Posted on January 24th, 2009 at 3:28 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie
Like Andy Reid says, “This is a very sudden thing when you lose in the playoffs.”
Certainly for the players and coaches this makes sense, but it also feels a bit sudden for us fans. Over the past week I’ve had to go cold-turkey on my daily feeding of Eagles content (the other Eagles blogs, Football Outsiders, the local papers, the team videos, PFT, you get it), and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice. With the Eagles out of the playoffs, I really just lost interest. Could barely make it through the high-end NFL Films highlights on Inside the NFL. And I wasn’t happy about it (I like reading/ watching all that crap).
With time comes acceptance, and now I feel like I have to move on and do things like “start paying closer attention to the rest of the world.” Can’t say that’s been particularly thrilling, what with the ongoing global economic meltdown, a tough week for my employer, and the bitter cold darkness of winter. I suppose the inauguration thing was nice, but that was just a brief pause from the aforementioned global economic meltdown. Should be fun.
Still, a few days off from consuming the content and writing about it has afforded me a bit of clarity regarding the 2008 Eagles. After losing the NFC Championship Game, I wasn’t sure if this season was a success or a failure, or if I was happy or bummed about it. I mean, I was as pissed about the game as anyone, but that’s not the right time to try to assess the full season. But now I’m there.
May I now present my summary and non-specific (no talk of specific players, games, etc, plenty of time for that later) judgment regarding the 2008 Eagles: inconsistent teams really make for excellent TV shows, and this was both inconsistent and wildly entertaining.
This was not a great team. Their record and the circumstances that propelled them into the playoffs (a 13.5-point favorite losing at home in Week 17) were fair and to be expected. 9-6-1 sounds like a slightly better than average team. If the Eagles had been consistently good, they wouldn’t have needed such an absurd set of circumstances to get into the playoffs. But, given the chance, they gave us a spectacular treat: a couple of playoff wins, and a trip to the NFC Championship that was painfully close to working out. And there was nothing that wasn’t awesome about that.
So I think we’re allowed to be bummed about all the missed opportunities throughout the season, but maybe the reason the Eagles didn’t prevail in some of those winnable scenarios was that they weren’t really that much better than their opponents. They were in the mix throughout, sure, and when the bounces went their way — say a failed snap by the Vikings, a stop on fourth-and-2 against the Giants — there was much rejoicing. But for every bounce that went their way, we can all remember a few that didn’t — fourth-down plays against the Bears and Giants, Quintin Mikell not getting off his block on fourth down against the Cardinals, the ball dropping through DeSean Jackson’s hands against the Skins. We tend to focus on the misses as if the team should expect to convert all of their opportunities, but it doesn’t work that way. There’s a bit of randomness in there, and when you’re a slightly better than average team, well, you can’t expect much more than a random distribution of happy outcomes. So the Birds were a bit “unlucky” at times, but they also had more than their share of “lucky” moments as well.
In that context, I think the last four weeks were an absolute treat. Sure, they lost in the NFC Champsionship again, but they also destroyed the Cowboys (in what I hope will be remembered as the “Eagles porn” game), and beat the Giants in the playoffs! On the road! The Cowboys still haven’t recovered from that loss, by the way, and who among us isn’t loving that we get to enter the 2009 season with significant bragging rights versus the Giants? Also the defense played super cool and Andy Reid had a ridiculous beard! This is pure goodness.
Despite what they sold us last summer, the Super Bowl was not this team’s birthright — they weren’t that good. But they still almost got there! As customers, how can we be bummed about that? Leave the sunk costs — and deep emotional scars — of NFC Championships past behind you, and admit that this was all a blast, and certainly a whole helluva lot more than you thought you were getting from this team in November or October.
Like any good drama, this season had a twist and a surprise ending. It may have been occasionally ponderous and sometimes dreary, but you can’t argue with the trick ending. Thus shall I remember this team fondly: they weren’t actually that good, but I sure walked out with a smile on my face. To borrow a phrase, the Eagles outkicked their coverage a bit, and I really enjoyed watching it.
Administrivia: we’ll be mostly dark around here for the next couple weeks, with a bigger announcement looming. I’ve got a couple season-review pieces I’d like to post in the next couple days, though. Bear with me.
- Oh, Ed Rendell, you know us all too well
- Season in Review: Top Five Eagles games of the 2008 season (now with extra hindsight bias)
- I’ll happily pay Roy Williams the royalties…
- There is nothing non-awesome about wins over the Cowboys in Dallas (especially when a certain flamboyant wideout plays poorly)
- The season is over because the NFC East will never lose another game