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Views From Across The Pond: The Line in the Sand

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

These days, it is almost impossible for an Eagles fan to go onto Twitter without seeing tweets from Cowboys fans trying to make the incomprehensible case that Carson Wentz has never won a Super Bowl. But there was a time before the Eagles won that Super Bowl, a time before it was popular for Cowboys fans to post photos of Nick Foles with the Lombardi Trophy as the most bizarre way of trolling (as if reminding Eagles fans that they won the Super Bowl in 2017 would in any way upset them). Back in those days Dallas fans would point to the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles had never won the Super Bowl and as such the lack of those championships made the franchise a failure.

I never quite understood this. The Philadelphia Eagles in the pre-Super Bowl Era won championships in 1948, 1949 and 1960. However, when a little thought is applied, the line in the sand drawn regularly by Cowboys fans, which renders any achievements prior to the first Super Bowl being played, insignificant, is a tactic easily explained.

After all, it is easy to diminish the achievements of one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history like Johnny Unitas, by saying that he only won one title because his other championship wins where not in a Super Bowl. It is easy to disregard the careers of legendary players such as Otto Graham and Sammy Baugh because they were unfortunate enough to have been born too early to have been able to participate in a Super Bowl and so the championships they won are not worth mentioning. It is easy to say that arguably the greatest running back in football history, Jim Brown, was never a champion because in 1964 there was no Super Bowl. It is easy to say all this because Cowboys fans root for a team that was merely 297 days old on the day that “Concrete Charlie” stood over the unconscious body of Frank Gifford (both also champions in their own rights).

So it is evident that Dallas Cowboys fans choose to disregard anything that happened before the Super Bowl Era since their team has not existed long enough to compete with the historical achievements of many other NFL franchises. However, all this begs another question. If one team’s fans can draw lines in the sand, then why can’t all others do the same?

Everyone knows that the Dallas Cowboys have won 5 Super Bowls. It is wrong to demean those championships. They won them and their fans have the right to be proud of them. But for the sake of this argument, it is necessary to point out that although all five were won during the Super Bowl Era, the NFL underwent a massive transformation during that time. That transformation was the introduction of the salary cap.

The salary cap changed the landscape of the NFL. It created a “level playing field” throughout the league in the quest for ongoing parity. It was introduced in 1994 and ultimately brought an end to the Cowboys dynasty of the early 90s. Of their 5 Super Bowl wins, only one took place after 1994 and the argument could be made that a large part of the roster that won their last trophy was assembled before the introduction of the salary cap. The Dallas Cowboys have not played in a championship game since.

Therefore, based on the logic that a line can be drawn between Super Bowl and pre Super Bowl achievements, it would not be unreasonable for an Eagles fan to assert that post salary cap championships mean more than those earnt by teams that were allowed to spend unchecked and thus were able to “buy” themselves championships at the expense of other NFL markets that would not be able to remain competitive or teams whose owners simply did not want to spend.

In 2017 the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl, their 4th championship overall, whilst losing multiple key players to injury (including their MVP franchise QB) and with no one believing in them to tie the Cowboys for Super Bowl wins in the Cap Salary Era. After all, a line in the sand is just that...a line that can be erased and moved to suit the argument.

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