The Philadelphia Eagles are in a serious funk. Their offense isn’t clicking. Their defense isn’t ferocious. And their special teams are most definitely not special. They find themselves 0-2 to start a season in which they expected to go to the Super Bowl.
There are plenty of ways to account for their struggles. Donovan McNabb’s accuracy is off. Duce Staley is still rusty from his long contract holdout. The defense is hurting from the loss of Hugh Douglas, Shawn Barber and Blaine Bishop in the offseason. The departure of Brian Mitchell to the Giants has left the team without any experienced return men.
While I certainly agree that all of these factors have attributed to Philadelphia’s 0-2 start, I think there is more to their struggles than meets the eye. Ever the conspiracy theorist, I have my own take:
The Philadelphia Eagles miss the Vet. Desperately.
Sure, if asked the players will claim to love their new stadium, Lincoln Financial Field. They’ll rave about the posh locker rooms and grass playing surface. They might even do ownership a favor and extol the virtues of the stadium-encircling luxury boxes and increased fan amenities.
But in their heart of hearts, I’m sure they wish they were still playing next door. Veterans Stadium was ugly and uncomfortable. Smelly and spartan. Cramped and cold. Run-down and rowdy. The turf was uneven. The locker rooms legendary for their cramped quarters. The place even had its own lock-up. Basically, The Vet was intimidating as hell.
Lincoln Financial Field looks about as intimidating as Invesco Field. Or Gillette Stadium. Or Seahawks Stadium. Which is to say not intimidating at all.
Maybe it’s the old fuddy-duddy football traditionalist in me, but I refuse to believe that the state-of-the-art stadia NFL teams continue to build at the behest of revenue-hungry owners can possibly provide the same home field advantage that the old fossil fields used to.
Mile High absolutely shook for the Broncos in the thin air of Denver. Invesco hardly even wiggles. The Kingdome’s ugly concrete roof held in sound so well, the Seahawks’ opponents were sure they’d go deaf after playing there. No one will ever go deaf in their new digs. Even dilapidated old Foxboro had a chilling presence that Gillette just can’t match, no matter what the temperature.
And the Vet? The Vet was the king of stadium bullies. Opponents openly confessed to hating it. The fans heard these complaints, and made sure to make the place as inhospitable as possible. Hundreds of injuries were reputed to have taken place on an artificial surface so bad that Ravens’ head coach Brian Billick once refused to let his team play a preseason game on it. The Eagles players may have secretly hated the place as well, but they had to appreciate the undeniable home field advantage the eyesore provided for them.
It was the kind of advantage they could really use right about now.
The top five going into week three:
Buffalo Bills: Hitch win two onto the wagon train.
Kansas City Chiefs: What was that you said Pittsburgh? Something about having a defense?
Indianapolis Colts: Watch out league, the Colts’ defense is for real.
Seattle Seahawks: OK Mike, Matt Hasselbeck might be the savior after all.
Washington Redskins: ‘Skins 2-0 for first time since 1991. Ramsey-Coles = Rypien-Clark?
And the Babe Ruth award for shot-calling in Week Two goes to:
Jamal Lewis. Lewis rushed for an NFL record 295 yards in a single game, after predicting before the game that he would break the single game rushing record. Talk about walking the walk.