by John Kincade
One of the great perks of this job and doing it for the past 3 decades has been getting to puck the brain of some legendary sports figures. After their active playing or coaching careers are over, sometimes you even get the chance to become friends. One of those figures for me was Coach Dan Reeves, who as a player and coach appeared in numerous Super Bowls. While living in Atlanta I got to cover him as the Head Coach and then after retirement he became an analyst for Westwood One and joined me weekly on our radio show. It was like a Masters Class on understanding the mindset of an NFL player and coach. He was generous with his time and wisdom. The best times I got to learn the most were on the golf course. He was a relentless competitor and one of the wisest and kindest men I’ve ever known.
I was thinking a lot about Dan last week as the Eagles were preparing to face the Giants in the Divisional Playoff Round. Coach always referred to them on air as “YOUR Eagles” and he gave me a cheat sheet for handicapping a playoff showdown. I’ll never forget him telling me that when previewing a matchup, think of what would be said AFTER that game by both locker rooms. He always leaned on backing the team that would after the game not be satisfied publicly with being shown the door. I used that in my analysis of the Eagles – Giants game. I figured that if the Giants lost they would after the game speak of the pride they had in making the playoffs and winning a game under first year Coach Brian Daboll. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be upset, but they would find the silver lining. By the way, that is exactly what happened after their 38-7 defeat.
The Eagles on the other hand would never have been able to speak of finding a silver lining in a defeat. They had talked about that last year when they lost at Tampa Bay. It wouldn’t fly this time around. Instead they felt the pressure to perform and deliver as a top seed in the NFC. Using the Reeves theory, the Eagles were the more desperate team and needed it more. Of course this rule wouldn’t ever play out 100%, but I’ve used it for years and it played out this time around.
So what does this mean about the Eagles matchup with the 49ers? It’s pretty complicated. The 49ers played in the NFC Title Game and lost last season. The Eagles now are at home and a slight favorite to win. So following the Reeves theory who should be expected to win?
The 49ers are back in the title game BUT they are starting a rookie QB on the road as an underdog. They most certainly would be able to use the “we have a bright future” talking points about a loss. The Eagles are now the Super Bowl favorites and it would be a bigger disappointment and missed opportunity for them. I think the answer is clear, Dan Reeves would tell me that “YOUR Eagles are going to the Super Bowl”!