SportsProf

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Philadelphia Eagles: Modern Sisyphus

Sisyphus was the guy in Greek mythology who kept pushing the rock up the hill, never to get to the top. The Philadelphia Eagles' are football's contemporary equivalent, reaching the NFC title game 5 times in the past 8 years, being favored in 4 of them, and winning only one of them. For some reason, they just can't get to the top.

And they keep breaking their fans' hearts.

Make no mistake, yesterday's game was a disaster, a microcosm of the Andy Reid era. Despite what the Eagle defenders, shills and apologists might say (and I count some of the Comcast SportsNet crew and WIP afternoon talker Howard Eskin among them), the game was a disappointment. The defense laid an egg, Donovan McNabb renewed all doubts about his ability to win the big game, and Andy Reid left us wondering why he can't coach completely. He's a fine coach, and McNabb's a fine quarterback, but together they are flawed enough to come short of winning the big one.

Yesterday the defense failed for most of the game and then failed near the end to stop the Cardinals. Heralded defensive coordinator Jim Johnson must have lost his magic wand after the Giants' game and designed a defense was about as good as the one the Polish Army put up at the outset of World War II against the blitzkrieg. The upstart Eagles' linebackers seemed to be a few steps behind, and the secondary appeared to be in step -- with the linebackers. The offense? They haven't had a running game for years, and McNabb wasn't nearly as sure-armed as he was against the Giants in the second half the week before. Even normally steady kicker David Akers faltered -- missing two kicks and sending a kickoff out of bounds. All of those factors -- combined with great play from the Cardinals -- proved to be a toxic elixir for the Eagles yesterday.

Oh, sure, Eagles' fans are supposed to think it was a great season -- they made the NFC Championship Game after many pundits predicted them to finish last in their division. They made the NFC Championship Game after going into the last game of the season needing a miracle to make the playoffs. Given that background, we're supposed to be grateful for the great season the team had.

Hogwash. The problem with this franchise is just that -- we're supposed to be grateful for above-average to good records while coming tantalizingly close to the Super Bowl. Don't get me wrong -- it's better than being a perennial doormat of the type that all-time doofus owner Bill Bidwell customarily fielded in St. Louis and Arizona. But year in and year out, this team is about as frustrating as they come. They have a good coach, a good quarterback and good personnel -- but they're Sisyphus, and the partnership of Reid and McNabb might never get this team to the top of the hill.

Sorry, Eagles organization, but you need closers. Sorry, Eagles' fans who think this was a successful season, but I'd suggest that you re-think your conclusion and wonder aloud whether you'll be stuck in a 10-6, 1 win in the playoffs stasis at best until the partnership of the coach and quarterback dissolves.

I remain an Eagles' fan, but it's hard to expend a significant amount of emotional fan energy when they've broken our hearts the way they have over the past 10 years. All that said, I'll always root for the team to get to the pinnacle, even if I don't think that they will.

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