There is new blood flowing through the Eagles system. A breakthrough worthy of a transfusion that can perhaps revive this weakened web site. For the first time in a while, there is something worth talking about, something fun to talk about, within Philadelphia’s sports ecosystem.
It’s been an ecosystem that has been severely threatened lately by a collective underperformance. Our sports body, shared by fans and dependent on teams, has been sick. Our city has felt this pain for longer than it is used to. It has had sick teams before in recent memory, but typically when some squads are being hospitalized around here, others are getting discharged from mediocrity and into a new stage of recovery with postseason aspirations. Lately, there just haven’t been any silver linings (besides that so-so movie filmed here). The Philly sports hospital has been at max capacity. The doctors have been coming into the room, and they haven’t been mincing any words. There have been a slew of bad prognoses, and a bunch of bad test results. It has been killing us.
And then along came Chip Kelly with an unconventional approach to tackling a diseased team. He’s controversially induced a new Eagles fever, and all of sudden, the Philadelphia sports world, and all of those affected by its civic influence, have a pulse.
Dr. Kelly and his staff looked like a medical team ready for a major challenge. They showed up on the scene with some early answers, a detailed treatment plan, and some initial results. The lack of hesitation to go for it on 4th and 1, in the heart of field goal range, on his first drive as an NFL head coach, exemplified this new brand of leadership that has had the town talking for months. In that early, confident and successful moment he grabbed his team and his fans onto his side. After Washington’s fluke touchdown ruined that first possession, he could have succumbed to the disease of failure that has been wrecking this team. That is what almost every fan almost expected at that moment. But Dr. Kelly was unphased and did what he needed to keep everyone depending on him right there with him. He kept them through the whole game, and he may not let go of them for a long time. It was the kind of first impression that has led the 1.5 million patients in this town to look forward with a trust in this man’s expertise. There is hope for recovery, a hope that has been absent.
The Kelly offense had everyone gasping for oxygen: the opposing defense, his own players, and the fans. The Eagles have been diseased long enough that it was a shock to see the team show a heart rate again. The uptempo pace of Kelly’s style and personality seems to have rubbed off on the team in its entirety, and this was maybe the most encouraging aspect of Monday’s game. Special teams players showed urgency despite being up a few touchdowns, rushing downfield to make plays on coverage. The defense swooped to the ball and took on ball carriers in a way we have not seen in years. They were rushing around and around, and they were out of breath. But unlike the opposition, they knew exactly why they were out of breath, and they looked like a team convinced that their hard work will result in a payoff. Superstars were rushing to the sidelines after a job well done to pound fists with their head coach, an acknowledgment that they are onboard and ready to follow his lead.
On paper, the disease that has crippled Eagles nation in recent years should have begun another chapter of patient degeneration on Monday. But sometimes the human spirit laughs in the face of an analysis based on reason. Most full recoveries will require a mix of positivity and a well-developed scientific approach. This new regime has seemingly injected both into the organization’s blood stream.
But it was only one game. Monday night was just one of those breakthroughs in the lab. A glimpse of a potential cure that has the community abuzz. But this is still the experimental stage. Like any scientific breakthrough, we’ll need more tests and a larger sample size before we start making conclusions. At the very least, it seems this team has stumbled upon some minor antidotes that can be used to start treating the problem. They may not develop into a full-fledged cure, but they can buy us extra time and give the patient some new life.
This team is far from climbing out of its football coma. Only more time and treatment will tell. Yet, for the first time during this uphill fight, there’s reason to believe.
February 6, 2005 may have been the most frustrating day in this era of Philadelphia Eagles football. That close to a Super Bowl win. It may have been the most angering too, with many an NFC Championship dates qualifying for runners-up.
But this Monday, one on which the Birds appeared on the venerable nighttime football broadcast, was the saddest day of this Eagles epoch.
On a not-so-chilly late November night, the parking lots were practically empty just a couple hours before kickoff. Swaths of pavement laid bare with no portable grilling complexes to heat them. You could smell the apathy in the air, and upon emerging from the subway station, the absence of tailgating shenanigans in your sightline killed the mood before you even got to the stadium gates. “Is it too early to leave already?” I asked my friends as we walked down Pattison.
