How Eagles' Super Bowl could affect other teams in town

How Eagles' Super Bowl could affect other teams in town

It took only until the end of Eagles Postgame Live Sunday night/Monday morning for the question of the Eagles repeating as Super Bowl champions to make an appearance. 

It's a reasonable thought. 

Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz and the Eagles' young nucleus would appear to give them a chance to compete for the Lombardi Trophy for several seasons to come. 

But what might be more interesting is how the Eagles' first Super Bowl title impacts the other three Philadelphia pro teams.

In the build-up and afterglow of the Eagles' dethroning the Patriots, the Phillies, Flyers and 76ers all said and did the right things to show their support. But make no mistake: There is only so much oxygen in the Philadelphia sporting landscape and the Eagles are currently consuming more of it than ever before. 

So how do the other teams react? Does this Eagles win inspire a greater sense of action among three franchises that are currently at different stages of significant rebuilds?

The Sixers would appear to be the closest of the non-Eagles franchises to competing for a title, thanks to the dynamic duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. That being said, it's hard to envision anything the Eagles have accomplished affecting the Sixers' mindset. This is an organization, from lottery manipulation to injury updates, that marches to its own beat in every conceivable way. 

Historically, the Flyers have always been willing to sacrifice the future to improve their chances in the present. But the Ron Hextall era has been marked by a swift departure from that approach. Measured development and careful salary cap management have ruled this day for the Orange and Black. Perhaps the Flyers will feel the need to keep up with the championship Joneses. But the smart money is on Hextall staying the course at all costs.

So that brings us to the Phillies. At the behest of managing partner John Middleton, the local baseball club has undergone an analytically-inclined rebuild that hopes to develop a homegrown core capable of duplicating the success of the Rollins-Utley-Howard-Hamels era. To be fair, the Phillies have dipped their toes back into the deep-end of the free-agent waters this season by inking Carlos Santana this offseason. Generally speaking, however, steady improvement from within has been the priority.

The wild-card here is Middleton's famed competitiveness. Telling Ryan Howard that he wants his bleeping trophy back immediately following the 2009 World Series loss to the Yankees is Exhibit A in that regard. The Phillies' managing partner is also a native son who attended the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. So he knows the significance of what was accomplished Sunday night. He also saw the buzz the Phillies generated in this town from 2007-11 when postseason berths were a way of life.

So does Middleton utilize his vast financial resources to expedite his team's path to contention, not just in Major League Baseball but also on the Philly sports scene? It will be interesting to see.

The Eagles were always the most popular kid in school. Now they're the valedictorian too. And that should have everyone else in the class feeling pretty envious.

Falcons fans just as tortured as Eagles fans

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Falcons fans just as tortured as Eagles fans

To be a Philadelphia fan is often to court heartache. The latest in a lengthy line of torment is seeing a promising Super Bowl run potentially torn apart along with Carson Wentz’s ACL.

But if you think Philly has the market cornered on sports-based angina, remember Atlanta.

The Phillies’ 2008 World Series championship remains the apex of the last quarter century in Philly sports. But there is a part of every fan that saw the Charlie Manuel-era Phils who believe a championship or two remained uncaptured. The fabled four-ace season of 2011 stands out as a missed opportunity, even more so than the defeat to the Yankees in the 2009 Fall Classic.

Atlanta sees that five-year run and raises you 14 straight division titles with only one championship to show for it. During that span in which the Braves sported arguably the best rotation ever assembled — Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz — Atlanta earned just one championship parade. Also, you could argue that is the least-heralded championship in MLB history since it came in the 1995 season that followed the work stoppage that alienated large pockets of fans. Adding insult to injury, the Braves were vanquished twice in the World Series by the Yankees team that became the dynasty Atlanta should have had.

While the 76ers trusted in a process and, at the very least, assembled a collection of very talented young players, the Hawks went all-in with former Brett Brown colleague Mike Budenholzer. The Hawks were instant contenders in an Eastern Conference that featured an in-his-prime LeBron James. Good call, Hawks. As a reward, Atlanta fans currently get to watch the worst team in the NBA.

