Sirianni, Hurts Lead Eagles to Playoffs

A year ago next Tuesday, the Philadelphia Eagles fired their head coach, Doug Pederson, despite the fact that just three years prior, Pederson had led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history (and led them to playoff appearances in both of their next two seasons, as well).

Indeed, it can be plausibly argued that this is the franchise's only undisputed world championship ever, in that the fledgling American Football League played its inaugural season in the same year that the Eagles upset the Green Bay Packers (even though the game was at Philadelphia's Franklin Field and the Eagles had finished two games ahead of the Packers during the regular season, Green Bay was favored in the game), and when the Eagles won back-to-back NFL titles in 1948 and 1949, the NFL was not the only game in town so to speak either, as there was also the All-America Football Conference, four of whose teams — the Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns, the New York Yanks, and the San Francisco 49ers — were absorbed into the NFL in 1950.

The Colts folded after only one season, the Yanks after two — whereupon the Yanks moved to Dallas and played the 1952 season as the Dallas Texans (not to be confused with the eponymous AFL team of 1960-62 which then moved to Kansas City to become the Chiefs). Following one perfectly dreadful season (1-11), the team relocated to Baltimore, and the Colts were reborn.

(It can be counter-argued that the Eagles' direct corporate predecessors, the Frankford Yellowjackets, won the NFL championship in 1926, making Pederson's Super Bowl champs the franchise's second undisputed championship — yet then, too, the NFL had competition in the form of the first American Football League. Also known as the "Grange League," named after Red Grange, who co-founded the league, one of the league's nine teams was a Philadelphia-based franchise called the Philadelphia Quakers — but since the Quakers finished in first place in what would prove to be the only season of that league's existence, no matter how you slice it, Philadelphia had a championship football team in 1926).

All of this history, captivating though it is, aside, many if not most Eagles fans believed that Pederson's successor should have been a proven commodity like Gary Kubiak, Bill Cowher, or Tony Dungy, all of whom of course have rings that they did not receive on their respective wedding days — after all, their NFC East rivals, the Cowboys, went this route when in 2020 they hired Mike McCarthy, who had won a ring with Green Bay a decade earlier.

Isn't keeping up with the Joneses — especially the Jerry Joneses — supposed to be the right thing to do? And if Kubiak, Cowher, or Dungy demanded too much money, we all know what Ted DiBiase, professional wrestling's Million Dollar Man, famously said: "Every man his price" — and not a penny of that price, regardless of how high it is, counts toward the salary cap, even though it probably should.

But of course Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and his wildly unpopular general manager (at least if the vitriolic dialogue directed at him on the city's two sports talk radio outlets is any guide), Howie Roseman, did nothing of the kind, opting instead for Nick Sirianni, the offensive coordinator of the Colts (and even in that capacity he was widely regarded as a mere figurehead, since it was assumed that head coach Frank Reich was actually calling the plays), and someone that few if any had even heard of until Lurie and Roseman tabbed Sirianni to replace Pederson on January 24 of last year.

Then there is the matter of the quarterback position, about which the city's notoriously obstreperous fan base was hopelessly cleaved between supporters of Carson Wentz and backers of the far less heralded Jalen Hurts.

In this case, too, Jeff and Howie went against the grain by casting their lot with Hurts and reuniting (and it hasn't felt particularly good at times) Wentz with Reich in the land where cars go around and around at incredible speeds.

Despite playing not only the NFL's easiest schedule in static terms (their 2021 opponents had a .430 winning percentage in 2020, the lowest such figure in the NFL) but also in dynamic terms (their 107-percentage-point drop in strength of schedule from 2020 and 2021 was the league's steepest), 4-13 and even 3-14 were the most common predicted records for this year's Eagles before the season started.

Not only did these ridiculous forecasts neglect to materialize, but the 2021 Eagles have just become only the seventh team since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to make the playoffs both the year before and the year after a season in which they won four or fewer games.

As Petula Clark sang in the days of yore, now it only goes to show how wrong we all can be.

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