When the Eagles first hired Andy Reid before the 1999 season, many of us shook our heads and said “Andy WHO?”
And with good reason. While most NFL teams went after the offensive and defensive coordinators that were considered the “hot” coaching candidates, Reid was the first NFL head coach to be hired at that time without ever having served as a coordinator first (Reid had held the title of Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach for the previous two seasons).
And while Reid eventually drafted Donovan McNabb with the 2nd overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft to be the Eagles quarterback, things got even weirder when he announced that Doug Pederson, who was Brett Favre’s backup in Green Bay, would be the Eagles starting QB to start the season.
So there you had it…a former quarterbacks coach and a journeyman NFL QB as the forefront of your organization. Fans could not be blamed for being skeptical.
In the first game of that ’99 season, things started off well as the Eagles got off to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. And while the Cardinals were just a marginal team, a win in week 1 would have had the city, and its fans, in a good mood.
But it was not meant to be. The Cardinals mounted a comeback in the 4th quarter, eventually winning the game on a last second field goal, 25-24.
Things did not get much better in the following weeks, as the Eagles started off 0-4 enroute to a 5-11 record in Reid’s first season. By November, McNabb had replaced Pederson as the Eagles starting quarterback, and the building blocks for the Eagles future had been set.
Starting the 2000 season, everyone knew that Reid & McNabb were joined at the hip in terms of their eventual success on the field. And they did not disappoint.
What started as a bold and successful onside kick to start the season eventually became known as the “Pickle Juice” game, as the Birds players drank it to fend off the hot temps down in Dallas, all while destroying the Cowboys, 41-14, in their season opener.
The Birds went to the 2nd round of the playoffs that season, and followed it up with three straight NFC Championship appearances during the 2001-03 seasons.
But while Andy Reid had turned the Eagles into a consistent winner, the pressure of losing in the NFC Championship three years in a row began to mount on them, especially as the last two were played at home, and they were expected to win.
That all changed in 2004 when the Eagles finally made it over the hump, defeating the Atlanta Falcons to finally make it back to the Super Bowl after a 24-year absence, before losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.
While the Eagles continued to enjoy success under Reid in the years that followed, he only reached the NFC Championship one more time during his tenure with the team (2008), and after the Birds hit rock bottom in 2012 with a 4-12 season, he was let go after 14 seasons with the organization.
But Reid’s stock was still as hot as an unclaimed winning lottery ticket, and before you could say “Time’s yours”, the Kansas City Chiefs had hired him to become their next head coach.
Meanwhile, the Eagles then did something that wasn’t their typical M.O….they went after the hot head coaching candidate in one Chip Kelly, who was known to be an offensive innovator and had turned the Oregon Ducks into a college football powerhouse.
But while coach Chip Kelly led the Eagles to 10-win seasons in his first two years, the team regressed when Kelly was handed the general manager duties before the 2015 season. And Kelly was let go before the season even ended, with the Birds sitting at 6-9.
The Eagles then went back to what suited them well in their previous coaching search – going after a name that was under the radar.
Enter Doug Pederson, who had come over with Andy Reid as the quarterback “placeholder” while Donovan McNabb learned from the sideline. And while Pederson was the offensive coordinator under Reid in Kansas City, much like Reid’s days in Green Bay, no one was knocking down Pederson’s door to become their next head coach.
But much like Reid’s success in Philadelphia was tied to his young quarterback Donovan McNabb, Pederson’s was tied to Carson Wentz, who was also, like McNabb, the #2 overall pick in the NFL draft. And after a mediocre 7-9 2016 season, the Eagles, and Wentz, caught fire in 2017 and earned the NFC’s #1 overall seed.
And even though a season ending knee injury in December sidelined him for the playoffs, Wentz’s regular season success, and backup quarterback Nick Foles catching lightning in a bottle during the Eagles playoff run, enabled the team to capture their first Lombardi trophy, and first championship in 57 years.
Meanwhile, while Andy Reid enjoyed winning seasons during his first five years in Kansas City, his lack of clock management and coming up short in playoff games, which was the cause of much strife dating back to his days in Philadelphia, continued to rear its ugly head.
That all changed when Patrick Mahomes, who was drafted #10 overall by KC in the 2017 draft, became the Chiefs starter in 2018. Mahomes is a generational quarterback, and, despite Reid’s shortcomings come playoff time, was able to lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory in 2019, their first in 50 years.
Back in Philadelphia, the winning continued during the 2018 & 2019 seasons, albeit not at a championship caliber. And after the Eagles went 4-11-1 in 2020, it was back to the drawing board for a proud franchise trying to replicate the success that it had enjoyed just three seasons prior.
Out were Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz, who’s 2017 success was never replicated. Enter Nick Sirianni, who, much like Reid and Pederson before him, were under the radar and not really sought after coaching candidates. While Sirianni was the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator, he never held the play calling duties, though the Colts reached the playoffs in two of his three seasons as OC, and all three seasons with different quarterbacks (Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, and Philip Rivers).
This time, it was not the #2 overall pick that the Eagles were counting on, but a 2nd round draft pick from 2020 who, much like his new coach, was also unproven.
Jalen Hurts had experienced success during his college career, but wasn’t considered good enough to be a first round pick (many had him being drafted in the 3rd or 4th round). But when Carson Wentz faltered during the 2020 season, Hurts became the starter.
Hurts played well enough in 2021 to lead the Birds to a playoff appearance during Nick Sirianni’s first year at the helm as head coach of the Eagles. But many questions still remained about the quarterback position before the start of the 2022 season.
Was Hurts good enough to be the franchise quarterback and lead the team to the Super Bowl? Or would the Eagles be better off looking elsewhere on the free agent market, going after someone like a Russell Wilson?
To Hurts’ credit, his improvement in 2022 is one of the major reasons the Eagles are playing in the Super Bowl today. And what’s even more remarkable is that the Eagles have gone from Super Bowl champion, to winning only four games, to going back to the Super Bowl all in a matter of just five years with a different quarterback and head coach. Much of this is a testament to the moves made by often maligned general manager Howie Roseman, who knows how to wheel and deal with the best of them.
With the Eagles Super Bowl victory in 2017 and the Chiefs’ in 2019, both the Eagles and Andy Reid have finally been able to exercise their demons and accomplish what had alluded them for so long…a championship.
And now, as they come full circle, the Eagles present shall collide with the ghosts of Eagles past, as two franchises, both with a rabid fan base, look to bring home the Lombardi trophy once again.
If the Eagles are successful, Broad & Pattison will turn on its head once again for the 2nd time in five years.
Go Birds. Fly Eagles Fly….