Vikings fans are so well-versed in their favorite franchise’s, ahem, difficult playoff history that they sometimes wear it as a badge of honor. Ask them if another team’s fans might have it even worse, and they tend to get offended.
Worse than the Vikings? Worse than four Super Bowl losses in eight seasons between 1969 and 1976 … and then five NFC title game losses with no victories since then — many of those losses in heartbreaking fashion?
Can it get worse than that?
Well, maybe you’ll concede fans of the Bills, losers of four consecutive Super Bowls with no victories, can claim more misery. The Browns went 0-16 this year and have buried themselves in their own kind of hopeless misery. The Lions have exactly one playoff victory since 1957. So maybe it can be worse.
But what about … Eagles fans. Do they have it worse than Vikings fans?
Purple backers might immediately answer emphatically, “no!” their NFC title game counterparts Sunday are not worse off.
But while you’re certainly well aware of the Vikings’ past, there is at least this to consider:
*From 1998 to 2017, a span of 20 NFL seasons, no team has made more appearances in the NFC title game than the Eagles. Sunday will mark their sixth trip in those 20 years. They went 1-4 in those first five tries, including 1-2 in games in Philadelphia. They lost three consecutive NFC title games from 2001-03 before finally making the Super Bowl in 2004 — where they lost 24-21 to the Patriots.
The Vikings, by the way, are about to make their fourth NFC title game appearance in the past 20 seasons. That’s tied for the second-most in that span with the Falcons and Packers. Four other teams have gone three times. Only three teams haven’t made it to the NFC title game at all in the last 20 years: the Lions (of course), the Cowboys and the Redskins.
*The Eagles do have three NFL championships to fall back on in the pre-Super Bowl era, but the last one came in 1960. They are 0-2 in the Super Bowl, having also lost to the Raiders after the 1980 season. It should be noted that both years the Eagles reached the Super Bowl they beat the Vikings in the playoffs on the way.
*The Eagles have made 15 appearances in the wild card round, 13 in the division round, seven in the NFC championship game and two in the Super Bowl without winning a Super Bowl title. That’s at least competitive with the Vikings’ misery.
*When the Eagles have been bad, they’ve been REALLY bad. After winning that 1960 NFL title, they didn’t even make it back to the playoffs until 1978, a drought of 17 seasons. They had another six-year playoff drought from 1982-87, all of which were losing seasons. The Vikings missed the playoffs each of their first seven seasons of existence from 1961-67, but their longest playoff drought since then is a mere four years (1983-86).
*The Eagles might not have as many dramatic playoff losses as the Vikings, but they have their share. They lost to New Orleans on a last-second field goal in 2013; they had a drive stall deep in Green Bay territory to finish off a 21-16 loss in 2010; the Cardinals scored the go-ahead touchdown in the NFC title game in 2008 with three minutes to play.
*Have the Eagles had anything close to the Stefon Diggs miracle catch that launched the Vikings into this game and can be used as an antidote to all this bad stuff? Well, they did convert a 4th-and-26 against the Packers — who could forget Freddie Mitchell — in the closing seconds of regulation of a division playoff game, setting up a game-tying field goal in a game they won in overtime.
Add it up, though, and the Eagles have had their share of misery. I dare say their fans might not have been through quite as much pain as Vikings fans have, but it hasn’t been pleasant.
The Eagles did have Randall Cunningham in his prime. The Vikings had him for one great season. Philly had Donovan McNabb leading them at least to the brink of greatness year after year. The Vikings had McNabb for six starts (and one win) at the very end of his career.
Of course, Vikings fans could imagine one scenario by which they’d gladly concede the Eagles have a more tortured fan base: the Vikings winning Sunday’s NFC title game in Philadelphia on the way to a Super Bowl win in their home stadium.