By now, we all know the narrative. The idea a fairytale ending to a season like no other is fueling the City of Brotherly Love in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. But the reason a victory would be so special isn’t just because of the adversity they’ve overcome, but for the way in which they did so.
2017 has been the most ‘Philadelphia’ season imaginable. This wasn’t a year of glory and dominance. Although it certainly started off that way, the year rapidly developed into the ultimate test for both player and coach to overcome. As the injuries mounted and the ‘trap’ games came and went, the odds began to stack against the Eagles. But the Birds kept flying.
The tough defenses who were expected to make life difficult for the league’s most exciting young quarterback all tried and mostly failed. Some were even blown out by Philadelphia as teams clawed to find any way of stopping this momentum. Even in a game where all hope seemed to be lost, a week 14 clash with the Rams that saw the incredible MVP season of Carson Wentz come crashing to a heartbreaking end, the Birds kept flying.
With Nick Foles at the helm, a quarterback who missed all of preseason and the majority of training camp, the Eagles found ways to win. They weren’t all pretty and there were certainly causes for concern as the closing weeks approached, but this is a team that simply doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
The culture inside the Eagles locker room has been applauded massively this year and rightly so. Doug Pederson has rallied the troops so that even through the roughest of storms, the belief in the team and themselves remains the same. By establishing that emotional connection and urging players to be themselves, Pederson has created an environment where players can not only thrive on the field, but off of it.
“I said at the time, I spent a lot of time with players at the end of that season and I thought what was really needed was real – a kind of leadership that leads with a genuineness, a real genuineness.” Jeffery Lurie explained when asked about the hiring of Doug Pederson following the win over Minnesota.” And people laughed when I used the term emotional intelligence, but that’s probably a really good way to describe it and I think in sports today, there’s many styles – I was just saying to someone else. There’s many styles of great coaches. [Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick, you know, [former NFL head coach] Bill Walsh, [Saints head coach] Sean Payton – the list goes on and on and on – [former Giants head coach] Tom Coughlin. There’s a lot of great coaches. They all have their different styles, but the one common ground amongst them all is absolute consistency and genuineness. And [Eagles head coach] Doug Pederson is just himself. And at times, that’s very humble, and at times, it’s just very real. At times, that’s very bright. At times, it’s tough. But he does it in a true genuine way and I think players really respond to that in today’s world.”
And then the playoffs arrived. The dog masks, the Vegas odds, the neigh sayers. Two games and two opponents that many tagged as the end of the road for Philadelphia. But the Birds kept flying. Inspiring the city of Philadelphia, the Eagles grinder out two of the most impressive wins of the season. No Jordan Hicks, no Carson Wentz, no Darren Sproles, no Jason Peters. The Falcons suffered a complete offensive collapse against the Eagles front four, while Minnesota is still licking its wounds from a ruthless blowout. The Eagles didn’t just come into these games to win, they wanted to make a statement. To prove the world wrong and show that they’re not going to let any injury or setback wipe away the hard work put in by the remaining men inside that locker room.
That gritty underdog mentality, the chip on the shoulder mindset and the ‘against all odds’ narrative. This is what has been associated with the City of Philadelphia for years now. That culture lost its prominence under the reign of Chip Kelly however. The final years of the Andy Reid era and the few of Kelly saw the identity of the team diminish and eventually be replaced by the ego of their Head Coach.
What Doug Pederson has done so extraordinarily well is not just allow the team to re-light that fire, but to let it burn brighter than ever before. The team wants Pederson to go for it on fourth down. The team wants those physical training camp practices that were criticized by many when preseason injuries add up. In fact, a report came out recently stating something very interesting.
The days of players walking into this team looking for a payday are over. The days of players looking themselves in the mirror knowing they could have done more are long gone. This is an Eagles team that has re-established itself as what everybody has always loved them for: the ultimate underdog.
Now, in Super Bowl 52, the Eagles have the chance to re-write the history books. To inspire a generation and be the modern day version of the 1990 New York Giants. An Eagles team that has a overcome everything that was out to dampen their season and now has a chance to overthrow one of sport’s most lethal dynasties. If any team can, it’s the underdog who is prepared to leave it all on the field. This is bigger than just winning a world championship. This is a chance to put the icing on the cake on one of the most remarkable underdog stories ever told. To prove that culture matters more than many assume. To prove that the brotherhood within the locker room is larger than whatever happens on the field.
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports