It Doesn’t (Always) Get Better

We’ve all made comments in passing during the McNabb-Reid era Eagles’ reign about how special sustained success in the NFL can be. These comments may have been shamelessly placed between brazen criticism more often than not, but I’d like to think that most Philadelphia sports fans conceded some level of appreciation for what the 2000’s Eagles were able to achieve. Five appearances in the NFC title game and one thrilling trip to the Super Bowl opposite the best coaching-quarterbacking combination in a quarter century isn’t a bad consolation prize for a franchise that still hasn’t claimed a Lombardi trophy.

As obvious as the Eagles’ success in the past decade has been, an overwhelming sense of expectation surrounds the 2013-2014 season. This is a completely understandable side-effect of the prosperity this franchise has seen of late. After all, if teams like the Steelers, Packers, Giants and 49ers can maintain a winning culture for as long as they have, it’s only fair to assume that the Philadelphia Eagles are capable. Or maybe it isn’t.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ success in the 2000’s was not only an unsurpassed level of sustained excellence for the franchise, it was an unmatched one. In 1999, the Eagles were historically one of the NFL’s least impressive franchises. A decade of great football can go a long way to help rid an organization of such stigmas but the after years of such golden eras are almost more important.

It’s only natural to assume that, with a new, highly touted coaching regime and young talent, that the only direction to go from a 4-12 campaign is up. The fans from Cleveland, Detroit and Jacksonville might have a problem with your line of thinking there. The NFL has done a remarkable job of selling its fans a very valuable commodity: hope. Hope is what keeps the seats in stadiums filled through five to ten to fifteen years of futility. Sometimes hope is rewarded and other times…the Browns.

The underlying point I’m trying to make here is that this hope that Philadelphia Eagles fans are clinging to now is not a backed currency. Only time will tell whether the Eagles can roll into another decade of good football or sink back into mediocrity. While it’s not wrong to have an optimistic outlook on the post-Reid Eagles, fans would be better off keeping their hopes and expectations separate.

This is to say that it doesn’t always get better. Sometimes teams just fall apart. Sometimes fans wallow in misery for 20 years, getting excited about that new first round draft choice and their young talent that never pans out. It would be wrong of me to demand that the specter of these possibilities be at the forefront of every fan’s mind. It is equally misguided, however for us to dismiss such thoughts as simple pessimism.

Despite the overwhelming sense of hope that surrounds this new era of Eagles football, it is possible that we don’t see the success we’re used to for a very long time. I’m not telling anyone anything they didn’t already have lurking in the back of their minds. It is not my desire that we all expect the worst from the Philadelphia Eagles going forward. If reading this makes you think more fondly of the years that have passed, I believe that’s a healthy return. Maybe the possibilities of future failures will force us to appreciate smaller victories during the next decade. Would that be so bad?

Maybe the next ten years will be prosperous ones for the Eagles franchise. Maybe Chip Kelly and Matt Barkley will right all of the wrongs of previous regimes and set a new “gold standard” for Philadelphia football. But if they do, let’s cherish every moment with thoughts of the failures that could have been. Let’s do ourselves a favor as fans. Let’s not expect it.

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