When you think about it, this really feels like the first Eagles training camp after their Super Bowl victory.
Obviously it’s not. The New England Patriots are the defending champs thanks to a thrilling(!!!) 13-3 win in Super Bowl 53, a game we would all agree never actually happened. After Super Bowl 52, the last one of those things that actually mattered, the Eagles really didn’t have an off-season. No one had a chance to catch their breath. The celebration and parade rolled right into the ring ceremony, which rolled right into the minicamps and off-season, which rolled right into players getting surgeries for their many ailments, which rolled right into training camp, which rolled right into a regular season in which so many Eagles players were not available as they recovered from the season before.
Now, in 2019, it feels like we’re finally ready to turn the page. We can still bask in the glow of that Super Bowl, but with the start of training camp today at the Nova Care Complex in Philadelphia, it really does seem like we’re ready to move on.
And folks, the hype is real.
This is the most hyped Eagles season in recent memory, and perhaps ever. In 1989, expectations were ridiculously high after Randall Cunningham and Buddy Ryan’s defense burst onto the scene in ‘88, went 10-6, made the postseason and were deemed by many as the “team of the ‘90s.”
The Eagles had a good ‘89 season, going 11-5, before losing in the wild card round to the L.A. Rams. They made the playoffs in 1990, too, but then Buddy got fired, Randall got hurt, Jerome Brown died in a car crash and free agency gutted the remainder of the Buddy-built team that so many believed would win a title.
In 2005, the Eagles were coming off their first Super Bowl appearance since 1980, and expectations were high. However, the drama surrounding Terrell Owens left an ominous cloud over the team and, as they struggled out of the gate with the dreaded Super Bowl hangover, and went 6-10.
In 2011, the NFL’s lockout resulted in a much shorter free agency period heading into that season, and Andy Reid’s Eagles tried to take advantage. They swooped in and signed Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jason Babin, Vince Young, and others, leading Young to refer to that season’s squad as a “Dream Team.”
Of course, the season was a disaster. They started 1-4 and 4-8 and finished 8-8 on the season.
And at the height of the Chip Kelly era, most thought the 2014 team was a Super Bowl contender as well. After taking over a team that went 4-12 in 2012, Kelly came in and led Nick Foles and the Birds to a 10-6 record and an opening round playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints at home. Everyone was giddy, but despite another 10-6 season, the Eagles collapsed down the stretch, missed the postseason, and the rest was history.
The difference this time around is, despite all the hype heading into those four previous Eagles seasons, none of those teams had won a Super Bowl. This one has.
This Eagles team knows that, if Carson Wentz stays healthy, he can be an MVP candidate. This Eagles team knows that their head coach, Doug Pederson, can out-coach even the best head coaches the league has to offer, and he can do it on the biggest stage imaginable. This Eagles team knows that their defensive coordinator is capable and has been virtually all the tools he needs to stop opponents from lighting up the team.
But most importantly, many of the ‘17 stars are still playing at a high level, come into the season healthy, and have a locker room chemistry that should allow them to match the hype.
That being said, the hype has been overwhelming and there is a danger it is too great.
Despite having a deep roster, there are lots that could go wrong. Of course, that’s true for every team, and no one can control injuries, but if Miles Sanders isn’t the explosive runner we all hope he’ll be, if Derek Barnett fizzles, if Wentz gets hurt again, if offensive coordinator Mike Groh can’t figure out how to use his weapons, if can’t stay healthy, if Malik Jackson doesn’t generate that inside push, if this team doesn’t get some turnovers, and if a number of other things we can’t imagine happen, stuff could turn south.
Not only that, in the NFC alone, there are a number of teams (New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys) who are all worthy challengers to the Birds’ pursuit of an NFC title. This Eagles team may indeed be better than that 2017 team, but not quite as good/lucky as the teams I just mentioned.
But there’s no catching the hype train once it’s left the station, and right now, it’s steaming ahead full-bore. No one wants to be the “Yeah, but...” guy, but things get a little dicey when there is 100% universal belief that a thing is going to happen. Hopefully, the Eagles catch a ride on this particular train rather than get run over by it.