I only went to this game for the free food and drink. I was sitting on the shitter at work, when my friend texted me with the offer of an extra ticket. It’s a 12th row, 50-yard line seat that includes entry to the Touchdown Club, which gives you access to loads of free liquor and top-notch grub. And it’s free for me. Such a no-brainer that actually became a brainer the way things are these days. It warranted a debate in my head, and perhaps due to my vulnerable state, pondering my life on the toilet during a Monday afternoon at the office, a state from which things can really only go up, I convinced myself to go.
The feeble performance of the team, which has become too redundant to even evoke much emotion in me beyond facetious laughter and derisive jokes, was not the reason this was the saddest day of the Andy Reid era. It went well beyond that.
As I sat just a few rows back of the Eagles sideline, in the kind of seats from which you can see the sport and the players from a whole other perspective, I realized that I didn’t want to get such a close look at this team. No matter how many hundreds of Philly pro sporting events I’ve been to in the last couple decades, many sitting in the stadium’s last row but a number sitting right up close as well, as a heart-invested fan I still get that added excitement of being so near to the field. When you are that close, you can actually see when a certain player is operating on another level that given night. (From his first carries, I could see that Bryce Brown was “bringing it” in a way that teammates and opponents weren’t.) Great seats enable you to get a good look at the graceful way a running back turns the corner, but also actually see the expressions on his face when he comes off the field. It’s not only seeing your favorite players in the flesh, but being so close that you can pay attention to the nuances of their pre-game routine or observe which teammates they converse with to get pumped up. A whole other type of entertainment to enhance the experience.
Yet there I was, drenched in the Monday Night Football lights, just feet away from a team I’ve watched religiously for a good 15-plus years, and I wasn’t starstruck in the least. I scanned the sidelines and found guys like DeSean Jackson and the recently-terminated Jason Babin. I got a good look at the uber-disappointing Nnamdi Asomugha, and later that night his post-blown-coverage dumbfounded face. (I also got to see Nick Foles’ uneasy Tom Petty resemblance, but that’s beside the point.) I probably got one last look at Andy and Marty. It was a sideline full of players and coaches that didn’t so much disinterest me but actually disgusted me. Even during the other low points of this Eagles era, I never felt that way.
Monday Night Football. The game hasn’t even started. We are playing a team that we actually have a chance to beat. And my expectations are already low enough to be standing on them. So instead of paying close attention to the team as the game began, I turned to my friend to swig some beers and make jokes in the I’m-at-a-crappy-football-game-but-let’s-get-drunk sort of way. After all, another reason I decided to go to the game was to see him. He doesn’t live in town these days, but he’s one of my oldest friends, and one who has joined me in countless spirited adventures to Eagles games both home and away.
It dawned on me that more was at stake than a lost season. Those people who weren’t tailgating in the lot this time around, probably weren’t even getting together to watch the game with their friends on the sofa. Why get together with the gang to watch this team? Might as well do some laundry at home and devote a half a pair of eyes to the TV as long as you can until your conscience says it’s time for a Monday night sleep before the game concludes. Might as well listen to your conscience this time around and go to bed.
There are near weekly emails that go around among my friends, and I assume many other groups, throwing out ideas for Sunday. The chain-initiating message goes something like, “I’ll host” or “What are people doing for the game?” or “Anyone interested in heading down to Xfinity?” Sometimes we meet up in the burbs, other times we rendezvous in the city. The Birds serve as an excuse to get together. Now they are just an excuse for a football team.
As our best player on the night, Bryce Brown, also lost us the game with his second fumble–the final nail of melancholy in a season long ready to be buried–I realized that I can’t expect to see those midweek email chains in my inbox in the weeks to come.
The product is no longer worth it. That is why Monday was the saddest day in a long long time for the Eagles franchise and its audience, and I hope Jeffrey Lurie understands how sad it truly is.
Andre Iguodala stepped up to the free throw stripe. He huffed and puffed a deep breath, and he calmly sank two foul shots in the final seconds of the game, hauling his Sixers team right into Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs.
