Talking About Titles

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 39 Comments »

There were some good comments in the previous post. A couple of the discussions centered about Super Bowls.

One reader brought up the notion that Jim Johnson’s defenses were built more for the regular season than the postseason. I used to have a similar theory. The more I tried to study patterns, though, led me to realize that there really isn’t a pattern.

The Giants won a pair of titles in 5 years. Think how different those title runs were. The 2007 Giants played stifling defense in the playoffs. They allowed 8 TDs in 4 games. They held 3 opponents to less than 275 yards. That defensive line was dominant. It helped that they had a HOF player in Michael Strahan teamed up with a superb edge rusher in Osi Umenyiora and an outstanding interior rusher in Justin Tuck. Teams were also still getting used to having 3 and 4 DEs on the field at once. The Giants had the right scheme and personnel for that postseason.

The 2011 Giants had more luck. They faced mediocre OLs in ATL and GB. They got to the title game and Alex Smith was terrible. He only completed one pass to a WR that day. In the Super Bowl, they once again got the Pats. More luck. That is a team that the Giants matches up with well. It also helped that Rob Gronkowski was playing hurt.

My point isn’t to diminish the Giants title. They won. They get the credit. It helps that they had some luck.

And that’s the ugly secret of winning Super Bowls in the last decade or so…you need some luck. The Bucs only title came when they faced Jon Gruden’s old team. The Bucs defense knew what was coming. Peyton Manning’s only SB title came against…Rex Grossman. We had to face Tom Brady, one of the greatest QBs in the history of football. Kurt Warner went 1-2 in SBs. He lost to Big Ben (2 titles) and Brady (3 titles). That’s some bad luck.

There is no one type of offense or defense you need to win a title. We’ve seen all kinds of players and systems win. The key is to have the right players for your system and to have them be healthy and play well.

Let’s talk about Jim Johnson for a second. He had the brains and experience to win a SB. Steve Spagnuolo learned under him for years and won the title in 2007. JJ’s defenses had more speed than size. The Bucs and Colts won with similar players. Jim loved the zone blitz. Plenty of teams have won using that tactic. There is no one clear deficiency that kept JJ from winning. He simply didn’t have the right combination of players, gameplan and circumstances come together. I’m sure he laid awake at night from time to time thinking about what he could have done differently. The biggest thing we all agree on is benching Blaine Bishop for Michael Lewis in the 2002 NFC-CG. Still, Tampa’s offense scored 20 points and gained 308 yards that day. It isn’t like they ripped us up and down the field.  The Bucs defense is what won that game. They had 3 takeaways and scored a TD.

The one point I would make is that it does seem to help quite a bit if you have a veteran DC. The Giants had the youngest DCs among recent SB winners. Again, that should kind of tell you that those title runs of theirs are anomalies rather than something to be studied and copied. Most DCs were older guys like Capers, Kiffin, LeBeau, Crennel/Belichick and Gregggg Williams.

It is interesting to study SB winners and look for patterns, but often you see that there is no rhyme or reason to why a team breaks through and wins the title in a given year, beyond the fact that they got hot in January.

* * * * *

Another reader and I got into a discussion about Super Bowls and expectations. His point was something to the effect that since the Eagles haven’t won a title since 1960, it makes the fans that much harsher in judging the team. He used the phrase that it was intolerable that the team hadn’t won a title in so long.

Listen, I get the frustration. Not having a SB title is despressing. It haunts us.

But the attitude can’t be “You better win or else!!!”

You must enjoy the pursuit of a Super Bowl to truly enjoy the team winning it.

I am a passive Flyers fan. I love the team, but simply don’t have the time to follow them year round. When the draft is over, I start watching the NHL playoffs. Before then, I’ll try to catch a couple of Flyers games. So when they made their Stanley Cup run a few years ago, it was exciting. I watched the comeback against the Bruins. I watched them get to the Finals. And then I lived and died in all of the Finals games. I hated seeing them lose.  Crushing.

