We’re in the heat of the summer and you know what that means… football is right around the corner. In fact, there are only 52 days left until the Eagles kick off their 2017 season at Washington on September 10. Training camp starts next week at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia. The team will begin this season in the same way many have in the past, with higher expectations than last year. The Philadelphia fanbase seems to almost always have steep, often unreasonable, preseason expectations for their beloved Birds.
There’s an influx of new talent on the roster – the Eagles had a positive offseason by acquiring Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery, and LeGarrette Blount on top of a good draft class. However, the Eagles still have many weaknesses, namely their secondary which is ranked the worst in the league. It’s still too early to make clear predictions, but that doesn’t stop us. At the moment, I’m not sure they’re ready to be a first-time Super Bowl champion. I don’t want them to finish 7-9 again. I get the feeling that they will be either really GOOD, or really BAD. So, in honor of my hazy conjecture, let’s take a look back to the longest winning and losing streaks in franchise history.
The Eagles longest winning streak in a season is 9 games, which they have done twice. They first accomplished this feat in their 1960 Championship winning season. The Eagles, coached by Buck Shaw and led by Hall of Famers Norm Van Brocklin, Tommy McDonald, and Chuck Bednarik, lost the first game of the season to Paul Brown’s Cleveland Browns, but rebounded in week 2 with a 27-25 victory at Dallas. The team would remain undefeated until a week 11 defeat at Pittsburgh. They finished with a 10-2 record, which placed them atop the East Division and NFL. In 1960, there was only a single playoff game, the championship between the best team from the West against the best of the East. The big game was played at noon on the Monday after Christmas at Franklin Field in front of a crowd of 67,000. Despite the best efforts of QB Bart Starr and HB Jim Taylor, Bednarik and the Eagles D held on against the Green Bay attack, winning 17-13 thanks to a late game rush from Ted Dean. In what many believe to be the greatest game in Eagles history, the team celebrated their third and last Championship in front of their home fans. Shaw and Van Brocklin ended their careers as champions, delivering the great Vince Lombardi his only career postseason loss.
The team most recently won 9 games in a row in 2003. Andy Reid’s Eagles began the season with something to prove, they had lost in the conference championship in both of the previous two seasons. However, the 2003 season got off to a rough start. Big Red’s team had a chance at revenge against the dreaded champs, Jon Gruden’s Buccaneers, who had killed the Eagles’ title dreams in the final football game at Veterans Stadium. In the first regular season game at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles were shutout by Tampa Bay 17-0. Not the best start to a new era. As the season progressed, the team eventually found a winning gear, going undefeated from week 7 to week 15. McNabb, Westbrook, and Correll Buckhalter fit well in Reid’s west coast scheme while Jim Johnson and his blitzing defense bewildered opposing quarterbacks. They finished 12-4, matching their 2002 record. The Eagles squeaked by the Packers in the Divisional Round, winning 20-17 on a David Akers overtime field goal; made possible by the infamous “4th and 26” play. But, next week, much to the heartbreak of Philly fans, they would lose embarrassingly 14-3 to John Fox, Jake Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers. For the third year in a row the Eagles had lost in the NFC Championship, Super Bowl dreams crushed again.
The longest losing streak in franchise history stands at 14 games and stretches over two seasons, 1936 and 1937. The Eagles were a comically bad football team during their first decade (Only twice winning more than 2 games from 1933 to 1942). 1936 started out well as the Eagles beat the Giants in week 1. However, they would not score another touchdown until week 7, and would not win another game until week 6 of the next season! Click here to read a hilarious earlier entry from this site about these two pitiful years in our team’s history. The ‘36 season was doomed from the start as soon as the first selection of the first NFL draft, Jay Berwanger (also the first Heisman Trophy winner), rejected first-year Eagles owner and coach Bert Bell’s offer in favor of business pursuits. Bell never found success in running a team, but later became the league commissioner. He is notable for pushing to establish the system of drafting players which is used in professional sports leagues today. During these early years, the Eagles early rosters lacked talent and capable offensive lineman. Fortunately, they would see success in their second decade, winning two NFL Championships during the 1940s after Greasy Neale took over the reigns from Bell.
We’ll see how it goes this fall. Taking a rough glance at their schedule, it doesn’t exactly look easy. The Eagles will be challenged by the Chiefs, Seahawks, Raiders, and 6 games against the NFC East that don’t look so easy; the division was recently ranked the most competitive in the NFL. Based off of these matchups, I’ve penciled them down to go 7-9 again… As we do every year around this time, let’s hope against this mediocrity and for a great season more closely resembling 1960 or 2003.
The Sixers will begin the 2017-18 season this fall, marking the 35th anniversary of the franchise’s last title winning season. Their 1982-83 season concluded with superstars Julius Erving and Moses Malone, alongside a tremendous supporting cast of Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks, and Bobby Jones receiving their first championship rings. Since then, the Sixers have suffered a prolonged championship drought, appearing in the Finals only once in 2001.