Sounds like an excerpt plucked from a book in the fantasy section of Barnes & Noble. But it actually can be considered a piece of journalism, a factual account of how this professional basketball team advanced to the second round for the first time since 2003.
If you were to have polled a slew of Sixers fans prior to that first foul shot, what percentage would you say would have predicted that Iggy would knock down both shots? 5 percent? 10? The pessimism bouncing around in the heads of the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, and the negativity reverberating in living rooms throughout the Delaware Valley at the moment the ref raised his arm, were crucial to Iguodala’s metamorphosis into author of the latest chapter in the city’s compendium of playoff poetry.
If you look at this story collection chronologically, Iguodala’s recently penned entry follows an epic Flyers chapter, its ink still drying and its impact still etched in the fan base’s psyche. Yet, at the same time, the hockey team’s victorious march through an emotion-heavy slugfest with its cross-state rival seems like a bygone tale from a distant past.
Thanks to the way the schedules are stacked, the Sixers have sort of played this role all year. They have been the team the city has turned to and dumped their hope into. Today I reviewed some still un-erased, midseason notes on my work station whiteboard, most likely from early February when the Flyers were slipping a bit and the Sixers were starting to convince their city:
Just when another team fades, the Flyers shortcomings perhaps weaning them off from the list of Cup contenders, another team emerges to inject that ever-persistent dose of hope to the town’s sports junkies. So Philly.
Even the Sixers, counted on to be embarrassing in recent years, are now right back in the mix of this cycle. But fans really have a chance to detour away from Letdown City if they keep their expectations right where they were to start the season. Winning a playoff series was the goal at the outset and should remain the goal. The problem is teams around here rarely exceed the fans’ expectations because the passionate followers adjust those expectations midway.
And thus the Philadelphia sports samsara goes on. Put hope in a team, team wins. Put even more hope in a team, it loses. Don’t put much hope in the next team, team wins. Now put hope in that team, team loses.
For me, the Sixers have been tough to put much optimism into, as I find it difficult to get excited about a team you know does not have the tools to win a championship. Not even the divine intervention that placed Iguodala’s two foul shots through the hoop is going to change my stance on that. But the blessing of this position is the ability to step back and acknowledge that one of our teams reached its realistic goal. I have no problem putting the Bulls injury circumstances aside and enjoying the accomplishment. But I don’t want my tempered expectations to be misconstrued as dissatisfaction.
In the postgame minutes of Thursday night, I tweeted that I felt good for Andre Iguodala, and implied that I felt good for his team as well. However I also went on to post the following message on Facebook:
The Sixers advancing is like being given a few extra drops of water as you are starting to cross the desert. You undoubtedly want them, but the impending doom of a whole summer of just Phillies is still staring you smack in the face and you know you’ll be out of agua soon.
A non-Philadelphian reacted to my comments and the supplementary comments of my fellow Philadelphians by calling into question our ability to be pleased. “Flyers out, obviously a bummer. Sixers move on, also a bummer?” he asks.
Quite the opposite, I say. I am happy and truly thankful of what the Sixers have accomplished. I will call their season a success with a straight face, and I will be rooting for them like crazy to take down the Celtics tonight in Game 1. I am just unwilling to recalibrate my scale of expectation this time around. I am heeding my own midseason advice this time, unwilling to roll up my sleeve and shoot up with what I know is another lethal dose of hope.
After the New York Jets did their best Eagles impersonation on Saturday, the Philly sports fever epidemic completed its gradual spread to the Flyers season. Approaching the midpoint of the NHL season, with an avalanche of extra attention heaped on the team via the HBO 24/7 production and the Winter Classic they will host next week, the city’s soul is now officially infected yet again with the hopes and promising play of its hockey club.
The team itself has been beset by the injury bug. This ruthless strain has gone after the team’s best, knocking newly appointed team captain Chris Pronger out for the year and attempting to derail Claude Giroux’s MVP-like clip. It’s been fun to watch this team so far, not just because of the way they keep putting W’s up in the standings, but to see how the genetic makeup of this revamped team fits into the natural selection of the 2011-12 NHL season. So far they have not been surviving, they’ve been setting the pace.
