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The Chip Kelly Treatment

September 12, 2013 1 comment

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.Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins

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.

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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.

The Saddest of the Eagles’ Modern Days

November 29, 2012 2 comments

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.

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Why? Because they were free…well actually…because they came with free food and drink.

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.

Settling Back Down In Letdown City

November 17, 2011 3 comments

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.

It's time to do a better job...like literally a different job...like don't be the Eagles coach anymore

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.

The Depressing Tones of Eagles-Bills Post-game/Pre-game “Trash Talk”

October 9, 2011 1 comment

Although it has rained pretty much every day on the East Coast since my last post on this site, it has somehow been unable to end the massive writing drought that Blog of Brotherly Love has seen. Well, I’ll pick up where I left off–with another great football-related dialogue. Find below an exchange, which speaks for itself, between one of my favorite Bills fans (who runs a brilliant site of his own) and myself this past Monday. Perfect lead-in to a few hour block during which we’ll see whose smidgeon of optimism can be shattered:

me: I was at both the Eagles game and Phillies game yesterday, worst day of my life
Bills fan: Haha oh shit what a terrible day
me: horrifying
  rough 14 hours at the sports complex
  at least the tailgate was good
Bills fan: Man, so glad upstate NY doesn’t have any other teams for me to give a shit about
  Couldn’t take a double hit like that
me: yeah
  haha
  it was a huge risk going in
  mood on the subway home could not have been more depressing
  i turned to my friend and said “Think about how all of this would be so much better if we just didn’t care about sports”
 Bills fan: Ugh
  I can’t even imagine the person I would be
 me: yea
  haha
 Bills fan: I’d have so much more optimism
 me: me too
  think about all the philly team disappointments that have shaped my identity
  so foolish but unavoidable
  well it’s bills-birds next week right?
  good for you, we are such shit
 Bills fan: I don’t know, looked like last year’s Bills this week
 me: I would say it’s dangerous for you because it is a bounce back must win game for us
  but that was yesterday for us too!
  and we were home
  and still looked awful
  so i’m convinced we are bad
 Bills fan: What’s their problem though?
 me: coaching
  is the biggest problem
  undoubtedly
  such a talented team
  used so improperly
 Bills fan: What’s that fat fuck doing wrong?
 me: both with regards to technical Xs and Os and also motivation
  everything
  starting with making his offensive line coach from last year our D coordinator this year
  he is retarded
 Bills fan: Haha that makes no sense
 me: the fat fuck is also atrocious in the draft
 Bills fan: Yeah I just saw your FB post
 me: yeah
  also atrocious
  they are not using Asomgha properly
 Bills fan: I don’t know who any of those people are
 me: the playcalling continues to be absurdly illogical
 Bills fan: Saw that, he’s in the wrong kind of coverage scheme
 me: McCoy came into yesterday as the leading rusher in NFC, he has been dynamite
  he wasn’t part of the gameplan at all
  he rushed the ball 8 or 9 times I think
 Bills fan: That’s never good
 me: we had a 20 point lead in the second half, yet Reid is passing on every play in the 4th
  not even making the Niners work against the clock!
 Bills fan: You’re making me feel so much better about this weekend
 me: not only did they come all the way back, but it wasn’t even up against the wire
  they did it with time to spare b/c Reid literally doesn’t even consider the time in the game as an important unit of measurement     that relates to a football game
 Bills fan: Haha
 me: we cannot score a TD in the red zone
  and he says every week we have to get better
  but he has no idea what to do
  he calls an option play from the 1 yard line
  Ronnie Brown actually tries to execute the play which never has any business of even being practiced, the result, another red       zone turnover
  of which we have sooo many in just 4 weeks
  and then Reid continues to have the nerve to be an arrogant prick to the media
  the ratio of arrogance to amount of success he’s had is a broken equation
  i’ll stop
  Come to Philly next week and watch the game with me here….
 Bills fan: Haha amazing rant
  and no way
  I can’t be around non-Bills fans during Bills games
 me: great comment
 Bills fan: Seriously
  We went to a non-Bills exclusive bar for the first time in awhile yesterday
  There wasn’t a single Bengals fan there
  But I was enraged and ready to fight the fans of other winning teams if they so much as looked at me
 me: hahaha
  so maybe it’s not a good idea
  but come to philly anyway sometime soon
  casino is walking distance now
 Bills fan: I’d def like to come before the cold really sets in
  I’ll talk to the guys about it
 me: good
  i’m gonna run
  catch ya later
 Bills fan: See ya
Categories: Eagles, Our Teams Tags: , ,

To all my Giants fan friends

December 21, 2010 4 comments

I come from a New York family. I went to college in NYC, and so I’ve also made friends from there who have become family. This post-game reflection is dedicated to them. It’s dedicated to J, J and H, my three-headed Giants fan monster. Their names will remain anonymous out of respect for their lingering shame.

