There was a time between 1983 and 2008 when writing those words concurrently would have been straight-up insane. The Phillies, outside of 1993, were mostly an also-ran, and the Eagles routinely fell short in the postseason year after year.
From the time I achieved sports consciousness in 1984, an eight year-old boy lamenting my inability to afford PRISM to watch Phillies home games, until their World Series victory in 2008, I would never have imagined both of my favorite teams could do such a thing, let alone at the same time.
It would have been a ridiculous premise. Sure, it happened in 1980, when all four major pro sports teams reached won their league championships, but that was a unicorn year. Every 8-10 years or so, one of those teams would find a bone and reach a Finals, World Series or Super Bowl, but every year, for a quarter century, those teams fell short.
Now, here we are in January of 2023 and the Eagles are preparing to face the franchise’s winningest coach, Andy Reid, and his Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 57. It comes just three months after the Phillies took the city on a wild ride to the National League pennant, winning three straight series before ultimately falling short in the Fall Classic against the Houston Astros.
Two teams. Two league finals. And two very different paths to get there.
The Eagles entered training camp with a roster that appeared to have few holes. On draft night, general manager Howie Roseman adeptly traded for a true No. 1 wide receiver in A.J. Brown, signed Haason Redick to a free agent contract, grabbed cornerback James Bradberry late in the off-season and acquired safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson during training camp. There appeared to be few, if any, true weaknesses on the roster, with talent galore on offense and defense. Expectations were high that, if Jalen Hurts could progress in his second full season as a starting quarterback, the Eagles could make some noise in the playoffs.
The Phillies entered spring training with similarly high expectations. Signing free agent sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos gave the team one of the most dynamic lineups in baseball, and while they weren’t as loaded throughout their roster as the Birds, the hope was starting pitchers Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler would shove, their bullpen wouldn’t blow up, and their defense wouldn’t kick the ball all over the yard. They went over the luxury tax for the first time, and hopes were high the Phils could make some noise in the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, struggles early in the season made it appear those hopes would be dashed. They got off to a very slow start and, at 21-29, fired manager Joe Girardi. The Mets and Braves were already well out in front of them in the division race, so a wild card push was about the best they could hope for. Under Rob Thomson, the team caught fire in June, even with an injured Bryce Harper out for roughly three months. The team stumbled a bit late in the season, but managed to hold it together, winning the National League’s last wild card spot and sneaking into the postseason.
Unlike the Phils, it was clear the Eagles were among the NFL’s best from opening day. They raced out to an 8-0 record, the league’s last unbeaten team for about a month, improving to 13-1 and, after a two week-annoyance without Hurts, ultimately securing the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a franchise-best 14 wins. They were the cream of the conference and favorites to advance to the Super Bowl from the get-go.
Baseball’s playoffs are so much different than the NFL’s, simply because of the everyday nature of it. There’s no doubt these two postseason runs have had very different vibes.
Because they were the No. 6 seed in the postseason tournament, the Phils had to play their entire first-round series, the Wild Card round, on the road, coming back from down 2-0 in the 9th inning of their first game before ultimately sweeping the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals in the best-of-three series. They then battled the Atlanta Braves in a best-of-five series, winning that in four uproarious games, and then took care of the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series in five, capped off by Bryce Harper’s heroics.
It was exhausting, exhilarating and, at the end of the day, extremely satisfying. The Phillies were road warriors throughout their playoff run, the underdog in every series. Each game was chaos, one high-intensity, white-knuckle drama after another — a daily, month-long theater that was uniquely baseball.
The Eagles, on the other hand, rolled into the playoffs able to take the wild card round off completely, allowing Hurts and Lane Johnson to rest their injuries and prepare for the New York Giants at home in the divisional round. They stomped on their heads, 38-7, then welcomed the San Francisco 49ers to the Linc, knocked out their starting QB on his first series of the game and smashed them into a fine powder, 31-7.
In the second half of both games, Philadelphia fans could just sit back, relax, and party.
The contrast is self evident:
The Eagles playoff run: 2 games. Tons of fun. Little drama. The overlords of the NFC.
The Phillies playoff run: 11 games. Tons of fun. Ridiculous amounts of drama. The big/little engines that could of the NL.
This is not an argument that one was better than the other, although one cannot argue that the Phils’ run wasn’t more drawn out. They were the underachieving scrappers who did what no one thought they could, reach the 2022 World Series in a season in which they barely made the postseason and had to fire their coach two months in. The Eagles, on the other hand, were the conference’s clear superpower all season, maintained that in their two playoff blowouts, and are now one win away from cementing themselves as one of the most dominant single-season teams in NFL history.
Nice.— schmenkman (@tgpschmenk) January 30, 2023
This includes the Super Bowl, for example #1 — 1989 49ers:
55 in 2 playoff games
45 in SB XXIV
100 total pic.twitter.com/PWDX83XspM
The 1989 49ers, ‘86 Giants, ‘85 Bears, ‘00 Ravens, ‘92 Cowboys, ‘98 Broncos were all legendary teams. The Eagles are prepared to join them should they win Super Bowl 57.
Of course, all are hoping the Eagles will be able to do what the Phillies couldn’t. The Phils fell to a superior Astros team in six hard-fought games, while the Eagles are slight favorites heading into the Super Bowl against Kansas City.
Three months apart, both teams on the verge of a world title in their respective sports, taking very different paths to get there.