It appears as if the offseason experiment has worked. The Mike Richards departure made sense, as he didn’t seem comfortable as the team’s leader, he underperformed in key spots, and he was seemingly at odds with Head Coach Peter Laviolette. But was it excessive to cut ties with Jeff Carter, a rare NHL player who was nearly a shoe-in for 35-45 goals each year?
Apparently not. The team opted to spend big on a goaltending upgrade, the likes of which the team’s front office hasn’t produced over this decade-plus of playoff-bound teams, in favor of an offensive focus. But nearly halfway through the year, the Flyers are ranked No. 2 in the NHL in goals per game. Giroux has smoothly taken over as team (and league) superstar. Rookies like Matt Read and Jakub Voracek have responded with pleasantly surprising point totals. Most importantly, tough guys like Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds and Max Talbot have answered the call for their names on the scoresheet while Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk have not yet been in the dominant form they’ve shown before.
The team has gotten faster and younger this season, but the impact of the three tough guys mentioned above has helped the team maintain a toughness that is helpful toward their success and likeable by the fans. Everybody loves a team that plays well on the road, and the Flyers have been the best at sending opposing home crowds grumbling toward the exits. Their road success is a sign of a team in a good mental place, a sign of positive team cohesion, a sign that they may have something that has been missing the last couple seasons.
It is clear from their play that they did not stop to feel sorry for themselves when Pronger and Giroux went down, and the behind-the-scenes access of HBO’s 24/7 shows the coaching staff’s key role in establishing that attitude. It has led to some victories in the face of adversity while those two guys were gone.
On further examination of those injuries, it was the four-and-a-half games the team played without Jaromir Jagr when they looked like a discombobulated unit. The realization that the 39-year-old star may be the team’s most important piece is both a blessing and a reason to be alarmed.
It shows that Jagr has exceeded his expected impact. The acquisition of the Czech veteran, in the midst of losing Richards and Carter and gaining Bryzgalov, may have been the best result of GM Paul Holmgren’s tinkering. He has helped the power play gain some consistency it has lacked. He has elevated the play of his top line cohorts. He has been more physical than expected, not throwing hits here and there, but still using his big frame to his advantage and not shying away from contact. He is scoring. And he looks like he’s having a load of fun doing all this, giving smiley interviews with Coatsey after the game and clearly contributing to the positive locker room atmosphere.
So why be alarmed? He’s 39, that’s why. No matter how incredible he has been, it’s still a petrifying realization that the success of this team may very well rely on him. Without Jagr the power play likely drops back to the realm of mediocrity. Without Jagr, Giroux and Hartnell have to work that much harder to put pucks in the net at this pace. Without Jagr, the absence of Pronger on the ice will sting that much more. As much as Jagr has shown he’s in shape, as much as he has already responded well in recovering from a groin injury, will he be able to last the season and be this effective in the playoffs? It remains a ginormous question to be answered.
With so many positive things to be said about this team right now, it is still hard to fight the thought that its fate may be no different than that of its predecessors. They are still plagued by inconsistent defense. First and second tier guys like Matt Carle, Andrej Meszaros, and Kimmo Timonen continue to do enough for approval. They play solidly for a stretch, get occasional game winners and they certainly never seem like they are dogging it out there. But they also look completely lost too often on coverage by the net, not giving the goaltender a chance on many goals that are being given up.
The omission of Bryzgalov from the positive portion of this midseason analysis is discouraging. Has he been giving up goals on shots from indescribable angles the way Brian Boucher miraculously found a way to do? No. But let’s be honest, he hasn’t been very good. If you look at the league leaders in goaltender save percentage, you will surely do a double take. You’ll squint at the screen harder, and likely even hit refresh before you realize that his name doesn’t appear on the first page. He ranks No. 41 with a .895 percentage, and he is giving up almost three goals per game, good for 34th place in that category. Sergei Bobrovsky ranks higher (albeit not very high) in both. Although Bryzgalov’s existential musings on his humble role in the vast universe are quite charming on camera, he better wake up and realize that his 9-year $51 million significance in the world of Philadelphia sports is a pretty big friggin’ deal, and it’s only going to get bigger come playoff time.
