Posted on July 9th, 2008 at 3:27 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie
Yeah, so I read a lot of Eagles-related Internet content. Thanks to the miracle of RSS feeds, you can pretty much corner the market on the Birds within a single screen on your aggregator of choice.
Still, among all the Eagles nonsense I read (and I can’t stress this enough — it’s a lot), my number-one draft pick when I open my browser is Iggles Blog. The most honest compliment I can pay Iggles Blog is to reveal that its feed sits in the top left corner of my Netvibes Sports tab (no shiznit — screenshots available upon request). Derek’s blog consistently (since he actually does post pretty much every day, and sometimes twice a day) tells me things about the Birds that I didn’t already know, as well as things that I’m very happy I knew as soon as Derek explained why I should know them.
(Most importantly, unlike me, he actually knows what he’s talking about.)
So you can imagine my surprise/ excitement when Derek asked me to roll with one of those Slate-style back-and-forth-on-the-web-a-logues, or as they say on the Internets, a BLOGSTRAVAGANZA. I’m understandably intimidated by this, though I think I can totally hang with him if I can just steer the conversation toward insulting the local media and and the merits of posting photographs of sandwiches.
You can check Derek’s first post here.
And away we go….
Well thank you for the kind intro! I feel like the Brett Favre to your John Madden, which makes a lot of sense, cause that’s how I like to blog: I’m just out here having fun, blogging like I blogged when I was a kid. I’m a gunslinger, not afraid to take chances, and if I manage to get something completely incorrect, well shucks, that’s just my love of the blog shining through.
This is not to suggest that you’re John Madden, except for the parts where you know a lot more about football than I do. (Also, this Brett Favre story couldn’t possibly suck any more. I can’t remember a more annoying story clogging my sports media since the summer when Shaq and Kobe were “bickering” and ESPN kept assuming that I/ we cared.)
That said, I feel like I know just as much as you do about going into three-day funks because the stupid kick hit the stupid uprights against the STUPID EFFING GIANTS. I’m an adult, about to get married (and thank you for your congrats), and I still manage to conjure up the energy to sulk (around friends, at the office) because of the goofy football team?
While I think I can agree with you that there has been a convergence of opinion on Dunavin (where even the folks that hate him a ton admit that he isn’t actually terrible and the folks that genuflect at his altar — yup, count us both in that camp — understand that this is probably it for him in the Illadelph; also, I hope we’ll have more time for the QB as our little dialogue progresses), I’m not even sure that there is much of a debate on this “consistency versus winning-it-all-and-sucking-for-years-to-come” dialectic you’ve laid out.
I mean, among rational human beings, maybe, but in Philly? Are you kidding? I don’t think it’s a vocal minority that demands championship or bust; I think it’s the rational folks — who can take the long view, acknowledge the unique circumstances required to win the Super Bowl, and accept that maybe things just haven’t broken the Birds’ way — who are the minority in the 215.
But neither of us really have data on that, so let me give you my answer. In parts, of course, with headings and lots of random capitalizations and bold type, cause that’s how we roll on the Internets.
First, my starting assumptions/ admissions:
I am completely spoiled by the Andy Reid era. At this point, it takes picking up my well-worn copy of Bringing the Heat to remember when the Birds lacked organizational leadership and direction. Richie the K might be a fine name for my avatar in Rock Band (sad but true), but I’m sure glad he’s not running my favorite football team. I have made my peace with the fact that it’s unlikely that the Eagles will ever be this consistently good ever again. This was the golden age for the Birds: franchise QB, in the playoffs every year, fancy new stadium, all during what has been the NFL’s strongest era as well. I really don’t know what it feels like to be a Detroit Lions fan. I don’t. I give Big Red a lot of the credit for that: he has a plan, he’s consistent, and the team’s performance has been consistently strong. The dude knows what he’s doing.
Winning the Super Bowl isn’t just about having the best team. As you point out, being excellent doesn’t necessarily mean that you win the Super Bowl — you need a little luck, a couple good bounces, the right set of injuries, etc. If the Birds don’t blow the coverage on Jurevicius/ Dunavin doesn’t hit Ronde Barber in the chest in 2002, I think the Eagles easily win that Super Bowl – because the Raiders ended up getting a bit unlucky in the weeks that followed. (Remember the Raiders’ center went batsh*t crazy the week of the Super Bowl? Also, Bill Callahan wasn’t terribly competent.) Those are the sorts of lucky breaks that can gift you a championship. Not that the Birds haven’t had their share of lucky breaks (they had no business winning 4th-and-26), but they haven’t gotten them in the moments they needed them. The problem here is that I think Andy Reid AND Jeffrey Lurie both view this pretty rationally and have been able to convince themselves that they’ve just gotten unlucky a couple times (again, true and rational, but very unsatisfactory). They’ve said as much. But sometimes I don’t want rational.
