Aug 202010

Eagles DE Brandon Graham

August 20 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford

“When the Eagles play the second game of the interminable NFL exhibition season in Cincinnati on Friday night, only two players from the starting offensive and defensive lineups of the 2004 Super Bowl team will be on the field.

Of course, both of them will be wearing tiger stripes on their helmets.

In some ways, that giddy romp to the league’s championship game in February 2005, which followed seasons of slow growth and not a little frustration, seems like just yesterday. It is still the main reference point for the tenure of Andy Reid as the team’s head coach. But it wasn’t yesterday. Five seasons have passed. The opportunities to get back to the Super Bowl thinned out, and the aging process and continued frustration led to the upheaval that defines the current roster.

Not a single starter from the Super Bowl is now with the Eagles. Quintin Mikell is the only position player remaining. He was a backup to strong safety Michael Lewis at the time. David Akers is still the dean of the special teams, which is a bit incredible the way placekickers come and go in the NFL.

That’s it, however. The others have fallen away like leaves from a branch in the autumn. It is the natural order of things in professional football, where careers average less than four years, limited by injury or talent or the availability of someone younger and cheaper to take one’s place. The biggest leaf fell in the off-season when Donovan McNabb departed after 11 seasons, partially for economic reasons but mostly because the franchise consensus was that the one Super Bowl trip was all he would muster.

The starters in that championship game who will be on the field in Cincinnati are Terrell Owens and Dhani Jones, an airhead and an air guitarist.

Owens wasn’t the one who got tired in the Super Bowl, as he pointedly said of McNabb, but he was the one who symbolized the quick decline that followed the 2004 season. Jones is an average player with an above-average capacity for self-promotion. If he was missed upon being replaced in 2007 by Chris Gocong, it wasn’t apparent.

Their presence Friday night is little more than a curiosity now, and most of the Eagles would be hard-pressed to know that Jones once played for their team. Owens, well, they probably all know that.

The current group doesn’t seem to care all that much about the past, particularly since most of them don’t go back very far. The Eagles, according to those who count such things, went into training camp with the fourth-youngest roster in the league. Fifty-six of the 80 players in camp came into the league in 2007 or later. Even a graybeard like Mikell, who played in that long-ago Super Bowl, doesn’t turn 30 until four days after the season opener.”

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