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So You're Saying There's a Chance: Going from "Worst to First" is doable in the NFL

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Training camp is all about opportunity, competition and optimism. That's why it is important to be realistic and rely on history to help determine expectations for a team coming off an awful year. As Brandon Lee Gowton has highlighted in his article about "Winning Now," the Eagles want to win this season. Luckily for the Eagles, history shows that in the NFL, instead of "Any Given Sunday," it's more like "Any Given Season."

The NFL is a league of parity. Every year, teams go up-and-down their respective divisions like a game of musical chairs. It's what makes the NFL so competitive and so interesting. There is always a chance for your team to improve.

Unlike in the NBA or MLB, every NFL season offers something new (unless you're the Browns and Texans during the early 2000's). Philadelphia Eagles fans know the blessings and the punishment of the clean slate from year-to-year. Since the NFL moved to an eight-division format in 2002, the Eagles have twice gone from "first to worst" and went from "worst to first" from 2005 to 2006, following the disaster that was Terrell Owens exit from Philadelphia. With the team coming off it's worst finish since the change in format, the Eagles and its fans hope they can return to the top of the NFC East sooner rather than later.

According to history, the Eagles essentially have a one in eight shot at turning their team around in a big way. Since the eight-division format was put in place, 13 teams have gone from "worst to first." In fact, over the last decade, each year has seen at least one team win their division after finishing last the season before.

Here is a look at the last decade of teams that have gone "first to worst" and "worst to first":

Season First to Worst Worst to First
2012 N/A WAS
2011 IND DEN
2010 ARI KC
2009 N/A NO
2008 N/A MIA
2007 PHI, CHI TB
2006 N/A PHI, NO
2005 PHI CHI
2004 N/A ATL, SD
2003 NYJ KC, CAR

The chart above shows that there is a reason to not accept 2013 as a "throwaway year." Chip Kelly has stated that the team will not sacrifice wins this season in order to be successful down the road. The Eagles want to win now, and history shows that significant recovery after a bad season is doable. Whether you believe the Eagles can obtain double-digit wins this season (for the record: I don't) or not, knowing there is a chance is reason enough to be excited.