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News » Phil Sheridan: Lesson to be learned by this? Not really

Phil Sheridan: Lesson to be learned by this? Not really

Phil Sheridan: Lesson to be learned by this? Not really
TAMPA, Fla. - There's usually something to learn from the teams that make it to the Super Bowl, some bit of wisdom or Football philosophy that could help guide the Eagles to their first NFL championship since 1960.

The lesson this year is simple. There are no lessons. The Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers are testaments to randomness, good fortune and supernatural forces overcoming logic and intent.

There is nothing either of these organizations has done consistently better than the Eagles have done over the last decade, though the Steelers obviously get credit for having won a Super Bowl. And yet they are here and the Eagles aren't. One of them will win the Lombardi Trophy that has eluded the Eagles' grasp during Andy Reid's decade-on-the-threshold tenure.

When the Eagles fall just short of a title, as they have a stunning five times in this decade, fan excitement curdles into anger. And that anger is focused mostly on three targets: Reid, Donovan McNabb and owner Jeff Lurie. They are the men fans expect to do what it takes to win a championship, but the truth is that no one can completely control what happens once the games begin.

McNabb and safety Brian Dawkins made the media rounds here last week, both saying that a Super Bowl title was within the Eagles' reach next year. They're probably right, since it has been within their reach most of this decade.

McNabb remembered telling the new mayor of Philadelphia that he hoped to bring a championship parade to Broad Street. The new mayor was John Street, who served two terms and then was replaced by Michael Nutter.

"The Phillies did it first," McNabb said Friday, "and I'm happy for them that they did. But myself and Brian Dawkins, it's something that we've talked about for years, about being able to do that."

The Eagles drafted McNabb with the second pick of the 1999 draft. He has played in five conference championship games and one Super Bowl. Those who believe that proves he will never win a title need to take a look at the quarterbacks who will start today.

The Cardinals drafted a franchise quarterback in the first round three years ago. Matt Leinart is a backup behind 37-year-old Kurt Warner, who is back in the Super Bowl after playing in two for the St. Louis Rams. The eight years in between make a strong argument that Warner, while certainly smart and talented, has succeeded only when he's had great players around him.

The Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger in the first round in 2003. He took his team to the Super Bowl in just his third season. He delivered where McNabb has not, winning a championship. But then Roethlisberger was dreadful in that Super Bowl - completing 21 passes for 123 yards, with two interceptions. It was the worst performance ever by the winning QB in a Super Bowl.

So what's the lesson for McNabb or the Eagles? There is no lesson.

If you're Reid, you can look at the participants in today's game and reach some convenient conclusions. The Cardinals prove Reid's conviction that you can win in the modern NFL by throwing the ball a disproportionate amount of the time. The Steelers prove his belief that you can win without a superstar wide receiver.

Of course, a reasonable person might reach the opposite conclusions. The Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald demonstrates the impact a stud wideout can have on a team and a postseason. The Steelers prove you can win consistently with a run-oriented, physical offense - especially as the weather goes bad in the Northeast.

The ink blot Super Bowl. See what you want to see.

For all the anger directed at Lurie, you wouldn't gain much by trading him for either of the owners in this Super Bowl.

The Rooneys are wonderful people and old-guard NFL owners, but they run the Steelers much more frugally than Lurie runs the Eagles. And if you think Lurie is overly patient with Reid, do you think owners who gave Bill Cowher 14 years to win a Super Bowl would be any different?

Arizona's Bill Bidwill is arguably the worst owner in the NFL. He moved his team from St. Louis to Phoenix, where it didn't host a playoff game in its first two decades. If Bidwill was bothered in the least, he did a fine job of hiding it. The only thing the Cards did right was keep losing until they hit on a few high draft choices.

The Eagles are far from perfect. They've made some personnel mistakes that came back to haunt them. Reid places too much emphasis on system when it becomes more clear all the time that it takes special players to win championships. McNabb hasn't been Roethlisberger-bad in season-ending games, but he hasn't delivered the signature, career-making performance, either.

There are things they can do better. Today's game just proves that being better doesn't necessarily get you to the Super Bowl.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 1, 2009

Brian Westbrook Name: Brian Westbrook
Position: RB
Age: 28
Experience: 7 years
College: Villanova
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