Home field advantage is something NFL teams play for all season as they try to solidify their playoff chances. For the Philadelphia Eagles, the playoffs are not really on their radar, and that is partly due to their play at home.
For years, the concrete artificial turf, rats, bad plumbing, basement courthouse and raucous crowd made Veterans Stadium a place feared by Eagles’ opponents. Now, it seems, coming into the cookie-cutter, personality-less Lincoln Financial Field is a welcoming vacation for visiting teams.
Of course the fact that Andy Reid’s last several drafts and poor free agent signings left the team in bad shape might also contribute, but the Birds have not won a home game since Sept. 30, 2012. Chip Kelly’s squad won’t get a chance to win another home game until Oct. 20 when they host the rival Dallas Cowboys, thus ensuring nearly a 13 month drought.
Putting the quality of the team aside for a moment, their home turf does nothing to instill fear in visiting players. The sterile, corporate, character-less confines of the Linc make it hard to discern from any other modern NFL stadium. Additionally, a poor product yielding negative results leads to boos and derisive shouts from passionate would-be supporters. In 2011, veteran wide receiver Jason Avant went as far as to go on record saying he and his teammates look at home games as if they are on the road, due to the negative vibe from the crowd.
Gone is the controlled insanity of the 700 level zealots, replaced by luxury boxes, club suites and personal seat licenses. Owner Jeffrey Lurie is a leader when it comes to environmental issues such as recycling and wind energy, but the team has yet to put their finger on any stadium gimmicks to create fan energy.
One thing that has always stirred up the Philly crowd has been a punishing defense. Not coincidently, the Eagles’ defense has been mired in mediocrity at best since the passing of long time defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
Currently on their third coordinator in five seasons, the defense has especially done poorly on the typically loud and raucous third down situations. Using the 12th man and getting the crowd in a frenzy, just to have everyone deflated by lack of defensive pressure and an offensive conversion, has become the norm in Philadelphia.
Once a place infamous for long hours of tailgating followed by three hours of screaming, cursing and intimidation by Eagle fans, the team has only won a total of nine home games dating back to September of 2010. Kelly’s high-wire act of an offense is exciting to watch, but a physical, quarterback-sacking, turnover causing defense is what fires up the Philadelphia crowd.
Unless current coordinator Billy Davis can magically flip a switch, home field advantage is likely to remain only a memory for the Eagles this season.