As President George W. Bush famously said, “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… You can’t get fooled again!”
The phrase he was looking for is, of course, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. ” Commander Scott had it right in Star Trek, but Mr. Bush was obviously not a fan.
I’m a fan. I’m a fan of Star Trek since its very first airing almost 50 years ago, and I’m a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles since their first trip to the Super Bowl in the 1980 season. Like every other Eagles fan, I’ve learned to live and die with this team. A win ensures a positive frame of mind for at least a week. A loss is painful for several days, and some losses (Cowboys) are more painful than others.
Every season makes me wonder, what’s wrong with Philadelphia? How is it that every other team in our division has won multiple Super Bowls, and the high point of our millennium is just getting there. Andy Reid will forever be the greatest coach in Eagles history because he GOT US THERE. Didn’t even have to win, because we don’t set the bar that high, just getting there defines greatness.
I drank the Buddy Ryan KoolAid®. Loved his defense, loved his bluster, loved his intimidation. After I realized that it was all just hot air and that his teams would never actually win anything, I thought it was time to move on.
So I drank the Ray Rhodes KoolAid®. Ray blew into town unexpectedly, talking about rape and sodomy, and had two good years full of promise. He was the toast of Philadelphia until the two following and disappointing years revealed him as mortal. Time to go, Ray.
I did NOT drink the Andy Reid KoolAid® until sometime in his second year. Reaching the NFC Championship game, in this town, is historic. How quickly we get hooked on the KoolAid® – after the third straight trip to the NFC Championship and the third straight loss, we fans were seriously considering asking Coach Reid to leave. Yet each year of his (eventually) four NFC Championship games was written in the books in ink – he was setting Eagles history every year.
The problem with Coach Reid was that the KoolAid® wore off, and Reid stayed too long. He lost the team, he lost the fans, and he lost his job.
Bring on the fresh KoolAid®, because we never learn!
Here comes Chip Kelly, the most sought-after coach ever to come out of the college ranks. 31 NFL teams were trying to recruit him as head coach (the 32nd team had just won the Super Bowl, so they were set), and the Eagles and Jeff Lurie won the lottery. Chip was the saviour, the can’t-lose coach that could resurrect an Eagles team that had flat-out quit. The results were instant in his first year – 10-6 and a playoff game (loss). Excellent start, and the hype must be true.
His second year… again 10-6, but no playoffs. But he had excuses.
In the offseason, he drove us all crazy with personnel moves that made no sense, but in the preseason games, the Eagles showed incredible promise – enough that several professionals (Joe Banner, sports journalists, and me) saw the ultimate prize on the horizon. The upside to this team was limitless. Kelly was a genius, misunderstood by all of the cynics.
I wrote that this team would go 13-3.
But somewhere between the preseason and the opening game in Atlanta, the team turned into the Bizarro Eagles, totally unprepared to take the field. They lost that first game, and lost it badly. No spirit, no fire, no desire. Inexplicable, but here come the Cowboys, and a win would wipe away the stink.
They lost to the Cowboys. At that point, I thought the season was over, the team looked that bad. I thought, if they lost to the Jets they could easily go 0-7 into the Bye. But they beat the Jets and the KoolAid® kicked in again.
Then they lost to a really bad Redskins team, and we were looking at the number one draft pick in 2016. Again, the Eagles just lay down like dogs.
Wins against the Saints and the Giants and another sip o’ KoolAid® had me believing that they were on a run. The Panthers were undefeated, but they were the worst of the undefeateds, with four of their wins against absolutely pitiful teams. They could be taken.
But, no, the Eagles lost to the Panthers. The season is over.
In the 7th game of the season, the Eagles still look unprepared. The defense was getting better each week, but the Panthers’ ground game was too much for them. Again I’m watching the old bounce-off non-tackles, instead of solid wrapping up. The offense still doesn’t have it together. You watch the Panther receivers catch pass after pass, and you realize that these are “average” NFL receivers, while our guys have the ball bounce off their chest, off their hands. Our guys are apparently below average.
At this point, the Eagles cannot finish better than 8-8 (9-7, asks the optimist?). That makes this year a flat-out disaster. The KoolAid® pitcher is empty. I’m already looking at the offseason and counting the players that need to be upgraded.
I don’t think that Coach Kelly is going anywhere. He’ll probably have at least two more years to prove himself. But that’s exactly what he’s going to have to do – prove himself. He no longer gets a pass, no longer gets the benefit of a doubt. Show me something, give me a reason to cheer.
Otherwise, I’ll be sitting in my La-Z-Boy wondering how I could have been fooled so badly. Again.