If the Hinkie Era in Philadelphia has been good for one thing (it’s been good for more than one thing), it’s showing us that being the worst or least talented team is completely different than being the most boring team. Being the most boring team is far worse than being the worst team.
What sports really boils down to is the entertainment factor. That’s it. If there’s a compelling storyline and something happening worth watching, it’s doesn’t really matter who’s winning or losing.
When it comes to the NFC East, differentiating “boring” and “worst” matters. It matters because the entire division is complete garbage. It’s unlikely that any of these four teams is going to win a single playoff game this year, let alone the Super Bowl. In fact, the NFC East hasn’t even had a repeat division champ in over a decade. It’s just a bunch of average teams fighting for a wild card spot, with an occasional anomaly like a 12-4 Cowboys season or a Giants Super Bowl victory after going 9-7.
What matters most in the NFC East, as of late, has been the stories. It’s a bit of a bummer to think about this now because, just one year ago, the Eagles weren’t just the most exciting team in the division--they were probably the most exciting team in the entire NFL. There were so many storylines: the power struggle between Chip and Howie, the explosion of the roster, the unknown surrounding Sam Bradford, the excitement of the rushing champion switching allegiances from the Cowboys, the supposed genius of the coach who we hadn’t realized the league had caught up to yet, the national pundits picking the Birds to win the Super Bowl. There were different and exciting things happening and it was just an exciting time to be a fan.
It’s crazy how quickly things change. One exhausting year later, almost no one (besides us) is talking about the Eagles. No one cares about Doug Pederson, Sam Bradford, and what’s going on at the NovaCare Complex anymore.
Which begs me to ask the question: Have the Eagles really become the most boring team in the NFC East? I really hope not, but folks, it’s not looking good.
Let’s just a quick look at some of the storylines floating around the division at the moment:
It might be because they’re fresh off of a division-winning season (albeit a 9-7 division-winning season), but the Redskins probably have the East’s most exciting team heading into camp.
Think about it. If anything, over the past few years, the Redskins have been fun to watch only for the fact that they’ve been the joke of the league. A totally incompetent owner wrapped up in defending his team’s racist name, a general manager being publicly accused of his affair with a reporter, and a prima donna quarterback hated by his teammates have been the sparks leading the dumpster fire.
Today, they’re compelling to watch for different reasons. They were able to pick up Josh Norman in the offseason, 2015’s best cornerback. This not only means the team’s secondary will improve in a division with some of the league’s best wide receivers, it means fans will get to watch the Norman vs. Odell Beckham Jr. rivalry unfold twice a year--a rivalry so intense it led to suspensions last season.
The team was also able to finally convince it’s delusional owner that the aforementioned prima donna quarterback was no longer worth a spot on the roster and they cut him in hopes to rebuild a healthy locker room.
His replacement, Kirk Cousins, had a pretty good final stretch of the 2015 season, putting up some pretty good numbers against a slew of teams with losing records. Because he beat a bunch of terrible teams and led his team to 9-7, Redskins management decided to hit him with the franchise tag, an action that will cost them about $20 million dollars. It makes sense. If he fails, they get to let him walk without spending anymore. If he succeeds, then it’ll be worth it and the team can work to extend him long term.
Redskins fans will be watching in hopes that all of these pieces will fall into place accordingly and carry them through an exciting season to another division title. The rest of us will be watching for the reason that it’s all likely to crash and burn. We’ll be watching nonetheless.
As much as I hate to say it, the Giants will never be boring to watch so long as they have one player on their team: Odell Beckham Jr. I can’t stand the guy personally. Can’t. Stand. Him. I can’t stand the corny dances he does on the field before games, I can’t stand his severe lack of sportsmanship and respect for other other players on the field, I can’t stand the stupid flashy one-handed catches where it’s just as reasonable to use two, and I can’t stand his stupid face.
All of that being said, the dude is arguably the most exciting player to watch in all of football and rarely plays a game that lacks one electrifying play or another. He single-handedly saved Tom Coughlin an extra year after emerging mid season as a rookie and hasn’t really let up since. Seeing his rival Josh Norman twice a year now only increases that.
Let’s also not forget that the Giants probably made the biggest splash in this year’s free agency. The team managed to spend nearly $230 million in contracts over seven total players headlined by Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison. This is all in addition to the signing of their new head coach Ben McAdoo, who Eagles fans shouldn’t forget was one of our top choices for Pederson’s job.
Eagles fans can appreciate the sentiment behind all of these big moves, having been wooed by the romance of a couple of supposed “dream teams” in recent years. Those who watch the Giants are excited to take a big step forward. Others are excited to see them learn the lesson that great NFL teams are rarely built through free agency.
Here’s the hard part. Showing some appreciation for the Dallas Cowboys. I’ll try and keep this brief.
No matter which way you spin it, the Cowboys team has some personality that people enjoy. They have Tony Romo, the quarterback that people love to hate, Jerry Jones trying to coach the team from the owner’s box, and Dez Bryant either making ridiculous plays or throwing a tantrum on the sideline. It was a spectacle when they went 12-4 and it was a spectacle when they went 4-12.
Tony Romo is projected to be the fourth oldest starting quarterback in the league this year. He broke his clavicle twice last year and has had more back surgeries that I can count on both hands. Even so, the year before last he proved that when playing healthy and to his potential, the Cowboys can be a playoff caliber team. Everyone will be watching closely to see if that happens because, obviously, America loves when America’s team does well as much as America loves when America’s team fails.
I’ve also got to admit that I’m intrigued by the potential of Ezekiel Elliott. In the long run, he was realistically awful value at the number four pick overall given the career length of the average running back, the position’s expendability in today’s league, and the plethora of good running backs in next year’s draft, but running behind their line he’ll probably be a stud fantasy player and likely Rookie of the Year candidate.
If anything else, the Cowboys are exciting to watch for the regular suspensions being dished out to their defensive line that apparently can’t stop smoking weed.
This brings us to the Eagles. The most exciting things happening are Fletcher Cox’s mega-contract and the fact that Howie Roseman was able to finagle his way up the draft board to get a top quarterback coming out in Carson Wentz.
I’ll admit I’m ecstatic about the Cox extension and the bold move to get a potential franchise quarterback, but with watching Cox play being nothing new and reports surfacing that Wentz will spend his rookie season redshirted, what are Eagles fans really getting excited about right now?
Is it Doug Pederson, potentially the most boring head coach hire in the history of the NFL? Is it Sam Bradford, the quarterback who has never had a winning season yet essentially said he doesn’t want to be here if he’s not going to be “the guy?” Are fans excited about the fact the team had to fire Chip Kelly, a compelling character who once took the league by storm, and basically start from scratch?
Name one guy on the Eagles roster besides their long-snapper that doesn’t have the personality of a bathtub.
I get that it’s essentially looking like a transition year to the future and in the long run, the Eagles will probably be better off, but are they the only team that doesn’t have a clear cut guy to take in the first like five rounds of a fantasy football draft?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles don’t get a single look on SportsCenter before the preseason. I think Jim Schwartz’s defense will turn some heads once real gameplay begins, but as of now, there’s really just not much to get excited about in the Eagles’ immediate future.
The Birds are certainly not the worst team in the division by any means. Hell, I wouldn’t even be completely surprised if they won it. But, right now, in this moment, they might be the NFC East’s most boring team heading into training camp.
Feel free to yell at me in the comments.