate reaction. I was too shocked. I will be the first to admit it, I never thought the Eagles would ever win a championship in my lifetime. The last time they had won, 1960, my father was three. The Eagles had been a bad franchise in my lifetime to be honest, a franchise that hadn’t won a title. It wasn’t just that though- they always seemed to get close. This was their sixth NFC Championship or further in my lifetime. This was only the second time they were playing in the Super Bowl though, and they lost that time. You see, that’s the frustrating thing about the Eagles for a fan, they can’t just suck every year. We not only had to fail, but we had to do it in heartbreaking fashion. Basically, after the loss to Arizona to end the 2008 season, and then seeing my favorite Eagle (Brian Dawkins) simply cut loose, I had a negative view of the team. I didn’t ditch them and go cheer for another team, I just became extremely cynical. We aren’t supposed to win- until now. So when the Eagles did win, the shock over me didn’t make it all that real at first. There’s no way it happened.

The Eagles did win though. It happened. Nick Foles, a quarterback who I once said would never be good enough to win a Super Bowl (back in the Chip Kelly days), not only won the Super Bowl, but he won the MVP. They not only won the Super Bowl, but they beat Tom Brady, in all of his 500+ yard best form, to win that Super Bowl. By Monday, it started to set in. By Tuesday I was finalizing plans to be at the parade- on Thursday. The impossible had set in.

So, about that parade- I’m the most die-hard of Phillies fans, but was unable to go to the 2008 parade because of work. I was going to this parade. I took a pre-dawn bus down to Center City with a bunch of childhood friends, all of us witnesses to all of those heartbreaking losses, and drank and made merry on the corner of 15th and JFK and watched the parade with hundreds of thousands of our anonymous, closest friends. It was an amazing, amazing experience. Almost everyone was happy and decent towards each other (there are always a few jerks). It was a sea of green. When the team went by, it was euphoric. There was Carson Wentz, holding up the Lombardi Trophy, the moment every Eagles fan about my age never thought would happen. It was amazing. I have no other words for it. I couldn’t even come up with those words for days.

All week, friends of mine and I have debated if this is better than 2008, and all I can come up with is that this is different. The Phillies are my #1, period, and their win in 2008 seems unmatchable. On the other hand, it was also more of a relief than anything. No Philadelphia team at all had won a title since I was one month old in 1983 (The Sixers). Had the Phillies failed to win that World Series, I think I might have given up all hope. This Eagles win was different, in that I really felt like it was going to happen all along, and I have no idea why. Before the season, I thought this Eagles team would win seven to nine games and be entertaining, on paper, and yet when they started winning games early on, I didn’t feel all that shocked. Perhaps it was because I liked these players, perhaps it was because I always had more confidence in Doug Pederson than I ever had in Chip Kelly, or perhaps it was just because I was so certain I’d never see a title that I never actually got nervous about them blowing it. I don’t know. I obviously was really happy about both the Eagles championship and that last Phillies championship. I really can’t draw a distinction between the two though, because they were so different for me. Nothing can ever top that moment in time that was the Fall of 2008 for me, because the entirety of my life was in a special faze, but this is just such a happy moment as a fan that I can’t really put it down in comparison to anything else.

Perhaps the happiest thing about the Eagles championship is the happiness it seems to have brought the entire region. I saw grown people at that parade, smiling from ear to ear, who were just so happy that their Eagles had finally given them that championship. No more abuse from New York, or Washington, or Boston, or Baltimore, or Pittsburgh, or especially Dallas, about how Philadelphia never had a Super Bowl ring. No more expectations of losing. No more wondering if this team was good enough. The Eagles are champs. Yes, the Eagles are champs. I could say it all day.

 

The Most Unlikely of Moments: Buck Foston, Go Birds in Super Bowl LII

The day has arrived. Super Bowl 52 is here. The Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots, a generation after Super Bowl 39. The day after Terrell Owens and Brian Dawkins were voted into the Hall-of-Fame. This is some high drama TV.

This is not Super Bowl 39. This is a new day. It’s ok though, as an Eagles fan you should embrace it. It’s fun. Here’s my notes on today, followed by the prediction.

