I hate being Super Bowl Champions.
Okay, that couldn’t be more false. I wouldn’t incessantly remind anyone and everyone who will listen if I did hate it.
But I do hate being subjected to uninspired, war-mongering “analysis” predicting regression over the foreseeable football future. A few weeks ago, I wrote against the stance that the Eagles will miss the playoffs because they had a lot of injuries last year so might get a lot again this year. Today, I’m turning to ESPN Dan’s Graziano, who doubled down on inexplicable offseason takes regarding the Super Bowl Champion (see what I did there?) Eagles.
In his list of 25 NFL predictions for 2021—which is a cool idea, honestly—Graziano drops not one but two NFC East-related Super Bowl takes. We will address them in order.
3. The Dallas Cowboys win one of the next three Super Bowls.
It just feels as if people are sleeping on a team that went 9-7 last year while its best player/key to the offense was suspended for six games. Assuming Ezekiel Elliott plays all 16 games, there’s no reason not to like the Cowboys as 2018 contenders. And with their dominant offensive line all under contract and Dak Prescott still on his rookie deal at quarterback, there’s no reason to think there’s any major drop-off coming in the short term.
Again, I’m not here to say the take is necessarily wrong—though I certainly wouldn’t have it under my name; I’m here to say that the analysis behind this intentionally incendiary stance is disappointing.
Yes, they were missing Zeke for 6 games—they went 3-3 (.500) over that stint; games with Zeke yielded a record of 6-4 (.600). As such, were you looking to predict the 2017 Dallas Cowboys’ record in a six-game Zeke-less stretch, you’d either guess 4-2 or 3-3. So really, the team that went 9-7 without their offensive key, would have gone 10-6 with him...and still missed the NFC playoffs.
Now, discussing a dominant OL under contract (besides RT, which is hazy right now) and Dak Prescott on a rookie deal? Those are interesting points. They allude to all of the cap room Dallas might have to sign big-name free agents (17th most in 2018; 11th most in 2019; 9th most in 2020), which will bolster a barren pass-catching cabinet, add juice to a pass-rush (think: re-sign DeMarcus Lawrence), and account for a 32-year-old Sean Lee’s likely drop-off in play.
But is there really no reason to have tepid expectations for the immediate future? So much so, that it was said twice? How about losing 219 targets, (45%), 132 receptions (43%), 1,398 receiving yards (42%), and 11 receiving touchdowns (50%!) without a clear plan to replace that production? How about Dak’s decline in quality of play from his rookie season—which, even if you liked Dak’s 2017, is inarguable?
There’s reason to be optimistic about Dallas, certainly—but let’s not whitewash over the big question marks (Randy Gregory for real? Sean Lee/Jaylon Smith = 16 games/season? Jason Garrett 1-2 in playoffs across 8 seasons?) that haunt a team wildly unsuccessful in the playoffs under Jerry Jones for the past 20+ years.
Y’all riled up a bit? Blood at a low boil? Here we go.
4. The Philadelphia Eagles won’t.
This is nothing against the Eagles, who should have a very good team again and stand as a legitimate threat to become the first repeat NFC East champion since 2003-04. This is just to make a point about how hard it is to repeat and sustain the kind of success Philadelphia had last year. In 18 NFL seasons since the turn of the millennium, there have been 12 different NFC champions. Of those, the only one that has returned to the Super Bowl within three years is the Seattle Seahawks, who played in back-to-back Super Bowls following the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Carson Wentz is a young superstar quarterback, the roster is well-built and well-coached, and if there’s a team built to buck history, this could well be it. But it’s really hard to buck that kind of history.
Okay, well, firstly:
This is nothing against the Eagles
Yes it is. You’re predicting they will not be successful in their endeavors. You are voting against them.
But anyway, I find myself back at the point I made in the previous article: if you’re going to predict Philly fails in the near future, actually have a case specific to the team. Yes, it’s hard to get back to the Super Bowl—of course it is! It’s the Super Bowl! You have to beat everyone else to get there. That’s the whole point.
But if we get deeper into the statistics used here, we find something rather interesting. We can only conclude that 15 of the 18 years Graziano referenced were either successes/failures to return in 3 years, because the Carolina Panthers (2016), Atlanta Falcons (2017), and Philadelphia Eagles (2018) all could still do it. (Funny how the stat looks a little less scary when you take 1/6th of it away, huh?)
It gets even more fun when you realize the St. Louis Rams went to the Super Bowl in 2000 and then again 2002, just barely missing the cut of the stat. But even then! If we say just 1 of the past 15 NFC representatives in the Super Bowl made it back in 3 years (1/15 = 6.67%), they do indeed look like long odds. (Including the Rams makes it 2/16, or 12.5%.)
Until you realize that the odds of any NFC team reaching the Super Bowl is 1 OUT OF FREAKING 16 BECAUSE THERE ARE 16 TEAMS IN THE CONFERENCE (1/16 = 6.25%) SO REALLY THERE IS NO REMARKABLE CORRELATION BETWEEN ATTENDING THE SUPER BOWL AND THEN ATTENDING IT AGAIN WITHIN A THREE YEAR PERIOD.
Does this mean the Eagles are more likely to make it back to the Super Bowl, given historical trends? No. Are they more likely to make it back to the Super Bowl because their roster, coaching staff, and front office have made quantifiably better moves/possess quantifiably more talent than the average NFC team (like, say the Dallas Cowboys)? Yes.
I need training camp, gang. I need it so badly.