PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A backup quarterback became a legend and brought the city its first-ever Super Bowl championship; we trusted the process; we survived the Chip Kelly era; a former National League East rival endeared himself to the City of Brotherly Love; and a big orange mascot became a global phenomenon. Here are the most memorable Philadelphia sports moments of the decade.
Finally! The Eagles Win The Super Bowl
Feb. 4, 2018, will be a moment us Eagles fans will never forget. That day, an underdog Eagles team led by backup quarterback Nick Foles toppled the G.O.A.T. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, 41-33, in Super Bowl 52. It was an epic Rocky story. Quarterback Carson Wentz was having an MVP-type season in 2017 before going down with a torn ACL in a win against the Los Angeles Rams. In stepped Foles for the final three regular-season games, but he didn’t light it up right away, until his memorable playoff run which culminated in a Super Bowl MVP. Four days later, hundreds of thousands of Eagles fans packed the city for the Super Bowl parade of a lifetime and saw Jason Kelce’s epic speech in a Mummers outfit.
The Legacy Of Nick Foles
Foles’ legendary Eagles career started in 2012 when he was taken in the third round of the NFL Draft. Foles became a starter under Chip Kelly a year later after quarterback Michael Vick got hurt. In ten games, Foles threw a whopping 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. In 2014, however, Foles played only eight games after being shelved with a broken collarbone and, after that season, Kelly inexplicably traded Foles to the then St. Louis Rams for Sam Bradford, where he floundered. After getting cut following the 2015 season, Foles contemplated retirement before signing with Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs for the 2016 season. Foles then returned home, leading the Birds on the unforgettable Super Bowl run after Wentz went down in 2017, and also got the Eagles back to the playoffs in 2018 when Wentz got hurt again. Following the 2018 season, Foles became a free agent and signed a four-year, $88 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even though he might never be under center for the Eagles again, he will always be our quarterback.
Andy Reid Firing Leads To The Chip Kelly Disaster
Despite leading the Eagles to five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl appearance, the Eagles fired Andy Reid following a 4-12 record in 2012. They then brought in former University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly in hopes his innovative offense would bring the Birds a Super Bowl championship. Many thought that could potentially happen after the Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East in Kelly’s first season in 2013, but then things quickly soured. Kelly cut wide receiver DeSean Jackson and traded both LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles, despite all three flourishing in his new system. He brought in quarterback Sam Bradford, running back Demarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell, all who had forgettable careers with the Eagles. And lest we forget the power struggle with general manager Howie Roseman, which Kelly ultimately won. Kelly’s tenure, however, was cut short when he was fired before the 2015 season was over. He latched onto the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, finishing with a 2-14 record before he was booted. He has been UCLA’s football head coach since 2018.
Bryce Harper Becomes A Phillie For Life
Bryce Harper brought excitement back to baseball in South Philadelphia and endeared himself to Phillies fans everywhere. The superstar signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies after a months-long process following the 2018 season. Phillies fans were on pins or needles if they would sign Harper or Manny Machado as owner John Middleton planned to spend “stupid money.” Phillies fans got their wish when the organization inked Harper and he did not disappoint in his first season. Despite the Phillies not making the playoffs, Harper hit .260 with 35 home runs and a career-high 114 RBI. He was also a Gold Glove finalist after compiling 13 outfield assists. And who could forget his monstrous home run in his first game back at Nationals Park and his epic walk-off grand slam he had against the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park.
Cliff Lee Comes Home
Cliff Lee turned down more money to come back home to Philadelphia. Phillies fans instantly fell for the lefty after the team acquired him in a trade with the Cleveland Indians during the 2009 season. He went 7-4 in the regular season and 4-0 in the playoffs, including tossing a complete game in Game 1 of the World Series against the New York Yankees. However, the Phillies inexplicably traded Lee to the Seattle Mariners for three so-called prospects after acquiring Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays. Lee, who became a free agent after the 2010 season, reportedly had offers for more money from the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees but decided to come back to the Phillies on a five-year, $120 million deal. Despite having the vaunted “Four Aces” in 2011, the Phillies lost to the eventual World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals in five games in the NLDS. Lee had a 4-0 lead in Game 2 of the series but gave it up as the Cardinals came back to win 5-4. Lee pitched until 2014, when injuries cut short his career.
Roy Halladay Dominates
It was love at first sight for Phillies fans when Roy Halladay stepped on the mount in red pinstripes. Acquired in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays following the 2009 season, Halladay endeared himself with fans for his blue-collar work ethic and his bulldog demeanor. Halladay won the NL Cy Young Award his first year with the Phils and tossed a perfect game against the Florida Marlins during the 2010 regular season, but the best was yet to come in the postseason. Pitching in his first-ever playoff game, Halladay simply carved out Reds’ hitters, tossing a no-hitter — the second in postseason history. We will forever remember Halladay and his favorite catcher, Carlos Ruiz, embracing following that final out. Unfortunately, Halladay never was able to add a World Series championship to his resume in his four seasons with the Phillies. Seven years after that fateful night, tragedy struck when Halladay died when a small plane he was piloting crashed in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast in November 2017. He was just 40 years old, leaving behind a wife and two sons. Halladay was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Andrew Bynum Trade Disaster
When we look back on the years of The Process, the Aug. 10, 2012 trade laid the groundwork. That is the day the Philadelphia 76ers became part of the biggest move that offseason. In a four-team trade, the Sixers parted ways with their best player at the time — Andre Iguodala — along with valuable pieces like Nikola Vucevic and Mo Harkless to land former Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who was coming off a career year where he made his first and only All-Star game. This was the move that was supposed to transcend the Sixers into the upper echelon of basketball, but Bynum’s warm welcome quickly turned into regret. Bynum never played one meaningful minute of basketball for the team due to knee injuries. What made this situation more bizarre is that while going through rehab on his right knee, Bynum said he injured his left knee by going bowling. After one year with the Sixers, Bynum bounced around the league and has not played in the NBA since 2014.
