Author Archive

A Piece on Jayson Werth That Doesn’t Use a Play on Words with Werth in the Headline

December 7, 2010 2 comments

Jayson Werth is ninth on the all-time postseason home run leaders list, a list he doesn’t seem to have much interest in climbing. Only Babe Ruth has made that list with fewer playoff plate appearances, but now it seems David Justice has a better chance of coming out of retirement and climbing that list with the Braves than Werth does ascending it with the Nats. Etching his name all over seems less important to Werth than having it printed on some fat checks. It’s understandable, especially for a guy who, before landing with the Phillies, had his career threatened by injuries.

Rank Player Postseason Home Runs Plate Appearances
1 Manny Ramirez 29 493
2 Bernie Williams 22 545
3 Derek Jeter 20 679
4 Reggie Jackson 18 318
Mickey Mantle 18 273
6 Jim Thome 17 251
7 Babe Ruth 15 167
8 David Justice 14 471
9 Chipper Jones 13 412
Alex Rodriguez 13 276
Jim Edmonds 13 263
Albert Pujols 13 239
Jayson Werth 13 182

So what will the outfielder’s $126 million defection to the Nationals mean to the Phillies? The facelift is official now. The Phillies outfield will undoubtedly have a new look. I’m bummed about it. I was holding out hope for the slim chance of keeping him in the lineup this year. Now that he’s gone, our team is less powerful, slower, worse defensively, not as clutch, less balanced in terms of hitting from both sides of the plate, and certainly more lacking in beard prowess.

I guess Werth is sick of getting free hats and cigars at the end of every season

The truth is Chooch can’t carry the club in October, and he sure as hell can’t grow a good beard on that Panamanian baby face. H2O will need some power behind them next fall, and as long as Ryan Howard keeps deciding to be Casey At the Bat for Halloween each year, the departure of Jayson Werth’s stellar postseason track record is a threat to our club’s autumnal makeup.

Werth had a remarkable run with the Phillies, coming out of role player obscurity to become an everyday stud, and a key character in what many think could be the best era of Phillies baseball in their long history.

His emergence coincided with the resurrection of the franchise, in a similar fashion to Donovan McNabb’s impact on the Eagles when he arrived. Werth’s stay here was much less controversial and not so much a solo act as McNabb’s, but I think we should be legitimately worried that he is the first of the core members to say adios to the franchise. Will his departure be the tipping point that starts the team’s decline?

Werth's departure leaves the Phillies lineup beardless....and without right-handed power. Polanco's ginormous head is now the team's most prominent feature.

For anyone who talks Phillies with me regularly, or has read this blog, namely this piece, knows that I would rather have seen J-Roll be the first to move on. But Rollins remains, on the heels of two poor seasons in a row and one poor, aging hamstring. J-Roll and the lineup that he will likely continue to lead off, had a down year. The pitching is what got the team as far as it got, and now we are left hoping that Rollins, Victorino, Howard and Utley all have bounce-back years. Anyone else uncomfortable with that and uncomfortable with losing the only player that lived up to expectation last year offensively, leading the league in doubles, scoring 100+ runs and contributing 27 HRs?

Like Donovan McNabb, Werth will now suit up for a division opponent. I’m careful to use the word opponent instead of rival here, because we all know the Nationals only true rival is the record book of futility. As becomes the question with any popular Philadelphia athlete who leaves town, how will fans receive him upon return?

I happened to be eating breakfast at Honey’s in Northern Liberties, the morning after the Phillies ended the city’s 25-year championship drought, when J-Werth strolled in with his family. Man, this guy was instrumental to winning the World Series, and he’s got great taste in brunch spots, I thought. With no hesitation, everyone in the restaurant rose to their feet and applauded him.

He deserves the same reaction when he takes right field next year at CBP on May 3. When he gets that recognition as a visiting player, one has to think it won’t be long before he misses that kind of fan support in the lonely pastures of the Nationals Park outfield. And anyone who’s been to Honey’s knows he’s damn well going to miss that too.