This epic win over the G-Men, the Eagles’ sixth in a row over their turnpike rivals, tops them all. Some of these big wins have been truly inspiring. I particularly remember a poem I wrote, from a bar in Spain, the day after I stayed up into Europe’s wee hours to watch the Birds take down the Giants in the Jan. 2007 playoffs. (I swear I wasn’t high when I wrote that poem, just sleep deprived and high on the Spanish life).

Members of the Giants sideline have too much vomit in their mouths to watch DeSean Jackson streak to victory.

But the win on Sunday, another Michael Vick fourth quarter masterpiece, something not so uncommon these days, has sports radio hosts in Philly still repeatedly pushing play on Merrill Reese’s game-ending radio call. We will never get enough of these highlights. I came out of the locker room at my gym last night, and about six guys were just standing next to the weight machines, staring up at the TV screen, watching highlights with no audio that they had surely seen multiple times already. An historic comeback against an arch rival in their stadium, with playoff berths on the line, will never lose its ability to captivate this town’s emotions. We can’t get enough of Merrill Reese, the longest tenured radio broadcaster for an NFL team, even when he’s just announcing a routine four-yard pass. This call could have the most replay value of any in his career.

Speaking of play-by-play, I’d like to leave my loyal readership–a significant portion of which, believe it or not, root for the NY teams–with this message exchange between myself and the Giants fan nearest and dearest to my heart during Sunday’s contest:

Me: Love the defensive tone to start this game

NYG Fan: “Smiley face” emoticon, “Thumbs up” emoticon (This is after NYG first TD)

Me: “Yawning face” emoticon

NYG Fan: Is that your impression of the DB?

Me: I’ve been really impressed with Patterson, but he def dogged it on that play and paid for it

NYG Fan: “Wiping of the brow” emoticon (After the Giants hold the Eagles to a FG)

Me: Yeah. Big to hold to 3.

Me: Think Eli will hit 30 turnovers this year? (After Manning throws an INT, giving him 20 on the year)

NYG Fan: This game. Don’t worry. He will fumble.

NYG Fan (watching from the West Coast): As a funny side note, long story short, the obviously scheduled bartender who was supposed to work this morning just came in, 2 hrs late, and he is still slurring his speech really bad.

NYG Fan: “Surprised face” emoticon (When Eagles fumble the ball with little time left in 1st half)

Me: Haha. Lotta bad breaks for us.

NYG Fan: “Hold on, I’m on the phone” emoticon (During booth review)

NYG Fan: “Talk to the hand” emoticon, I don’t wanna hear it

Me: But that’s our fault. I was just sayin we should run it because we’ll rush the play and get a turnover.

NYG Fan: Don’t worry. I’m still bracing myself for a huge comeback.

Me: Embarrassing (After the Giants continue to pour on points in the 2nd quarter)

NYG Fan: “Wide smile” emoticon. Hold your phone up so everyone you’re with can see my smiling face.

Me: Ok (after Vick finds Maclin to make it 24-10 Giants following Mario Manningham’s fumble)

Me: Turnovers will kill NYG

NYG Fan: I plan on it. I told you.

NYG Fan: Coach of the year (a heavily sarcastic comment after Andy Reid chooses not to challenge the DeSean Jackson fumble that almost certainly would have been overturned)

Me: Unbelieveable!!!!!! How do you not challenge!!!!! That drive is the game right there!!!! I am speechless!!!!! Are you fucking kidding??

NYG Fan: “Cup of coffee” emoticon, “I’m not interested”emoticon

Me: “I’m in love emoticon”, “I’m surprised emoticon”, “Wide smile” emoticon (after Eagles get onside kick)

Me: Coach of the year

Me: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha (after Jackson’s punt return TD to end the game)

Me: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

Me: “Star” emoticon

Me (Later on Sunday night): “Let me give you a hug” emoticon

NYG Fan (On Monday morning): Sorry dude. I still love ya, but I really just don’t want to ever talk about that. Try to see it my way. It was literally the worst thing ever. I’m not a big enough person, I guess, to deal with it maturely so soon afterward.

Me: Roger that.

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.

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