The Flyers are a team that’s using scoring across its lines to overcome defensive and goaltending deficiency. This despite the offseason recognition that it will be goaltending that this team needs, and has consistently lacked, in crunch time. It’s a team rolling the right way now but, from a standings perspective, resembles the team that held the No. 1 spot in the conference last year for a while during the throes of season’s midst. At this time last year, the Flyers looked tough to stop. But then they lost their mojo late and got swept by Boston in round one of the playoffs. So has this team changed much? Some struggles at home and recent losses to the cream of the Eastern crop, are elevating concern.
The Eagles flew smack into a glass window this season, completing a depressing 2011 for Philly sports. The Flyers have a chance to swoop in and grab the championship the Phillies and Eagles could have nabbed. More than the usual are paying attention to the Flyers and their sport this time around. It would be a great year to end their 36-year Stanley-Cup-hoisting drought. But then again, every year has seemed like a good year for that.
Dining at Cochon began what would become a pig-themed evening, with a nightcap later on at the Blind Pig back in No Libs. It was a coincidence, I assure you. While I admit to intentions of pigging out, I by no means designed the evening to be so porky. I swear I don’t have a pig fetish (though the Cochon owners may), and I don’t even like bacon much. But some good pig once in a while goes a long way.
The meal could have turned out quite nicely at the pleasant BYO bistro in Queens Village, as the pork tenderloin, pork belly, pork ribs, and pork-inspired wall were all well-received. But the pig-headed waiter regrettably took the theme too far, sucking most of the tenderness out of the meal. You might be inclined to call the assholishness authentic to the French culinary experience, but I was in Paris last May, and all the waiters I had there were quite friendly and even accommodating to our language-challenged group. This guy was much more of a dick.
I got on his bad side with the mere request of a different table than the one he’d selected. He opted for the table right in front of the door, prone to chilling drafts from outside, and adjacent to the electronic kiosk where the staff hovers and punches in the order. Considering there were only two other parties eating in the venue, I didn’t think it a big deal to ask for the two-person setup a few tables back. After I realized that table was the only one not set, I explained any of the other pre-set tables were fine, just not the one by the entrance. With attitude he insisted on the original one I wanted, and slowly went about preparing it as we stood awkwardly, almost to stubbornly demonstrate why he was disgusted in the first place. Pretty ridiculous, but ok, I thought it to be over.
From my handpicked table I could now peer out onto one of Philly’s funky Passyunk Avenue “corners” if you can actually call them that. It could be perfect for people watching in the summer, but on a brisk autumn night it proved better for watching cars as they rolled from every which way through the jumbled intersection.
I finally got settled and delved in the menu and eventually the meat. The plates are robust, almost bullying you into testing your pig-eating meddle. It’s not the kind of fare for the faint of heart, and most dishes are wont to induce the undoing of buttons. My dining partner couldn’t help but lose her belt tableside, and I doubt she was the first to do so in that chair.
The restaurant, named with the French word for pig, knows how to cook that animal. The pork, in each of its forms, was rich with flavor, straightforward and satisfying. Ironically, the delicate gnocchi appetizer stood out above all the animal fat, with its warm melted cheese countered nicely by the cool peas embedded within.
I was interested in some more details of the restaurant’s concept and culinary influences, but not surprisingly, the waiter deflected my questions with a dismissive tone. Though unwilling to be chatty with me, he would then chat gregariously with the staff in the open kitchen, audibly enough for me to become super informed of his plan to fix his bike. His distracting chatter basically said “I’m only a curt bastard when I talk to customers at my table.”
I laughed it off and enjoyed the rest of my food in the casual atmosphere which had something of a cinematic aura. The warm-colored walls are decorated with humorous throwback depictions of the pig, and the mosaic floor, left from the butcher shop that once occupied the space, recalled images from some of my favorite French films like Delicatessen and Amélie.