Bye Bye Controversy: Another post-rest W and Vick has Eagles Flying High

November 8, 2010 1 comment

Kevin Kolb would not have won that game yesterday. Let’s be honest. Thank you Mr. Vick for ending all controversy once and for all.

The numerous 3rd down scrambles are the signature plays that Vick can pull off in a way Kolb can’t. But the play yesterday that made me say the Birds wouldn’t be winning the game with Kolb, was Vick’s flick of the wrist under pressure in his own end zone, hurling the rock 58 yards to DeSean Jackson like it was a Nerf football. It would have taken 12 Kolb dinks and dunks to cover that distance. In one play, the Eagles went from dangerous territory to midfield. After seeing that, I’d dare any of the Eagles coaches to keep saying Kolb can make every throw on the football field.

Vick showed he can hurl a perfect 60-yard strike from this release point. It's Monday afternoon and my jaw is still on the floor.

Even in one of the Eagles biggest wins of the last few years–an uncharacteristic W in a tight game against a great team, by no means the Eagles specialty on Sundays–they still proved they have yet to cure their chronic ailments. They continued with poor goal line execution and bushels of penalties. But the key statistic that separated this game from a couple of the heart-crushing close losses this season: zero turnovers. The McCoy fumbles in the Washington and Tennessee games were fatal. He avoided that this time around. Vick didn’t throw an interception, whereas the great Peyton Houdini found Asante Samuel’s hands twice, and should have been charged with a lost fumble at the end of the game were it not for the old “grazing the QB’s equipment” penalty.

The most overlooked advantage of Vick’s running acumen is that it prevents him from throwing bad passes. Plays that lead to scrambles and forced throws for most quarterbacks, become positive running plays for him. Sometimes for only two yards, sometimes for 30. Ask me about Vick’s most important statistic so far this season and my answer is zero INTs. Zero. 0. Zip. McNabb didn’t throw many picks either, but the consequence was a conservative approach (at least more so in his later years) of throwing the ball out of bounds or deep over everyone’s head. Vick has managed to be electric and aggressive without allowing the downsides of that approach to cramp his style.

The best part of Vick's legs? They keep his INT numbers down

Even with the brilliant flashes Vick has shown during his playing time, I’ve still been saying the Eagles will be an 8-8 team. The offensive line is suspect, the defense has struggled, and the in-game coaching continues to have me close to breaking the flat screen in my living room. If not for the fact that none of us in my household own the television, it would have been in pieces by now.

Forget the burned timeouts, delays of game and nonsense that is hard to even discuss. Game after game the Eagles start with verve and progressively worsen has the game goes on. The pattern emerged again on Sunday. We started stalling on offense with no answers to the Colts defensive adjustments while our defense just allowed screen after screen to push them back eight, 10, 15 yards at a time. The middle quarters were drab as usual, the poor officiating and disturbing Collie injury didn’t help the matter.

Vick has superseded the coaching shortcomings. He has risen from the dead to become the Eagles’ messiah. His playmaking overcomes any lack of play-calling adjustment and he seems to influence his cohorts on the other side of the ball to do the same. Trent Cole and the unit he leads, had a burst that’s previously been missing late in games. Maybe I’m getting carried away, over-crediting Vick and not giving enough to the bye week rest and Andy Reid’s post-bye-week streak. The long and short of it is that I’m now starting to reconsider the 8-8 train of thought.

The face...and ribs...of the Eagles' savior

My team has a leader now who can sway my mindset. On the field he is stepping up and making throws even when he knows he’s about to take a crushing blow.  And he’s been just as daring off the field, dropping the “Super Bowl” bomb in press conferences left and right, a sign of a leader on a mission to bring his troops to their destination. A fire and determination that, if McNabb even had, he would obscure behind his giggles and smirks.