  • Justin Timberlake is back at the Super Bowl. He’s the true GOAT at this game, no matter what Brady does. With that said, this can only be right if Janet Jackson makes a cameo. America demands it.
  • Tom Brady has come into the Super Bowl as MVP one time- 2007. The Patriots famously lost to the New York Giants.
  • Hand this to the Patriots- Belichick took a rather average looking team in week one and put them in their third Super Bowl in four years. In fact, both of these teams took a convincing early loss to Andy Reid’s September champion Kansas City Chiefs. Andy, who coached the Eagles in Super Bowl 39.
  • No NFL MVP has ever won the Super Bowl the same year. Matt Ryan lost last year. Cam Newton the year before.
  • Howie Roseman should be the executive of the year for taking a 7-9 team that last won a playoff game in the divisional round of the 2008 season to the Super Bowl. He cleaned up Chip Kelly’s mess in literally a year. Give him props. Former ChipBots, be humble.
  • On the Chip Kelly sucks bandwagon, just imagine if the Eagles had traded Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, and something like four top picks to Tennessee so they could draft Marcus Mariota. Just imagine. Chip Kelly should be out of all football.
  • The only player in this game who played in the last Eagles-Pats Super Bowl is Tom Brady. This is his 8th Super Bowl. He’s 5-2 through 7. His AFC Championship record is just as impressive. His divisional round record would win home field most seasons. He’s got nothing to prove today.
  • The Patriots will not blowout the Eagles today. The 4.5 point line is too high. At least according to history. The final spread of the previous seven Patriots Super Bowls? Three, three, three, three, four, four, and six points in overtime.
  • Assuming Lane Johnson gets to the field this evening, the Eagles are 20-4 in his last 24 games. The All-Pro lineman is probably the most important player on this Eagles offense.
  • The hottest unit coming into this game? The Eagles defense. They’ve given up 5 touchdowns in the last 19 quarters they’ve played.
  • The Eagles defeated Minnesota and Atlanta to win the NFC and make Super Bowl 39, in Jacksonville. They defeated Atlanta and Minnesota to win the NFC and reach Super Bowl 52. New England beat… Jacksonville this year. Strange, just strange.
  • This game will sound like an Eagles home game.

So, prediction time… The Eagles win 23-21 on a walk-off kick. Fletcher Cox wins the MVP.

Why Tom Brady Won’t Be Visiting the White House in 2018

A few years ago, after the Patriots won the Super Bowl over the Seahawks, Tom Brady turned down the opportunity to visit the White House, at the invitation of Barack Obama. That’s his right, so no one can blame him for that. He went when Donald Trump invited him in 2017. I don’t think he’ll get the opportunity to make that decision in 2018.

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of his time, and maybe of all-time. His Patriots opened as one of the larger favorites in Super Bowl history, giving 5.5 points to the Eagles. The Eagles will play in this Super Bowl without the best quarterback in football this year, Carson Wentz, as well as without future Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman Jason Peters, electric return man Darren Sproles, and star linebacker Jordan Hicks, among others. If you’re lazy, you’ll assume the outcome from that. How in the world did this team get here?

Well, that’s the point, and that’s been the point, going back to when I told you to not count the Eagles out, after Wentz went down. The Eagles lost several Pro-Bowl level players and still went 13-3 in the regular season. They still beat the Atlanta Falcons, the reigning NFC Champions. They still beat the Minnesota Vikings, who possibly had the best defense in football this season. Here they are, in the Super Bowl. What’s that tell you about this roster? What can you make of a team that is 15-3 and in the Super Bowl, with all of those injuries? That’s a pretty good squad, right?

Here’s some facts about this game:

  • From the start of the second quarter in the Giants game (Week 15), the Eagles defense has surrendered five touchdowns. That’s 5 TD’s in 19 quarters.
  • Jay Ajayi and LaGarrette Blount, behind an offensive line with two All-Pro first teamers, present one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the league.
  • New England’s defense has greatly improved since week one. It still gave up twenty points to Blake Bortles.

What’s all of this mean? Brady is certainly better than Foles, and Gronk is some sort of other-worldly creature, but if you stop there, you’re missing the point. The defense Brady and Gronk will face is one of the very best in the NFL this season, and the offense the Eagles will put out on the field probably has about the same number of question marks as the defense they are facing. Both teams have kickers who can steal points from far away at the end of a half. Both teams are reasonably well coached too.

The hottest unit on either team going into this game is the Eagles defense. They will carry that through the Super Bowl. I don’t think they’ll shut down Brady like they did Case Keenum, but I do think they’ll remain on a roll. Will their offense give them enough points to win? After watching what they did to the Vikings, my answer is yes.

Skol? **** ‘Em, Go Philly.

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Today would have been my grandfather’s 88th birthday. Like me, Richard Wilkins Sr. was a Philadelphia fan, four for four, and I often times look back on what that must have been like in his lifetime when judging what it’s like for me. I find it was probably frustrating. For whatever reason, we seem to keep passing our fandom down though.

Philadelphia sports were tough when my grandfather was young. It took 50 years for him to see the Phillies win a World Series, the only he’d see. The Eagles won three NFL titles, all by the time he was 30. The Sixers and Flyers added a few too. All told, Philadelphia won a title roughly every 8 years of his life.