Had the Flyers won, it would have been really cool. That was a fun team to follow. They were good and seemed like likable players. I would have soaked up that title for a couple of days, but it really wouldn’t have meant all that much to me since I joined the party in April. True Flyers fans had been with the team since the previous summer. They read articles about training camp. They read about the new guys. They followed the team on a daily basis. Those fans put their heart and soul into the team. A Flyers championship would have been tremendous for those fans.

You all know the saying that life is about the journey, not the destination. The same is true in sports.

Go back to 2004. Winning the SB would have been great, but losing it doesn’t erase all the great memories.

Remember TO catching 3 TDs in the opener vs the Giants? That is also the game where Trot lit up the Punter. And where Jerome McDougle lit up Eli.

Remember the game in Detroit? Mike Bartrum caught a TD pass and then had the crazy celebration where he got down and snapped the ball? Crazy. I think Jason Short blew up a couple of guys on STs that day.

We played the Browns in October in a wild game. Jeff Garcia ran over Brian Dawkins for a TD. Yes, you read that right. I hated that play, but it also gave me tremendous respect for Garcia. He was one tough dude.

There was the game in Dallas where McNabb scrambled for 14 seconds and then hit Freddie for a huge gain. TO caught a fade pass for a TD, one of the few in the Reid era. Lito Sheppard picked off Vinny T. and ran the ball back 101 yards for a TD.

You must enjoy the moments on the way to truly enjoy winning the Super Bowl. You must also let the losses be part of that. Football seasons are a roller coaster of emotions. All that craziness is what makes getting to the top of the mountain so sweet.

One day we’ll get that feeling. Until then…enjoy the ride.

_


  • theycallmerob

    Thanks for the perspective, Tommy. Those fans who claim that nothing matters but a title, or the fans of teams who use the “title count” as the only barometer for a player or franchise’s success are beyond illogical. One knucklehead in particular over on the 24/7 site refuses to acknowledge any sort of a rebuild, insisting that Kelly will be gone within two years if there’s no title.
    For me, one of the greatest displays of karma for these sorts of “fans” was Game 6 of the NBA Finals this year- many in the Miami crowd left the arena early and were locked out of the building during the comeback and eventual OT win.

    • MediaMike

      Two years for Kelly title is extreme! I only rant backwards in time.

  • SteveH

    I think expectations have a lot to do with it. During the Andy Reid years you had expectations that the team was going to compete for a super bowl, and when it didn’t happen it was frustrating.

    This year most reasonable people are thinking 8-8ish is probably the realistic ceiling for the team, so I think it will be a lot easier to just sit back and relax and enjoy the show so to speak.

    • MediaMike

      I’d be pumped with 8-8, but if we’re sitting here in (10-15 years I hope) with the next head coach and still no title I’ll be venting just as badly.

      • GEagle

        Record doesn’t matter to me this year…It’s about how we got to that record. no desire In slipping into the playoffs with Vick, especially since there is NO precedent for Vick playing well two seasons in a row…Now if we win some games on the backs of young, inexperienced kids who are improving and making their BOnes in this league..That would be very exciting for me.

        For me, the best case scenario this year is Foles or Barkley leading the Eagles to 8 or 9 wins and fighting for a wild card birth and establishing themselves as Chps guy going forward.
        I really hope to not have to deal with a qb battle next summer.
        get the polarizing Vick the hell out of here, so that we can all come together and move forward with the new era of football…
        Playing Vick just keeps you from finding your QB of the future.
        ..
        Hopefully Howie is already working on a trade…Vikings, Titans, Jets, 49ers

    • P_P_K

      I agree that expectations were high during most of Andy’s time, and I’d say the expectations were reasonable. The Eagles had a strong roster, they were the cream of the NFC East, and had a culture of succsess. The reasons many of us were frustrated wasn’t so much that we never got the Lombardi, but that Reid seemed to sabotage the potential with his insane pass:run play calling, the horrific clock management, and seeming inability to adjust on game day.

      I think fondly of Andy as a coach and as a man. He had a ton to do with our success, but he may also be the primary reason we never got to the promised land.

