The Eagles enter the second half-century since their last championship just as disappointed as ever.
Just think: the football world lay at their feet on the eve of Christmas, with football fans everywhere high on bourbon-spiked eggnog and the most exciting NFL regular-season game in years. Yes, the Eagles were the toast of the pigskin-loving nation.
But their world, and their dreams, lay in tatters just three weeks later, after a crushing end to a season that was just as dramatic and as abrupt as the end to the signature NFL game of 2010.
The 2010 storyline: They played their Super Bowl on December 19.
The Vital Signs
2010 record: 10-6 (27.4 PPG – 23.6 PPG)
Last five seasons overall: 48-31-1 (.606)
All Quality Stats
Defensive Passing YPA: 14th
Quarterback Rating: 9th
Defensive Quarterback Rating: 12th
Defensive Passer Rating: 11th
Relativity Index: 7th
Statistical curiosity of 2010
Three straight years, three straight franchise scoring records. Donovan McNabb led the Eagles to a franchise-best 416 points in 2008. He and the Eagles topped that mark again in 2009 (429 points). After two-record-setting years of offense, the organization bid farewell to McNabb before the 2010 season and said hello to Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick. The team responded with a new franchise scoring record (439 points) in 2010.
By the way, Philly finished the 2010 season No. 3 league-wide in scoring offense (27.4 PPG). The last time they finished higher than No. 3 in scoring offense was in 1949 (30.3 PPG). It's worth noting that the 1949 Eagles were the best team in franchise history: also No. 1 in scoring defense, a franchise-best 11-1 record and winners of one of the three NFL titles the team has enjoyed (1948, 1960).
Best game of 2010
38-31 win at N.Y. Giants (Week 15).
The Eagles traveled to the New Meadowlands for a critical clash against their longtime rivals in a fight for first place in the NFC East between two 9-4 teams. It turned into one of the most memorable regular-season games in modern NFL history and clearly the most buzzed-about contest of the 2010 season: the Giants dominated, with a 31-10 lead halfway through the fourth quarter. Then the Eagles exploded with an unexpected – and unprecedented – Big-Play bonanza that produced 28 points
in just 7 minutes, 17 seconds. The game-winner was the most spectacular play of the season: DeSean Jackson's thrilling 65-yard punt return as time expired.
Worst game of 2010
24-14 loss vs. Minnesota (Week 16). Philly fans spent the days after the Giants game planning trips to Dallas for the Super Bowl. Apparently, Philly players did, too. Because nine days after the thrilling epic in New York, the 10-4 Eagles came out flatter than a soft-shell taco wrap at home against the dreadful 5-9 Vikings and against Minnesota's back-up quarterback, Joe Webb, who was making his first NFL start.
All of Philly's flaws – or relative weaknesses compared to its overall strength – were on display: they gave up cheap points (a 45-yard fumble return by Antoine Winfield), they played poorly on run defense and they weren't particularly good against the pass on this night, either, even with the untested Webb at QB.
The league cancelled the game for Sunday – an extraordinarily rare decision – because of a powerful winter storm and gave us an NFL game on a Tuesday for the first time since 1946. The Eagles apparently thought the season itself was cancelled and simply failed to show up at home against Minnesota, even with so much to gain (including a first-round bye in the playoffs).
Balance. Stability. They say a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and the Eagles had few weak links in 2010. They weren't dominant in any one indicator – no higher than seventh in any of our Quality Stats. But they ranked in the top half of the league in 12 of our 13 indicators listed above. That's pretty impressive.
It all begins at the top in the NFL, and the Eagles have had smart, stable ownership and coaching for more than a decade now. It translates to a consistent contender on the field (even if it always ends in disappointment).
Locker-room leadership. Bendability (defensive efficiency). We could not have been more disappointed, from a statistical perspective, in the unexpected downfall of the Eagles in the wake of the Giants victory. The team was 10-5 and looked like a true Super Bowl contender. They even had a chance to wrap-up a first-round bye heading into Week 16.
Then they lost their final three games, two of them against teams they easily should have beaten (Vikings, Cowboys). Then came the final dispiriting loss against the Packers in the playoffs, at home no less, in a game that the Eagles actually outplayed eventual-champion for large stretches.
The Eagles had few statistical weaknesses, as noted above. But the fact that let so much opportunity literally slip from their grasps – in the wake of such a thrilling victory, too – speaks to a team that spent too much time reading its press clippings and not enough time preparing for the next game. It seems like a team that's not focused on winning and that lacks true leaders in key areas.
The only true statistical flaw, meanwhile, was Bendability. The team ranked 12th in total defense, but 21st in scoring defense. You always want those numbers reversed: better in scoring defense than in total defense.
What the existing numbers tell us is that the Eagles surrendered a LOT of cheap points in 2010 – a fact made even more surprising by the care that Michael Vick showed with the football: he played seven straight games before he threw a single INT (before falling apart with seven picks in his final six outings). It was an incredible streak – a streak that usually means teams are winning games and defenses are not forced into bad situations.
General off-season strategy/overview
Sit on the Kevin Kolb deal and make it count when it matters most.
There's not a lot for Philly to do: they're a good, solid team from top to bottom. They've clearly committed to Vick as the quarterback of the future. And who could blame them considering the performance we saw out of him for most of the 2010 season?
But when they deal Kolb, we say they put it into a huge defensive playmaker – or a proven veteran with a history of winning. After all, the defense was talented in 2010, but not particularly smart or efficient.
Totally premature 2011 diagnosis
The Eagles have been the class of the NFC since 2000. Michael Vick had his best season yet as a passer, even if he faded badly at the end. The team is loaded with playmakers, especially on offense, and it's hard to envision a scenario in which they don't at least compete for the NFC East title (and if not win it). Can this team win 11 or 12 games in 2011? Sure. Can they win three or four more in the postseason? Well, that's ALWAYS the question that haunts the Eagles.