This championship journey was not easy for the Sixers. It began with the acquisition of “The Doctor” Julius Erving from the New York Nets in 1976. Dr. J made an immediate impact on the team, leading them past the Celtics and Rockets to the 1977 finals against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Sixers won the first two games of the series at the Spectrum, but center Bill Walton proved to be too much for the Philadelphia frontcourt, and the Blazers won the next four games to take the title. This stunning turnaround compelled the team’s motto “We owe you one.” They would nevertheless lose in the ’78 Eastern Conference Finals to Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld of the Washington Bullets
Erving’s quest for a ring continued in 1980 as the Sixers battled the Los Angeles Lakers. Rookie Magic Johnson shined in his first Finals series. In one of the greatest games of his career, game 6, he played center in place of an injured Jabbar and scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists. The Lakers won the series 4 games to 2. In 1981, the Sixers would blow a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals against Larry Bird, Cedric Maxwell, and the Boston Celtics. The ’80 and ’81 playoffs proved that Philadelphia’s road to the title would have to go through Boston and Los Angeles. This would be a theme for the rest of the ’80s, as Bird and Magic dominated the league and TV Ratings.
Just like the previous year, in 1982 the Sixers finished second in the Atlantic division and took a 3-1 series lead against the Celtics. The Celtics won games 5 and 6, forcing a game 7 in the Boston Garden with all the momentum in their favor. The Sixers weren’t given a fighting chance, but prevailed on the road thanks to a brilliant shooting performance by the “Boston Strangler,” Andrew Toney. At the end of the fourth quarter, Boston fans chanted “Beat LA! Beat LA!” to the Sixers, wishing their Eastern Conference counterparts good luck against their hated Western Conference rivals. However, the Sixers would lose in 6 games yet again to Magic, Kareem, and the Showtime Lakers. So far during the Erving era (’77-’82), the Sixers had lost twice in the conference finals and three times in the Finals. Down but far from out, the Sixers needed one final piece to get over the BOS/LA hump.
That piece came in the form of a 6’10 260lb center from Virginia, Moses Malone. The Sixers fleeced Big Mo from the Houston Rockets, giving up only a draft pick and an aging role player for the perennial all star. Malone was the league rebounding champion, a powerful force which enabled the Sixers to compete with the Lakers and Celtics in the low post. As the season began, Malone and Erving ended all rumors about team chemistry by winning 10 out of their first 11 games. The Sixers would stay hot throughout the regular season, going on multiple double digit winning streaks. Four Sixers (Malone, Erving, Cheeks, & Toney) represented the team at the 1983 All Star Game at the LA Forum, with Dr. J winning the game’s MVP award. Three Sixers (Malone, Jones, & Cheeks) would be named to the all-defensive first team, with Jones also winning the 6th man of the year award thanks to his excellent energy and length off the bench. Philadelphia would finish the season with a record of 65-17, their best regular season record since Coach Cunningham and Wilt Chamberlain’s 1966-67 championship season. Fan support was at a high, as the city united around their beloved Sixers.
As they approached the playoffs, a reporter prompted Malone about Philadelphia’s chances – to which he replied “Fo, Fo, Fo” – declaring that the Sixers would win 4 games in each of the 3 rounds to win the title. The Chairman of the Board’s prediction came true in the first round, as the Sixers swiftly eliminated the Knicks in 4 games. In the next series against the Bucks, the Sixers took a 3-0 series lead, but the Bucks would not be swept, taking game 4 in Milwaukee. This would prove to be the Sixers only loss in the 1983 postseason. Returning to the Spectrum for game 5, the Sixers were victorious and celebrated their 3rd Finals appearance in the past 4 years.
In the Finals, the Sixers once again faced Jabbar, Johnson, and the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the Lakers had bad fortune in terms of injuries, with Bob McAdoo, rookie James Worthy, and Norm Nixon all hurting. The Lakers held a halftime lead in each game, but were outscored down the stretch in each second half. Role players Clint Richardson and Earl Cureton also made useful contributions in the Finals, proving that even the best teams need solid bench support to win. In game 4, Moses Malone delivered an all-time performance, scoring 24 points and pulling down 23 boards as Julius Erving made multiple clutch plays in the 4th quarter to clinch the title for the 76ers. Erving’s quest for an NBA ring was complete, and the 1982-83 Sixers were cemented as one of the greatest basketball teams of all time. Laker coach Pat Riley and owner Jerry Buss showed tremendous respect postgame, joining the Sixers locker room to congratulate them. Riley stated that Dr. J deserved this one, and that Moses Malone was the key difference in making the Sixers so dominant.
On June 2, the Sixers paraded down Broad Street with the Championship trophy before a crowd of over 1.2 million fans. Once they reached Veterans Stadium, owner Harold Katz, coach Billy Cunningham, and the stars of the team addressed a sell-out crowd. The Doctor basked in the championship glory, iterating that the team had been trying for 7 years to get to this point. He and Coach Cunningham thanked the fans for their support, including them as a major reason for their success. This was the city’s 4th parade in the past 9 years, with the Flyers winning the Stanley Cup in 1974, and 1975, and the Phillies winning the World Series in 1980. However, Philadelphia would not celebrate another championship parade for another quarter-century, when the Phillies won in 2008.
The legacy of the 1983 Sixers will never be erased. They were the first NBA team to lose only 1 game in the postseason – a feat that has been done only twice since, by the 2001 Lakers and the 2017 Warriors. The big four of Erving, Malone, Cheeks, and Jones, along with Coach Cunningham, have all since had their jersey numbers retired by the 76ers. Although they would not win the Finals again, the Dr. J era Sixers can be considered an Eastern Conference dynasty of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The team holds a special place in the hearts of Philly fans, who long for the Sixers to one day return to their former glory as the best team in the association.