That brings us to football. You don’t need to be an ornithologist to see the parallels between the Falcons and Eagles. Both cities fell head over heels in love with defensive-minded coaches that were big on bravado and short on playoff results in the late-80s and early-90s. The only thing that separates Buddy Ryan and Jerry Glanville is that Glanville had MC Hammer as a sideline companion and Ryan had Rich Kotite. (As a child, I don’t recall much difference between Hammer and Richie the K in the charisma department.)

How about generational athletes at the quarterback position? Philly had Randall Cunningham. Atlanta had Michael Vick. (As did Philly eventually.) And both cities came to realize that the NFL values convention over improvisation at its most important position.    

Both cities have suffered through a pair of Super Bowl defeats. But even a Philly fan has to tip their cap to Atlanta in this department. The Eagles lost a pair of also-ran Super Bowls. The Falcons, on the other hand, have had two memorable meltdowns. One by an individual, the other a collective undoing.

The Falcons were blown out by John Elway and the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII but that game is arguably best remembered by what happened the night before the contest. Pro Bowl safety Eugene Robinson, that year’s recipient of the Bart Starr Award for outstanding character and leadership, was arrested the night before the game for soliciting a prostitute. It’s almost unfathomable to think how Philadelphia, a city that continues to litigate whether the quarterback puked in the huddle 13 years ago, would have reacted to a Robinson-type story with the Eagles in the Super Bowl.

Then, there was last season’s Super Bowl meltdown against the Patriots that saw a 28-3 third-quarter lead evaporate under the intense pressure of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. At least the Eagles did their fans the favor of losing to that duo in a conventional fashion.

So take comfort, Eagles fans. When that feeling of dread starts to churn through your stomach Saturday around 4:30 p.m., know there is someone just like you in Atlanta that is expecting the worst too.

Fading expectations easier for Eagles fans

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Fading expectations easier for Eagles fans

Carson Wentz's torn ACL has, for many observers, ended the Eagles' Super Bowl chances. That injury coupled with shaky performances from Nick Foles has many fans resigned to another January failure.

It doesn't take an expert to explain the logic there. But allow me to find a potential positive out of the Wentz injury: The Eagles are no longer the favorite to go to the Super Bowl.

Philadelphia struggles with the emotional toll of being a favorite. Having lived in this area my entire life, I can't entirely explain this phenomenon but I know it's an absolute fact.

Back in 2011, as the 102-win Phillies tore through the National League en route to a fifth straight divisional title, I remember wondering how the fan base was going to handle postseason games with the win-or-else expectations that had been placed on that season. 

After the Game 4 loss to the Cardinals in the NLDS, I remember my colleague Marshall Harris discussing the value of Game 5 being played at Citizens Bank Park. I countered that the Phillies would be better served to play that game at any other stadium on the face of the Earth. Fingernails were the primary dish on the menu that evening. The Cardinals scored two batters into the game and the ballpark that had been a carnival for the previous five years transformed into a morgue. Who knows how a fan base frozen in the fear of a dynasty derailed affected the final score but it sure felt like it played a role.

So what does that have to do with the Eagles in 2018? Now the Birds find themselves in the rare position of being the top seed and potentially having two home games to get to the Super Bowl while wearing the moniker of underdog. (Cue the Rocky statue shots on the national broadcast.)

With that in mind, Eagles fans should be able to put aside any nervousness concerning the playoff games. Wentz's injury and youth take the sting out of any defeat at this point. 

There should be many more chances ahead with the kid from North Dakota playing quarterback. (Save the Dan Marino-related pessimism for another time.) 

It's now time for Philly fans to be what they always claim to be. If you're going to the game, throw yourself behind the team completely. Be loud. Disrupt the opponent. If things go poorly, get louder. Keep cheering. Provide home-field advantage.

Wentz's injury makes the risk minimal. The reward, however, could be super. 

As a wise man once said, we're from Philadelphia and we fight.