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For Andy Reid and the Eagles, the success of yesteryear is a distant memory


There were barely enough fans to boo, as a sea of empty seats at Lincoln Financial Field was the site for the unofficial burial ground of the Andy Reid Era in Philadelphia. There was no riot. No public spectacle. Not even signs of a mutiny.

Just the depressing, stone-cold realization that this was it. This was the last gasp.

The reeling Eagles, losers of 6 in a row after a smoke and mirrors 3-1 start, came into their Monday Night tilt with the disappointing Panthers with little to prove, but a lot to fight for. Their coach, for instance, has been on the hot seat for years, but he always seemed to resurrect the team at their lowest moments. Surely the Eagles would come through for him once more?

Panthers 30 Eagles 22.

For a franchise so accustomed to success and lots of it, falling one step short of the Super Bowl not too long ago seemed like a massive disappointment. Five NFC Championship game appearances and just 1 NFC title from 2001-2008 will do that to a fan-base crying out for a championship.

The Eagles were the Patriots of the NFC: the model franchise. They had the great coach in Andy Reid, the dynamic QB in Donovan McNabb, and a defense that gave everyone fits. For years their Achilles heel was that damn WR position, a need the team could never quite fill.

But the success seemed endless at times, and it came so consistently that it was unfathomable to think that Reid and McNabb would ever break apart. Even if the loses came on the doorstep to glory, having all those chances at all sure beat the heck out of the alternative.

But we’re a society that wants more than just results. We want progress. Win 6 games one year? You should get at least 8 the following season. Back-tracking is not only frowned upon in sports, it’s generally unacceptable (see Chizic, Gene). Once you raise the bar, you don’t go back. And usually when you go back, it’s with a new crop of characters and a completely revamped plan.

It’s the allure of sports. Win one, give me more. We’re a greedy society. Here’s betting Eagles fans would kill to have those consistent contenders back from the previous decade. Here’s betting that they’d be just fine with tolerating coming close, but no cigar.

On the heels of a team in total disarray, a coach about to lose his long-held position, and a QB situation which stands as a looming question mark, the Eagles are a mess.

For a generation of younger Eagles fans, that team has no real value to them. They weren’t there. This is their team. This is their era. This is what they’ll look back on and tell their kids about.

The dream team, as then backup Vince Young once put it (now out of the league mind you), failed to match the hype or to even post a winning record last season (8-8). This season they’ve bottomed out.

That’s life at the top – where the air is crisp – but the shelf-life is a ticking time-bomb. Franchises go through phases. They have windows. It’s so easy to take it for granted. It’s so easy to want more.

Think Bills fans wouldn’t kill to have their 4 time AFC Champion teams of the 90’s back? Even if it meant more heartbreak? Buffalo hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1999. Curse of the Music City Miracle? Perhaps. A reality check for a franchise that bathed in success for years, possibly.

Suns fans of the mid 2000’s saw the most dynamic team in the sport run and gun its way to Seven Seconds or Less Success. The Suns regularly averaged 110+ points a game and became a national phenomenon with their blitzkrieg basketball assaults. They won 54+ games 4 seasons in a row led by the unflappable Steve Nash – who put a bow on the Suns success by winning league MVP back to back years in 2004-05 and 05-06.

The Suns were the envy of the sport – stocked with youth and dynamic young assets –they were on the road to becoming a dynasty. But they kept running into those pesky Spurs and a wild four year run never got further than the Conference Finals. Now Phoenix is a faceless team in transition, the long sellout streak at US Airways Center a distant past.

This is what happens in sports: we get teased. If you really think about it, given the huge success so few teams have compared to the collection as a whole, the gap between the haves and have nots is enormous. Sustained success like that of the Lakers or Steelers is a rare breed. Even the Yankees have struggled to monopolize the sport they’ve tried to own.

When I was younger I didn’t fully grasp this concept. I grew up watching great players and great teams. Then they got older and the faces changed. It’s weird watching the old guard fade. It’s like a sports tragedy. Nothing lasts forever.

I think that’s what makes sports so captivating. Years after the moments have passed, we remember the eras. We rejoice over the players. It’s this crazy never ending cycle of good, bad, happy, and sad, and like life itself, it’s hardly ever fair.

Some teams clog the road to success. Others take turns in the fast lane before they careen off the cliff. Some appear and disappear in a flash and others barely make a sound.

But in the end, they all leave some kind of legacy. Some kind of weird bond.

The Eagles are clearly on their way downhill. Their view from the top is now hazy and filled with obstacles. Decisions? Yeah, they’ve got a few. This offseason could shape the next decade of their franchise.

But before we say farewell to the Eagles’ era as an NFL power, let us remember the intrigue and entertainment they brought to the City of Brotherly Love. Teams like the Steelers, Patriots, and Giants spoil fans who think it’s a right to win a title.

As Eagles fans can attest, it’s not easy. 1960 was nearly 53 years ago. That’s the last time Philly won a NFL title. Not a Super Bowl title mind you. They have none of those.

For a generation of younger Eagles fans, that team has no real value to them. They weren’t there. This is their team. This is their era. This is what they’ll look back on and tell their kids about.

It’s the circle of life.

And for Andy Reid, head coach of the Eagles since 1999, face of the franchise for so long — that it’s hard to remember just how bad they were without him at the helm — a simple quote will do:

“You Either Die a Hero, or You Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become the Villain.”

Success doesn’t last. And when failure rears its ugly head, as it inevitably always does, someone has to be the scapegoat.

For Reid, the plank awaits. The cruel reality of the sports spin cycle is his ticket out of town.

Photo: NFL

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