Amid all the excitement surrounding the Eagles, Craig Nussbaum has a worry. A loyal reader of CSNPhilly.com, Craig looks at all the glossy new additions and wonders what the front office has wrought.
I have laughed at owner Dan Snyders Redskins for years now, trying to put every high-priced super ego free agent together to win, Craig wrote in an e-mail. They havent done anything. I love all the Eagles moves, but Im worried with the short off-season and not much player leadership, were going to be a huge bust.
Talk me down, please.
OK, Craig, Ill give it a try.
Those were the post-Montana 49ers. Steve Young was the quarterback and while the team was winning big in the regular season, it could not get over the hump in the postseason, much like the Eagles. Two years in a row, the 49ers were smacked down in the NFC championship game by Dallas.
So in 1994, the 49ers let it be known they were going all-out to win the Super Bowl. They sent a powerful message by signing cornerback Deion Sanders as a free agent. Then they stole linebacker Ken Norton, Jr., away from the Cowboys. Soon, other players were at the door, asking if they could join the party. Linebackers Gary Plummer and Rickey Jackson and defensive ends Richard Dent and Charles Mann all signed with the 49ers.
Many of those players could have signed for more money elsewhere, but they saw what was happening in San Francisco and wanted to be a part of it. That was particularly true of Plummer and Jackson, outstanding players who knew their careers were winding down and wanted desperately to play in a Super Bowl. The 49ers offered that hope.
Combine those highly motivated veterans with the talented nucleus already in place Young, Jerry Rice, Ricky Watters and Brent Jones toss in a stellar rookie class that included fullback William Floyd, defensive tackle Bryant Young and linebacker Lee Woodall and you had a team that was really stacked.
The 49ers steamrolled through a 13-3 regular season curiously, their worst game was a 40-8 home loss to Rich Kotites Eagles and finally conquered the Cowboys, 38-28, in a fiercely played NFC title game. They finished in grand style by routing San Diego 49-26 in the Super Bowl with Young throwing six touchdown passes.
Im not predicting the Eagles will repeat what the 49ers did in 1994. In fact, I wrote a piece for CSNPhilly.com earlier this week telling the fans to cool it with the Super Bowl talk. There is a long way to go and much work still needs to be done. Thats all still true.
Craigs concern about the limited amount of time the Eagles have to work together even more of a factor with the restrictive practice schedules mandated by the new CBA is legitimate. It is very hard to develop a winning chemistry on the fly and thats what the Eagles have to do. Teams like Green Bay, Pittsburgh and New England havent changed that much so thats to their advantage.
But while Im holding off on boarding the Super Bowl bandwagon, Ill admit to looking at this Eagles team and seeing similarities to the 94 49ers. Maybe it is just coincidence, but
Steve Young and Mike Vick both are left-handed quarterbacks once thought to be better runners than passers. Young finally won a Super Bowl when he learned to hang in the pocket and throw the ball. Vick is developing in a similar fashion with the Eagles.
Ricky Watters and LeSean McCoy went to the same high school Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg.
The 94 49ers had a rookie placekicker, Doug Brien. The Eagles also appear committed to a rookie kicker, Alex Henery. The 49ers selected Brien with their fifth pick in the draft. The Eagles selected Henery with thats right their fifth pick.
And, this is perhaps most telling, the key acquisition was a free agent cornerback: Neon Deion for the 49ers and Nnamdi Asomugha for the Eagles.
They could not be more different in terms of image Asomugha is a thoughtful, low-key guy and Deion is, well, Deion but their impact is similar. Their signings were the ones that turned heads around the league. They are the moves that made other players call their agents and ask: Can we get in on this?
And it is for the right reasons. It is about wanting to win a championship more than it is about money. In several cases, players who signed with the Eagles admitted they could have signed for more elsewhere. But they want to play here because they are genuinely excited about what the team is doing and the direction it is going.
You didnt have that in Washington. Most of those players were signing for the money, pure and simple. Many were faded veterans with nothing left (Bruce Smith, even Sanders at the end), others were bad fits for the system (Albert Haynesworth, Jeremiah Trotter), but they signed for the check. It is impossible to build a healthy chemistry when you have a team of mercenaries and thats what the Redskins have been under Dan Snyder.
But the 94 49ers were different and maybe the Eagles will be different, too.
Craig, I hope that helps.