andy reid Are You Ready For The Step Back Year?By Joseph Santoliquito

The Eagles don’t like to use the term “rebuilding” and that’s okay. For some reason the mere mention of the word makes the Eagles at the NovaCare Complex jumpy. Like someone sneaking up behind you in the dark and yelling Boo! They’re providing a product, a sports/entertainment product that’s been the most successful in this city over the last decade, bar none (sorry, Phillies, but the Eagles have been winning a lot longer than these last four years). Here’s the twist:  You are the paying customer. You have been spoiled through the years by this team as perennial Super Bowl contenders.

Are you ready to accept anything less?

Let’s be realistic here and come right out and admit it–the Eagles aren’t winning the Super Bowl this year. It seems to be a tacitly agreed foregone conclusion from the media that regularly covers the team, to you, their legion of fans, and if you were able to be privy to a conversation or two at the NovaCare Complex, you’d probably hear the same thing there (though, obviously, no one would ever come out and publicly admit it).

So here’s a question posed to you, the sports-buying public that has stood by this team through heartache and triumph, are you ready to accept a 9-7 season? Will it be okay if the Eagles are in games late only to get tripped by inexperience, even if Kevin Kolb tears it up? Can you accept a season where you’ll be watching Dallas play into January while your Eagles are at home? Are you ready to accept that, like a college or high school program decimated by graduation, asking for you to invest in the knowledge that the present means nothing, but that the future could spell bright dividends?

The Eagles went 11-5 last year and opted to make drastic changes. Out went Donovan McNabb and in comes Kolb, and it’s a move I actually agree with. But a 9-7 finish and out of the playoffs?

This 2010 season looks as if it’s the “Step-Back” year, a choice made in order to clear the way for multiple steps forward in 2011, and possibly even deeper still in 2012. Eagles’ owner Jeff Lurie likes talking about winning Super Bowls–and to his credit, this team has been in a position to get close during the McNabb years. It didn’t work. Many in the media this season with throw it out there–some with great relish–that the Eagles will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of their last NFL championship this year, and haven’t won one since. But let’s remind the skeptics that the 0-fer-49 doesn’t reflect the Lurie years, which began in 1994.

He’s been the most successful owner the Eagles have ever had–and he hired the team’s most successful coach, Andy Reid.

In the Lurie years, the Eagles are 144-110. They’ve been to five NFC championships and one Super Bowl. Sure, that one gleaming Lombardi Trophy isn’t standing regally inside a glass case at the NovaCare Complex yet. But this season looks like a another step in that Super Bowl direction. The big difference is that the Eagles will be asking you, the rabid Eagles fan, to be patient and wait. At least another two or possibly three years as this young team matures.

The Eagles will certainly be fun to watch. They’ll be the most exciting, high-wire aerial act in the NFL this season. They may also improve, while their record doesn’t exactly reflect that.

Are you ready for that?

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