MY 13 YEARS of covering the Flyers started with the 1989-90 season, just in time for 5 years in a row of not making the playoffs, a drought that the largely successful franchise hadn't experienced before or since.
The thing is, in 1989-90, nobody saw it coming. The Flyers had been to the 1989 conference finals. Two years before that, they'd lost a seven-game Stanley Cup final to maybe the most talented group ever assembled, the mid-dynasty Edmonton Oilers. They had a young Vezina Trophy-winning goalie in Ron Hextall, established stars such as Mark Howe and Tim Kerr, a dynamic force in Rick Tocchet coming into his prime. Management was confident prospects such as Pat Murray, Craig Fisher and Kerry Huffman would carry on the tradition, because that was what the Flyers did - carry on the tradition.
Except, they didn't. The Flyers were in the process of badly missing the boat on the first wave of Eastern European prospects. Howe and Kerr were pretty much done, hurt more than healthy. Hextall held out, then struggled with injury. Darkness descended. As things got worse, patience evaporated. What bad franchises do is draft a Peter Forsberg, then trade him a year later in a disastrously large package for Eric Lindros, who was never quite what everyone envisioned, partly because the trade that brought him left the organization barren.
Five years out of the playoffs.
Some fans think fixing the Eagles will be as easy as firing Andy Reid. Maybe so. One example I hear a lot is that the 49ers were 6-10 in 2010, 13-3 in 2011 after hiring Jim Harbaugh. That's true. What's also true is that before they finally hit on Harbaugh, the 49ers posted eight successive non-winning seasons, under Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary. During those years, they drafted near the top several times, acquiring a lot of the players Harbaugh has molded into his current contending team, including quarterback Alex Smith, the first player selected in the 2005 draft.
I'm not arguing that the Eagles should keep Reid. I think even he knows his time has come. But let's not fantasize that firing Andy will fix this team. If Nick Foles isn't a budding franchise QB, you're going to have to spend that precious 2013 high first-round pick on one. And even then, there's no way to be sure whether you've drafted Donovan McNabb or Tim Couch.
Or whether you've hired Dennis Erickson as your coach.
Developing storylines *
I'm blaming Marvin McNutt for Sunday's debacle. He was the guy who simulated Robert Griffin III for the scout team last week. Obviously, McNutt did a terrible job.
* Players often hold meetings in times of crisis, but you know what would impress me more? A player-called practice on an off day. Then I'd believe all that hot air about people not quitting.
* I still can't get over the Eagles starting Jake Scott on Sunday. I don't blame Scott. But how in the world was that ever going to be a good thing? He'd had 6 days of football since 2011. One full practice with the starters, on Friday. You're paying Demetress Bell $3.25 million and you'd rather start a guy you signed off the street earlier that week. Sub lineman Nate Menkin has been here all season. Former first-round pick Danny Watkins, whose ankle injury supposedly inhibits only his lateral movement, dresses but doesn't play. You can't possibly go into a game on the road thinking you are giving your first-time rookie starter QB a chance to win, putting a guy in front of him who just finished his first week of practice this year.
That an offensive lineman from Canada isn't allowed to play until the NHL lockout ends? Wait. That isn't why Danny Watkins was missing again?
When October began - the month before this one, not all that long ago - the Eagles were a 3-1 team that seemed to just need to clean up an issue with turnovers in order to start dominating.
What goes around sometimes does indeed come around. It was 2 years ago last week the Eagles went to FedEx Field and embarrassed the Washington Redskins, 59-28.
"Two franchises passed each other in the night, rapidly if not necessarily permanently, because there is no such thing as permanently, not in the NFL, not in 2010," Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann wrote.
Washington was flailing, with former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb at the helm. Michael Vick was on his way to the Pro Bowl, Vick writing one of the most amazing comeback stories in the history of sport. Vick led the Birds to a 35-0 lead, as they amassed a franchise-record 592 total yards. Vick was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in a row, the first time such a thing had happened since Randall Cunningham, then of the Vikings, in 1998.
That's an interesting parallel, by the way, Cunningham's 1998 comeback season, in which Randall led the Vikings to a 15-1 record, throwing for 34 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. They lost in the NFC Championship Game and he was benched the next season, never again to emerge as a regular starter.
Vick's 2010 near-miracle followed a similar trajectory; the team, 10-4 after 14 games, ended with a first-round playoff loss to Green Bay. And Vick has not been a top-notch QB since.
"It stings anytime you literally get your ass whipped," Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said that night, Nov. 15, 2010. "It was embarrassing. I couldn't wait for the game to be over. They played like they were racking up BCS points. They should be ranked No. 1 now."
Haynesworth wasn't around to enjoy the Redskins' completely turning the tables Sunday, but plenty of other veterans were, including linebacker London Fletcher, who said that night that Vick "has my MVP vote."
There was much talk then of the Eagles' possessing a weapon in Vick that no one else in the league had. Now, the Redskins have Robert Griffin III, and the Eagles have a lot of questions.