Why Haven’t the Philadelphia Eagles Ever Won a Super Bowl? (This Post Has Been Updated)

Players from the Philadelphia Eagles celebrate a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 15, 2014, in Indianapolis.

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Update, Feb. 4, 2018: The Philadelphia Eagles have won a Super Bowl.

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Answer by David Applegate, Bleeder of green:

Let me add a bit of historical context.

The NFL has existed since 1920, with the first official championship game being played in 1933. The 16 teams of that league, which was the dominant football league in the U.S., were joined by eight AFL teams in a 1966 merger. After some expansion and a rearranging of the teams into two new conferences (NFC and AFC), the championship game was renamed the Super Bowl in 1970 and was thenceforth conducted as a game between the winners of those new conferences. Previously, the championship game was played between the winners of the Eastern and Western conferences of the NFL.

The Eagles have existed as a franchise since 1931. In the time before the merger, they won three national titles, including the 1960 championship, when they were the only team ever to defeat Vince Lombardi (after whom the Super Bowl trophy is named) and his Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. To say that the Eagles have never “gotten it done” is false. They simply haven’t won a national championship since it has been called the Super Bowl.

Some people are dismissive of these and, presumably, all other pre-1970 NFL championship wins simply because of the name change, or because of the merger. Imagine if the Stanley Cup wasn’t a part of the NHL championship until the 1967 expansion of that league. In just one example, you’d have to notify the Montreal Canadiens, one of the winningest franchises in all of sports, that 14 of their 24 championships really have no historical significance.

A better question might be: “Why haven’t they gotten it done lately?” More than 50 years isn’t the longest drought in sports, but it’s one of the longer ones. The Eagles have had only two official chances since their last title, despite fielding one of the more successful teams in the league in terms of competitiveness, particularly in the last few decades.

In 1981, they were favored by 3 over the Raiders but lost by 17. Turning the ball over four times to the Raiders (who didn’t turn it over once) didn’t help, though the rest of the statistical comparison between the teams showed a very even match.

In 2005, they were 7-point underdogs to the dynastic Patriots, going on to lose by only a field goal. Though, once again, the teams ended up being statistically competitive, turnovers (four to the Patriots’ one) once again sealed the Eagles’ fate. It has been argued, inconclusively, that part of the Patriots’ success in that decade, including the Super Bowl win over the Eagles, was related to their videotaping and spying activities, a scandal known as “Spygate,” for which they were eventually penalized to the maximum extent allowed by the league.

The Eagles have had some great teams, with some heavily feared units on defense and plenty of star players on both sides of the ball who have contributed to their being division champions 13 times and to having made 24 playoff appearances (including 10 in the last 14 years.)

So is it all simply bad luck? Poor drafting? Not being up against the right team at the right time? Facing too many historically dominant teams? Having head coaches who were highly skilled, but who, in the end, also possessed tragic Achilles’ heels? Having quarterbacks who were exciting and talented players, but who couldn’t single-handedly will the team to victory when it mattered most?

All of these are valid questions, though it must be remembered that there is only one winner in any given year to go with dozens of also-rans, and that many teams’ meteoric rise to the top, where they grab that ring, is matched by a similarly speedy decline to the bottom. I suspect that many in Philadelphia, though happy to have witnessed the repeated lesser successes of the team over the years, would accept a Faustian bargain of 20 years of rottenness if it followed just one Super Bowl victory. Such is the extent of the cynical “Negadelphia” atty-tood which, for some, dictates that the Eagles will always come up short for one reason or another.

Luckily, current ownership, management, and coaching of the team has them on solid footing and on the rise, leading the team to be listed in the top 10 in most pre-2014 season rankings. Many believe they will make another Super Bowl appearance in the next few years, and, with any luck, render this question obsolete.

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