In what may have been the final game of Coach Tom Coughlin's illustrious career, the Philadelphia Eagles took a hard-fought 35-30 victory over the New York Giants to close out the 2015 NFL season. While the victory should have been a positive note in a game between eliminated teams, it served just as the closing tune to a somber week for the franchise, who was fresh off the firing of Coach Chip Kelly, just days before finishing the third year of his tenure. The move seemed premature but yet unavoidable considering the state of the Eagles, who underachieved and looked out of tune for most of the season.
Seeing the Eagles out of playoff contention also served as a reminder of the hard times suffered by the teams that play in Philadelphia, who have endured a rough stretch since the turn of the decade. With the Flyers and 76ers all but out of the playoff race in their respective leagues, it will mean that each Philadelphia team will now be with at least two straight season with no playoff appearances, while the last postseason victories came in 2012.
In a city where fan bases are passionate and vocal, seeing all these historic teams flounder to the bottom must really be rough, especially during an era in which playoff fields have been expanded and the leagues' structures are made to produce quick rebounds to contention. And yet, it is quite likely that at least one of these teams can rise from its funk to put Philadelphia back in the map in the near future.
Today we take a look at the state of each of Philly's professional franchises, how they got to their current state, and its prospects of returning to relevance.
5-year record: 39-41 (.487)
Last playoff appearance: 2013 Wild Card
Last playoff win: 2008 Divisional Round
When Chip Kelly was hired, he was considered the NFL's next great coach, and seemed poised to guide the Eagles in a new era of success following Andy Reid's long tenure. Instead, he became yet another cautionary tale of a college coach turning to the pros, especially after the team fell apart with Kelly taking over personnel decisions. While Kelly´s overall record was a positive 26-21 with a division title, it became clear that a change was necessary.
The bad news for the Eagles is that they are now left with Kelly's roster, which may not have been such a great fit in the first place, but they also have a number of positive factors to consider as they move forward.
Their final win cost them a few spots in next year's draft, but they will still have the 13th overall pick, money to spend, and a number of above-average skill position players to build a team around. Year 1 of the Sam Bradford + DeMarco Murray was a bust, but they should remain the offensive foundation of a team that remained in the playoff hunt deep into the end of the season. Also, the Eagles have the advantage of playing in the NFC East, where dysfunction is the norm and 2016 should begin with no clear favorite.
After reaching the postseason 9 times from 2000 to 2010, the Eagles are now in the middle of the franchise's worst stretch since the early 80's. And yet, the outlook is not as glum for a team that may be a couple of adjustments from returning to relevance. The next coach's selection will be key, as the Eagles are Philly´s best bet to deliver a comeback.
5-year record: 160-124-47* (.554)
Last playoff appearance: 2014 First Round
Last playoff win: 2012 First Round
*counting 2015-16 season
Working on a 40-year Stanley Cup drought, the Flyers are yet again in the middle of a disappointing season in which they are the third-worst squad in the Eastern Conference. With a -23 goal differential that is the second-worst in the NHL, the Flyers are looking at a second consecutive year with no playoffs, which is devastating for a franchise that hasn't suffered consecutive absences since a terrible streak from 1990 to 1994.
With an aging roster that includes Captain Claude Giroux and Vincent Lecavalier, the Flyers seem well placed to have a generational shift starting as soon as next season. With the East becoming quite top-heavy in recent seasons, it may be hard to think that the Flyers can become a championship threat, but they shouldn't be far away from returning to the playoffs and trying to make a run.
As a franchise that made the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010, the Flyers franchise remains in an overall positive shape, but they'll need a makeover to avoid becoming another also-ran in the City of Brotherly Love.
5-year record: 392-418 (.483)
Last playoff appearance: 2011 NLDS
Last playoff win: 2010 NLDS
The Phillies are the only Philadelphia team with a championship over the last 3 decades, with a magical run in the late 00's that produced consecutive World Series trips and a title in 2008. However, the team that won 102 games in 2011 was the last bright spot of what ended up becoming a cautionary tale, as the roster got old and expensive with no depth to cover up for these flaws. After bottoming out with 99 losses in 2015, the Phillies are finally in an open rebuilding mode, which was warranted since a couple of years back.
The merciful firing of GM Ruben Amaro Jr. promises to give the Phillies a new look, as the franchise has begun their effort of dropping veterans and hoarding prospects, much like the Astros started doing when they began their overhaul. As it stands today, the Phils are projected to have the 15th-highest payroll in MLB with a total just below $100 million, which should be a positive step after years of top-10 salaries that amounted to nothing.
Once the Ryan Howard albatross contract is done after 2016, the Phillies will finally be able to spend as they please. Meanwhile, their young stars like Aaron Nola, Maikel Franco, and Odubel Herrera will continue their needed MLB seasoning as other minor-league blue-chip prospects like JP Crawford and Nick Williams continue their ascent towards the Show. Playing in the same division as the Mets and Nationals, the Phillies will need all the help they can get for the foreseeable future.
After leading the NL in attendance with 3.56 million fans in 2012, the Phillies dropped to 14th out of 15 with 1.8 million seats sold in 2015, which may have been the most worrisome aspect of the franchise's demise. Even as their window of contention may be far ahead in 2017 or later, it should be a relief that the Phillies are finally ready to start anew.
5-year record: 109-239* (.313)
Last playoff appearance: 2012 Conference Semifinals
Last playoff win: 2012 First Round
*counting 2015-16 season
After hiring Sam Hinkie as general manager in 2013, the 76ers were quite honest in admitting a clear effort of abandoning contention and building their roster through the draft and analytics. In that span, the Sixers have been 29th, 27th, and again 29th in terms of payroll, with Hinkie trading or waiving almost all pricey veterans in the process. But despite the frugality and four top-11 draft picks in 3 years, the Sixers have bottomed out to the point of being unwatchable.
With a 3-33 record and a -12.3 point differential per game, the Sixers are threatening to become one of the worst NBA teams of all time, much worse than the 2014-15 versions that combined to win 37 games. Despite the high draft picks accrued by Hinkie & Co., the constant injuries to Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor's struggles, and the departure of Michael Carter-Williams, the 76ers have been doomed to continue tanking, with the NBA even thinking of making some changes to its competition format.
The Sixers are all but assured of landing another top-3 draft pick at the end of the season, and the league has intervened to give them a helping hand with Jerry Colangelo taking over as chairman of basketball operations, which essentially means that Hinkie will have some much-needed help in the foreseeable future. While landing a generational talent like Ben Simmons could be just what the franchise needs, there isn't any indication that the Sixers will be out of their misery for the next few seasons.
With three straight seasons in the bottom two in attendance, it seems as if the only good thing going on for the Sixers is their sweet alternative logo.