  • D3Center

    While I desperately want to see a SB title come to Philly part of me is also afraid of the fair weather fans that will come with it. Fans who only follow a team when a title seems like a possibility as opposed to living with the ups and downs annoy me more than anything else. It almost ruined following the Phillies for me after the WS title.

    • TommyLawlor

      There will be problems that come with winning a SB. I’m willing to try and deal with them.

    • ohitsdom

      Don’t be a hipster Eagles fan. Who cares if people jump on the bandwagon (if it ever comes to that)? It might be a little annoying, but definitely a problem worth having.

    • GEagle

      Is there even such a thing as a fair weather Eagles fan? Lol

  • Dasdip

    I only think that it has been “too long” since your last title when the number of years since the last title is greater than or equal to the number of competing teams in the league. So, in the case of the NFL, when it has been around 30 (31) or more years since your last title, then that feels like too long. Teams from big cities seem to have a right to be more antsy than teams from towns since, presumably, the big city owners would have had more money to spend on coaches, scouts, training facilities, and so on.

    The Eagles are nearly double overdue for a championship. But they’re not alone. There are 14 other teams who have never won the Super Bowl, and 4 of those teams have never even been. Pour one out for the Lions and Browns fans. Philly has been living in luxury.

    But we are overdue. We can all agree there. We’re in a similar position to teams like Atlanta or Seattle or San Diego in that the team has had some really good years, but it just hasn’t sealed the deal.

    With that being said, watching the pot doesn’t make it boil, and neither does yelling at it. In 2012, 2011, and 2010, the Eagles’ road record was better than their home record. Let that sink in. The Eagles played worse at home than on the road for three straight years. It’s the story that no one wants to tell Philly fans, but it’s the truth. There has been no homefield advantage. The negativity isn’t cutting it.

    For a team trying to position for the playoffs, not gaining anything at home isn’t enough. Performing worse is unfathomable.

    Last year the Seahawks were 8-0 at home, and what does everyone say? It’s a tough place to play due to their great fans. You’d have to go back to 2002 to see a Seattle team with a better road record than a home record. It was a one game difference in a 7-9 season. On the way there, you’d pass two undefeated seasons at home. The Seahawks have never won a Super Bowl, but their fans show their support. It’s never this is the year or else.

    It remains to be seen how the fans respond to Chip Kelly once the season starts. Perhaps Reid’s stay was three years too long. Perhaps the fans will bounce back, and they’ll help to uplift the team rather than beat them down.

    And does this mean that all of Philly’s fans are negative? Of course not. But I do think that sometimes the numbers, in this case home-road record, do speak for themselves.

    Whether the numbers change remains to be seen.

    • TommyLawlor

      Interesting response. Lots of good points.

    • ohitsdom

      Great points. Seattle is an excellent role model in this regard. Being out of Philly for the last 5 years, I get frustrated with the poor home support. Then again, being at the game in Jax in 2010 for Vick’s first start as “the starter” was amazing. Tons of Eagles fans, it felt like a home game, Jags fans were being taunted.

      • GvilleEagleFan

        WHERE’S THE CHAIN LADY? CLAP, CLAP, CLAP CLAP CLAP!!! (I’m hoping you were on the western side of the stadium to get that joke)

        Holy shit, that game was something else. I bought four tickets together in the middle deck on around the 40 yard line for $60 a piece and was thrilled. As bad as the Boo-Birds can be sometimes, at least Lurie doesn’t have to tarp over entire sections. The only time that stadium sells out is for UF-UGA.

  • MediaMike

    I’M A STAR! Glad to have helped with the construction of this column.
    On a less ridiculous note, I never fail to enjoy the ride of any season because it might not end in a title. I just brood from when it’s officially over until the next one starts. It never keeps me from coming back for more each day, week, and season.
    I just get very frustrated that none of the seasons have ended in a title in so long. It’s lorded over us by other fan bases at all times to the point that it doesn’t allow for any type of legitimate discussions because “1960” and “how many Superbowls have the Eagles won?” get thrown at us as the ultimate trump card.
    I’ll never back down from being a fan of this team (even if they keep and start Vick yet again), but I can only give free non-criticism passes to a very select few in the process.