When I asked for an espresso to cap the meal, I was denied. So much for the European feel. “I don’t have espresso,” the waiter uttered under his brown hipster ‘stache, as I stared at a gorgeous espresso machine across the room. I’d normally accept this, chalk it up to a legit reason like the machine being broken, but this guy had lost all his rights to the benefit of the doubt. Despite all of the inviting flavors of the food and decor, I felt such a desire to get out of there, and I left with a more bitter taste in my mouth than any espresso could have given me.
Naturally my comments on the food seem restrained by those on the staff, but that is indicative of the way the powerful dishes were overshadowed by the service. At least when I shared this experience with the person who recommended the place–a Cochon regular–he knew exactly which waiter I was talking about. It made me feel good that I wasn’t hallucinating his poor attitude. Apparently the entire staff is not comparable, according to my friend and to plenty of online reviews. With interest in new rotating menu items to try (the menu in person was not as it appears on the web site), I think I have a return trip in me. But others, who may get stuck with the French stereotype for a waiter may not be so forgiving.
Fly Guys commentary to come. I promise.
We’re past the honeymoon stage of our new status as a championship city, and this trophy marriage has taken a nosedive, from our newfound perch found in the Fall of ’08, back into a pool of miserable disappointment. The mood around town suggests the populace is thinking it might be another 25 years before the city’s next championship. Settling right back into our familiar role as Letdown City just isn’t as comfortable this time, because we’ve had the taste of glory, of how fun it is to win. It’s also a difficult pill to swallow considering the high number of hyper-talented athletes that continue to grace their respective fields of play in South Philly.
One day soon after the Phillies exited stage scoreless from the shocking Philadelphia tragedy also known as the 2011 MLB Playoffs, I jotted down a bunch of barely legible notes on a napkin next to my equally mind-blowing (in a better way) Khyber Pass Pub burger. Those written reactions to the end of the Fightins’ season have still never been published on this site. Sadly I think I’m still in the denial stage of that crisis, and as soon as I’m past that step, they may get posted in conjunction with some free agency commentary. But one thing I’ll share now is that I remember drawing a lot of comparisons between that debacle and ones orchestrated by the Eagles in recent years which led them to arguably sit second fiddle behind the Phils in terms of popularity in town.
Well wouldn’t you know, I sit here now, ready to circle back to those Eagles. The Birds, in the midst of their competition to grip the fervent fan base, have upstaged their sports complex neighbors with one of the lamest seasons we’ve seen.
Analysts both local and national have taken their turns assigning blame to this disaster. But that seems like a futile exercise to me, because there has never been a clearer case for which everyone deserves to be blamed. A consistently successful franchise with boatloads of talent does not become the utter mess the Eagles have become without the players, the coaches, and the front office all contributing. Everyone sucks this year (except maybe LeSean McCoy) and it’s everyone’s fault.
Be that as it may, Andy Reid, who has rightfully taken so much of the praise for this franchise’s success over the last decade, now needs to assume its heinous 2011 failure thus far and the ultimate failure to win a Super Bowl during his time. It’s time for a new, even better regime than Big Red’s.
All very good, long-tenured coaches reach the end of their road. At this point, it’s just too easy to come up with a list of flaws and legitimate reasons to dead end the Andy Reid path. The Eagles have now become that friend who is too afraid to dump his/her significant other. They are that friend who scratches and claws to stay in the relationship just because it’s comfortable, turning blind eyes to the fact that the relationship seems to be bad for everyone involved in and around it. Nothing is more frustrating than watching that friend, for whom you care so much, drag on with a boyfriend or girlfriend that treats them like shit, insisting on preserving a union that clearly isn’t working. Sure, it worked at one point, and sure there are some great moments that will last as cherished memories, but those elements have been overshadowed by the present problems which threaten growth going forward. So here now a couple million people sit watching with such agony as one of their best buds, the E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles wallow in disillusion, sticking it out with their head coach year after year even though it hasn’t really been working for some time.
