2011

Most recent year in which Phillies had winning record

Eagles’ future isn’t guaranteed

Posted by Eric Fisher On January 11

The narrative is that this won’t be the Eagles’ last rodeo. It will be disappointing if the Eagles lose to the Falcons on Saturday, but the Eagles won’t bid farewell and ride off into the sunset after this season, never to be seen in the postseason again.

With Carson Wentz, who is notably absent this week due to a season-ending knee injury, as their starting quarterback, this should be the first of many postseason appearances for the Eagles. That’s the story – and Eagles fans are sticking to it.

But what if it doesn’t unfold that way?

With one playoff game in the past six seasons, you would think the Eagles would know not to count their chickens before they hatch. With no playoff wins since the 2008 season, one would think that Eagles fans would learn not to take playoff appearances for granted.

And with no Super Bowl championships in franchise history, one would think that the Eagles organization and its fans should know that there’s no guarantee of a championship – even with Wentz as their franchise player.

That’s why it’s vital that the Eagles take advantage of their opportunity this season. The NFC is full of very good teams, but there isn’t a dominant team. The top AFC teams, the Patriots and Steelers, aren’t dominant teams, either.

The Eagles have homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, which is another opportunity that should not be wasted. Playing at Lincoln Financial Field doesn’t guarantee victory, but it’s a lot better than playing the Falcons, Saints or Vikings in their domed stadiums.

It may be tempting to dismiss a loss to the Falcons as merely a one-year delay in the Eagles’ ascension to the upper echelon of the NFC. But things don’t always go according to plan.

If defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is hired as a head coach during the next year or two, will the defense be the same? If quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is hired as a head coach or as an offensive coordinator, will there be an adjustment period for Wentz with a new coach?

And what if Carson Wentz turns out to be Carson Palmer?

Some of you probably snickered at the prospect of Wentz turning into Palmer. You should check that laughter at the door.

Palmer won the Heisman Trophy in 2002 while at USC. He was selected No. 1 overall in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Bengals, which is one spot higher than Wentz was taken in the 2016 draft. In his second season as a starter (he didn’t play during his rookie season), Palmer led the Bengals to an 11-5 record and the postseason, completing 67.8 percent of his passes and throwing 32 touchdowns. Those are Wentz-like numbers.

Palmer retired on Jan. 2 after a 15-year career. He ranks 11th in career completions and 12th in passing yards and touchdown passes. Those are impressive numbers.

Yet, despite throwing for more than 4,000 yards six times, Palmer only played for teams with winning records three more times in his career. He only played in three more playoff games, and didn’t pick up his first postseason victory until he was 36 years old.

If you ask me if I think Wentz will win his first playoff game before age 36, the answer would be “yes.” But we don’t know. Palmer tore the ACL in his left knee twice, but Wentz, unfortunately, is already ahead of Palmer in that category, tearing the ACL in his left knee before his second season was complete. The fact that there is a belief that Wentz tore his ACL before there was contact on his dive into the end zone and that there were reports of a meniscus tear and partial tear of his iliotibial band raises the concern level a little higher.

Even if Wentz never tears his ACL again, there’s no guarantee of a Super Bowl in the Eagles’ future.

If you don’t like the Carson Palmer comparison, then let’s go with Dan Marino. In his second NFL season, Marino led the Dolphins to a 14-2 record while throwing 48 touchdown passes. The Dolphins lost to the 49ers that season in Super Bowl XIX – and Marino, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, never made it back to the Super Bowl again.

What if this season, like Marino’s second season, was Wentz’s best chance? What if he was robbed of that opportunity by his torn ACL?

But the Eagles can’t worry about Wentz right now. They must seize this golden opportunity.

Brent Celek knows how rare these opportunities can be. In his 11th season with the Eagles, the veteran tight end has won two playoff games.

Eagles defensive end Chris Long, the second overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, knows how precious these opportunities are after spending most of his career with the floundering St. Louis Rams. At age 31, he finally won a Super Bowl last season with the Patriots – in his first trip to the playoffs.

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins knows the importance of taking advantage of a postseason opportunity. The Saints won the Super Bowl in his rookie season. Now 30 years old and in his ninth NFL season, Jenkins is still waiting for a return trip to the Super Bowl.

The lesson is that the Eagles can’t waste the opportunity before them. They can’t treat this Wentz-less postseason as a let’s-see-what-happens, take-our-best-shot opportunity. There aren’t any mulligans in the NFL. Regardless of how rosy the future looks, the Eagles might not get another shot as good as this one for a long time.

As Long, Celek and Jenkins know from experience, the Eagles must cherish this opportunity. They can’t waste it.

You never know when this type of opportunity will come around again.

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