While the Dallas Cowboys versus the Washington Redskins used to be a marquee rivalry, it is arguable that the Cowboys and Eagles has become the biggest rivalry in the NFC East. According to a recent Landry Hat poll, the Philadelphia Eagles are the team most disliked by Dallas Cowboy fans.
I, for one, will never forget that time in 1987 when Randall Cunningham, despite leading 30-20 with less than a minute to play, faked a third consecutive kneel-down and instead threw a touchdown pass. For a really intense rivalry to thrive, the antagonism has to go both ways. Thankfully, I am sure that the fans in Philly have a similar dislike for the Boys (why else would they wildly cheer when Michael Irvin was injured?)
Given the magnitude of this rivalry, I am going to break with tradition and try to write a 3-part preview this week instead of my normal 2-part series. This one, the first, will just address the general storyline, and then I hope to follow with a more in-depth preview of what I am looking for on both offense and defense.
When the schedule came out in August, I circled this game because I thought it would be a contest for first place in the division. Instead, the Dream-Team Eagles are a disappointing 2-4. Despite their slow start to this season, I still think the Eagles are good enough to beat just about any team if they play well. I would still bet more money on the Boys beating the G-Men or the Skins than the Eagles. I think the Eagles are more dangerous than the Giants, if for no other reason than Michael Vick can win games by himself.
When I look at the Eagles season, it is hard not to compare them to the Cowboys of last year. Both teams had Super Bowl aspirations that seemed reasonable, and both teams had elite talent on offense and defense. I would argue that the downfall of both teams was at least partially caused by poor coaching on defense. We all know that Wade Phillips is gone, and Rob Ryan has proven that the players from last year are capable of playing much better than they did. In Philly, someone (I assume Andy Reid) decided that it was a wise decision to promote Juan Castillo to Defensive Coordinator position after 14 years as the coach of the Offensive Line. My limited research revealed that Castillo’s only experience as a defensive coach was at the high school level. Perhaps Andy Reid knows something I don’t, but this was a baffling move.
The Eagles also seem to be a team that may have chemistry issues. They tried to trade Ronnie Brown to the Lions, but that fell through when Jerome Harrison failed his physical. All of us here at The Landry Hat give our sincere hope that everything works out for Jerome as he deals with his health issues. I have to assume that the locker-room gets a bit uncomfortable when a team signs you in the off-season, and then trades you after only 6 weeks, especially when they trade you for another RB.
To make matters worse, it is no secret that Asante Samuel was not exactly happy when the Eagles were trying to trade him before the deadline. He was quoted, by NFL.com, saying the following:
“I’ve been nothing but what they expected me to be when they brought me there,” Samuel told ESPN 950-AM in Philadelphia on Saturday. “You know, 22, 23 interceptions over my years. Broke playoff records. So, definitely, it doesn’t sit well with me. And obviously they don’t want me there, so life goes on. So we’ll see where I’ll be at, ya know?
As anyone who has ever played with TO knows, it is easy to be happy and respectful to everyone when things are going smoothly and you are winning football games, but it is even easier to start complaining and voicing dissatisfaction when you are losing. I can’t help but question why last year, when the Boys got off to an awful start, everyone starting blaming it on the lack of chemistry and the absence of leadership, but we have not heard the same criticisms (which would seem just as apt) about Philly yet.