The closing games agains the Vikings and Cowboys look less intimidating than they did when the schedule was released, but another Washington game and two epic battles with the Giants loom on the path to the playoffs. As long as Mike Vick is getting the snaps it looks like the Birds will keep their opponents on the ropes.

Where has all the leadership gone?

October 5, 2010 1 comment

What do sports and Andy Reid have in common? They have no idea how to stick to a plan.

This game was supposed to be about McNabb returning to play against the Eagles. It was supposed to be about the cheers and the boos. It was supposed to be about Michael Vick reminding us we can forget Donovan. But sports don’t know how to follow the scripts the commentators write ahead of the game, that’s why tens of thousands show up at the stadium and millions watch on their TV sets.

It might as well be the signal for "Are you F-ing kidding me?"

For me, all the storylines and hype became moot right before halftime when I watched a team fail to run a play in time, after that time included a lengthy booth review and a timeout. Under that circumstance, it would have been more pleasurable for the crowd to hear nails on a chalkboard played over the P.A. system than the official’s delay of game announcement.

My reaction was unruly. It included an involuntary disregard for the children in the row behind me.

After dealing with my own bewilderment for a moment or two, while Andy Reid scrapped whatever stupid-ass play he couldn’t even figure out how to call, I thought about how guys like LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson must feel about this incompetence. How can they take the coaches for serious leaders? Maybe they can excuse their generals once and a while, but week after week?

At halftime, I realized that was the new storyline being written by this game, at least the way I was reading it from my seats in the Linc.

The moment Vick stumbled off the field, so too did the team’s identity. Once Vick disappeared into the locker room, all sense of leadership on that field disappeared with him. The emergence of Vick included the rise of a swagger and confidence that the club started carrying to back its arsenal of talent.

Andy Reid watching his team's identity go down with an injury

Reid has established a fine legacy here, as the years of success have been rightfully associated with his tenure at the helm. But it’s becoming clear that McNabb helped mask Reid’s identity for both good and ill. His performance undoubtedly bailed out the head coach’s shortcomings at times, and the QB’s failures rightfully shouldered plenty of the criticisms.

But thousands of undistracted eyes are now fixated on Reid in a way they’ve never been before. Only he remains as a figure from those glorious years, so we’ve naturally put our trust in him to know what to do with the young talent on the team. Yet he continues to have no management of his group, and his fellow coaches don’t seem to be helping out at all. It has become clearer by the Sunday, that Jim Johnson was the game breaker on the sidelines during the Eagles stretch of success.

JJ’s defense used to insert fear into the middle of opposing offenses’ game plans. Fans took to him more than your average coordinator, because it was obvious that the fan base had confidence in his preparation and his control of the game. We’re an astute group here in Philly, any national broadcaster will concede that. I think we were on to something, and now we miss Jim Johnson immensely. At this point, I’d consider placing Johnson’s tombstone on the sideline with a headset on it in favor of Sean McDermott as defensive coordinator.

Has anyone recently had success with a séance?

Once Vick exited, it was time for Reid to rescue the game, but his questionable judgment as a decision-maker and evaluator of talent became immediately re-exposed. Without Vick there to bail him out, we got another look at Kevin Kolb.

Even those who argue that Kolb did what he had to do, getting back in the game by taking what the defense gave him, getting one Jason Avant snag away from winning, their tone admits he did a serviceable job. He was given an ideal chance to redeem himself. McDermott and the D actually got their shit together enough to stop giving up points. Kolb was afforded one opportunity after another to put points on the board. But what some are calling a smart, conservative approach that he took, I am calling a struggle.

How many times have we heard the coaching staff say Kolb can make every throw? How many times have we heard the Sal Paolantonio’s of the Eagles media world regurgitate the confidence the Eagles staff has in Kolb? Sal, when are you going to start to distrust a staff that can’t even make a goal line play call within a five minute time span? Could it be that Kolb can only make the throws at the NovaCare complex? Why couldn’t he make the throw to Jackson who got open deep with a move toward the sideline late in the game? Ok, maybe he does make that throw next time, but what good is it if he doesn’t SEE it next time? Maclin was open deep on more than one occasion in the fourth quarter, and Kolb didn’t even look his way. I did, however, see him pass the ball through a defender’s hands a couple times, so at least he’s got that throw down pat.