Bill Cowher stuck around and finally won it. But since he left, has the franchise really suffered to succeed? Has it sacrificed its football identity since he left? Absolutely not. They’ve experienced tweaks, but the Mike Tomlin Steelers sure as hell garner much of the same respect as the Cowher teams. And the Tomlin Steelers won a Super Bowl too. Jeff Fisher reached his end too. Has the beginning of the Mike Munchak era in Tennessee been a debacle of rebuilding and soul searching? No. The Titans are respectable 5-4, bordering on impressive without a flashy roster, without their best wideout and with a mild contribution from Chris Johnson.
Speaking of Chris Johnson, he might be the only thing missing from this team that is chock full of inflated egos (Asante, DeSean) and distracted minds (Kelce, and the brilliant Avant) who made the mistake of not only thinking players are better than the fans, but actually telling that to them publicly. All these egos are mere droplets in a deluge of egoism flowing from the front office and head coach.
Leadership is one of the clear-cut characteristics missing from this entity, and Reid’s smug demeanor seems to have truly been emblazoned on the attitudes of his players. The DeSean Jackson benching, though seemingly appropriate, is still a laughable act of discipline he tried to pull over a fan base and media group that watches a strikingly noticeable lack of discipline on the field each week. It’s just too late in the game for him to convince us he’s got control.
You can see on the players’ faces and in their performances that the team is diseased. They have been infected with bad vibes and mixed up directions (Juan Castillo’s unit exhibit numero uno) that have left them looking like a jumbled up Rubik’s Cube that’s stuck.
It’s not just that they lose every game in front of the home crowd, but they regularly commit more penalties in their own house than the visiting opponent. It’s not just that the elite stars acquired via free agency haven’t found a way to gel, it’s that they are all there to begin with because absolute garbage has been plucked from the draft in last few years with the exception of Shady McCoy.
It’s not just that the team is showing up, squatting over the field and taking a steaming dump all over it week in and week out. It’s that the bigger the game or the bigger the moment, the larger and steamier is the deuce they manage to push out. And it’s not just that they deuce their pants in every one of those moments, but it’s that no-name players like John Skelton and brand new coaches (HINT HINT!) like John Harbaugh are throwing the Eagles face down in the shit and walking all over them in those exact same kinds of moments.
The Eagles should be so much better. With the electric players they have, they should be so much more likeable too. The team has a window now that would be criminal to close on a city that is obsessed with its football team. Guys like Maclin, Jackson and McCoy are young and we’ve seen they can be flat out awesome. Guys like Babin, Cole, and Jenkins are in their primes. It’s been pitiful to waste this season. It’s been heartbreaking that a team which was positioned to make up for the Phillies’ oops of a playoff run has fallen on its face faster and harder than any in recent memory.
Many are hoping that a rhetoric of change similar to the one that swept a nation can also bring a new face to the helm of ship going scarily off course. I ask, with all the talent on the team ready to be steered in the direction of the Lombardi trophy, could there be a better moment for a coaching change?
Getting rid of Reid by no means disrespects him or denies the success he has brought to the franchise, but continuing to allow the underutilization of talent, poor identification of talent, and horrid gameday performances does disrespect the team and the diehards who want so badly to shell out 150 bucks every Sunday as long as they can get just some inkling that it will be worth it. Dan Klausner’s account of a crowd on Sunday whose “general mood at the Linc was one of apathy. [Where] people were too downtrodden and catatonic to waste energy booing” is one of the saddest things a Philly sports fan can read. How can the organization live with that?
It needs to be acknowledged that criticism of the team’s unwillingness to part ways with Reid is hypothetical, an assumption that the organization will continue to back him as they have throughout his tenure. But we’ll just have to see what happens at season’s end.
Surprises are one department where they haven’t come up short. They took a giant chance on Michael Vick. They made an O-Line coach the D-Coordinator. They made a stunning move to get a shutdown cornerback and managed to make him look like a lost boy trying to cover Tinkerbell. They’ve uncovered one of the most rabid runners in the game but refused to unleash him.
Just maybe Jim Washburn can help the Eagles brass design one more surprise this off-season: a good ol’ fashion sacking of the coach.