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A Lifetime Without a Second Philadelphia Eagles Championship

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COMMENTARY | It was the day after Christmas in 1960, a year that seems to stand out in my early recall. I do remember I was nowhere close to getting used to wearing a tie to first grade every day at St. Paul School in Allentown, Pa., because I never got used to it. I do remember John F. Kennedy would start his presidency the following month because he was Catholic and his picture was all over my school. I do remember Bill Mazeroski's home run winning the World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates a few months earlier because he was Polish and so was my mom's side of the family, which celebrated like we were related to him.


And I do remember Chuck Bednarik of the Philadelphia Eagles squashing Jim Taylor of the Green Bay Packers on the last play of the National Football League championship game that day after Christmas. I remember it because Bednarik was from Bethlehem, the town next to Allentown, and my dad knew him. I don't remember being aware of the Philadelphia Eagles before that day. And that day has turned out to be their greatest moment in my lifetime.

Now I have a son of my own. He wonders just how bad the Eagles were in my lifetime since they've been unable to another championship in more than half a century since. He grew up in the Andy Reid era and experienced the near misses in four out of five NFC championship games at about the same age I was in 1960, give or take some years. In other words, he wasn't old enough to be as frustrated by the 2004 Super Bowl loss as he would be had it happened today. Now he lives and dies with the Birds like his high school friends. He wonders if he'll get to know what it's like to see the Eagles win a championship in his lifetime.

It's not difficult to feel that way. But the truth is the Eagles haven't been rotten since that magical 1960 season - well, not completely anyway. The ensuing years certainly weren't very good as they would post only two winning seasons over the next 16. But those two seasons would feature my all-time favorite Eagle, Timmy Brown, of whom I wrote here on Yahoo awhile back. Timmy was a kick returner on the championship team. He would become an all-pro running back in a career that ended with the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

But aside from Timmy, there wasn't much to cheer about for a long time. The Eagles never found much success until the arrival of Dick Vermeil in the late '70s. His drive and emotion pushed a team with limited talent to the Super Bowl in 1980. It was a special time. The Eagles thrilled their home fans with a domination of the hated Dallas Cowboys in the NFC title game that season, easily their pinnacle since 1960. They seemed to have left all that drive and emotion at Veterans Stadium that day. They had nothing left for the Super Bowl two weeks later in New Orleans, where they were routed by the Oakland Raiders.

After a few more years of futility, the Eagles put five years of continuous success together from 1988 to 1992 behind dynamic quarterback Randall Cunningham and one of the best defenses in the league. They were every bit as good as the other marquee teams in the NFL at the time - the Cowboys, the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. But they weren't when it counted. Those teams won the championships, not the Eagles.

Andy Reid arrived in 1999 and became the most successful coach the franchise has ever had. He had the foresight to pick Syracuse University quarterback Donovan McNabb over University of Texas running back Ricky Williams with the second pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, bringing a cascade of boos from Eagles fans in attendance. But the Reid/McNabb union resulted in five appearances in the NFC title game in the first decade of the 2000s. The Eagles lost four, including two of three on their home field.

They won one in 2004 and then took the defending champion New England Patriots down to the final drive before falling 24-21in the Super Bowl. It was so tough to follow that frustration year after year. There were many great team years, but key injuries and lackluster performances in big games are what Eagles' fans remember from the Reid/McNabb years.

Last year, Chip Kelly arrived from the University of Oregon and surprised everyone by putting the Eagles back in the playoffs. Kelly is an innovator and now has the chance to build a team that fits his unusual schemes. The future looks bright. The Eagles are relevant again.

But there hasn't been a championship since Chuck Bednarik squashed Jim Taylor. Only the Detroit Lions and Arizona (formerly St. Louis and Chicago) Cardinals have waited longer for an NFL title.

In the end, it's the only NFL statistic that matters.

Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Eagles follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards.

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