SB Nation has some theme weeks planned for the offseason as we try to pass the time together during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week’s theme: Best teams to never win a championship.
Man, diving in to this topic would be much more depressing had the Philadelphia Eagles not won Super Bowl LII. Thankfully, the Birds did accomplish as much when they defeated the New England Patriots on February 4, 2018, 41 to 33.
Seeing Andy Reid finally get the monkey off his back and win a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this year was also kind of cathartic in a way. Of course, in hindsight, maybe that should’ve been the warning sign that the end of the world was truly near. Just kidding ... I hope.
Speaking of Big Red, a number of his Eagles teams obviously best fit this week’s theme. Four of the six options in our FanPulse polling were from his Philly tenure, including the top choice:
The 2004 team is a chalk pick since they actually made it to the Super Bowl and only lost by three points. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that team; that was the first season I really started to get into the Eagles. I also maintain that Terrell Owens’ performance in that game is incredibly underappreciated.
A mere seven weeks after breaking his leg and tearing a ligament in his ankle, T.O. went on to have nine receptions for 122 yards against New England. He missed ten offensive snaps. That’s it. One can only imagine what he might’ve done if he was fully healthy.
As a kid, I remember watching that game feeling like Owens was one of the few players doing anything good. I had the same feeling re-watching the game years later.
T.O. was a big reason why I got super invested in the Eagles, as I’ve previously explained. I still can’t help but sometimes think how his time in Philly could’ve gone differently.
Owens’ off-field antics and controversial exit certainly muddled his Eagles legacy, but there’s no doubt he was a great talent on the field for Philly. If the Eagles win that game (and Owens still posts the same stat-line), I think we all look upon T.O. a lot more favorably today. His performance would’ve gone down as one of the top “best moments” in NFL history.
2004 marked the end of Reid’s early golden era in Philly. The Eagles never got as close to winning a title under him.
The next closest thing was when the 2008 Eagles advanced to the NFC Championship Game. Looking back, that was a pretty strange year. The Eagles were 5-5-1 at one point with Donovan McNabb getting temporarily benched in Baltimore for a second-year Kevin Kolb. The Eagles needed help from unlikely outcomes just to make the playoffs ... and they actually got it before routing the Dallas Cowboys at the Linc, 44 to 6.
Despite finishing the regular season with a 9-6-1 record and entering the postseason as a sixth seed, the 2008 Eagles were somehow the No. 1 overall team by Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings. That mark was better than the sixth-ranked 2004 Eagles. Unfortunately, the Eagles lost to the Arizona Cardinals (friggin missed pass interference Kevin Curtis!). Had they not, there’s a good chance they could’ve beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.
Instead, the loss served as Brian Dawkins’ last game with Philly and the beginning of the end for Reid and McNabb.
I was born in 1991 so I obviously didn’t watch that season. But I’ve read enough to know that Eagles team arguably had the greatest defense in NFL history. Yes, even better than the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Had Randall Cunningham not suffered a season-ending injury after just four pass attempts, the 1991 Eagles could’ve won the franchise’s first Super Bowl. They still went 10-6 despite having to use three different backup quarterbacks in Jim McMahon, Jeff Kemp, and Brad Goebel. Unfortunately, their 10 wins weren’t enough to qualify for the playoffs.
The first Eagles team to ever make the Super Bowl was not super close to winning the big game itself. Philly suffered a three-possession defeat (27 to 10) to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV.
2001, 2002, and 2003
Ah, the years where the Eagles made it to three straight NFC Championship Games ... and lost them all. I don’t really like to think about those!
Expectations were tempered heading into 2010 since it was going to be Kolb’s first year as the full-time starter. Clay Matthews ended his reign early in Week 1 before Michael Vick gave the Eagles an unexpected spark. At the time, I just felt like this was a team of destiny. Vick was playing at an MVP level on his redemption tour. The Eagles had pulled off one of the most incredible comebacks of in sports in the form of the Miracle at the Meadowlands “num-ber two!” That miraculous effort ended up being the peak, though, as the 2010 squad ended up getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
While it is a bummer to look back and think about what could’ve been, we should appreciate that there were a lot of fun moments along the way. Most sports seasons end in disappointment, anyway, so you have to treasure the good times. Besides, at least some of the pain of the past was washed away by the emotional flood that emerged from the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII victory, a result I thought I may never witness.