Commentary

Cowboys can relate to Eagles' struggles

Philadelphia hasn't been able to live up to the hype, much like Dallas last season

Updated: October 27, 2011, 12:49 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Welcome to the Dallas Cowboys' 2010 nightmare, Philadelphia.

There aren't many worse combinations in the NFL than overhyped and underachieving.

The Cowboys learned that painful lesson during last season, which started with buzz about becoming the first team to play a home Super Bowl and quickly deteriorated into the most disappointing campaign of America's Team. The Cowboys' misery, which included the franchise's first midseason coach firing, was one of the NFL's biggest stories for the first couple of months.

It's the Eagles' turn to deal with the negative glare of the NFL spotlight. The defending NFC East champions have stumbled to a 2-4 start, a stunning development after their flurry of high-profile signings in free agency this summer.

"It's really shocking, the position that we're in," Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said. "I think the fun and challenging part now is to dig ourselves out of a hole."

[+] EnlargeRob Ryan
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRECowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan made headlines this summer when he referred to the Eagles as the "all-hype team."

The Eagles can't say the Cowboys didn't warn them.

Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, whose father, Buddy, is a former Eagles head coach, made headlines with a crack about all the buzz building around Philadelphia this summer. Asked an innocuous question about the Cowboys' defensive line, Rob Ryan made a transparent reference to the "all-hype team," vowing the Cowboys would "beat their ass when we play them."

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones' take on the so-called Dream Team wasn't so inflammatory. He wasn't exactly in a position to talk trash, considering he was around for the Cowboys' 2010 debacle. But Jones' comments certainly appear to have been prescient.

"Just because it looks good on paper doesn't mean it's going to work," Jones said in August, days after Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha picked Philadelphia over Dallas in free agency. "I stand as a very vivid, live example of that."

Now, it's the Eagles who stand as very vivid, live examples of paper champions who have crumbled when it counts. However, as Vick said, Philadelphia still has a chance to wake up and win enough to be in position to fulfill its immense potential.

But the Eagles better beat the Cowboys on Sunday night. If the Eagles lose that game at Lincoln Financial Field, they can go ahead and book vacations for early January.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesThings haven't gone as planned for Michael Vick and the Eagles so far in 2011.

"It's a very crucial game this week," Vick said, "and we understand the magnitude of it."

There certainly are a lot of similarities between the 2010 Cowboys and this season's Eagles, two hyped teams that have seemed to specialize in finding ways to lose.

Those troubles start with turnovers. The Eagles rank last in the NFC in turnover differential, committing eight more than they've forced. Vick has thrown eight picks. He points out that six have come on tipped passes -- sounds a lot like the 2010 Tony Romo, right? -- but acknowledges those interceptions are one of the primary reasons the Eagles are the division's lone team with a losing record.

At least the Eagles have a healthy Vick, although he's been knocked out of two of their losses this season. Romo's season was over by this point last season due to a broken collarbone.

The Cowboys admitted they let the preseason hype swell their heads last season. On conference calls with the Valley Ranch media Wednesday, coach Andy Reid and Vick insisted that wasn't the case with the Eagles.

"I don't think it was the fact that we got big-headed or cocky or arrogant," said Vick, whose backup, Vince Young, is the one who coined the much-mocked Dream Team nickname. "It's just bad breaks during the game."

Added Reid, dismissing the notion that too much hype hurt the Eagles: "Everybody has to come together and play as a football team. That's what we are working on. That's it. It is as simple as that."

Well, that's not so simple in Philadelphia this season.

Vick acknowledges the Eagles have struggled to fit in all their flashy new pieces without having a full offseason of work.

It doesn't help matters that defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, who was given a puzzling promotion from offensive line coach, has looked close to clueless.

And there are cracks in the chemistry, which tends to happen when a bunch of big names squeeze into a little locker room. Cornerback Asante Samuel, the subject of trade rumors leading up to last week's deadline, ripped the front office to Philly reporters Wednesday.

"Couple people upstairs might not want me, but who cares? They've probably never played football," Samuel said. "It's a business, and they run it like a business and they're going to do what they need to do. They're playing with a lot of money, playing fantasy football, doing their thing."

What's happening on the field for the overhyped, underachieving Dream Team is far from a fantasy, much like the Cowboys' miserable 2010.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

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