    • theycallmerob

      But at least you’re a dedicated fan. There are so many others who call for the heads of the owner, coach, or QB after unrealistic short-term expectations. Granted, these days it’s fueled by a rabid media, but still. Just one example was the Ravens before this year- I’ve been living here since Flacco arrived, and many casual fans ignored his postseason success every year in demanding an upgrade. There are still many who saw the super bowl and playoffs as one big fluke.

      • MediaMike

        I seethe with anger over not having won a title, but calling for heads every two seconds is counter productive. I may have officially been the longest holdout against the fire Andy Reid gang. I don’t think I really was ok with Big Red going until about week 11 or 12 of this season when it was finally clear that he’d lost the team. I’ve stuck up for Donovan endlessly, defend DeSean Jackson at every turn, and will pound the table with my shoe to explain why Reggie White truly was better than Lawrence Taylor and should be recognized as the best defender of all time.
        Tommy likes to call my extreme use of language hyperbole. I like to call it passion and dedication.
        My extreme venom over having not won a title was built up over Marion Campbell, Buddy Ryan, Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes, and Andy Reid; not my disgust at getting 5 TDs worse in 2 months vs. Arizona in 2008 or John Gruden eating our lunch in 2002. Those things in and of themselves all have perfectly good explanations, but when I add up every season I’ve followed the team closely (85 though now)…………….. I want better results.
        Come what may, I’ll judge Chip Kelly fairly. He could wind up being our best coach (currently Reid) or our worst (Kotite / McCormack), but if we don’t win a title in his tenure I’ll look back at individual failures with the same rage.

    • TommyLawlor

      Mike, no one is asking you not to be critical. We cheer for a team that was 8-8 and 4-12 the last 2 years. There is plenty to rip.

      You have a habit of going over the top sometimes that hurts your own message. Think about the JJ comment from the previous post. Had you brought up the fact that JJ’s defense came up short in the biggest games and discussed you ideas on that, it could have been a great point for us to discuss.

      Instead, we got to read about “HORRIBLE efforts”. That immediately made a lot of readers not take your comments seriously.

      Being critical and venting 10 years after the fact are completely different things. You can vent about last year. You can vent about the draft or coaching hires. I’m not a big fan of venting, but I could see where that stuff is recent enough it might bring out a real emotional response.

      All of us who lived through the playoff losses from 2000-04 hated those games. They were torturous. The losses in 2006 and 2008 were bad, but very different to me. The first 5 playoff losses hurt a lot worse. But that was 10 years ago.

      • MediaMike

        Well Tommy, to be honest, getting readers to take a message seriously is your job as the writer. I’m a poster of comments who will fully admit to being over the top in my language choice for a reason. If was to be tasked with writing a column and/or crafting rhetoric to get somebody to agree with my points, I’d take a different tact.
        Feel free to rip on my style detracting from my message if I start crying to other posters on here that they need to agree with me. I’m perfectly happy to be an Army of One if I need to be. If we don’t agree on my tactics, not a huge deal.

        • TommyLawlor

          No one is asking you to get people to agree with you. Have whatever opinions you like. The world is boring if we’re all the same.

          Just saying if you’ll tone down the hyperbole, you’ll engage in better discussions.

          • MediaMike

            Well if you think the hyperbolic language use is going to stifle any back and forth with other posters, you’ve been at this long than I have.
            In any case I look forward to continue my quest to:
            – see the Eagles win a title
            – get Michael Vick cut
            – see read-option thrown on the trash heap of NFL history along with wildcat, run and shoot, and Joe Theisman’s leg bones.

