A year ago, the Philadelphia Eagles watched the Super Bowl at home on their big-screen TVs.
They started the 2016 season with three wins before skidding to nine losses in 11 games. They were despised and rejected in the City of Brotherly Love, where a sports team must earn every drop of love. They finished last in the NFC East. They were given virtually no chance to rule the NFL in 2017-2018.
Sunday, nearly all of the Denver Broncos watched the Eagles defeat the Patriots 41-33 in yet another Super Bowl thriller.
The Broncos, as you remember, won three of their first four games this season before losing 10 of 12, leaving Vance Joseph dangling on the coaching cliff. Mile High was strangely quiet and empty for the season finale.
The Broncos finished first in the NFL in 2015, and last in the AFC West in 2017. Hundreds of thousands who loved the Broncos with the vaporous love of fans now want to kick their former heroes. Fall Sundays aren’t the same in Colorado.
Despairing Bronco fans, remember this: In the NFL, the mountain of revival can be climbed by the most unlikely of teams. The Jaguars, who stumbled to a 3-13 record in 2016, came achingly close to dropping the Patriots and traveling to Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The Broncos have joined the ranks of the unlikely. Vegas oddsmakers tend to know what they’re doing because they deal with cash, not empty talk. On Sunday, only a few minutes after Philadelphia began to quake with joy, Vegas announced the Broncos faced 40-1 odds to win the 2019 Super Bowl. The Raiders and Chiefs are 30-1. The Patriots, of course, are only 5-1.
Those Broncos odds look right to me. The offense is a disaster with a massive hole at quarterback. The defense is filled with talent and celebrities, but surrendered 92 points in consecutive losses to the Eagles and Patriots.
Kirk Cousins, the $30-million man, is tempting as a fix. He’s an overachiever, a deep thinker who uses his mind to overcome his average, by NFL standards, arm. He’s passed for more than 4,000 yards the past three seasons. He’s 29, still in the middle of his prime. He’s a true free agent.
He’s won 26 of 58 starts, and the Redskins finished a dead-middle 16th in points scored in 2017. In Washington’s final three losses, the Cousins-led offense scored a total of 34 points.
Is Cousins worthy of $110 million – give or take $5 million – in guaranteed cash? Remember, signing Cousins will severely limit the money needed for the rest of the Broncos rehabilitation project.
And this is a big project.
Eleven months ago, Joseph was introduced to the Rocky Mountain Region, and he essentially read from a script provided by his boss, John Elway.
“It’s a football team that’s not broken,” Joseph said. "This job won't be a rebuild. It's my job to find the small tweaks to make this team a winning team again."
A revolution was needed, but Elway instead oversaw a few tweaks. We all suffered through the disaster of a result.
Even in the Patriots era, the NFL remains packed with surprise. A year ago, Eagles fans were even more grumpy than usual. Their team had collapsed. They had no solid reason to believe their decades-long wait for NFL supremacy would end.
The wait ended Sunday with victory over a dynasty.
For Bronco fans, this highly entertaining upset lifts a little of the gloom from a dark and weird season.
The Eagles turned on a light of hope.