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The Saints have to win, 'cause I really hate the Eagles!

by J.W. Miller on 01/07/19

I hate the Philadelphia Eagles, I really do. I know it’s fashionable in New Orleans to dislike any team that dares to think they can beat the Saints. After all, our local heroes are the top-ranked, first-seed, most wonderfullest team in our National Football League playoff pantheon. Just ax anybody! So Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints? Who Dat? Who dat, indeed! 

But I will be pulling harder for the Saints this week than normal,  because the Eagles have done me wrong. More than once! In fact, two of the most disappointing moments in my 20 years as a league and club executive came at the slime-green-dripping hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. Sometimes you pull for one team and other times you pull against another. Sunday afternoon’s playoff game in the Superdome will be one of those rare confluences when I will be pulling for one team while absolutely abhorring the synthetic turf that their opponents walk on. 

So why is there no Brotherly Love between me and the NFL representative from the city of the same honorific? Sit down, pour a cool drink and listen to my story. 

I can empathize with Chicago fans, coaches and execs after the Bears were upset by the Eagles yesterday at Soldier Field. My last NFL game as a participant came in January, 2002, when I was an executive with the Bears and we were set to host the Eagles in a playoff game. The Bears had gone 13-3 to win the old NFC Central Division and held a No. 2 seed to the Rams, both of which earned a first-week bye. 

I already had announced my retirement from the NFL, and I thought it would be a wonderful way to go out if my team made it to the Super Bowl, which would be played in New Orleans. A triumphant finish to Miller's farewell tour! That hope was supported by the fact that we had the NFL’s top-ranked defense, led by LB Brian Urlacher and FS Mike Brown, that had allowed only 203 points during the season. QB Jim Miller (I was referred to in Halas Hall as “the other” Jim Miller) was not spectacular but steady enough to lead an opportunistic offense that was ranked No. 11 in the league. We also were somewhat a team of destiny, having recorded five comeback wins during the season. 

We were confident after the Eagles defeated Tampa in the wild card round, and the oddsmakers agreed. But early in the game, we lost QB Miller to an injury, and Eagles QB Donovan McNabb led the Eagles to a 33-19 upset. That wasn’t the way I wanted to end a 20-year NFL career, but that game wasn’t my worst memory of the Eagles. That came nearly a decade earlier, on January 3, 1993, when the Saints hosted the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs. 

In my opinion, the 1992 team was the best Saints team of the Jim Mora era. We were 12-4 although once again finishing as runner-up in the NFC West to the hated 14-2 49ers. The Dome Patrol was at its peak with the best defense in the league, and Bobby Hebert’s offense was efficient and effective. Indeed, the Saints dominated the first three quarters of the game and held a 20-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But things fell apart quickly. Hebert threw three interceptions, two to future Saint Eric Allen, and the Eagles scored an amazing 26 points in the final quarter to win. 

I remember sitting in the press box with personnel chief Bill Kuharich and GM Jim Finks. We usually stuck around after a game, but that day we were too shell-shocked to do anything but sit there while a stunned crowd filed out of the stadium. It was also Finks’ last game with the Saints. A few months later, he would resign to begin a one-year battle against cancer. 

So, to Drew Brees and the present-day Saints, I have one request. Remember whatever you did on November 18 when you beat the Eagles 48-7 and do it even better. I suspect the Eagles will not make the same mistakes they did that day and already are plotting how they can disappointment me a third time. But don’t let them, Drew. Please!

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