A writer I follow who covers the Packers noted that Tuesday was the seventh anniversary of Green Bay’s most recent Super Bowl title, the only championship of the Mike McCarthy-Aaron Rodgers era so far. Rodgers has won two MVP awards and the Pack has won five division titles in the interim, but Green Bay has not returned to the Super Bowl. People there are a bit perturbed. Imagine how they might feel if Super Bowl XLV had gone differently, if the Steelers had added to their ring collection that day and Rodgers was still waiting.
You are being apprised of all this, as the Philadelphia region prepares for Thursday’s parade honoring its first NFL champions since 1960, because you’re going to hear an awful lot in the upcoming weeks and months about how well-positioned the Eagles are for a string of parades, with Carson Wentz on the mend and Doug Pederson having outcoached Bill Belichick in Sunday’s historic Super Bowl LII victory.
And they are well-positioned. There is no real question that a team that can win it all without its franchise QB, its nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle and its standout middle linebacker is the best in the NFL. There also is no question that a coach who can run the table, three successive playoff victories achieved with his team as the underdog, is a darned good coach.
A string of championships might ensue. It also might not ensue. Which is why this is so precious, this unexpected deliverance from the barren, Lombardi Trophyless status that all those Cowboys, Giants and Redskins fans have taunted you with for so long. Live in the moment, as Pederson advised before leaving Minnesota on Monday. Savor this, and be glad we aren’t all trapped in that wait-’til-next-year netherworld yet again.
The “bright future” pieces are a staple of sports journalism; they burn hottest when a team comes close but doesn’t quite close the deal. Had the Eagles lost Sunday, you’d be pretty much squinting from the glare of them by now. But the truth is, none of us can foretell the future.
I don’t think I know anyone, a year ago, who saw the Eagles winning this Super Bowl, and I am extremely certain I didn’t know anyone a year ago who foresaw them winning it with Nick Foles passing for 373 yards while Wentz watched from the sideline. For one thing, Foles was still in exile with the Chiefs at that point.
I’m just really happy to be writing about a parade this week, and about history being made, and to not to have to pen any of those “cheer up, they’ll be back” screeds. I covered the Eric Lindros-era Flyers. I wrote that sort of thing in 1995, 1996, 1997 after the sweep by the Red Wings in the final, and probably a time or two after that, as well.
I covered most of the Donovan McNabb era with the Eagles. I vividly recall that night 16 years ago in St. Louis, 52 yards away from the Super Bowl, Aeneas Williams outfighting Freddie Mitchell for the McNabb pass, McNabb coming out to the tunnel to watch the Rams celebrate their 29-24 victory.
Young McNabb watching the Rams celebrate, in his first exposure to such a scene, was the visual prompt to a thousand hopeful columns about how No. 5 and Andy Reid had only just begun. But the next year ended with that searing home loss to Tampa Bay, with Joe Jurevicius and Ronde Barber, and Reid abandoning the run for no good reason.
Hustling down the Veterans Stadium ramps that cold, dreary day, because the press-box elevator was overburdened for the Eagles’ final game there, what I remember most is the sound. Nobody was talking, arguing about this or that play. The only noise was many thousands of feet, most clad in boots against temperatures in the 20s, marching, raising a muffled rumble like that of a defeated army in retreat.
The next year, against Carolina, again in the NFC championship game, Todd Pinkston melted down and McNabb took a killer rib shot from Greg Favors, and nobody could muster up any thoughts about the future whatsoever except that if the Eagles didn’t acquire some explosive talent and change the narrative, their fans were about ready to burn down their new stadium.
So then came Terrell Owens and the Reid-McNabb Eagles actually made it to the Super Bowl, but you know what happened then. Toxic recriminations, bad blood, years of injury and regression, with no apparent statute of limitations on rehashing failure.
There was a longshot NFC title game appearance in 2008, the Pickett’s Charge of the Reid-McNabb partnership, and when that failed, straw-grasping (Michael Vick) and gimmick-chasing (Chip Kelly) ensued.
Then Howie Roseman managed to hire Pederson and acquire Wentz, and the buildup began again. When Wentz went down in LA Dec. 10, I started to imagine how the offseason would play out, a fan base impatient for updates, for hope, an impatience creeping in, and if the 2017 season ended with some team like the Falcons or the Vikings holding the Lombardi aloft, a searing pain. With Wentz, the Eagles would have beaten those guys. The wait would be over.
And now, somehow, the wait is over. And maybe the weight is over, is off No. 11’s shoulders, whatever happens next.
There are some tricky waters ahead to navigate, between Super Bowl MVP Foles and franchise quarterback Wentz. But Wentz’s knee rehab now seems much less pressured. It is odd, that the guy drafted to end the Eagles’ championship drought ended up watching his backup end it, but it is good that Wentz did not become McNabb Sunday night. Nobody riffed about Wentz watching the blue-and-red confetti drop on the Patriots and vowing to Eagles fans that their time would come.
Their time has come. There is a good chance, with Wentz, that it will come again, before too awful long. But even if somehow it does not, THIS actually happened. We don’t need to pin everything on the future anymore.
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