The 2011 Eagles Feel Like?

Posted: August 24th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 18 Comments »

After Howie Roseman, Joe Banner, and Andy Reid delivered free agents left and right and added a lot of star power, the comparisons to 2004 were rampant.  That makes plenty of sense.  Back in 2004 the Eagles added elite players Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse.  The 1st round pick was a RG who was projected to start (Shawn Andrews).  There are some serious parallels in the 2 seasons.

I think there is an even better comparison…1995.

The 2004 team was pretty stable overall.  The year before we had the best record in the NFC.  There were no major changes in the coaching staff.  It was a matter of adding a few special pieces to put the team over the top.

1995 could not have been more different.  First, I have to say that 1995 is one of my favorite Eagles teams of all time.  I completely bought into the hype that year.  Ray Rhodes was coming over from San Francisco where he’d just been the Defensive Coordinator of the Super Bowl champion 49ers.  He was going to lead us to redemption after the Kotite era.

“I looked up and saw a horse whose color was green.  Its rider was named Rhodes, and his companion was Change.”

Rhodes was bringing the West Coast Offense to Philly.  That was music to my ears after watching the dysfunctional attack of the Ryan/Kotite era.  Rhodes learned from Bill Walsh and was going to bring some structure in.  Unlike Buddy Ryan, Rhodes didn’t look down at the offense.  He appreciated that side of the ball.  The coaching staff was going to be all new.  As much as I hated to see the Buddy Ryan/Bud Carson defensive system go, I bought into change because we had struggled so much in the postseason.

1995 presented a roster shakeup unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  Rhodes started with some big time acquisitions.  He brought RB Ricky Watters with him from SF.  Combining him with Charlie Garner, Randall Cunningham, and Fred Barnett gave me hope that the offense could be something special…if they could overcome the rookie Offensive Coordinator Jon Gruden.

I was curious, but optimistic about the defense.  We were all very excited about Mike Mamula, our 1st round pick.  His Combine numbers were eye-popping.  He wasn’t accused of being a workout warrior back then because that didn’t really exist.  Mamula sort of created that monster.  I bought into Rhodes’ hype that Mamula was going to be our Charles Haley.  We still had William Fuller, Andy Harmon, Bill Romanowski, Willie T., Mike Zordich, and Greg Jackson as the core of the defense.

Rhodes literally tried to sign 2/3 of the people on planet Earth.  He succeeded with a lot of them:

QB Rodney Peete
RB Ricky Watters
FB Kevin Turner
FB James Saxon
TE Reggie Johnson
TE Ed West
WR Art Monk
WR Rob Carpenter
WR Kevlin Martin
OG Guy McIntyre
OG Harry Boatswain
OC Raleigh McKenzie
OT Mohammed Elewonibi

DT Kevin Johnson
DT Ronnie Dixon
DT Mark Gunn
DT Rhett Hall
DE Daniel Stubbs
LB Kurt Gouviea
LB James Willis
S Barry Wilburn
S Dave Whitmore
CB Jerome Henderson

The most interesting player Rhodes lost out on was WR Sterling Sharpe.  Rhodes did a good sales job, but Sharpe had a neck injury and the doctors wouldn’t sign off on the deal.

Set aside the sheer number of players added.  The stories behind them is crazy.  Stubbs was out of the league in 1994.  Ronnie Dixon was driving a cement truck in NC.  Kevin Johnson worked at his parents liquor store.  Art Monk was hanging on to his career for dear life. Barry Wilburn had last played in 1992.  PK Gary Anderson came over from the Steelers, where he’d been for 13 years.  This was not your standard offseason.  Heck, it seemed like many of the new players were older than the coaches Rhodes hired.

I loved the season because of how it played out.  Cunningham stunk and the team got off to a 1-3 start.  Peete took over at QB and the team went 9-3.  The ’95 Eagles won the most amazing Wildcard game I’ve ever seen, beating Detroit 58-37.  The season came to a sudden stop in Dallas the next week.  Reality did in fact bite.

That Eagles team felt like a group out of a movie.  Just think of any action movie where some guy rounds up all the misfits and they go take on a crazy challenge.  That was the 1995 Eagles.  It also helped that I watched many of the games at a sports bar with friends.  Dan found the doom in every situation.  I was the eternal optimist.  Jen was just an enthusiastic fan.  That made for a good combo and we had a lot of fun that Fall (and in 1996).

Back to the 2011 team.  I think the comparison to 1995 makes a lot of sense.  There are coaching changes and new systems for the players to learn.  There are some big name acquisitions, but guys like Jarrad Page, Evan Mathis, Anthony Hargrove, Derek Landri, Donald Lee, and Ryan Harris remind me of 1995 a heck of a lot more than 2004.

The 2004 team needed to get over the hump.  The current team needs to get to the hump, as well as over it.

