The complexity of the 2015 Eagles season can simply be described by one word: strange.
The Birds got off to an abysmal start in the first four games, going 1-3. Even in the win over the New York Jets, the Eagles were shutout in the second half of that game and barely held on to a 24-17 win.
In the second quarter of the season, the Eagles found themselves back to the .500 mark, adding three wins to the season bringing them to 4-4. A big emotional victory over the hated Dallas Cowboys capped off the first half as a Jordan Matthews 41-yard game-winning catch and run from Sam Bradford in overtime looked as if the Eagles turned the page and were going to regain control of their season.
The beginning of the second half was thought to have "give me" games for the Birds that would separate them from the rest of the NFC East. The dreadfulness of the Miami Dolphins and the Detroit Lions along with a winnable game against the up-and-coming Tampa Bay Buccaneers in between, on paper, had the Eagles primed to be 7-4 heading into New England against the always-tough Patriots, which most chalked up as a loss.
So 7-5 isn't so bad heading down the stretch, right?
As they say games are not won on paper and the Eagles lost the three games they were thought to win and were outscored by a total of 110-50 during that hideous three-game losing streak.
A 4-7 team was headed to Foxborough, where the Birds hadn't won since November of 1987, to take on the great Tom Brady and the mastermind of Bill Belichick. Even with big injuries on the Pats side, nothing was going to stop Brady from carving that Eagles defense and Belichick could not possibly be out-coached by Chip Kelly, who appeared to have lost his team. The theme of strange continued and the Eagles did the unthinkable. The concoction of getting 21 points from the special teams and the defense helped the Eagles beat the Patriots, 35-28.
There is sure to be more strangeness that has to come in the 2015 season, but until we see more, let’s now look at a few of the strangest Eagles seasons in the last 25 years.
1991 - Buddy Ryan couldn’t win a playoff game, so therefore his time expired in Philadelphia. Enter Rich Kotite to come in and do what Buddy couldn’t. Well, believe it or not, Kotite did do just that and won a playoff game in 1992. But his first season in 1991 went strange from the start. In the season opener, Green Bay Packers linebacker Bryce Paup popped Randall Cunningham at the old Milwaukee County Stadium and put an early end to Cunningham’s year. The Eagles would then end up being forced use a total of five quarterbacks to get through the season. The Eagles defense performed at a dominating level that I don't believe anyone had ever seen before or have seen since. The ferocious D led by the likes of Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Seth Joyner were supported by a great secondary including Andre Waters, Wes Hopkins and Eric Allen propelled the Eagles to be ranked first in the NFL against the run and first against the pass in terms of yardage. With all that being said, the Birds finished with a respectable 10-6 record but missed the postseason. Can you name the other four quarterbacks who took snaps for the Birds that season not named Cunningham? Jim McMahon, Jeff Kemp, Brad Goebel and Pat Ryan.
1994 - This season would prove to be the end of the Rich Kotite Era. The Eagles got off to a 7-2 start looking like a dominant force in the NFC. The most notable win of the season was a 40-8 victory over the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers where Charlie Garner ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns at Candlestick Park. Things eventually went way south and Kotite had a moment that will live in Eagles infamy. In a game in which the Eagles trailed the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 24-7, James Joseph found the end zone for the Birds and made the score 24-13. Kotite, for some reason unbeknownst to anyone on Earth or even anyone on Mars if life exists, went for a two-point conversion attempt and the conversion failed keeping the Eagles deficit at 11 rather than cutting it to 10 by kicking the extra point. Does that make sense to make an 11-point game a nine-point game? 24-13 was eventually the final score and Kotite had cited his reasoning for going for two was he "misread" his play chart and the chart may have been "wet." I guess Richie never heard of laminating his paper? Regardless if the chart was damaged or not, I do not think one needs a chart for simple math. Scoreboards are provided throughout all NFL stadiums. Needless to say, Kotite’s team went on to lose all seven remaining games and his job, ending the season 7-9.
2005 - Following a heartbreaking Super Bowl defeat, the Eagles had been pretty successful in the early years of coach Andy Reid, leading many to believe the Birds were headed back to the Bowl the next season. This was especially due to the presence of Terrell Owens, acquired before the 2004 season, and the thought of Donovan McNabb having a true dominant weapon at wide receiver. Owens appeared to be the missing piece and was a huge part of the Eagles going 13-1 before going down with a broken ankle in Week 14 when he was horse collared by Cowboys safety Roy Williams. The Eagles persevered without Owens through the playoffs and made their way to the Super Bowl. Owens signed a waiver as he was not cleared to play and returned for the big game, adding 122 yards on the day. We all know the eventual outcome of the game and then the offseason strangeness began. Owens had basically talked his way out of San Francisco and ended up in Philly and talked himself into being sent home for conduct detrimental to the team during training camp. Some "he said, she said" between McNabb and Owens, beginning in the offseason, followed into camp and through to the season, leading to a divided locker room becoming divided. However, the Eagles began the season with a 4-3 record. Owens had amazing numbers, as he caught 47 passes for 763 yards and six touchdowns and McNabb was playing well through a sports hernia injury. Some notable wins entailed an injured David Akers kicking a game-winning field goal against the Oakland Raiders and a game-winning blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by Matt Ware against the San Diego Chargers. With Owens refusing to apologize publicly to McNabb, the Eagles decided to send Owens home for the season and eventually cut him. McNabb's injury worsened as he took a hard hit attempting to make a play on an interception he threw to Roy Williams of the Cowboys. The Eagles would go on to win just two more games finishing 6-10 with Mike McMahon under center for the remainder of the season.
