So much blame is being passed around for the Eagles’ 1-3 start. Chip Kelly, the man who traded away half the team in the offseason and coaches the remaining shards of it in a system called complex but not brilliant anymore, is receiving most of it. Sam Bradford, the quarterback whose most consistent quality has been turning the ball over at inopportune times, has seen his fair share of blame, too.
In reality, the Eagles’ early season disappointment comes from a source far above them, one that goes beyond schemes and interceptions and offseason roster turnover. It comes from the Philadelphia law of conserving football victories.
You heard that right. The law of conserving football victories.
Philadelphia must have created a defense mechanism to conserve its wins and at least produce some amount of happiness for its residents. The city can’t risk having two teams be good at the same time.
And Temple is good this year.
The Owls are off to a 4-0 start and beat rival Penn State for the first time since 1941. There’s talk of them being undefeated going into a home game against Notre Dame on Halloween.
Since 1970, Temple has produced a .500 or better record 13 times. In those years, the Eagles have produced eight losing seasons and an overall regular season winning percentage of .454. It gets worse: The Eagles have won a total of one playoff game during those 13 years.
Now, Temple has had some bad years since 1970, finishing with a .500 record or worse 32 times. Within those 32 seasons, the Owls have had 12 miserable seasons in which they finished with two wins or fewer. And if you’re starting to understand this law of conserving football victories, you can probably guess how the Eagles did those years: Pretty damn good.
The Eagles had winning seasons eight of 12 times and won six playoff games. Their overall regular season winning percentage was .578. This stretch also included the Eagles’ Super Bowl 2004 season.
So keep cheering for Temple if you want. But do so at the risk of watching Kelly, Bradford and the Eagles slump to a sub-.500 season.
It’s unlikely the universe will allow both to experience success.