The big difference in 1995 and 2011 is that we do already have a good QB in place, a returning head coach, and very good infrastructure.  Rhodes was trying to change the culture, the roster, and anything else he could.  Reid is making serious changes, but this isn’t a fire sale where “everything must go”.   2011 is selective change, and all by choice.

The 2004 team started 7-0 and made it clear early on they were going to be special.

The 1995 team had to bottom out.  That allowed Rhodes to bench Cunningham and then to make some other changes (Bobby Taylor took over at RCB for instance).  The team responded very well to the changes.

I’m really interested to see how the 2011 Eagles start the year.  Will the team look special right away or will there be a period where the team is awkward due to all the new faces?  Obviously the most important thing is seeing how the team plays down the stretch.  For now I’ll settle for a good showing in Week 3 of the preseason.

18 Comments on “The 2011 Eagles Feel Like?”

  1. 1 JakFTW said at 3:34 AM on August 24th, 2011:

    These are great write-ups! One of the small benefits of being an Eagles fan in Australia is that I get to see the late blogosphere posts at the end of a hard day.

    Though some like to complain about the Eagles, whether it’s the FO or the coaching staff or the players, I always have the feeling at the beginning of the season that superbowl or not, I’m in for one hell of a ride.

    I feel like we have many more memorable up and down moments than many other franchises. In 2008, after it seemed like we were going to miss the playoffs, we had 44-6 and a run to the NFC championship. Last year, we had MNF against the redskins, Shady’s gamebreaker against the giants and the Miracle at the New Meadowlands.

    It’s possible that the birds will not have a great season results-wise, but I think that even if that’s the case, it will still be an awesome ride!

  2. 2 Stephen said at 3:38 AM on August 24th, 2011:

    I was actually just the other day talking to someone about how weird it was for there to be so much change during just one offseason for the Eagles. Lots of new coaches and players both. Feels unusual for a team thats had so much continuity over the last decade.

  3. 3 D3Keith said at 4:16 AM on August 24th, 2011:

    Respect for making such an unmemorable Eagles team in my recollection come alive. Hadn’t thought about some of those names in years.

    As far as comparisons, I see the parallels, but this is like nothing I’ve ever really watched before in sports, to have a halfway loaded team load up some more, but also change schemes. This is really something else. Toss in the hype, and every week there’ll be overreactions to the Eagles’ performance, from the national followers in different ways than the die-hards, but I’m really looking forward to the journey.

  4. 4 GermanEagle said at 7:19 AM on August 24th, 2011:


    any chance that VY gets cut? I think getting rid of the “dream team” curse despite having a cap hit of 2.5m might be worth it?!

  5. 5 Tommy Lawlor said at 8:25 AM on August 24th, 2011:

    @ GE…

    Interesting question. I don’t think so, but we’ll see how he plays on Thursday. If Vince was absolutely awful…maybe, but if he is anywhere close to average or better and I think we keep him.

    Kafka was good last week, but it was the final 5 or 6 minutes of a PS game. Gotta keep that in perspective.

  6. 6 Eaglesfanatlarge said at 8:32 AM on August 24th, 2011:


    A great way for the Eagles to use Vince would be as a shock trooper to take some of the blows for Vick. Every QB sneak, designed QB draw, and wildcat type situation, put in Vince to take the hits. He’s bigger and stronger than Vick, so he can move the pile much better. Mix in a few legitimate pass plays for him in these situations, and you’ve got a legitimate threat.

  7. 7 Dan in Japan said at 8:33 AM on August 24th, 2011:

    Hello Tommy,
    I remember well watching those games with you and Jen. Good times! I enjoy your Eagles columns. Keep up the good work!


  8. 8 Kevin (RC) said at 9:30 AM on August 24th, 2011:

    If you do that, teams will definitely key in the run. Now that’s fine on 3rd and short(1 or less) since we’re likely to play run anyway. 3rd and 2 (and more) you can’t do it.

    Besides, Vick won’t want to take himself off the field.

  9. 9 Austinfan said at 10:10 AM on August 24th, 2011:

    Don’t really see the parallel, Rhodes made wholesale changes but he was coming into a dysfunctional situation.

    AR is still running the show, MM is running the offense, though AR did shake up his coaching staff. In fact, the coaching and scheme changes are what’s similar to 1995, not the player turnover. Eagles have been on their 3rd AR period since 2008, not only is everyone from 2004 gone , but most of the starters from 2008.

    1) Mudd is a total change in OL philosophy, I think this reflects AR understanding that his former scheme, built around McNabb’s strengths and weaknesses (great arm, but needed maximum protection of big guys who could hold off pass rushers for 5 seconds) is obsolete in a world of complex blitz schemes and fast pass rushers who can blow by dinosaur linemen. With Mudd you have less time to throw but a more consistent pocket, and a running game that attacks sideline to sideline.