I would not give up on Kolb completely right now, but the idea of turning the franchise over to him is becoming scarier than any haunted house I will be visiting on Halloween. Kolb came into a very similar situation as Vick did in Week 1, and he came in against a defense with half the intimidation as the Packers. Whereas it took Vick five ticks of the clock to wow me, Kolb did little to impress in three full quarters. I want to like Kolb, because the media and his teammates talk of him as a fighter and a fiery competitor. He had a golden chance to redeem himself and strut his stuff. But he looked like a drone under center more than a commander.

It’s too bad, because Kolb could have written a post game script worthy of a Pulitzer. Instead, we wound up with a story we’ve all read so many times before.

Ad Finem Fidelis

October 4, 2010 1 comment

Ad finem fidelis: Faithful to the end. It’s the slogan of the Sons of Ben, the Philadelphia Union supporters club, which faithfully chanted, cheered, and derided the opposition on Saturday, as they loyally watched their team’s playoff hopes come to an end.

After attending the inaugural game at PPL Park in June, and sharing my thoughts on my first MLS experience and the state of American soccer in my piece for Culture Blues, I promised myself I’d see a game from the fan section before season’s end. The constant standing, singing, and generic rowdiness seemed like it would suit my style of game attendance more than the docile, first-row midfield seats that allowed me to get an up-close look at how much worse these players are than the Europeans.

Certainly a decent crowd, but noticeable empty seats on a picture perfect day

I had a lot of hope that day though. The stands were full and a buzz definitely hovered over the pitch. But this Saturday’s beautiful sun was gleaming off chunks of empty seats around the stadium. I stayed on my feet all game, learning the verses of various cheers, including my favorite one expressing disapproval of the officiating:

Who’s your father? Who’s your father? Who’s your father, referee?

You don’t got one, never had one, you’re a bastard referee.

As much as the supporters section was a good bit of fun, I expected to stick out there. I thought I’d be the only idiot who didn’t know all the songs by heart. I expected to have to fight through a gauntlet of team flags, supporter scarves and clouds of smoke to reach my seat. From my other seats in June, it looked like a reenactment of the Revolutionary War was taking place in that section. But empty seats showed their bare bottoms,  and the environment was tame enough for me and my buddy to have a lengthy conversation about fantasy football keeper league rules. I was only there because a season-ticket holder, supposedly ad finem fidelis, sold me his tickets to the game because he couldn’t make it. Devotion made an appearance at the stadium, but it’s going to take a while for diehard dedication to make its presence felt.

Sons of Ben members offer to throw the opponent in the river behind them

Nevertheless, a certain team tradition is being forged. Nearly everyone in the crowd donned a slick blue and gold Union kit or some other official team apparel. The DirecTV blimp was capturing aerial footage of all this, and frankly I was pleasantly surprised that this game was deemed blimp-worthy.

If you aren’t sure you’re interested enough to get a pair of seats for a game, I’d say observing the crowd at Union contest is worth the price of admission, which, by the way, was only $70 total for two seats and a parking pass on Saturday. The demographic at PPL Park truly distinguishes itself from any other stadium crowd in the city. The experience begins with the drive up to the stadium and the awkwardness of cruising through the floods of white folk walking around the depressingly dilapidated black Chester neighborhood. The irony will raise your eyebrows as you make your way to the parking lot.

Once you’re inside the stadium corridors, it’s easy to be taken aback by the diversity within the practically all-white crowd. There’s more tatted up pale skin in the PPL stands than there is at a Northern Liberties community event. The hipsters are mixed in among the affluent yuppies who grew up with special soccer channels on their cable packages and spent semesters abroad taking in the world’s favorite game. Splice in a young dad who is explaining the British term “wanker” to his little-league playing daughter and that gives you an idea of the group that is embracing the new team in town.