Frankly, I’d take that ratio. I was a month old when the Sixers won in 1983, and I wouldn’t see another champion until the 2008 Phillies won. I’ve lived through four Phillies World Series, of which they won one. The Sixers have been in two NBA Finals, with the only win coming in my infancy. The Flyers have lost four Stanley Cup Finals in my life, winning none. The Eagles? This is NFC title game six. They have one win, and they lost the Super Bowl that year. Technically I’ve seen a title every 17 years. In reality? It’s been worse.

There is no tortured fanbase like the Eagles. It’s been 58 years since they won an NFL Championship. That was not a Super Bowl, as the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, and other local fanbases let us know. The die-hares spend every August calling into WIP, predicting it will be their year. They watch as it never is. Neighboring cities like Baltimore, New York, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Boston get their day. Eagles fans are left with memories of Fog Bowl, Ronde Barber, Jake Delhomme, and even SpyGate.

Tonight as this game kicks off, I sort of know the drill- how can back-up Nick Foles beat the elite Vikings defense. How can this time be different for a blue-collar fanbase that gets picked on for their strong home field advantage. This should be the fifth time I watch the Eagles lose an NFC Championship game. Ask the media. Ask Vegas. Ask the Super Bowl ads with career scrub Case Keenum already in them.

But while we’re waiting for kick off, if you’re cheering for #Skol, and you’re not from Minnesota (or a long time fan), you can go **** yourself. It’s time for this Bird Gang to get it done.

Three Things About the Eagles Win…

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From the Eagles twitter…

The Eagles are back in familiar territory for me as a fan- the NFC Title Game. Yet, despite the familiarity, and the negative memories of the past, I’m more happy than normal about this. This sixth NFC title game since I entered high school is satisfying because it wasn’t supposed to happen. I have three main thoughts about this one:

  1. So much for Atlanta’s second round bye– The Eagles had no chance. That’s what you heard all week. Some media types talked about how the sixth seeded Atlanta Falcons essentially had a “second round bye” in coming to the 13-3 Eagles place for this divisional round game. Someone must have forgot to tell that 13 win defense, which held Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to 10 points. Someone forgot to tell that offensive line, with it’s two All-Pros, and the running back tandem that ran well all year. This team won 13 games for a reason, but got no respect. They were the first top seed ever to be an underdog in Vegas in their first home playoff game, getting three points from the sixth seeded Falcons. For the record, they’re +3.5 right now for the NFC Championship game with the Vikings.
  2. This team is one game from the Super Bowl– When Carson Wentz went down, it would have been easy to give up on the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. No team can lose an MVP Quarterback. This team has lost it’s kicker, an All-Pro tackle, their kick returner, their best linebacker, and plenty of other talent for stretches along the way this year. They are one game from the Super Bowl though, and two games from a championship, their first since 1960. They’re facing a team who is also on a back-up quarterback in this championship game. You have to start thinking about the Eagles as a potential championship team. You also have to stop making any excuses. The game is in Philadelphia, you only have to win it once. The opportunity has arrived.
  3. I had this team pegged for 7 to 9 wins before the season– I didn’t see this coming. I felt Carson Wentz would have a good year, but I didn’t see this team going from 7-9 the last two seasons to 13-3 and in the NFC Championship game, especially the way it’s went. This season is absolutely a successful one. For the first time since the Bush Administration, the Eagles won a playoff game. They found a franchise quarterback. Their defense stepped up. Their offense was balanced. I figured they’d win three games in division, split the non-division NFC games, win two or three times against the NFC West, and maybe win a game or two against the AFC West. In some ways , their schedule lucked out. In other ways, this team just impressed me. Doug and Howie did a good job building a winner, very quickly at that.

Now- beat #Skol.

As An Eagles Fan, I Keep Asking- Could This Happen?

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I’m not going to lie- I pegged the Eagles for somewhere between seven and ten wins before the season. The AFC West was supposed to be loaded. Carson Wentz was only in year two of his development from North Dakota State to NFL Franchise QB. Road games at Carolina, Seattle, and Kansas City were mortal locks for defeat. Two trips to Los Angeles? Impossible. The defense wasn’t going to be very good, Doug Peterson’s offense still worried me, and the team went 7-9 the last two years. I wasn’t a believer.

The thing here is, I’m not often a believer in the Eagles. I was a kid watching Buddy Ryan’s feared defenses get let down in the playoffs, and when Reggie White was allowed to leave Philadelphia over money. I was a young adult when they lost the NFC Title Games to St. Louis, Tampa, and Carolina. I was in college when they lost the Super Bowl to Tom Brady. I was 25 when they lost the NFC Title Game to an Arizona team they had beaten during the season. I can honestly say at least three times I expected (yes, expected) my Eagles to win the Super Bowl. They never did. They never have, period. When they got gimmicky and brought in Chip Kelly, I immediately called fraud on that clown. He proceeded to wreck the team. Over my 34 years, the Eagles have given me every reason to doubt them.

