It was, to many, almost an afterthought: Surely the Eagles would make the playoffs but the focus was on bigger and better things. And that is the case, yes, but at the same time, on this snowy Sunday night, we should raise a glass to Andy Reid and his Eagles: The NFC East is theirs, once again. The Giants loss to Green Bay clinched the division for the Eagles, the sixth NFC East title for Reid in his 12th season, and his ninth post-season berth.
I know that Reid and the Eagles will not break stride as they focus in on Tuesday's game (how weird is that to say?) against Minnesota. The goals are greater, yes, and this team is certainly capable of winning anywhere, at any time. But for me and for you, why not kick back for a night and reflect upon the season that has been and look forward to the season that could be?
This may be, given everything that has happened, Reid's finest coaching job. The organization turned the roster over after a disappointing end to the 2009 season, went younger, traded franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Redskins and rebuffed any suggestion that 2010 would be a "rebuilding" campaign.
Balderdash, said Reid, who enters every game with a full-throttle intensity and focus to win. It is all about "one day at a time" for Reid, and he means it. So when some figured this would be a "throwaway" season, a stepping-stone bridge year to better days ahead, well, that didn't sit well with the head coach or with the players or, frankly, anyone who works every day to succeed.
Reid spoke glowingly about the "energy" of his young roster and that clear enthusiasm from the players, and the excitement generated by the personnel turnover, added a certain spark to the onset of the season. Then it went immediately off track: starters Leonard Weaver and Jamaal Jackson were lost for the season in the opening game and starting quarterback Kevin Kolb went down with a concussion. It was fair to ask, after that opening-game loss, how Reid would ever get his team back together after such a significant stumble out of the gates.
Reid did it, as he always seems to do it. Michael Vick stepped in for Kolb and dazzled, and then Reid defied all of his steady, patient, remain-on-course history and announced, to a stunned Eagles world, that Vick would remain the starter even with Kolb healthy and ready to resume his role as quarterback in this potent offense.
There have been many ups and a few downs since then -- including Kolb returning as a starter and winning two of three games while Vick was injured -- and here the Eagles stand, 10-4, extremely confident, having built a remarkable camaraderie to reach this point. The Eagles are still young, among the youngest teams in the league with an average age of 25 years on the roster, but they play with poise and they play with heart -- they are all about heart, aren't they? -- and the talent level here is so obviously high and on par with any team in the NFC, at least.
And now they are champions of the NFC East. Oh, you can be jaded and suggest that it is "just another" division title. But that is the wrong way to look at things. The Eagles hadn't won the division since 2006, so they will have a home game in the post-season for the first time since that season. And should the Eagles beat Minnesota and then Dallas, along with a Green Bay win against visiting Chicago next Sunday, then the Eagles would be the second seed and with that would earn a bye week before opening their playoff action.
The Eagles, though, can control only what they can control, and that is winning two games in five days. It is going to require an impressive resolve, both mentally and physically. Neither Minnesota nor Dallas is going to be an easy victory. The Eagles must be at their best, as playoff teams must be, to win these games.
Tuesday is the first test, of course. The Eagles have the unusual happenstance of playing on Tuesday night, the first game on that night since the Boston Yanks hosted the New York Giants in 1946. Surely, the Giants in that game did not turn the ball over six times, and their quarterback did not throw five interceptions, as Eli Manning did on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Ahhh ... it's a great feeling. No matter what happens against the Vikings or Dallas, the Eagles are in. And when you are in, anything is possible. The Eagles are in for the ninth time in Reid's 12 seasons, a pretty great track record. If history means anything, the Eagles are in for a lengthy stay.
But, hey, we can talk about the future when it arrives. The unusual spectacle of Tuesday night waits. Reid will have them ready to go, ready to take another step forward, ready to celebrate even more in this most wonderful 2010 campaign.