It all makes for an entertaining scene, and it can be more interesting than the product on the field at times. But unless the whole crowd is willing to be ad finem fidelis, attending games in season two may not be quite as much fun.

The supporters section on its feet all game long

The Champagne Room

September 28, 2010 1 comment

That’s what they might as well start calling the Phillies locker room.

As entertaining as it was to watch Roy Halladay wheel and deal en route to another complete game shutout, watching the 2010 Phillies celebrate their fourth straight NL East title was the highlight of last night’s broadcast on Comcast Sports Net.

The media constantly talks up this team’s clubhouse chemistry, so it’s fun to get a rare glimpse at these popular personalities interacting with each other off the diamond.

Choooooooooch should have this down to a science by now

Anyone who hates Chris Wheeler, and there are plenty of those folk out there, had to love the string of pathetic interviews that started the celebration coverage. He actually started on an up note by borrowing Chooch, the definition of fan favorite, for a minute. Now that his English is just passable to complete an on-camera interaction, Ruiz has been the subject of many postgame segments lately, and it is must-see TV. As much as I laugh my ass off, the exchanges are not very productive, and Wheeler’s lame-ass “gracias amigo” with a heinous accent to conclude the interview was flat out uncomfortable.

Then he followed that up with two blockbuster Q & A sessions with Mike Sweeney and Brian Schneider, two players who had to be in the bottom five contributors to the accomplishment that was being celebrated. Wow, Wheels really has some pull in the locker room. I guess he just couldn’t quite land the Greg Dobbs interview, so he had to settle for those two.

Speaking of frustrating guys to watch celebrate, thankfully I didn’t see any footage of Kyle Kendrick opening a bottle of champagne, but I guarantee he popped the cork high and outside.

All kidding aside, it was fantastic to watch what has become an annual ritual. J-Roll walking around with the TV camera in hand. A ski goggled Ryan Howard spraying some bubbly. Jayson Werth hopefully not drenching these teammates for the last time. Victorino darting around the room with a smile on his face. Brad Lidge calmly enjoying some Bud Light, knowing that shaking up a bottle of champagne would probably aggravate his infamous elbow. And good ol’ Charlie, sitting in what seems like a wise man’s rocking chair, reflecting on another utterly successful regular season.

Does Werth really want to give up this yearly fiesta for a few extra shekels?

At this point, there’s no longer any doubt that the Fightins of the last few years are the best Philadelphia team in my 20-plus year tenure as a fan here, and watching this scene reminded me that the likeability of nearly each and every major personality makes each team accomplishment doubly sweet for a fan base that takes its sports so personally.

I wonder how an Eagles locker room celebration would be received by the fans these days. Of course the clash of Andy Reid and Stewart Bradley’s Mormon influence with Mike Vick and DeSean Jackson’s tweet-worthy Va. Beach/Long Beach party style would be awkward to start. And with the amount of animosity boatloads of fans have expressed toward the coaching staff, recently-jailed QB, and management, one has to think that contrary to all Philadelphia fan instinct, a bunch of people around here might actually find a Birds party tough to watch.

Are you ready for Sixers season?!?

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Just kidding. Who could give a flying shit about the Sixers right now?

The Eagles are undergoing an exciting, and yet controversial facelift under the work of Michael Vick, who is performing surgery on opposing defenses. The Phillies have officially made the playoffs and are poised for another World Series run. The Flyers, who borrowed the hearts of  non-hockey diehards with a thrilling postseason run last year, are getting ready to begin a now highly anticipated season.

The Sixers, well….what is there to say at all? Apparently there is, and that is why I was shocked to find myself reading a column about them today before I looked over all the Monday morning Eagles analysis. The headline to Kate Fagan’s piece caught the attention of my trackpad: 76ers Said to Offer Iguodala In a Deal for Anthony.

