I’ve had this theory in my head for the last three days and it’s time I finally unloaded it on the tens of people who visit the site. If you were coming up with some witty thesis/title for the idea it would go something like this - How the Philadelphia Eagles became the Dallas Cowboys or: the trap of the celebrity football team. My basic premise is that the Eagles, tired of seemingly always falling short in the NFC playoffs, decided to move a different direction as an organization this year, seemingly going “all in” on an attempt to finally win a Super Bowl. The manner in which they went about it? Signing nearly every free agent whose name you could recognize before the season began. This is not a good thing.
Think back to the Dallas Cowboys circa 2007. The big tuna abruptly left Dallas after making the playoffs in two consecutive years, tired of dealing with Jerry Jones’ shenanigans and a team that he no doubt felt was mentally weak. It was widely agreed in that locker room that they needed a “player’s coach” because Coach Parcells was definitely too ”old school” for the modern game and the modern athlete. Enter Wade Phillips and their shocking 13-3 record the next season with a roster mostly assembled by Parcells. The team had star power coming out of their ears, with a record 13 players being named to the Pro Bowl that season. At the time, it wasn’t far fetched for an average fan to be able to name every single player that started for the Cowboys. Despite the disappointment of a divisional round exit to the Giants, Dallas entered 2008 with even higher expectations, eventually just missing the playoffs after a blowout loss to the Eagles in the 17th week of the season in the final home game at the old Texas Stadium. You might best remember that team for its appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks and the annoying way they were discussed single day on ESPN, despite never achieving anything.
It didn’t help that they had Terrell Owens at the height of his media-seeking powers, a version of Romo that wasn’t quite ready to take over as the leader, and like we’ve discussed before, a ton of egos and “names” in that lockerrom. Think of all the bizarre incidents those teams produced: the TO alleged suicide attempt/overdose, the TO weeping press conference where he defended Romo as his quarterback, the alleged favoritism shown to Jason Witten over TO, etc. Ed Werder likely slept for a total of only 12 hours in all of his years covering those bizarre teams. And as we all witnessed and can no doubt agree, the perceived talent and star power of those teams is exactly what caused their demise. The team eventually got lazy, believing that their talent alone would allow them to reach the promised land, and this was especially reinforced by Wade Phillips’ loose coaching style, which I’m pretty sure will show up in a thesaurus as the antonym for disciplined.
Look at the Philadelphia Eagles right now. Look at why they keep losing. It’s all the little things. Last week they had a huge opportunity to blow open the game against the 49ers. They put big name signee Ronnie Brown into the game to finish off a touchdown drive. What did the former star running back do? He panicked after one of his blockers fell down, attempted to throw a pass while getting spun to the ground, and turned over the ball on the one yard line. It was a huge blow that eventually cost them the game. Look at the week before when they failed a number of times to punch it in for a touchdown in the red zone, when big name corner Nnamdi Asomugha inexplicably allowed Victor Cruz to outjump double coverage for a touchdown, when former Giant Steve Smith, another big signing, tipped a ball he should have caught in the red zone to Giants corner Aaron Ross for an interception. It’s all those little things that add up over the course of the season and cause a team to just miss the playoffs. I don’t know why it happens but with teams that have a lot of big names on the roster, there seems to be a trend towards letting the little things curtail the season’s goals.
It was with that thought in mind that I picked the Eagles to underachieve this year and just miss the playoffs and it was with that thought in mind that I successfully predicted they’d lose a bunch of close games. Sure, it’s fun as hell to draft the Eagles players for your fantasy team. They always produce, like clockwork. It was the same way with all of those Cowboys teams with TO and the like. The problem is that the allusion of statistical fantasy success doesn’t translate to playoff victories. You might notice that in the Eagles lone victory this season against the Rams, Michael Vick actually had his “worst” game, by your basic fantasy measures (his line that night: 187 yards passing for 2 TDs, 97 yards rushing). It’s because the Eagles won the possession battle that day and ran for 236 yards as a team.
I’m not saying it’s too late for this Philadelphia team to get it together. Michael Vick certainly has an eff you edge to him that Tony Romo never had, has, nor will ever have. However it is interesting that you need only look at historical trends for rosters that are assembled based on name recognition to see how they turned out as a team. Dan Snyder’s Washington Redskins, anybody?
What the Eagles need to do is somehow become the NFL version of The U, becoming so physically and psychologically dominant over opponents that the result is a series of blowout victories that leave people shaking their heads, wondering what the hell just happened. For some reason the Eagles confidence just quite isn’t there yet, in much the same manner the Cowboys were never that way once they hit the field. Playing like those Canes teams is the only proven way a collection of confident, talented football players like the Eagles roster has ever succeeded at any level.
The problem is Andy Reid is no Jimmie Johnson.
Generation Y, where we’d like to start the movement to call Adrian Beltre Senor October.