It was cool while it lasted, but with the loss on Sunday, the Eagles’ magical comeback run has ended.
Yet despite succumbing to the Seahawks in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, there was plenty to love about Philly’s season this year.
The team battled back from devastating injuries across all squads and a record that had pundits writing them off — they were even originally completely left out of the NFL’s official postseason hype video. They also sparked plenty of positivity off the field, thanks to football’s big role in the culture of the Philadelphia.
As the naysayers nitpick and the homers defend each and every toss, drop and tackle, here’s 10 good things to remember about the Birds’ 2019/20 season.
Carson Wentz actually made it to the playoffs
Wentz is the franchise quarterback. Eagles brass made that clear when they let Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles head to a different team last summer. But injuries had always kept the 27-year-old from North Dakota from the postseason.
That changed this year. After carrying the injury-ridden team to four unexpected wins to close out the schedule, he started his first playoff game in four years as QB.
Granted, Wentz only played for part of the first quarter — until a potentially dirty helmet hit from Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney knocked his head around and forced him out under concussion protocol. But still, it was a milestone.
A 40-year-old quarterback got a chance to step up
You’re only as old as you feel, right? In the NFL, it’s rare to have players on the field who are past their 30s, but in Sunday’s game, the Eagles called on 40-year-old backup QB Josh McCown to take over when Wentz went out.
McCown probably hadn’t taken a snap in weeks, announcers agreed, but he did a relatively solid job. It wasn’t enough to win, but it was far from a blowout. “I left it all out there,” he said afterwards, tears in his eyes.
Malcolm Jenkins showed real leadership
Malcolm Jenkins is an impressive player. The safety has played every snap in five of his six seasons with the Eagles, and as one of the captains, he’s often the one to rev up the locker room with a motivational speech.
He’s also been making a name for himself as a community leader. He led the charge for accountability as Mayor Kenney selected a new police commissioner, hosting town halls and writing an Inquirer op-ed.
He’s still in the running for Walter Payton Man of the Year, an award that recognizes a player for his excellence on and off the field.
Julie Ertz became as big a name as Zach
Zach Ertz made headlines last year for making more catches in a season than any other tight end in NFL history, and he continued performing well this year (until he got slammed with broken ribs and a lacerated kidney in the last game of regular play).
But for part of the year, he played a supporting role to his wife. Thanks to her role on the US Women’s National Soccer Team, Julie Ertz became a star in her own right. There’s even a slick-but-heartwarming Visa commercial where the duo share the limelight.
There was a man on the cheerleading squad
Speaking of breaking barriers: The Eagles had a man on their cheerleading squad for the first time in more than 35 years — and he was a total hit.
Kyle Tanguay was fierce both on the field and off. His performances gave male dancers a role model to follow, and his frequent social media posts got lots of new fans hype for the team.
Free SEPTA rides kept lots of intoxicated fans safe
Philly’s stadium isn’t in the center of the city like in some other places, but at least it is close to public transit — and thanks to several corporate sponsors, that transit ride is free when intoxicated fans are heading home from the game.
If you’ve never been on SEPTA when it’s full of tipsy Birds faithful, it’s a trip. It’s also reason to give thanks these people are not out on the road in their cars, because that would be a serious danger to society.
Practice squad players proved they matter
For all the kids who get on a peewee league or high school team just to sit on the bench, this season’s Eagles team proved you really can make a difference even if you’re not a star.
After injuries took out literally dozens of starters, players who never thought they’d be on the roster were suddenly called to action — from Miles Sanders to Gred Ward — and they shined.
We might have a new Darren Sproles
One of those breakout stars is Boston Scott. Aside from being named after a city Philly loves to hate, the 24-year-old running back has a lot going for him.
He’s relatively tiny, at just 5’7″ and 203 lbs. — which is a lot like Eagles’ legend Darren Sproles, who Scott said he’s always looked to for inspiration. Scott has already won fans’ hearts: over the weekend, a 2-hour line formed for a chance to shake his hand.
Jason Kelce wore a crop top
Center Jason Kelce is already a fan favorite, thanks to his speech at the Super Bowl victory parade and his embrace of Mummers’ costumes.
This year Kelce continued to be a rock for Philly while maintaining his humorous self. Remember over the summer when he showed up at Wentz’s charity softball game in a crop top? Good times, Jason. We love ya.
Dallas actually sucked
Sure, the Eagles didn’t make it past the first playoff round, but Philly’s longtime nemesis did even worse. The Dallas Cowboys didn’t make it to the postseason, and sacked their head coach shortly after the year ended. Now talking heads are calling the team dysfunctional, so there might not be a quick fix.
Unabashed schadenfreude is what professional sports are all about, right?