I first wondered how an article from The Onion wound up on the sports page. Iguodala for Anthony? That’s like Kevin Kolb for Tom Brady. Too soon? (Sorry Kev, Vick has reduced your role to punchline until he gets injured.)

A guy who kinda looks like and scores like Iverson...

....for a guy who makes Iverson-like money with one tenth of Iverson's talent. I'd do it.

Seriously though, could one of the NBA’s biggest stars make his way to Philly? A source in the article mentions that Denver has always liked Iguodala’s game. Who knew there was a team out there (besides the Sixers)  that appreciates a slasher who can’t shoot, can’t play any real position, can’t make his teammates better, but can command an $80 million contract.

The column is at least honest about the fact that it will be difficult for the Sixers to become front-runners in the Carmelo sweepstakes, but just the prospect of bringing him here should perk up the ears of fans who’d like the see the city’s basketball team become relevant. And with the current status of the team, it will take a move like this to find that relevancy. Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, is expected to be a key to a better era of Sixers basketball. Yet the team lacks so much that I can’t see one rookie really turning it around by himself. But pair him with a prolific scorer  like Anthony and that’d be product I’m eager to check out.

It would be wise for the organization to be as aggressive as can be in its attempts to court a player who would be the first legit star on the Sixers since A.I. Part I. Otherwise, this team will be condemned to the cold shoulder this season from a city that surely has enough fanatic verve to spread across four major sports teams. Nothing can be more embarrassing for an organization than a Philly stadium or arena that is empty all year. When that happens, it’s always crystal clear who is at fault.

Rollin’ without J-Roll

September 21, 2010 1 comment

I love this city. A couple months ago, when the Fightin’ Phils were slumping hard, even those in the camp that said the Phillies would be okay down the stretch, must have had some moments of doubt about the team’s playoff hopes. Today, there isn’t a soul in the city who can be convinced we’re not winning the whole thing.

More so than the ups and downs of the Philly faith, this swing can be attributed to the nature of this ball club. The team that broke the championship drought continues to thrive off its unique character, and is once again dominating the competition when it matters most.

The Phillies are clicking on all cylinders right now. They are in the driver’s seat with a four game division lead and a scarier trio of aces than the table camera has ever shown on the World Series of Poker.

With Madson clearly back on the stuff that added a few mph to his fastball overnight in ’08, and Lidge looking lights out once more, I have only one person to be worried about right now.

Jimmy Rollins.

How will Jimmy fit into the postseason puzzle?

This year, I’m not worried his strained hamstring injury will linger, I’m worried that it won’t. He has been the achilles heel of this team all year, himself a strain on the offensive lineup. Whenever there is a debate about letting a rusty, yet experienced player back in the order after being sidelined, I’m usually in favor it, especially when a guy has the accolades that J-Roll has as a former league MVP.

In addition to that trophy, he holds the post of team leader, so you’ve got to get him back in the lineup as soon as he’s healthy, right?

No. Not at this point. Wilson Valdez has stepped in and done so many things right that Rollins has done wrong. He walks, he makes productive outs, he gets clutch hits and puts the ball in play. His on-base percentage has gone up and up as the season goes on, and he has a .400 OBP this month. He gets on base, something Rollins has struggled to do for what seems like an eternity.

This is the only image I could find of J-Roll on base. No wonder he's thanking god.

A great argument for the re-insertion of J-Roll is his defense, which has been the only consistent part of his game over the last few years. But the Phillies have not worsened much in the infield with Valdez patrolling the shortstop’s land. The starting lineup may not sound as sexy with a guy named Wilson filling in for a guy named Jimmy, but it has been stronger.