          • GEagle

            You mean, getting Vick TRADED!! We already talked about this lol…we suffered too much under him to not get a 7th or 6th round pick in return. we are owed some chump change compensation in return for putting us through all that pain and suffering lol

  • Addison Abdo

    No one likes cheering for a dysfunctional/mediocre team, yet we continue to do it. Why? Because it makes winning the Super Bowl that much sweeter. I think about New Orleans’ Super Bowl winning team. That franchise was consistently towards the bottom of the NFL standings, yet when they finally signed Brees things turned around. My uncle was a diehard fan throughout all the heartaches and horrible teams, and when they finally won the Super Bowl, none of it mattered anymore because it all seemed worth it. Eventually (hopefully, ha) the Eagles will break through and win it, thus erasing any sort of bitterness we have bundled up towards the franchise and the feeling of being letdown. I don’t want to insinuate that winning one Super Bowl erases 50 years of team history, because it doesn’t. It just gives you perspective and satisfaction, ultimately deeming the failures worth it.

    Also, totally off topic, but considering the Pats/Hernandez fiasco, what would it take for the Eagles to ship Celek off to the Pats in your opinion? Is it even plausible given Kelly’s enamor with TEs?

  • Ark87

    There are a few traps that fans can fall into and really let frustration turn their “fanhood” into a miserable/angry affair.

    #1) entitlement: if you think your team owes you something, don’t call yourself a fan. Yes the true nature of the fan-team relationship is symbiotic, but we didn’t sign up for rewards.

    #2) law of averages: Most Eagles fans have worked out that if this were a truly random occurrence we should have 1 title and due for our second. What is lost in this is that each season is disjoint from all previous seasons. We are not “due” a title. Chip’s odds are not enhanced by our lack of success in the past.

    At the end of the day we watch football because we love watching football. It’s the best sport in the world. We loyally follow a team for the sake of immersion. We throw our lot in with a team to vicariously live out the emotional highs and lows of the game. It enhances the football watching experience. Every single game is a treasure, let’s not take it for granted because of the absence of a super bowl.

    • TommyLawlor

      A lot of truth here.

      As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to let go of the losses. They used to eat me up. As you say, this is supposed to be fun.

      • GvilleEagleFan

        In the same vein, I’d love to see a post on how you think Chip’s success or failure in winning a title will affect how fans look back on Andy’s time in Philly. I’ve lived in Florida my whole life (my dad was a die-hard Eagles fan and passed down his fandom) so I meet a lot of Bucs fans. Although the situation is totally different, a lot of people see Tony Dungy as the guy most responsible for the Bucs’ title run given that he was the one who assembled the team Gruden took to the championship.

        Chip is more of a successor than the final piece to the puzzle, but I wonder if his winning a title would make us see Andy as the guy who turned Philly into a competitor and put us back on the map rather than the guy who always fell short. I doubt the same dynamic of Gruden winning with “Tony’s guys” will play out due to the vastly different schemes, but I think a lot of people are bitter at Andy because he took us so close to the finish line that we can imagine what it would be like to have a ring.

    • GEagle

      Well if we watch football because we love watching football then I need Vick to GTFO here because I honestly do not enjoy to watch the game played that way. I remember Vick blowing out the cowboys recently, enjoying that we destroyed the cowboys, but that’s when i realized, even when we have huge success, I simply don’t enjoy to watch the game played the way Vick plays it, and I don’t enjoy watching the game played the way Andy calls it…
      ..
      You know what I enjoy? A friggin Surgeon at QB. Who you just sit back and watch shred defenses with his mind and accuracy…I don’t even enjoy watching a QB take off, juke 3 guys, hurdle one and get a 30 yard gain…that’s what WR and RBs are for. I wild much rather watch a smart QB, like Tom Brady,who makes himself untouchable by subtly steping up in the pocket, making pass rushers miss while he delivers the ball. I enjoy Peyton’s Mental sparring pre snap with the MLB. I enjoy Brees getting the ball out so damn fast that a pass rush doesn’t even matter. And if I have to watch a QB scramble, I enjoy watching Aaron Rogers use his brain when he takes off, gets a 15yard gain, and frustrates the hell out of the defense because he never allows them to hit him, sliding moments before the defender can get to hm.
      ..
      Vick will NEVER play the game like that, so start developing young kids in those areas before they accumulate the count,ess bad habits that Vick has accrued

