If and if and if.
That logic might have made them feel better, but the reality was stark. The Eagles were 1-4 and in too deep a hole to climb out of - even though later, more egregious losses to Arizona and Seattle were the real season killers.
This year, the what-ifs go the other way. Those suspicious of the Eagles' status can't help noticing that they very easily could be 0-4 right now.
If linebacker L.J. Fort had held onto Vick's gift in the end zone in Cleveland, there is no game-winning, shame-dodging touchdown throw to Clay Harbor. If a replacement official hadn't called a dubious offensive pass-interference penalty on Baltimore's Jacoby Jones, his touchdown catch would have counted and given the Ravens a 27-17 fourth-quarter lead. And if Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes had made his 54-yard field-goal try (or if the Giants had done a better job of setting him up for a shorter kick instead of drawing a foolish penalty), the Eagles would have lost Sunday night.
If and if and if.
(Quick aside: No one likes the rule that allows coaches to call timeouts just before the snap on field goals. It is easily the most unsportsmanlike legal tactic in the game, often forcing kickers to make the same kick twice. But it is legal and probably impossible to legislate away, since that also would make it illegal to call a last-second timeout for other, less ethically dubious reasons. It is a legitimate tactic, and Andy Reid did nothing wrong by employing it. If Tynes had made the first attempt - and he might have, had there been no whistles and waving officials - Reid would have looked like a genius. End of aside.)
Overall, the Eagles haven't made it look pretty so far this season. The only really decisive game they have played was in Arizona, where they were decisively whupped by the Cardinals. But none of that matters now. Just as they were 1-4 and doomed last October, they are 3-1 and in a remarkably good position this October.
With 25 percent of their season in the books, the Eagles have a clear path to the NFC East title and a postseason berth. That's not to say they have an easy path - they still have to play in Pittsburgh, in New Orleans against an increasingly desperate Saints team, in Tampa. They still have to play five of their six divisional games, and those are usually tough and physically demanding. History says there is always the risk that Vick will get injured along the way.
But a funny thing starts to happen at 3-1. A team can start believing in itself and building on its early success. In eking out three victories by a total of four points, the Eagles validated their season-ending four-game win streak from 2011.
"I thought one of the positives that this team had going for them was they can maintain that attitude that they finished the season with," Reid said. "We were lucky enough where we were able to maintain most of that football team, personnel-wise, and then add a few young guys in there. . . . These guys, they've got a good attitude. There's a toughness about them, a certain mentality about them that you appreciate."
There are 12 more games to test that toughness. During the Reid Epoch, his teams have tended to get better as the season progressed. Some of that was a result of Reid and his staff identifying weaknesses and either changing personnel or scheming around them. On Sunday, a solid game plan helped the team eliminate turnovers and cut back on killer penalties. It was exactly the kind of reboot that Reid has used to get teams on the right track in previous seasons.
This is a different team with different personalities, so the past isn't necessarily precedent. There were good signs in the Ravens and Giants games, and glaring warning lights in the Arizona debacle.
The one thing that is certain is that it's a lot better to build from a 3-1 start than from 1-3 - no ifs, ifs or ifs.
Contact Phil Sheridan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @Sheridanscribe. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan