The euphoria is so close, the anticipation provides unprecedented goosebumps, but at the same time, familiar nerves.
Philadelphia’s No. 1 goal to experience the beloved Eagles winning the Super Bowl is only four excellent quarters away. A single victory. One more win. Just one more stinking “W.”
Just how important is Sunday’s Super Bowl LII between the Birds and dynasty New England Patriots? If you get a chance, walk around your neighborhood before the big game. Take your time and soak in your fellow Philadelphians. You could argue at least one of five people are sporting some sort of Eagles clothing. Also, make sure you observe banners hung up on light posts, flags sticking out of row homes, signs on buses that say “Go Eagles” or the beautiful lights on notable skyscrapers.
Watch the heart warming stories local television stations are running about fans fortunate enough to either win tickets or pony up the money to head to Minneapolis. All of them include some kind of family aspect.
This team is family and its fans gained rooting interest from parents and grandparents before them.
The Delaware Valley loves its Eagles. This community and region deserves to witness the elusive Super Bowl victory and the epic parade that will follow.
What makes this situation even more amazing are the four figures who are the forefront of bringing this starving fan base what it wants.
They are Nick Foles, Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie. Each of their journeys, however long or short, are struggle to possible triumph.
Foles went from a Chip Kelly castoff, to quarterback hell in St. Louis, to contemplating retirement, to eventually back with the team that drafted him, but as the No. 2 to the young franchise quarterback who performed at a MVP level. After Carson Wentz went down, there were many doubters in Foles. Following two putrid performances to close the regular season, even less believed in him. Well, “Nicky 6” came through in the playoffs and now he’s starting in a freaking Super Bowl against arguably the greatest quarterback ever in Tom Brady. More importantly, Foles’ surrounding cast is better than Brady’s overall. The 29-year-old can certainly pull off another upset if he keeps playing within himself.
Before January 2016, Pederson was a laughingstock in this area. He was a trivia question or a stomach churn. Pederson was the guy that painfully started for nine games in 1999 before Donovan McNabb took over nine games overdue. On top of that, many would poke fun at the way his last name was spelled and pronounced. It added to the “joke” that was Andy Reid’s questionable decision to bring “WHO?” as his bridge to good old No. 5. Ancient history aside, Pederson’s pedigree as an NFL coach was extremely limited before replacing Kelly. He was dubbed “Reid 2.0.” One former NFL executive called him the least qualified coach in decades. I personally doubted his background and his decision making following a 7-9 2016 season. And honestly, the start of 2017 wasn’t good. His play calling in a loss to Reid’s Chiefs was brutal and his 4th down decision in the first half of the home opener against the Giants was beyond head scratching. However, Pederson proved the naysayers wrong. The just turned 50-year-old is creative, aggressive and smart, unlike his mentor Reid. If Pederson can avoid the major gaffe “Big Red” pulled off at the end of Super Bowl XXXIX, he’ll accomplish what the other couldn’t. And, it would take the student only two years compared while the teacher just completed 19 without the grand prize.
Now the Executive Vice President of Football Operations, more simply referred to as “De Facto General Manager,” Roseman was a front office executive dubbed a “non-football guy” when first coming into the public spotlight. During his first tenure, Roseman’s teams never won a playoff game and only made the postseason two of five seasons before being exiled after losing a power struggle to his first coaching hire, Kelly. Following Kelly’s necessary dismissal, Roseman was resurrected despite a decent amount of disapproval from outsiders. “Roseman 2.0” spanned the globe and learned from mistakes such as Danny Watkins and Marcus Smith. The cap whiz hired a reputable scout in Joe Douglas, and the odd pairing put together a fun, likable, successful product. Roseman deserves tons of credit for wheeling and dealing to get Wentz and putting pieces around the North Dakota State product in 2017. More importantly, Roseman (and Douglas) should be revered if this great collection of players does what no Eagle team could do before, win a Super Bowl.
Lastly, owner Jeffrey Lurie, a Boston native who wanted to purchase his hometown Patriots in 1994, lost the bidding battle to Robert Kraft. Since then, Kraft hired Bill Belichick, who uncovered Brady, whom together won five Super Bowls. Kraft admitted to NFL Network just the other day, that his aspiration was only one. Lurie is on record saying he’s obsessed with winning many when at the current moment, the city his team plays in would like just one to start. Lurie is entering his 25th year owning the Birds. In that span, 13 other teams won Super Bowls, some at least twice That must eat away at the man who questionably said a head coach needs to “open his heart” to his players and exude “emotional intelligence.” The 66-year-old was right after being wrong for keeping Reid way past his expiration date, making the poor decision of hiring Kelly and not forcing Roseman much earlier to bring along a strong personnel mind. If Lurie’s decisions since late December 2015 lead to a parade next week, the previous 22 years will be irrelevant.
Quite the journey, which is one great football game away from being complete.
That’s no easy task. New England is more than legitimate. Brady and Belichick alone are the variables that could make the difference, even though on paper, the Eagles roster is better. Experience might play a big part in cutting the Birds dream painfully short. No lead is safe.
Let me repeat, no lead is safe. Period.
If the Eagles are up by two possessions with two minutes to go and the Patriots are on offense, the game is lightyears from being over.
That’s what Atlanta failed to recognize and most recently Jacksonville. An infamous poor decision prevented Seattle from taking down the evil empire. Sometimes it’s not that the Patriots beat teams by being better. The mystique could force the others to choke, like the Falcons, Jaguars and Seahawks.
Pederson calle the Vikings defense a “daunting” task before whooping them in the NFC Championship Game.
Excuse me, coach, Minnesota is not nearly as “daunting” as Brady, Belichick and the rest of the Patriots. The building nerves and the legend of the previously mentioned could very likely push a prediction to be in favor in New England.
Not this time, though.
Matchups, aside, which again are mostly in favor of the Birds, national media members of those from other markets may not see it, but there’s something magical about this Eagles team, more so than any other since 1960. They know how to win and they don’t cower under pressure.
It won’t be like the blowout of the Vikings. Similar to the Minnesota win the Birds will need to remain turnover free. Fletcher Cox and the defensive line will need another monster game by making Brady’s evening a living nightmare. The defense itself will again need to make a play. And Foles must continue to shock the world and “just be Nick.”
Just like No. 9, stay in the moment Philadelphia. If the 2017 Eagles we’re accustomed to shows up Sunday night in Minneapolis, you’ll be partying like you never did before.
I’m 16-2 picking Birds games this season. I believe I’ll be 17-2 come Monday morning.