Look up the word “hope” in the dictionary, and you will find its meaning to be “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” In that sense, Eagles fans have been hoping for a very long time.
It has been fifty-seven years since the City of Brotherly Love last experienced an NFL championship. The year was 1960, a year in which the United States had just entered the Vietnam War, and John F. Kennedy had just been elected President of the United States.
The Flintstones cartoon was shown on television for the first time, and Cassius Clay (who later took the name Muhammad Ali) would win his first professional fight and go on to become the greatest boxer of all time.
The Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers, 17-13, at Franklin Field on a cold December day that season to win the 1960 NFL Championship, in what would turn out to be the only playoff loss of legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi’s illustrious career.
Fifty-seven years is a very long time, especially when taken in the context that there are those who were crawling around and practicing the art of ‘babytalk’ on that December day who are now nearing retirement age and still haven’t experienced an Eagles championship.
And yet, Eagles fans continue to hope. And hope. And then hope some more, even when the team’s prospects seen daunting.
There have been Eagles coaches that have given the fans no hope, mostly during the lean years following the 1960 championship all the way up to 1975.
There were those who started out with promise, but whose early successes were merely a result of the leftover players from the previous regime (Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes, Chip Kelly).
There were those who had the roster of a championship caliber team, but who were more “bark then bite” once the playoffs arrived (Buddy Ryan).
And then there were those (Dick Vermeil & Andy Reid) who gave Eagles fans the most hope, taking them to the brink of the promise land, only to disappoint once again.
But through it all, Eagles fans continue to persevere, continue to hope, that one day, they will see the fruits of their devotion realized, much like all the other teams in their division have on more than one occasion.
The great Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Bill Lyon once remarked that Eagles fans could “teach loyalty to a dog”, which is probably the most accurate description one could give to this city’s rabid fan base. And perhaps, they now have a quarterback who has given them reason to believe.
The Eagles took a gamble to move up to the #2 overall draft pick last season to acquire quarterback Carson Wentz, who, on first impression, looks like he could throw an interception and, instead of cursing or yelling, would just say “AW SHUCKS!”
But one should not confuse Wentz’s small town, seemingly relaxed demeanor in any way to a lack of football acumen. Wentz has a strong arm and seems to have a good grasp of the mental side of the game, which is essential to the success of an NFL quarterback.
Carson in his rookie season was very much like Luke Skywalker in the “Empire Strikes Back” movie. Luke, as you may recall, was then a budding jedi knight who took his lumps (and got his hand chopped off by his father in the process) while learning the ways of the force from master Yoda. But Luke returned as a seasoned jedi in the sequel (aptly named “Return of the Jedi”) who could handle anything thrown his way while becoming a major force in helping the Rebel Alliance defeat the Evil Empire.
This season is Carson Wentz’s “Return of the Jedi” moment. After one year of experience under his belt, it is now his time to be the unequivocal leader of this Eagles team. And while he won’t have to worry about any familial violence on the field, he will have to be concerned with the pass rush from opposing defenders.
Wentz is the “New Hope” of the Eagles, and this team will only go as far as he can carry them. To make his life easier, the front-office added some wide receiver weapons to his arsenal in the form of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, which were sorely lacking in 2016.
Assuming that the team can stay healthy, there is no reason to expect anything less than a 9-7 record at worst, and a possible playoff birth. And while a Super Bowl may still be a couple years away, stranger things have happened in the NFL.
The Birds start the season on the right foot this Sunday, defeating the Washington Redskins, 30-20, for the first time in six tries. In the meantime, Birds fans will watch with excitement and HOPE, that maybe, just maybe, this season will end with a different outcome then so many in the recent past…
What is your prediction for this Eagles season? Feel free to post in the comments section!