The thing is, if you’re actually objective, there’s no reason to trust a franchise who last won an NFL Championship when my father was three years old (1960). Like most Eagles fans, I’ve so badly wanted to believe they’d win, but they usually end up disappointing us- in fact, they always seem to. It’s part of being a Philadelphia fan- you learn to deal with heartbreak and disappointment with the best of them.

I didn’t feel that way about this year’s team though, at least not until December 10th. Carson Wentz made me, and many others, truly believe this could be it. He’s that good. He’s an MVP type of QB. He really has the talent. So, of course he got hurt. Of course. His ACL had to tear as the team was winning the NFC East, and their 11th game of the season. This is the essence of being an Eagles fan. You want to believe so bad, and when the deck finally seems stacked our way, the rug gets pulled out from underneath you. Wentz got hurt, then somehow it was the defense that went shaky. Then the defense looked great this week, and the offense went shaky. I’ve never seen a less confident fanbase for a 13-2 team.

So, here’s the thing. I actually am pretty happy with the season they’ve had. They’ve defied my expectations and beliefs about them. I’m bought in on the coach/front office regime, the quarterback, and the roster they’ve assembled. I think this team is actually, legitimately good. Would I predict them to win the NFC, or the Super Bowl, right now? No. Do they have a shot? Yes, they have a real shot to win it all. I think they absolutely would have won the Super Bowl if Carson Wentz hadn’t got hurt. I think they still have a chance now. Why?

  • They have home field advantage in the NFC Playoffs. If you’re home, you at least have a chance. Philadelphia is a tough place to play in January, and who among the other current NFC Playoff teams is a legitimate outdoor, cold weather team? Minnesota, New Orleans, and Atlanta play in domes. Los Angeles and Carolina play in nice weather cities. Even beyond the noise, there is a real advantage here.
  • The road is shorter. Thanks to the bye in the Wild Card round, the Eagles only have to win two games to win the NFC, not three. Beating two good teams is a lot easier than beating three, even if it’s still hard.
  • Nick Foles replacing Carson Wentz really isn’t their biggest issue. Okay, so Nick Foles didn’t look great Monday night, but he looked good in LA and New York the two previous weeks. He’s had some playing time this season, he’s not totally cold. He’s  been an NFL starter, and even started in the playoffs. I’m far more worried about mistakes in the secondary and the loss of Jason Peters doing the Eagles in than Nick Foles. Foles isn’t Wentz, and I never bought into him even in his “27 to 2” season a few years back, but he’s good enough to win an NFL football game. He’s done what he needed to for the first two weeks as starter.
  • They keep overcoming major injuries. Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Caleb Sturgis, and of course, Carson Wentz have all suffered season-ending injuries.. Ronald Darby and Zack Ertz missed time. The Eagles are 13-2. Again, that’s 13-2, not 10-5 or some other very good, but not dominant record. This is a very good football team, a team that seems to find ways to win, regardless of the issues.
  • If not them, who else? No, really, who else? I guess if I were a betting man on the hot hand in the NFC, I’d probably take Carolina, who will have to play in the Wild Card round regardless of what happens next week, and who the Eagles did beat at their place earlier this year (granted, with Wentz). Minnesota has a great defense, but do you really think Keenum gets them all the way? Drew Brees is a football God, but do the Saints scare you in the cold like they do in the Dome? Are you bought into the Rams yet? Is Atlanta what they were last year? Are the Patriots or the Steelers the best version of those franchises that you’ve seen in recent memory? Any of the teams I mentioned, and even a Jacksonville or Kansas City, could possibly beat the Eagles in the post-season. The Eagles may not even win a game. But really though, which team is out of their league?
  • If they get there… Look, if the Eagles can win two NFC Playoff home games and win the NFC, they’re in the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is unique in American professional sports in that it’s a one-and-done game. It’s hard to get lucky and win four out of seven games in the World Series, or the NBA Finals, or the Stanley Cup Finals- you have to at least be competitive to get lucky in those championships. The Super Bowl is one football game. You have to outplay the opponent one time. That can happen- any given Sunday.

I don’t want to get your hopes too far up- the Eagles aren’t the favorites to win the Super Bowl anymore. They’re at best a “pick ’em” in the NFC, where no one is way out ahead right now. They could lose in the divisional round. If that happens, it’ll be sad, but something we’ve all seen before. I’ll still have faith in the future of the team, provided that they are smart and let Carson Wentz heal 100%- not rush him back to play Opening Day in 2018. With the way this team defied my expectations, my hopes are now sky high for a next decade of Carson being among the NFL’s elite. With a defense that showed amazing progress in a year’s time, a running back situation that was productive, and receivers that make plays, I have high hopes moving forward. I’m just not done hoping for big things to come- this year.