No matter how many times a season ends without the Birds winning a title, no one here ever gets used to it. Philadelphians haven't grown numb to the failure or figured out a way to romanticize it like Cubs fans. The wait-'til-next-year optimists, if there are any in Philly, will be drowned out by the majority - the angry and the sad, the frustrated and the fatigued.
Since 1999, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and New England have reached the postseason more than any other teams in the NFL. The Colts have done it 11 times, the Eagles nine, the Pats eight. Of course, the other two squads have held the Lombardi trophy aloft. The Birds have only watched it hoisted on TV.
It is how things unfold here, every year, without fail. There ought to be a support group.
Hi, my name is Steve, and I'm an Eagles fan . . .
. . . Hi, Steve.
Then everyone would hurl a whiskey bottle at the wall and snarl.
Before the season began, there were a lot of predictions - from the media and the fans alike - that put the Eagles record somewhere in the 7-9 to 9-7 range. Few people imagined they would make the playoffs. Even fewer expected them to win the division, particularly with a young team and a new quarterback.
There will be some who see this season as a small triumph because of that, but there won't be many Eagles among them. When Michael Vick took over for Kevin Kolb, when he started playing like an MVP candidate and the Birds developed the best offense in football, people started talking about the Eagles as Super Bowl contenders. Vick was one of those people. Quintin Mikell - who, in the run-up to the Packers game, said anything less than a postseason trip to Dallas would be a failure - was another.
Like so many fans, once it looked as if the Eagles might have a chance to win this year instead of next, the Birds recalibrated their expectations. It's unlikely that anyone's reimagined definition of success included losing at home to the Packers in the first round.
After the game, Reid did his Reid thing, which included the usual declarations that the Birds "can all do better, starting with me." He also pointed out that the Eagles have a few "off-season projects" to address. What else is new? Maybe one of these years, Reid will finish those projects.
The Eagles have now lost their last three postseason games. That is the ugly truth, something no one who willingly wears midnight green - either professionally or as a hobby - has coped with well.
As the fans shuffled from the stadium with familiar frowns on their faces, Antonio Dixon's lip quivered and his eyes welled up while he talked to reporters. Across the room, Jeremy Maclin sat silent and hunched over in front of his locker while LeSean McCoy kept shaking his head in disbelief.
"Sure, we have a lot of talent, speed, youth," McCoy said, "but that doesn't mean anything."
McCoy talked about how his heart dropped when the season ended. Then, after trailing off for a moment, he gathered himself.
"It just sucks, man," he said. "It's the same feeling as last year."
And every year before that.
During the game, Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett tweeted something strange, even for him: "Vick remind me of this crackhead in my neighborhood name Ten speed, fast as [#@$#!] with super first step." . . . Dr. Jesse McGuire performed the best national anthem since Bleeding Gums Murphy. . . . Tweet of the game: "Is Andy Reid wearing a one-piece with a utility belt?" - @meechone. . . . Candidates for best (or worst, depending on your perspective) game-day gear worn on television: Fox29's John Bolaris (Bono transition glasses), CBS3's Ike Reese (midwife bonnet), 6ABC's Keith Russell (man Uggs), ESPN's Chris Berman (Chinese finger trap tie). . . . Before David Akers' second missed field goal, a 20-something Eagles fan in front of the press box took off his jacket to proudly show his No. 2 midnight green jersey. Pride does indeed go before the fall.
Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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