Ford: What if the Eagles are really good?
All right, fine. What if? This voice of reason stuff can wear you out. Always bringing an umbrella if there is a distant cloud in the sky. Sticking your hand in the post office mail slot to make sure the envelope fell through. Stepping carefully over the crack in the sidewalk.
All right, fine. What if?
This voice of reason stuff can wear you out. Always bringing an umbrella if there is a distant cloud in the sky. Sticking your hand in the post office mail slot to make sure the envelope fell through. Stepping carefully over the crack in the sidewalk.
Just for today and perhaps not again for a very long time, let's not worry about the rain, let's figure the letter will get there just the same, and let's stomp on the crack and hope mother's back can take care of itself.
All right, fine. What if the Eagles are really good?
Not just good in the well-this-looks-promising-for-the-future kind of way we have padded the corners of recent optimism, but really good. Not just good enough to beat the winless Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears, but good enough to stand up to the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers in Lincoln Financial Field and win that game, too.
If they can do that, what is reasonably beyond their grasp? Not much, to be honest. Beat the Steelers and there isn't necessarily a tougher game on their schedule. Sam Bradford and the Vikings? Maybe. The Giants or Seahawks on the road? The Packers at home? All good tests, but not any more difficult than what faces them Sunday afternoon when rookie Carson Wentz tries to find the seams in a true zone defense and the Eagles attempt to stop a Hall of Fame quarterback on the other side of the line.
Oh, the guy in the corner with the umbrella says it probably won't happen and he's usually right. The Eagles running game, which hasn't been all that good, will have to perform better than expected to take pressure off Wentz. The receivers, who continue to drop passes and struggle to gain separation, will need to be precise in their patterns and consistent in their execution. And the offensive line, which has been leaky in the middle, will need to keep the quarterback a lot cleaner than it has.
So, aside from running, catching, and blocking, there isn't anything to worry about on the offense. That's not even taking into account the quarterback himself, who has been very good, but has also been swaddled in protective game plans that emphasize quick, safe routes. After two weeks, Wentz is 27th in the league in yards per completion. What happens when the coaching staff needs to extend his reach in order to go for a win?
On defense, the front four will be operating for the first time against a solid and settled offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked only twice so far. The Eagles secondary has played well for the most part, but hasn't been tested by a good quarterback with time to work. That could change Sunday.
So, yeah, there are a few clouds, but as we wait for what will happen, it hasn't happened yet and there is still time to say, "What if?" In sports, these things have happened, although there isn't much of an out-of-the-blue precedent here in Philadelphia.
The Phillies went from 70-92 in 1992 to the World Series the following season, but there were pieces in place on that team. They replaced the corner outfielders, shored up the starting staff, and caught lightning. It was unexpected and it was a memorable run, but it wasn't crazy. The Eagles contending for a title would be crazy.
Larry Brown led the 76ers from a 22-60 season to the NBA Finals, but it took four years and Allen Iverson. That's a remarkable turnaround, but not quite the same thing. The Flyers were sixth in their division in 1993-94 and went to the conference finals the following season as the Legion of Doom line of Eric Lindros, Mikael Renberg, and John LeClair formed and combined for 80 goals in a 48-game season. Pretty good flip as well, but not the same.
What the first two games of the season have given Eagles fans is the ability to wonder how much is possible. That's a sizable gift considering how small the box of possibilities was until very recently.
The Eagles traded their starting quarterback three weeks ago and gave the offense to a rookie who had played just 23 games of small-college football. It was a move that signaled a commitment to using this season as a rebuilding year. That was a logical step for the franchise as it installed new offensive and defensive systems under a new head coach. Build slowly and set your sights on the future.
But what if nobody told the players?
What if the rookie is only a rookie on the back of his trading card, and the others come together around him, and the defense lifts itself to keep up with the wild ride?
Well, we find out Sunday. It isn't very likely, but what is likely is only moderately interesting. Just for now, just for this one moment this season, the question still stands.