Wednesday, December 7, 2011

why are the eagles so bad?

As sports fans, we're accustomed to a few of the more major tropes that often dominate our storytelling: the underdog winning it all, the come-from-behind victory, the epic collapse and so many more. However, it has to be said that one of the more rare tales to be told is the complete and total eradication of preseason predictions. Sometimes a team will delight in confounding expectations, exceeding them at a far greater than normal pace. This has, in fact, become its own story, with the NCAA Tournament for college basketball now looking to designate certain teams as the Cinderella year after year. It's harder, though, to think of a team that was so talented that they were supposed to win it all that has underperformed on the level of the Philadelphia Eagles this year.

Anointed before the season began as a behemoth that would crush the regular season, the Eagles were loaded up with talent, and had the makings of an all-time great. The storybook year that Michael Vick had last season was the most obvious sign, but there were plenty more: the signings of Cullen Jenkins, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and, most of all, Nnamdi Asomugha seemed to signal that this was a team that learned from their buzzsaw encounter last year with the Green Bay Packers.

So, with the players there, all performing at a level that could at least reasonably be expected, with the possible exception of Vick, the attention has got to turn to the coaching staff. Previously hailed by some as one of the best coaches in the game, Andy Reid has had his turn in the spotlight this year. That light has changed from glowing to harsh, and some say it's justified. There are almost perpetual calls for his firing. His use of a zone, even with the acquisition of the aforementioned Asomugha is one of the most glaring examples detractors will cite.

Even the players on the team realize they're not living up to expectations. Brent Calek says it's "embarrassing," to play on the team that was supposed to win the Super Bowl and now is in serious danger of not making the playoffs. Of the teams predicted to win big this season, the Eagles are joined only by the Indianapolis Colts in disappointment this season, but the Colts have the excuse of their lifetimes: the absence of Peyton Manning. The Eagles, on the other hand, have nothing.

So what does it take, to go from most favored to least talked about? How does it happen? The conjecture above centers around the players, the coaches, anything to try to help us, as sports fans understand how we could be so wildly off the mark? But how about another theory? Maybe the problem isn't with the players or the coaches or any combination thereof. Maybe the problem is the whole equation. Maybe the overrating of Vick, based on exceptional play last season, combined with a huge payday for the man, led to wildly unrealistic expectations. Maybe the Eagles, at the end of the day, were just never supposed to be that good. Spending a boatload of money on individual talents, after all, might not be the best way to build a true team.

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