  • shah8

    hmmm…

    When I go talent is talent is talent, the sentiment in the blog post above is exactly why. A not so good team on a hot streak can win the Superbowl, more than is really true for the other major sports. A not-so-good team full of singular talents who manages to keep their stuff together long enough to win, with lots of luck. Is Joe Flacco a great quarterback? Nope, but he was far more capable of elevating his play than Matt Hasselbeck or Rex Grossman. Is Rashard Mendenhall a great running back, or was he ever truly one? Edgerin James? Nope, but they could certainly turn it up more than Michael Turner ever truly could. It’s a team game, flows go towards the weakest links in your offense or defense. Multiple players that can seize the moment elevates the potential of the rest of the team.

    You put the best, most talented players on the field, full stop. You don’t get cutesy with draft positions or trying to let an underperformer grow into his role. That’s what bad organizations do, like the Vikings with Ponder or the Jets with Sanchez and Tebow. Bad organizations are also too satisfied with mediocre talents, like the Texans with Schaub or the Bengals with Dalton.

    And with exciting players, comes great memories. There might be a Super Bowl in it, or there might not, but great memories are what keeps players immortal, even when they haven’t won it all. I used to love watching Arantxa Sanchez Vicario play tennis. Those fond memories of all of her fans are what keeps her going now that her parents stole all her money…

    • Neil

      So you’re saying Flacco might be a little middling, but he at least had the potential for a really special stretch because of his arm?

      • shah8

        For a safety to make a really, really, big mistake…

        • Neil

          :]

  • Tumtum

    Jerome McDougal crushing of Eli. Ahhhh memories.

  • Flyin

    Speaking of titles… let’s relish in Pabst Blue Ribbon’s latest award…

    2012 Gold at the Great American Beer Festival !!!

  • Flyin

    That 14 second play seemed to be the Achilles heel going forward for both McNabb and Reid.

  • bsuperfi

    The journey’s all well and good but what I wouldn’t do to make my wife stop taunting me all the time. She’s from so cal and she’s always, “the eagles never win the big one.” “Why are you always on your phone reading about how the eagles can never win the big one?” “Dude just give up.” “Everybody knows how this season will end.”

    In the meantime, I would literally pee my pants the second the eagles win the Super Bowl. That’s how the season should end.

    • TommyLawlor

      That’ll be the happiest “pee your pants” in history. :)

  • Weapon Y

    There is no one mandatory way to winning a Super Bowl. Some teams have dominant QBs like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. Others have mediocre ones like Brad Johnson, Joe Flacco, and Trent Dilfer. Some teams have lights-out defenses like the 2000 Ravens, 2002 Buccaneers, or 2007 Giants. Others have mediocre defenses like the 2009 Saints or 2010 Packers.

    No team is perfect. Each one has at least one glaring weakness. The trick lies in having the ability to compensate for that weakness through other aspects of your team or by crafting a scheme that minimizes the effect of that weakness. In other words, you don’t have to be dominant at everything. You just have to be very good at most things.

  • Maurice

    One of the best articles yet….. Much appreciation for what you do Tommy. Very good insight on various topics.

    Go EAGLES!!!!!!

  • ztom6

    I wouldn’t say Manning drawing Rex Grossman in the SB was necessarily good luck vis a vis the Eagles having to face Brady, since Manning had to beat Brady in order to get to the Super Bowl in the first place. Furthermore, it must be said, the only reason the Rex Grossman-led Bears made the Super Bowl is because they came out of the NFC, the same conference that produced the 2004 Eagles. And if they hadn’t faced the Pats? They probably would have gotten the Steelers, who wouldn’t have been much of an easier game. It’s hard to say really whether being in the NFC at the time was good luck for them (easier to get to the Super Bowl) or bad luck (very likely to face a stacked team in the big game once they got there).