Trust The Process
“Trust The Process,” a phrase that has become synonymous with basketball in Philadelphia. The “Process” began on the night of the 2013 NBA Draft when the Sixers traded away their lone All-Star, Jrue Holiday. That is when the trust in then general manager Sam Hinkie began. It was a head-scratching decision but it was evident Hinkie had a plan which meant Philadelphia would partake the ultimate tanking job. During one of the many rough stretches of losing, a fan tweeted, “Trust Hinkie. Trust the process.” Hinkie had the idea that the team’s best chance to acquire a star-caliber player was to have the highest possible draft picks every year, which typically goes to teams with losing records. And the Sixers, in consecutive years, were the best at losing. At one point during three years of horrendous basketball, the team lost 26 straight games. They would only top that by winning just 10 games in the 2015-16 season. When other NBA team owners reportedly felt that the 76ers’ tanking was bad for the league, the organization hired Jerry Colangelo as chairman of basketball operations in December 2015 to oversee Hinkie. Just a few months later in April 2016, Hinkie stepped down as GM. As a result of the dreadful years, the team accomplished its goal and were able to draft both current cornerstones in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. It appears that sacrificing the short-term gratification of losing for long-term success is a process many fans are glad they trusted.
Bryan Colangelo’s Twittergate
It was a story that shocked the NBA and it felt appropriate that it happened to the Sixers. Bryan Colangelo, the son of Jerry Colangelo who just so happened to take over the general manager position after Sam Hinkie stepped down, resigned in June 2018 amid an investigation into the alleged use of burner Twitter accounts to trash Sixers’ players and executives. An investigation revealed Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, was behind the social media accounts. Colangelo said he never shared “any sensitive, non-public, club-related information” with her. The law firm investigating Colangelo said he “was careless and in some instances reckless in failing to properly safeguard sensitive, non-public, club-related information in communications with individuals outside the 76ers organization.”
Markelle Fultz Saga
Sixers fans everywhere thought they had their Big Three for the next decade after the team traded up for the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft to take guard Markelle Fultz. Instead, it looks like Danny Ainge and the Celtics fleeced the Sixers. After suffering a shoulder injury, Fultz seemed to forget how to shoot, as his form was all out of sorts. He only played 33 games for the Sixers in two seasons before being traded to the Orlando Magic in February 2019.
Sept. 24, 2018 will forever be a date cemented into not just Philly sports history but into American and worldwide cultural history. Gritty was “born,” and the big, orange fuzzball became the International Mascot of Mystery. Gritty came into their first home opener like a wrecking ball, told the Penguins to “sleep with one eye open, bird,” and was ejected from the Flyers’ Stadium Series game against the Pens for streaking. (Check out his best moments from Year 1.) Gritty merchandise took the world by storm. He fought Jimmy Fallon and Ricky Gervais. He became a political figure for the left. The 2010s brought a lot of misery for Flyers fans, but Gritty was the knight in orange armor.
Flyers’ Historic Stanley Cup Run
For the Flyers, the 2010s began with an unforgettable run that ended with heartbreak but signaled good things were coming. Those good things never really materialized, but the 2010 Stanley Cup run featured some of the most memorable sports moments in Philly over the decade — none greater than the Flyers’ historic comeback against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals when they erased a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 Game 7 lead to advance to the conference finals. At the time, it was just the third time in NHL history a team completed a comeback after trailing 3-0 in a series, and the first since 1975. There was The Shift from Mike Richards. Danny Briere scored 30 points in 23 games with four game-winning goals skating with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino, a line that terrorized opponents. Chris Pronger averaged over 29 minutes per game throughout the playoffs. They rode a confident but career journeyman goalie in Michael Leighton and a career backup in Brian Boucher in net. They even had Lukas Krajicek, Ryan Parent and Oskar Bartulis on their blue line. It all ended with Patrick Kane throwing his gloves into the air after scoring the game-winner on one of the worst goals in playoff history, but the ride was remarkable. The 2010s proved to be a decade to forget for the Orange and Black, though they appear to be positioned well to claw their way back into relevancy as the 2020s begin.
The Passing Of Ed Snider
The 2010s also saw the man who made Philadelphia a hockey town die. Ed Snider died from bladder cancer on April 11, 2016 at the age of 83. Snider’s legacy continues with the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.
Villanova Becomes College Basketball Mecca
In one of the most memorable shots in NCAA tournament history, Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit a three at the buzzer to put the Wildcats over the University of North Carolina Tar Heels to capture the 2016 NCAA championship. It was Nova’s first championship since the Rollie Massimino-led 1985 team. Jay Wright’s Wildcats would capture their second championship in three years after defeating Michigan in the 2018 NCAA title game.