Here we are in the middle of March 2019 and the talk of the town (and by extension Eagles Nation around the world) is NFL Football.
Philadelphia embraced college football as far back as the 1920’s, with enthusiastic cross-state rivalries and inter-state competition with schools from New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts among others. By the late 1940’s the NFL had become a thing to many Philly fans, too.
In the TV era (1950 to present) the NFL blossomed into a main attraction for an increasing number of football fanatics. Cheering or jeering the Eagles became a seasonal passion—key word “seasonal”. The season started in late July with training camp and ended in late December. Then college basketball, and ultimately the NBA Warriors/76ers, and then the baseball Phillies held the stage until the next late July training camp. In the late 1960’s NHL hockey came along with the Flyers to fill whatever empty sports entertainment space was left.
But somewhere around 1980 the Eagles and the NFL became more of a year-round obsession. Suddenly it seemed fans were concerned with Eagles’ offseason trades and amateur drafts equally, or even more than, with what the Phillies, March Madness hoops, 76ers and Flyers were doing.
Now, with full-blown free agency added to the Eagles’ offseason mix, we are experiencing a phenomenal upsurge in football fan interest. It’s been building for a few decades, but this year what’s happening in March with the Eagles and the NFL is more entertaining and exciting than anything college basketball, pro basketball, the NHL or MLB could possibly hope for.
Nobody ever won a football title in March by making trades or big-name free agent acquisitions (see Washington Redskins in the Dan Snyder era). But for some reason, the 2019 Eagles and the rest of the NFL are completely dominating the heads-up attention of nearly every category of Philly sports fan right now.
A lot of it has to do with the recent on-field success of the Eagles, at least as far as deep playoff runs are concerned. That, and the fact that the NFL televises itself so well that we as fans begin to feel we actually know these players in the current transaction headlines…
Team brand recognition… player brand recognition…it’s never been so comfortable a marketing relationship with fans as it is now.
For example, if a young Phillies pitcher threw 3 innings of no-hit ball today in spring training in Clearwater, or if Ben Simmons racked up a triple-double in a 76ers win tonight, the lead story on the local news would still be “EAGLES WELCOME BACK DESEAN JACKSON!”
On that note, EYE am extremely entertained by the latest moves made by Howie Roseman and the Eagles organization in an effort to diversify and make the team better.
If you’ve been on an oceanic voyage the past few days, here’s what you missed:
Just look at the primary QBs Jackson played with since he left Philly: Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Not an all-star cast by any stretch. But still, Jackson led the NFL in yards per reception three times in five seasons. Carson Wentz is excited. Also, the Eagles reportedly traded just a 2019 sixth-round draft pick to the Buccaneers to bring Jackson back. Even more reason for optimism: the Eagles no longer employ Chip Kelly. Read More
“Getting pressure up the middle on the quarterback has become an absolute necessity,” reports beat writer Paul Domowitch. “Jackson has proven he can do that.” Read More
Jason Peters, the Eagles’ likely future Hall of Famer, will return for his 11th season with the team in 2019. The 37-year-old left tackle and the franchise agreed to a new contract Monday afternoon. Read More
Eagles fans will always have a spot in their hearts for the Super Bowl hero. Foles, reports beat writer Les Bowen, agreed to four-year, $88 million deal with Jacksonville. Read More
That’s a lot to take in right there, but there’s more:
That’s just the tip of the NFL iceberg with more blockbusters to come.
For example, Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks reportedly intends to sign a four-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals that is worth $36 million with $20 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
You might reasonably assume the modern Eagles fan is on the verge of sensory overload right now. But it’s only mid-March with many more personnel twists and turns to come before a bag of footballs is actually opened for offseason training activities in May.
This football town says bring on the changes, the more the merrier. The Philly/NFL free agency and trade spectacle has never been more captivating to more fans than now.
[Still working on my QB “layering” piece and the “false hustle” editorial, I haven’t forgotten my promise…got caught up in the current hype of player movement around the league.]