I still remember the feeling of what it was like five years ago. In the days leading up to Super Bowl 39, in the team headquarters in Jacksonville, FL, the level of anticipation was incredible. All of Jacksonville was covered in Eagles green as the team spent its last hours preparing to play New England. There were pep rallies and chants and parties -- everything I dreamt it would be.
Game day in Jacksonville was the most exciting time until the game started and then it was the most nerve-wracking experience as the Eagles fumbled through a disappointing first half and blew a chance to take a clear advantage over the Patriots. The end to the game, the loss, was heart-breaking in every way.
But in the rebound-days after, the feeling was that the Eagles had the pieces in place to get back to the Super Bowl. It would be difficult, but the explosive offense and the attacking defense were there ...
So here we are, five years later. The Eagles went through a down season in 2005 and missed the playoffs, and then made them in 2006, missed again in 2007 and ramped up for a trip to the NFC Championship Game in 2008. The 2009 season ended in Cowboys Stadium in the first round of the post season.
Five long years. Ups and downs, and anybody who has a belief in the young talent here and the blend of veteran experience, and the coaching staff and an organization that has reached the playoffs in 8 of the last 10 years, certainly has to take an optimistic opinion of the future. The Eagles will be back. This off-season is going to be an interesting one, to say the least, but the perspective here is that the Eagles are off to a good start, having upgraded their coaching staff, shaken up the personnel department and added a few intriguing young players who should at the very least provide some good roster competition in the camps to come.
This weekend is all about the Super Bowl, though, and the Eagles aren't there. It is an empty, frustrating feeling. I'm jealous, and I have no problem admitting as much. I look forward to Sunday's game between the Colts and the Saints, for they represent the very best teams of the AFC and the NFC, respectively. There is no doubt about that. Both teams were the best in the regular season and earned the No. 1 seeds in the playoffs, where they did their work and won in their home stadiums and earned the right to play in Super Bowl 44.
But I don't have a team for whom I am rooting. I don't have any emotional attachment to either side. I want to see a good game and then turn off the television the instant the game is over. I don't want the week-of-the-game hype, and I won't want one minute of the pre-game nonsense. I will watch the game with no emotion, other than hoping for a quality football game on the best day of the sporting year. Once it is over, and my guess is the final whistle blows at 10:09 p.m., the 2010 season begins and every team is 0-0.
There is no sense asking why the Saints are representing the NFC rather than the Eagles. New Orleans played great football from the start of the season all the way through. The Eagles had too many ups and downs early and then lost an opportunity to host a playoff game in the Week 17 loss to Dallas. The Eagles just weren't as good as New Orleans ... and, well, I have to stop looking back. It is time to look ahead and wonder what moves the Eagles are going to make to regain their footing in the NFC East and in the NFC as a whole.
I like the way the Eagles have started things with the additions of Bobby April and Dick Jauron to the coaching staff. I like promoting Howie Roseman to general manager, and it is certainly fair to say that the proof will be in the moves that he makes. I like having Phil Savage around to work through the 2010 NFL draft. Savage is a proven talent evaluator who had great success in Baltimore in the draft, added some pieces in Cleveland and then got caught up in an upheaval of change there.
I'd say the Eagles are just about done making major moves with their coaching staff and in the personnel department for now. The process now shifts into another phase as the Eagles begin to lay out their plan for the off-season. They have the Scouting Combine in a few weeks. Free agency begins on March 5. The prospect of an uncapped year and unchartered waters in free agency is very, very real.
The off-season is very much a process and as much as we want to fast forward to the fun stuff, we can't. Sunday will be a game worth watching, the game itself, and then it will all over and 32 teams will be 0-0 all over again.
And then next year will be this year, and we can all look forward and try to get to the top, together, once again.
**Super Bowl Prediction
Peyton Manning is the best I have ever seen, and with two weeks of preparation he is going to be very difficult to stop. New Orleans has a great team, but the Saints just don't do enough on defense to convince me they can stop the Colts. Indianapolis has a major question mark with Dwight Freeney's health, but in a one-game series, Indy can get enough pressure on Drew Brees to force some mistakes. And in the end, Manning will make fewer mistakes and the Colts will win another Super Bowl.
Colts 31, Saints 21