It was December 17, 2017. The Eagles were playing the Giants that afternoon. At 1:20, I sent an email to my fantasy football’s email chain. “Nick Foles’s passes are so slow and wobbly,” I wrote. “It’s so sad.” Not long after, I declared the Eagles’ Super Bowl dreams dead: “I could tell from that first pass he threw.”
I was wrong. Foles, starting for the injured Carson Wentz, helped the Eagles beat the Giants, 34-29, that day. He’d help the Eagles win again the following week, locking up first place in the NFC. Then he’d lead the Eagles to three wins in three playoff games, including an MVP performance in the Super Bowl.
It was a wonderful time to be an Eagles fan. Watching the Birds on Sundays in the fall has been a tradition since I was a little kid. It would’ve been OK if they never won the Super Bowl. But that they finally went and won it, in a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback who also caught a touchdown pass in the most incredible play call of all time, was amazing. I still cannot believe it happened.
It’s been about two years and seven months since then. And being an Eagles fan has been exhausting. It seems like every game is a nail-biter down to the final play—unless the Eagles are getting blown out. Many of the players from that Super Bowl team are already gone.
Here are some things that happened the season after the Super Bowl victory: The Eagles lost to the Bucs, in a game where ex-Eagle DeSean Jackson had a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. They blew a 17-3 lead to the Titans. They lost twice to the Cowboys. They lost 48-7 to the Saints—the biggest loss ever by a defending Super Bowl champ. They blew a lead to the Panthers. Carson Wentz got hurt again.
Here are some things that happened in their second season after the Super Bowl win: They fell behind 17-0 to Washington in the opener, the most embarrassing thing to happen to the Eagles against that team recently until yesterday. They lost to the Falcons, in a late Atlanta comeback, and the Lions. They got smoked by the Cowboys. They lost to the lowly Dolphins, in a game where Miami’s kicker threw a TD pass to the punter. Wentz got hurt again… again.
To kick off the 2020 season, the Eagles lost to a team that doesn’t even have a nickname. What made it even more frustrating is this was a game the Eagles could easily have won; they were up 17-0 with 1:50 left in the first half when Carson Wentz threw the first of two interceptions that led to Washington Football Team touchdowns. Wentz had rushers in his face pretty much all day. He was sacked eight times.
The Eagles, since their Super Bowl, have been decent. They went 9-7 each season, and have made the playoffs both times. But it has been a wreck getting there. The living rooms and dens of Philadelphia houses have had a lot of pacing in them the last 24 months. And while the playoff runs have been nice—certainly, I’d take them over, say, the 6-9-1 and 3-13 campaigns of 1997 and 1998—the reality is beginning to set in for me and a lot of other Eagles fans: This Super Bowl was a one-off. This isn’t going to be a dynasty.
That was the dream, right? When the Patriots won Super Bowl 36, it was a shock win for a franchise that had frequently been a laughingstock. Since then, they’ve been the most successful team in the NFL.. It seemed unlikely, but I couldn’t get it out of my head: What if the Eagles were the new Patriots? What if they went on a run with several Super Bowl victories over a decade? What if fans of opposing teams hated Eagles fans not because of the fans, but because the Eagles were one of the best teams in the NFL?
Philly fans had an inkling of this about a decade ago. The Phillies—normally a franchise even more pathetic than the Eagles—won five consecutive NL East titles from 2007 to 2011. They won the 2008 World Series and the 2009 pennant. Here’s an excerpt from a Sports Illustrated story about the 2011 season, one where the Phillies won 102 games:
Usman Siddiqui, a Pakistani-American 15-year-old, emitted a silent scream at 6:30 a.m. so he wouldn’t wake his mom, hung up the phone in exasperation when his father, Alam—trolling the streets of Philly in his cab—refused to believe the news and hurried off to Ben Salem [sic] High, where teachers wearing Phillies jerseys waited at the doorway handing out red let’s go phillies! placards to students and grinning as teenagers’ screams echoed down the hallways.
It has been 20 years since I graduated from a high school in that same township of Bensalem—not Ben Salem, though that’s how you pronounce it—but I can remember what that excitement is like. When I was a kid in high school, the Sixers were just starting to make a run with Allen Iverson. The Flyers were in the mix for a Stanley Cup with Eric Lindros and John LeClair. When your city’s sports team is good, there’s that extra level of excitement. There was this hope that the Eagles’ Super Bowl was not an incredible one-off. There was hope the Eagles were a new dynasty.
Well, it’s not going to happen. Reality—these last two seasons, plus one game in 2020—has shown that the Eagles are just another team. They’ve been wracked with injuries the last few years. Carson Wentz is making rookie mistakes in his fifth season. One of the Super Bowl heroes, Alshon Jeffery, is more recently known as a man who allegedly leaked complaints about Wentz. DeSean Jackson came back, is always hurt, and also posted some absurdly antisemitic content online. Zach Ertz just got into a fight with the GM. Second-year running back Miles Sanders missed the 2020 opener. There are also other receivers and running backs on the team, I think.
The Eagles are just another team. I will be watching them until I die. But I will die disappointed. I mean, unless Jalen Hurts is a superstar. I’ve been wrong about this kind of thing before.