2006 - The Jeff Garcia Year. McNabb suffered another season-ending injury and Jeff Garcia took over as the starting quarterback. In Garcia's first start, the team was clobbered by the Colts in a Sunday night contest. That put the Eagles at 5-6 with little hope as the final five games, which included three consecutive games against their NFC East foes, all on the road. Garcia was the spark that ignited the Birds to win out and take the NFC East crown. The most notable win in the midst of the streak was a Christmas Day victory over the Cowboys, 23-7. They also mustered up a playoff victory at home agaisnt the Giants when David Akers knocked down a game-winning 38-yard field goal with no time left. In the divisional round at New Orleans, the Eagles were going toe-to-toe with the Saints high-powered offense. Sheldon Brown's open field hit on Reggie Bush may have been the hardest hit in history and seemed to have set the tone. Garcia's 75-yard touchdown pass to Donte Stallworth was another highlight of this game for the Eagles. Eventually this game would end in total strangeness. With the Birds trailing, 27-24, late in the fourth, the Eagles picked up the first down on 4th and 10 originating from their own 44 too keep the game alive. Unfortunately the play was whistled dead by the officials but not heard in the loud dome as a false start penalty was assessed to Eagles offensive lineman Scott Young. With the situation changing to 4th and 15 from their own 39, Andy Reid strangely elected to punt the ball back to the Saints. The Eagles had two time outs but the game clock was under 2 minutes and the defense had not found a way to stop running back Deuce McAllister all night. The defense did not answer McAllister as expected and he ran the ball three more times for 14 yards, finishing with 143 yards and a touchdown on the evening and killed the clock. The magical run of Jeff Garcia was now over.
2008 - A 5-3 record indicated the Birds were a solid contender. A character 40-26 comeback win out in San Francisco saw a Juqua Parker 55-yard interception return for a touchdown cap off a 23-point fourth quarter for the Eagles. Drift on down the road and strange starts to set in. The Eagles fell short in a 36-31 loss against the Giants and then things went sour for a few more weeks. They followed that loss up with an absolute unwatchable performance against the Cincinnati Bengals, which somehow resulted in a 13-13 tie. Donovan McNabb commented post game that he didn't know ties existed in the NFL. The Eagles were blown out the next week in Baltimore by the Ravens, which saw McNabb benched for the start of the second half as he went 8-for-18 for 59 yards and two interceptions in the first half. It appeared the Eagles season was history and the Kevin Kolb Era was ready to begin. The poor play just didn't make their 5-5-1 record look like they had a chance. In a short bounce week the Eagles hosted the Arizona Cardinals on a Thanksgiving night and got a blowout 48-20 victory. McNabb had informed the media that the janitor had told him he was getting the start after being benched and he rebounded with a four-touchdown pass performance. With a Week 16 slip up to the Redskins, the Eagles entered the final week with an 8-6-1 record and had a date with those Dallas Cowboys who were sitting at 9-6 and in control of their own destiny to clinch a wild card. Tampa Bay also with nine wins was hoping for a chance to get in and the Bears with nine had some playoff hopes of their own. With three teams ahead of the Eagles, their playoff hopes seemed very slim, needing a lot to happen during the early card before their late game began. Everything was happening. The Bucs were upset by the lowly Raiders and the Texans defeated the Bears. The wings and prayers made the Cowboys match a de facto playoff play-in game with the Eagles now controlling their own destiny. The Eagles went on to rout Dallas, 44-6, and the unlikeliest of playoff runs was to begin. There was confidence in the air the Eagles could go into Minnesota and defeat the Vikings, which they did, 26-14. It wasn't so cut-and-dry that the Eagles had what it took to knock off the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in the Meadowlands but they did. The Birds showed up to play a football game whereas the Giants showed up to participate in a field-goal kicking contest. The only Giants points came off a McNabb intentional grounding call in his own end zone resulting in a safety and three John Carney field goals. A Brent Celek one-yard touchdown catch at the beginning of the fourth quarter all but ended it for the G-Men and the Eagles won, 23-11, finding themselves in their fifth NFC Championship game since 2001 in a rematch with the same Cardinals they destroyed on Thanksgiving. A bad start had the Eagles down, 24-6, at the half but 19 second-half points got the Eagles the 25-24 lead in the early part of the 4th quarter thanks to a DeSean Jackson juggling 62-yard touchdown catch from McNabb. Arizona would answer back as the defense was not able to make the necessary stop on the following drive. Tim Hightower's rushing touchdown followed by a successful two-point conversion late in the game would cap off the scoring and the Cardinals went on to defeat the Birds 32-25 win.
The 2015 season is not yet a full body of work but has met the strange criteria every bit. as in every season on this list the current Eagles squad has had moments where they appeared to be a good team and has had moments they look like they aren't capable of even making a play. What if, during the final stretch of the season, the Eagles find a way to right the ship? Would it be strange? Yes, but it wouldn't be any more strange than anything we haven't already witnessed.
Ryan Shute is a contributing writer for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @ShutemUpSports.