September 30, 2016 by Nick Maloney
Our hockey team has been unable to translate potential into postseason success. Our baseball team has completed the painful process of saying farewell to beloved champions of late. Our basketball team has caught our attention: not through wins, but rather in a collision-esque manner, becoming the most prolific losers of all time.
And while each of these teams has a die-hard, impassioned fan base such that could only be found in and around the city of Philadelphia, there is something about this town and football that is just different.
In many ways it reflects the spirit of the city, the blue-collar personalities upon which it was built. As much as Phillies faithfuls, Hinkie disciples or Broad Street Bullies may like to argue, football is different here. It just is. And though it has not been an easy patronage by any stretch of the imagination, without even a single Super Bowl ring to cling to, it is one that thousands live and die by each and every time fall rolls around.
Rewind to four short weeks ago. If you were to pick up a copy of the Inquirer or tune into 94.1 WIP, the outlook of this iteration of the Eagles would have been disappointingly in step with that of its city peers. Sure, they boldly moved up in the draft to pick up a quarterback, but the sheltered stage in Fargo, North Dakota that he graced, left even the most optimistic skeptical of his ability to transition to professional competition. Pundits clamored about the impossible complexity of the “National Football League”, and scoffed at the idea that young Carson Wentz would even step foot on the field this year at all.
Oh, and not to mention, the team was desperately trying to rid itself of the science experiment that was Chip Kelly’s tenure, one of the most tumultuous and bizarre in league history. A new coach, seemingly sterile offense, and entirely different defensive scheme were factors that quite simply couldn’t equate to success, at least not immediately. 8-8, experts claimed, would be an excellent campaign, proof that the “rebuild” was heading in the right direction.
Now take your remote and fast forward to last Sunday, Sept. 25 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Pay attention, because it was a blur in real time as well.
You’ll see Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater writing on the ground after his season ending knee injury, one which occurred on a freak, non-contact drill. You’ll see Sam Bradford, tagged to be the Eagles’s interim quarterback solution, board a plane to replace him. You’ll see Carson Wentz, after just one preseason appearance, cut a hunting trip short to get back and prepare for his brand new role as opening day starter. You’ll see his stellar play take down the Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears, but immediately get dismissed on the basis of lowly competition.
Sit back and watch. Watch the Eagles absolutely dominate a Super Bowl favorite in every single facet of the game. Watch their rookie quarterback continue his near perfect play, elevating above a storied defense and thoroughly outplaying the Hall of Fame signal caller on the other side of the ball. Watch as Jim Schwartz’s defense plays with an aggression and intensity that raises them to near-elite status. Oh, and take a peek at the scoreboard as its degree of lopsidedness hurtles higher and higher.
Now listen closely. You’ll probably hear the visceral joy of a starved fan base reveling in the realization that they have their franchise quarterback. You’ll hear these faithful trying to comprehend how far their new-look Eagles can go in the gloriously wide-open landscape of the NFL (and especially in the current state of their division). One thing you definitely won’t hear: Carson Wentz doubters. The lanky North Dakotan is probably getting mentioned in the same sentence as Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning instead.
What an improbable start of the season you have seen thus far. Unfortunately, no matter how many times or how hard you press that fast forward button, you’re not going anywhere: you’re all caught up. But if you do decide to stay onboard with the rest of us, who’ve been born and raised on this ride called fandom, I suggest you hold on tight, because if the opening three weeks of the season have been any indication, it looks like this one has plenty of twists and turns coming up.