Sunday should have been a day of celebration for Philadelphia Eagles fans, as their team clinched the NFC East in just the second season with franchise quarterback Carson Wentz at the helm.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, an injury sustained by Wentz late in the fourth quarter will bring back bad memories for fans of a franchise tortured by bad luck far too often during magical seasons.
Carson Wentz’s injury was confirmed as an ACL tear on Monday, effectively ending what was an MVP-caliber season for the second-year quarterback.
Both the timing and severity are reminiscent of the last time the Philadelphia Eagles were on a clear path to the Super Bowl, in the now infamous 2004 season. Terrell Owens’ season in Philadelphia ended on a Roy Williams horse collar tackle, which resulted in Owens breaking his fibula. His absence put the Eagles championship dreams off course.
Owens’ injury came in Week 15, with the Eagles in control of the NFC East. After the injury, then-head coach Andy Reid sat out his star players for Week 16 and Week 17 to prepare for the playoffs in a move that paid off.
Philadelphia famously went to the Super Bowl without their star wideout after McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook shouldered the load in the NFC playoffs.
The Eagles defense and the offensive cast stepping up in the absence of Owens allowed for wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Mike Vick’s Atlanta Falcons to push them to a Super Bowl meeting with the New England Patriots.
With the Eagles in the Super Bowl, Owens memorably toughed it out and played on the broken fibula against the Patriots in the biggest moment of his career.
Owens had an excellent game playing through the pain against New England’s defense and caught nine passes for 122 yards. However, the Eagles fell just short at the end of a classic Super Bowl in a 24-21 loss that gave Tom Brady and Bill Belichick their third Super Bowl ring, while Philadelphia fans left with yet another playoff heartbreak.
The T.O. Era in Philadelphia crashed and burn edshortly after the magic of 2004. Contractual issues with the Eagles front office and a public feud with Donovan McNabb signaled the end of a brief, but highly successful run.
To this day Eagles fans wonder ‘what if’ when it comes to 2004 and what would have happened if Roy Williams hadn’t broken Owens leg with that horse collar tackle in Week 15.
With a 100 percent healthy Owens, there is a serious case to be made that the Eagles would have had enough firepower to edge out the Patriots in a game where they fell just short of the promised land.
In 2017, the Eagles will have to go on without a player who is arguably more important to their Super Bowl hopes than T.O. was that season. Quarterbacks are inherently more valuable than wide receivers and much harder to replace due to the fact they are involved in every single play.
Unlike the Owens’ situation, there isn’t even a glimmer of hope that Wentz will return for the Super Bowl should the Eagles tread water long enough without their MVP signal caller to get to Minnesota. With a torn ACL, Wentz could be out until this time next year and won’t be rushed back due to his long-term value to the Eagles hopes of building a championship contender for the years to come.
For now, Eagles fans will need to cling their hopes to a familiar face in Nick Foles after they fully mourn the loss of Wentz and likely their hopes of finally winning their elusive first Super Bowl.
It is an all-too-familiar feeling for Philly faithful; a dream season turned into another nightmare of misfortune.