    2) Washburn is a total scheme change as well, goodbye to complex blitz schemes that take 2-3 years for newcomers and rookies to master, hello to attack the backfield like a pack of wolves who haven’t eaten for a week. Speed kills, and that seems to be the theme of the front seven. A free agent/rookie friendly defense that doesn’t require a playbook as unreadable as the Federal Register.

    3. After all the hoopla, the last three draft classes are far more important than free agents:
    Babin and Jenkins on the DL, Hargrove, Landri, Hunt are SFAs, nice depth but they haven’t even made the roster
    Aso and DRC do remake the CBs.
    Harris, Mathis, again, SFAs.

    Rhodes brought in a lot of SFAs (street free agents) because he lacked players, AR brought in a lot of SFAs because there was a league wide fire sale and he wanted to ensure a highly competitive training camp. Rhodes had one big draft (1995 which he blew in the trade with Tampa Bay), Eagles have had 3 drafts in a row that have created a deep, young roster.

    With Rhodes, we had no idea what we were getting, with Washburn and Mudd, we knew exactly what we were getting, the only mystery on this team is Juan, but even there we know his temperment, only his game day skills are a real question.

  10. 10 JP said at 10:53 AM on August 24th, 2011:

    That 1995 team created one of the all time best Eagles memories….4th and inches…twice!

  11. 11 Tommy Lawlor said at 12:03 PM on August 24th, 2011:

    4th/1 was a great memory. The whole sports bar was focused on that game by that point. We stopped ’em and the place went wild. Then there was the confusion and Dallas got the play all over again. I think we all knew Dallas was going to get it the 2nd time. When the guys blew the play up and stopped it again, the celebration was even wilder and louder. Great, great moment.

  12. 12 izzylangfan said at 12:09 PM on August 24th, 2011:

    Over the past two years, since Michael Vick came aboard, we have mixed in a bit of wildcat to take advantage of Vicks talents. But now we have not only Vick but Vince Young and Ronnie Brown. Do you think the Eagles are planning to surprise some teams with the wildcat or is it now off the table?

  13. 13 Eric said at 1:02 PM on August 24th, 2011:


    I was reading Reuben’s 25 article and he mentioned the best line, in his mind, was JP,EM,JJ,DW and TH.

    What is really the fascination with Herremans at tackle? I mean, I know Andy drafted him as a tackle and only put him at guard because he wanted him on the field. But since college, and obviously it was a small school, he hasn’t had a lot of actual game reps at any tackle position.

    What makes us or anyone actually think he’d be a quality tackle? Especially with very limited practice reps.

  14. 14 Mr_Boomy said at 1:25 PM on August 24th, 2011:

    Boy.. do I miss Hollis Thomas and Sam Rayburn..

  15. 15 Tommy Lawlor said at 1:28 PM on August 24th, 2011:

    RE: Wildcat

    We’ve got DeSean, LeSean, Ronnie, Vince, and Vick who have all been a Wildcat QB in college or the NFL. That is a lot of talented guys that can do some crazy things. I’d be shocked if we didn’t run some of it.

    The Wildcat is a good thing when used properly.

  16. 16 Tommy Lawlor said at 1:30 PM on August 24th, 2011:

    RE: Todd at RT

    I think people are making the assumption that since he played OT in college and is a good OG in the NFL he could slide outside with no problems.

    I think Todd would be solid, but he gets beaten at LG. You know he’d get beaten at RT as well.

    I prefer Dunlap at RT and Todd staying put. That way you have confidence in the left side and know to gameplan to help Dunlap and the right side.

    Moving Todd makes you vulnerable at LG and RT.

  17. 17 CVD said at 1:46 PM on August 24th, 2011:

    I don’t like the idea of Todd at RT. The news about Justice is great. Even if we don’t get him back until the 3rd game. I feel we can do ok for a few games with Dunlap.

    This is why I never bought in to Harris. I good RT is hard to find, there is a reason he was just sitting out there. The one place I hate having injury prone guys is the Oline. Gimme a solid guy that will be there every week

    Howie Roseman likes to make moves right before the season so I expect a few small moves still to come. Maybe we find a decent RT.

  18. 18 Tommy Lawlor said at 1:46 PM on August 24th, 2011:

    @ Dan in Japan…

    Those were some fun days. Hope all is well with you.

    I wish 1995 had a better payoff than just a Wildcard win, but that still was a great season in its own way. The low point came when the team was 1-3. We played the Saints after that. The guy running the sports bar put the Eagles game on this tiny TV. Me, Dan, and Jen were the only people watching.

    The world changed that day. Bobby Taylor started. Mike Mamula beat Willie Roaf for a couple of sacks. Rodney Peete showed that guts and leadership were important and the Eagles won.

    We never got the tiny TV again.