“Try not to notice the NFL gave the Eagles the honor of playing their first game of 2010 on Friday the 13th.
And try to ignore the fact that the very same people who justified forcing exhibition games on their season-ticket buyers are now openly admitting the preseason is basically consumer fraud – because now the league and its owners want to expand the regular season to 18 games.
Forget, if you can, that the Jacksonville Jaguars may not be the best test of the Eagles’ state of readiness for the rigors of the NFC East.
Just shut down your brain and rejoice. Finally, after months of speculation and opinion based on absolutely nothing except air and wisps of smoke, the clean-slate Eagles will actually play football against an opponent. Whether it’s good or bad or somewhere in the middle, we’ll finally get a glimpse of how this bold new era is going to look.
Frankly, it has been tough to get much of a read up on the fields at Lehigh. There are precious few proven NFL stars on this team, on either side of the ball. So how do you form an opinion when one relative unknown makes a good play against another relative unknown? What if they’re both stiffs? What if they’re both future Pro Bowlers? There’s just no way to know.
In the recent past, you had something to measure with. If a young defensive lineman looked good in one-on-one drills against Tra Thomas, it meant something. If a rookie wide receiver was able to get behind Troy Vincent, it meant something. If a linebacker could run with Brian Westbrook and break up a pass, it meant quite a bit.
There is a kind of thrill in seeing a team start over like this. But part of the thrill is the inherent risk that the whole thing will be a complete disaster. That is unlikely given Andy Reid’s track record, but it is possible. It’s at least as possible as this second take on the Reid era being as successful as the first.
Eagles owner Jeff Lurie inadvertently made that point when he talked to the media last week. Lurie said that if this next decade brought five trips to the conference title game, he was confident the Eagles would win at least one Super Bowl. That is an “if” larger than Reid’s tuxedo jacket.
In the last three decades, only three teams have reached the NFL’s final four as many as five times. The Eagles and Patriots did it in the 2000s. The San Francisco 49ers did it twice – in the ’80s and ’90s. The Pittsburgh Steelers went to three conference championships in the ’90s and four more in the ’00s.
Otherwise, teams that rise to a level of dominance generally go through a period of decline.
Those Niners never got back to a conference championship after 1997. The Cowboys who went to three in the ’80s and three in the ’90s went to zero in the ’00s. Buffalo went to four Super Bowls in the ’90s and zero conference titles games in the ’00s.”
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