Rollins’ absence has led to two very important offensive developments:

  1. Victorino Leading Off: Victorino has relished in the leadoff spot. He, like Rollins, is not really an ideal candidate for the top of the order. He can be a free-swinger, but Shane is one of the strangest players I’ve ever watched regularly. As much as his aggression leads him to hit into his share of pop-ups, he also has some of the more patient at-bats you’ll see from anyone on the team. He draws his share of walks. Rollins never seems to walk, and that alone makes Victorino more valuable there. He’s got a .438 on-base percentage during September, a month he’s spent atop the lineup. The Flyin’ Hawaiian has been getting on, stealing bases, and giving the team a spark. He should stay there. Sure, he swings for the fences occasionally, but at least he’s shown the power (17 HR) that Rollins seems to have lost a few years ago. Like Rollins, he’s an unconventional No. 1 hitter, but one that seems to work the way Rollins hasn’t for a while now.
  2. Ruiz Moved up to No. 7: CHOOOOOOOOCH!!!! Has anyone captured the heart of this city the way this cuddly Panamanian has? He’s practically rendered Chase Utley an afterthought as fan favorite. Ruiz continues to get more and more dangerous as a player. He used to have the reputation as a player who grew his worth exponentially come Autumn. But now he may as well be called Señor Abril Hasta Noviembre. It’s at the point where his appearance at the plate, with a man on base, sends everyone to the kitchen because an RBI-double is a forgone conclusion. The Phillies are finally riding Chooch’s value to its fullest. Buried in the eigth hole previously, so many of his clutch at-bats got lost in bottom-of-the-order irrelevance. I mean, turning over the lineup is fun and all, but knocking runs in is baller. The omission of Rollins has allowed Ruiz to bat in more big-time situations with Howard, Werth and Ibañez on the base paths.

Thus, the Rollins dilemma. I have to realistically think Rollins will be back in there if his injury allows. He does bring playoff experience and leadership. He showed last season with his game-winning double against LA in the playoffs (which left me at the bottom of a pile of strangers by the way), he has a flare for the dramatic that Valdez will likely never have, and even when he’s slumping, he can drive a pitch for extra bases.

I do want Jimmy back in there if he gets better, and hopefully Valdez can continue his good work off the bench. But Rollins unquestionably should bat No. 8 in the lineup. He’s earned his right to play in the lineup, but he shouldn’t be entitled to anything beyond that.

McNabb Left Town, But Controversy Hasn’t: Is this really Kevin Kolb’s Team?

September 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week, as a passenger in my friend’s car, talking about our predictions for the Eagles this year, I said I thought Michael Vick would wind up starting at least four or five games for the Birds this season.

The questionable competence of our offensive line led me to believe it would be difficult to keep Kevin Kolb healthy. If Donovan McNabb, with the body of a middle linebacker, couldn’t stay healthy over the last couple years, it didn’t bode well for the more diminutive Kolb.

Sure enough, 30 minutes into the season, Kolb was knocked out of the game, literally, with a concussion. Granted, the injury could be blamed as much on the chemical imbalance of Clay Matthews as the lack of protection, but the bottom line is that it didn’t take long for Kolb to be sidelined.

Now, after Week 1, Michael Vick has already seen significant time on the field as the team leader, not just a gimmick who steps into the game for a hot sec to make the defense play guessing games.

Who cares how he did it? Michael Vick made the Eagles better in Week 1.

So here we are, with the Donovan McNabb hullabaloo behind us, yet this team and its fans have made absolutely no escape from controversy. In fact, it is a multilayer cake of controversy. Not only is there a debate about the starting QB position, but Eagles fans are struggling with the internal dilemma of rooting for Vick.

During one of Vick’s impressive runs for a first down on Sunday, my buddy yelled at the screen “Run you dog killer run! I’m a dog lover, but if you come back and win this game for us, I forgive you for everything!”

For the record, this friend suffers from a similar imbalance as Clay Matthews. Nevertheless, his comments raise an interesting issue.  Might Kolb be on a shorter leash than Vick now?

