By RALPH VACCHIANO
The Philadelphia Eagles made a big free-agency splash over the last two weeks. All that was missing from the first few days of the NFL’s wildest free-agent frenzy was Andy Reid sitting in a television studio, being interviewed by Jim Gray. They could’ve called it “The Decisions” because the Eagles made a lot of them.
Every one of them grabbed a headline. Every one of them seemed to bring in another star.
They dominated the market. They surprised everyone by landing cornerback Nnamdi Asomgugha, arguably the top free agent available, even though they already had Asante Samuel and would trade for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They landed defensive end Jason Babin, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, backup quarterback Vince Young, offensive tackle Ryan Harris and running back Ronnie Brown.
No wonder Young had a simple, two-word description for the totally loaded Eagles.
“Dream Team.,” he said with a very wide smile.
“From Nnamdi to Cromartie, to Jason to myself, I know they are going to do some more things (too),” he said before the Eagles did do some more. “It’s just beautiful to see where we’re trying to go.”
“I feel like we are the Miami Heat of the NFL,” Babin added. “Except we win the final game.”
It’s been a long, long time since and NFL team got so cocky, so quickly. The Eagles were a good team last year – NFC East champs – and were led by a player (Michael Vick) who could’ve easily been the NFL’s MVP last season. Sensing an opportunity for a real run at what would be their first-ever Super Bowl championship, the Eagles shoved all their chips to the middle of their table and went after every top player they could get to come along for their ride.
The fact that less than a week into training camp they’re so open about it is … well, it’s shocking in an organization that, taking a cue from its quiet coach, is usually more about doing it on the field than doing it with their mouths. Even Eagles president Joe Banner admitted that “Dream Team” is a “a scary term.”
Of course, he didn’t back off the term at all.
“Somebody wrote the words ‘The Eagles are all in,’ and that’s how we look at it,” Banner said. “We’re doing anything and everything we can, we’re being aggressive about it, and the expectations are high.”
The target is high, too, right on the Eagles’ back. Rob Ryan, the new Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, has already dubbed Philly “the all-hype team” and promised to “kick their asses” the first time the Eagles and Cowboys meet. Up in New Jersey, when Giants receiver Mario Manningham was told the Eagles are a “Dream Team” he said “So were the Patriots” before the Giants knocked them off in Super Bowl XLII.
“I know one dream team and that was with Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley,” said Packers cornerback Charles Woodson. “This is the National Football League and there's going to be a lot of people who have something to say about that.”
Not surprisingly, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie has already tried to walk back the “Dream Team” nonsense and to scale back what are already unreasonably high expectations. He said “I laugh when people say, 'Are you the favorite?' Let's cut to reality.” He then went through a list of other “loaded” teams in the NFC.
And he may be right. The Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints, and especially the defending champion Green Bay Packers may all still have something to say about who the favorite really is before long. The Dallas Cowboys, with Tony Romo back and healthy, aren’t ready to concede the NFC East. Even the Giants, despite losing far too many of their own players thanks to a salary cap mess.
The “reality” doesn’t matter, though, because the Eagles put themselves up on the podium and now there’s no way for anyone to take them down – although everyone in the NFL is itching to try.
“We're about as far from being a ‘Dream Team’ as you can be,” Lurie said, presumably with a straight face. “We're playing catch-up.”
If he thinks anyone believes that he believes that, then he really is dreaming.
By RALPH VACCHIANO