How the Philadelphia Eagles are like OSU

How the Philadelphia Eagles are like OSU

OSU’s 2022 season crashed quickly; so did the 2023 Eagles’. The Cowboys rebounded. Will Philly?

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Jan 20, 2024, 12:00pm CST

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Jan 20, 2024, 12:00pm CST

(This story originally appeared in Berry Tramel’s newsletter. Subscribe here)

The Philadelphia Eagles were riding high; 10-1 when December arrived. They were on a three-game winning streak, having beaten the Cowboys, Chiefs and Bills, three eventual division winners, two of which remain Super Bowl contenders.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts was an all-pro candidate. Coach Nick Sirianni seemed on his way to becoming a Philly icon. The Eagles were the Las Vegas favorites to win the Super Bowl; 4-to-1 odds.

You know the rest. The Eagles fell far and they fell fast. In December and January, the Eagles went a combined 1-6, beating only the  Giants, 33-25 on Christmas Day. Philly was trounced by the 49ers (42-19) and Cowboys (33-13). After losing 20-17 at Seattle and beating the Giants, the Eagle slide picked up momentum.

A 35-31 home loss to lowly Arizona. A 27-10 zombie loss at the Giants. Finally, a 32-9 playoff thrashing at Tampa Bay.

And all across America, analysts and fans said they’d never seen anything like it. Which might be the truth.

But we’ve seen something like it here in Oklahoma. The 2023 Eagles are dang-near identical twins to the 2022 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

You remember the ‘22 Cowboys, don’t you? They were between OSU’s two Big 12 Championship Game teams of 2021 and 2023.

The ‘22 Cowboys wrote the script for the Eagles.

On the morning of October 29, 2022, OSU was 6-1 and ranked ninth nationally. The Cowboys’ only defeat was a 43-40 double-overtime loss at Texas Christian, a team that eventually landed in the national championship game. OSU was coming off a rousing, 41-34 victory over Texas.

You know the rest. Let us count the ways OSU was the forerunner for the Eagles:

  • The Cowboys fell flatter than a Larry the Cable Guy joke. They were trounced in back-to-back weeks by Kansas State 48-0 and Kansas 37-16, slogged past mediocre Iowa State 20-14, then lost out — 28-13 at OU, 24-19 to West Virginia and 24-17 to Wisconsin in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Sounds like the Eagles. From contender to non-competitive in a matter of weeks.
  • The Cowboys were coming off a glorious season. The 2021 Cowboys finished 12-2, beat Notre Dame 37-35 in the Fiesta Bowl and finished No. 7 in the nation. The 2023 Eagles were coming off a glorious season; Philadelphia made Super Bowl 57 and lost a 38-35 classic to Kansas City last February.
  • Quarterback injuries were a major factor. Spencer Sanders had a breakout junior season; he was the all-Big 12 quarterback in 2021, but he was banged up much of the 2022 season, his performance declined and he missed a couple of games down the stretch. Hurts was first-team all-conference in 2022, but injuries began to accumulate in 2023, and his performance declined. Hurts didn’t miss any games, but by season’s end he seemed to be a shell of his former self.
  • A fractured locker room didn’t help. The Eagles are an open book, courtesy of a dogmatic Philadelphia press corps, and dissension was widely reported in recent weeks. Few leaks emerged from Stillwater in 2022, but in December of that year, a variety of prominent Cowboys started hitting the transfer portal. Sanders. Cornerback Jabbar Muhammad. Safety Thomas Harper. Linebacker Mason Cobb. Receivers John Paul Richardson, Stephon Johnson and Bryson Green. Defensive end Trace Ford. Tailback Dominic Richardson. Offensive tackle Caleb Etienne. Eight starters in all.
  • Mike Gundy, who had been in hot water in the summer of 2020 amid roster discontent, was scrutinized again, despite the bounty of 2021. But Gundy kept his job. Will Sirianni? There is rampant speculation that he will be fired, but his Eagles were four points from the Lombardi Trophy a mere 11 months ago. Maybe Sirianni can follow the Gundy model. Keep his job, right the ship.

This we know. There was life beyond the fall-far-fall-fast Cowboys. They had a rocky start to 2023 but rallied to reach the Big 12 title game and finish with a 10-4 record. Maybe there is life for the Eagles come the 2024 season.

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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