There’s no question Vick performed admirably. This entire city, as usual, was psyched for Week 1—the beginning of a new era, and a great first week matchup. But the game was beyond lackluster until Vick resurrected it and almost pulled off the improbable comeback.  His play became relevant in a way unseen up to that point in his Eagles career.

He also forced us to wonder if his talents and style of quarterbacking, as opposed to Kolb’s, would be better suited to the circumstances now surrounding this team.

If the initial issue with the offensive line was a sore spot on the Eagles opening-day body, it has now become a full-blown open wound, as Jamaal Jackson and Leonard Weaver are done for the year.  Pass protection is only going to get worse from here, and the question becomes how detrimental that will be to Kolb’s development.

After what we saw in the opening game, it seems Vick’s athleticism and ad lib ability could very well give the Eagles a better chance to win games this season. But many believe this year is not about winning games, it’s about Kevin Kolb getting his shot.

Yet, would it be worth considering a postponement of his development one more year if he’s just going to take shot after shot and not be given much chance to deliver his own?

Is this how the Eagles pictured Kevin Kolb's development?

It could be beneficial to let Vick take the team for now until improvements are made to the O-line. An article I read made an interesting analogy to David Carr’s career in Houston, one which was pretty much derailed before it started because he unsurprisingly couldn’t figure out how to win games with his ass buried in the turf every second.

Vick’s ass moves too quickly for anyone to bury it. On Sunday, he showed he can be a No. 1 QB.  He may have an unorthodox style that many continue to poo-poo, but success is the barometer. I laugh in the face of all those who, even after Sunday’s performance, talk about how the guy can’t be taken seriously as a quarterback in this league.  They say he wasn’t accurate or Green Bay’s defense let up because they were leading. Give me a break. I look around and see Jason Campbell, Derek Anderson and Trent Edwards starting games. Anyone who can’t even as much as equate Vick’s caliber to those guys clearly couldn’t pass the NFL concussion test.

The Packers head coach even said after the game that Vick adds another dimension to the game and called him a dynamic player. They simply had no answer for him—until the very last play.  That I blame on the Birds’ coaching staff for calling the one play that everyone watching the broadcast and everyone in the stadium—including the Packers D—thought was coming.

As much as things have changed for this team, Sunday reassured us the coaching will remain a familiar presence in our Eagles life this year. Play-calling will continue to be suspect, and clock management will continue taking years off our lives. One of the timeouts was literally pointless!!!! The clock was stopped for a measurement and a timeout was still taken!

Andy Reid admitting for the 340th time that he's got to do a better job. When does he plan on actually doing that?

Moreover, Reid and the Eagles brass will not go back on their plan for Kolb this season.  They’ve earned a reputation as the smug team in town, never properly adjusting to new circumstances as they arise.  Honestly, in this case, they probably shouldn’t renege on their commitment to Kolb.  It’s now or never for him. It’s his fourth year in the league, not his first.

If this is indeed the choice, then Vick has to go.  He is too skilled to be a backup. Period. The way Reid has forced his incorporation into “Kevin Kolb’s offense” is the team’s own admission of that.  Vick will get the nod in Week 2 because of Kolb’s injury. If he performs well again and wins the game, his value will be at the highest point it’s been in years. One has to think another team bitten by the injury bug, or an 0-2 start, would be willing to work out a deal for Vick, perhaps for a promising offensive lineman that could step in to keep the bullies off Kolb’s back.

If the metamorphosis of Mike Kafka from third-string to backup is too frightening, the Eagles can surely bring in a free agent veteran who will be a clear No. 2, there in case of injury. But without losing Vick from the playbook, the so-called commitment to Kevin Kolb is a farce.

If types of quarterbacks could be made into smoothies, the veteran scrambler and young pocket passer combo would not be socially acceptable. But for now, the Eagles continue to shove this nauseating concoction down our throats.

It’s a good time for the Eagles to make a choice, but they’ll likely just keep calling timeouts to think it over.

%d bloggers like this: