How this Eagles team is reminiscent of the 1999 team

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How this Eagles team is reminiscent of the 1999 team originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

There were early blowout losses. A lot of them. There were moments of hopelessness, moments where they weren't competitive, moments where you really wondered about the head coach and his inexperience and the defensive coordinator and his scheme.

But the players never stopped battling and never stopped fighting. Through loss after loss, their belief in their coach never wavered and their belief in themselves never wavered.

And then the blowouts turned into close losses and the close losses turned into wins.  

Sound familiar?

We're not talking about this year's Eagles. We're talking about the 1999 team.

And it's hard to ignore the similarities.

I'm not saying Nick Sirianni is going to be a Hall of Famer like Andy Reid and lead this team to 10 playoff wins and a Super Bowl. But this season so far really has the same feel as 1999, when Reid's first team started out looking like a lost cause and finished giving everybody hope for 2000.

Hopeless? Reid's first team lost to the Buccaneers by 14, the Bills and Panthers by 26 and the Colts by 27. That team left Charlotte in early November 2-7 after a 33-7 loss.

But as the year went on, you could see it was a locker room filled with veterans who had a lot of pride and young players who were committed to turning things around.

The one thing you look for when a team is going out there and getting crushed week after week is quitters. And that 1999 Eagles team didn't have one. After that awful loss in Charlotte, the Eagles closed the season by going 3-4, and by the time the season ended with a 38-31 win over the eventual Super Bowl-champion Rams, you knew better days were ahead.

That's the biggest similarity with this team. They got smashed by the Cowboys, crushed by the Bucs, destroyed by the Raiders, but you never saw one guy on this team that stopped playing hard. They didn't always play well, they didn't always play smart. But they played hard.

That 1999 team's low point was Charlotte; this team's low point was Vegas.

Since then, the Eagles are 2-1 with a couple of road wins and a last-second loss to the Chargers at home. And 2-5 has turned into 4-6, with the toughest part of the schedule in the rear-view mirror.

We think of Reid and Jim Johnson as legends around here, and they are. But halfway through that 1999 season, there were a ton of Eagles fans that wanted to run them out of town. 

Same with Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon.

Now, it's too early to say this team has turned the corner. They're only 4-6, they still haven't won a home game yet, they haven't won back-to-back games and they got killed in their only division game.

But there's a lot to be encouraged by, just like there was the second half of 1999, when Duce Staley, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Dawkins, Bobby Taylor and Donovan McNabb gave Eagles fans hope.

Jalen Hurts has shown the growth the last few weeks we've been waiting for. Sirianni's commitment to a balanced attack has helped everybody on offense. DeVonta Smith is blossoming into a star in front of our eyes. Gannon is finally showing some flexibility in his scheme, and his unit has allowed 15 points per game the last three weeks after allowing 26 per game the first seven. They're making big plays on both sides of the ball and steamrolling people with the running game. 

During the Eagles' deep playoff runs from 2000 through 2004, those players always spoke of how sticking together through rough times in 1999 brought the team together and how that shared experience helped form the bond that turned them into one of the NFL's best teams over the next several years.

It's too early to say this team will respond the same way over the next few years, but when you get embarrassed week after week and don't let it break you and find your way through it and start winning games because you never stopped believing, that's pretty powerful stuff.

This isn't a great team, and at 4-6, it's hard to even say they're a good team yet. But they sure seem like a team heading in the right direction, a team whose future looks a lot brighter than its past.

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