Fans of the Philadelphia Eagles will be among an estimated audience of 117 million viewers who are set to tune in to watch Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. A matchup between the league’s two best teams by nature automatically dispels the predominant rooting interest of 30 of the 32 NFL fan bases, and neither team has more than a few tangential connections to Philadelphia.
Many Eagles fans rooted for Andy Reid to win his first Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs three seasons ago. They also might’ve taken a neutral perspective and cheered for a likable NFL star like Peyton Manning to reverse the narrative of past playoff failures in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season. Many neutral fans will root for Joe Burrow on Sunday in a similar sense.
Football fans should collectively enjoy watching the sport on its biggest stage, even when their favorite team isn’t participating. However, five Super Bowl matchups during the 21st century have caused many Eagles fans to feel a miserable distaste in games that didn’t feature their team.
5. Super Bowl XLIII (Feb. 1, 2009)- Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
The 2008 season was the perfect microcosm of the inconsistencies and heartbreaking near-misses of Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia. The Eagles stumbled to a shaky 5-5-1 start with uncertainty surrounding the future of quarterback Donovan McNabb. However, a win on Thanksgiving night against the Arizona Cardinals kickstarted a late-season hot streak and an NFC Wild Card berth.
Two decisive road playoff wins landed the Eagles back in the NFC Championship Game for the fifth time in eight seasons, and they entered as road favorites over the 9-7 Cardinals. The Eagles rallied from a 24-6 deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter, only to cough it up in another devastating playoff exit.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona’s opponent in Super Bowl XLIII, are an AFC team who is not a rival to the Eagles. They do, however, anchor the opposite side of the state of Pennsylvania. The geographical connection leads to plenty of interaction between the two fan bases. At that point in time, many Eagles fans had reached their limit on friends from other cities teasing them about never enjoying a Lombardi Trophy of their own.
An exhilarating game that any football fan could’ve enjoyed lessened the blow for Eagles fans who needed to choose between the opponent that handed their team a devastating loss or a pesky Steelers team.
4. Super Bowl LIII (Feb. 3, 2019)- Patriots 13, Rams 3
Any matchup in Super Bowl LIII would’ve been a letdown for Eagles fans one year after they experienced the biggest win in franchise history by slaying the mighty New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
The sour taste of watching Tom Brady and Bill Belichick advance back and reclaim the Lombardi Trophy just one year later made the legendary upset of the previous year seem a little less illustrious. Rams head coach Sean McVay also won NFL Coach of the Year for the 2017 season when former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson presented an outstanding case for the award.
The Patriots ultimately prevailed in a sluggish defensive struggle with plenty of mistakes made by both teams that only added to the letdown.
3. Super Bowl XLII (Feb. 3, 2008)- Giants 17, Patriots 14
The Patriots had already beaten the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX three years prior to Brady and Randy Moss lighting up the league with an incredible 16-0 regular season in 2007. The first rumblings of New England’s Spygate scandal took shape in Sept. 2007 and began the transition of the public’s perception of Brady. The unknown sixth-rounder who won three Super Bowls early in his career began to look like a detestable villain.
The 10-6 New York Giants dismantled the NFC powers with a dominant pass rush and advanced to the Super Bowl with three road playoff wins just one year after losing to backup Jeff Garcia in Philadelphia in the NFC Wild Card round. They pulled off a stunning 17-14 upset over New England while the Eagles sat home and watched a division rival capture a Super Bowl that would go down as one of the most memorable of all time.
2. Super Bowl XLVI (Feb. 5, 2012)- Giants 21, Patriots 17
Eagles fans relived the scenario four years later when the Giants advanced to the Super Bowl against all odds and defeated Brady and the high-powered Patriots in an inexplicably similar fashion. The upset once again came in a year when the Eagles missed the postseason.
Eli Manning earned his second Super Bowl ring, and conversations swirled about how he was a superior quarterback to McNabb and 2011 Philadelphia starter Michael Vick.
Philadelphia fans in 2022 continue to scratch their heads and wonder how this all happened. Manning finished with a 10-21 career record against the Eagles during the regular season and lost the only two playoff matchups against his nearby division rival.
He finished 15 for 29 with 169 passing yards and two interceptions for the top-seeded Giants at the Meadowlands in an NFC Divisional Round loss against the Eagles after the 2008 season. However, he found a way to topple Brady and the Patriots again three years later.
1. Super Bowl XXXVII (Jan. 26, 2003)- Buccaneers 48, Raiders 21
Rich Gannon won the NFL MVP award with the Oakland Raiders in 2002. The narrative of a Northeast Philadelphia native and St. Joseph’s Prep graduate facing his hometown team in Super Bowl XXXVII was too perfect to materialize.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers spoiled it by handing the Eagles the most stunning loss in franchise history in the final game at Veterans Stadium. The raw shock pushed many Philadelphians to the side of the Raiders ahead of the Super Bowl, but Tampa wasn’t finished creating misery. They picked off Gannon five times and returned three for touchdowns in a 48-21 laugher.
The narrative shifted to glorify former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who is now widely criticized by NFL fans, as the perfect replacement for their previous head coach Tony Dungy, who conducted himself with tremendous class throughout his coaching career.
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