The best case is obviously 2004. I mean, yeah, of course you’d love to have the team that kicks the crap out of everyone, perches itself atop the Football Outsiders stats (such that there can be no denying their excellence, even amongst the nerderati) and cruises to a championship. 2004 was the year. That’s probably also why Pats fans aren’t as excited for training camp this year as I am. Would we prefer a dominant team whose coronation is a blowout win in the Super Bowl? Absolutely. That’s the dream season as a fan.
Unfortunately, they’re aren’t so many dream seasons out there, and it’s unlikely that the Eagles will have one again soon. So here’s why I wouldn’t kick a fluke Eagles championship out of the shower/ would cry like a frightened child even if they won on an atrocious call (or two ridiculously lucky plays, say a dropped pick and a miracle catch off a helmet) against a superior opponent:
I think the Birds are going to win the Super Bowl pretty much every year. At no point do I not think it’s all going to break our way. It’s pitiful, I know, but even as I look at this season, I’m thinking, “Okay, our division is brutal, the defense is young and unproven, and we’re a Brian Westbrook injury away from disaster. STILL, if we can stay healthy, get hot at the right time, get a couple lucky breaks, THIS COULD BE OUR YEAR!” The Giants did it, why not us? See. This is how I think every year. The rational part of my brain gets shouted down by my sports feelings. More importantly, I’ve already imagined a scenario where it all works out — and I FREAKIN LOVE that scenario.
My team has never won anything. Full stop. My team has never won anything. That is, no team I’ve rooted for has ever won at anything. Ever. Ever. I will take whatever I can get. I will. I imagine it’s pretty cool when it does happen? I dunno. I just don’t. And to have the Eagles win — my favorite team — well, that would be the most awesome. So I’m not going to dicker over price/ consequences. Oh, the devil’s on the other line and he’d like to propose a transaction? Put him through! I’m ready to deal!
I have a compelling proof of concept. Here’s how I know I’d be perfectly happy with a one-shot deal: the ‘93 Phillies. I don’t even like baseball all that much, but the ‘93 Phillies — certainly not historically significant, nor part of a wider era of excellence – are a fantastic memory. Even in spirit-crushing defeat, I remember it fondly. I feel almost the same way about the 2004 Birds (though the TO/ Dunavin-was-puking aftermath has sullied the memory somewhat). You think the Giants fans are bummed out about their insanely improbable championship (NOTE: the article in the new Pro Football Prospectus about just how improbable it was is outstanding)? Sure, they may try to reverse-engineer a story about how they knew it would happen all along, and Eli doesn’t suck, and it wasn’t lucky, blah blah blah, but mostly they’re WILDLY PSYCHED THAT THEY WON. I would be too (and it doesn’t suck to have defeated the Bad Guys in the process). In summary, I’m feeling pretty confident that I would not be remotely disappointed by even a fluke/ one-time-only championship.
So Derek, as we consider your position here, let me extend your metaphor about the college girlfriend (or whatever) and accuse you of settling! What, you want the nice girl who isn’t too exciting or pretty but will be steady and reliable for 50 years? Next I bet you’re going to tell me you don’t believe in true love either!
Next topic: you’re a guy who knows his way around a spreadsheet — it’s one of the reasons Iggles Blog stands out. And we’re both stated nerds in re: the Football Outsiders. So. How data-driven do you think the Eagles are, both at the macro (roster/ personnel decisions) and micro (situational play-calling) levels?
On the macro level, there’s no doubt that somewhere on Joe Banner’s C:\ drive lives the Master Spreadsheet, with values assigned to positions and players based on age, prior performance, and injury history. It’s what leads the Birds to make statements about certain positions mattering more than others (QB, cornerback, DE, offensive tackles), and I also think it’s what leads the Birds to make some very tough (but typically prudent) roster calls (old running backs and linebackers are welcome to leave, thank you very much). I even think there’s a line in that spreadsheet that predicts the future performance of 30-year-old QBs who are on their third major injury in five years.
On the micro level, I’m not so sure. The Football Outsiders guys (in this year’s Pro Football Prospectus) question why the Birds — whom they consider a statistically savvy team — so rarely go for it on fourth down.
You’re the stats guy, what do you think?
(And I’m going to pretend that you didn’t say unkind things about Buddy Ryan. Just this one time.)
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