In re: whether or not the team “cares” more than the fans
Posted on January 30th, 2009 at 11:13 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie
In article dissing Jeffrey Lurie’s comments regarding how bummed Lurie was about the Eagles losing the NFC Championship Game, arguably-”fresh”-but-inarguably-”derivative” local columnist John Gonzalez wrote the following:
The truth is, being part of the Eagles organization is a job for the players and coaches and even the owner - one they get paid handsomely to do. For them, it’s a business. Which is fine. It really is.
But for fans here, sports are something radically different. Rooting for the Eagles (or Phillies or Sixers or Flyers) has nothing to do with money and everything to do with our collective identity. It’s a passion passed down from parents to children before many kids can walk or talk, read or write. Growing up here means you’re part of an exclusive, rabid (sometimes dysfunctional) tribe.
You can’t fake your way into something like that. What Lurie and the players and their advocates too often forget is that the fans were around long before they arrived. And they’ll be here long after Lurie sells the team and decamps. He may own the club on paper, but not in spirit.
Ultimately, Lurie and the Eagles are merely custodians. They couldn’t possibly care as much as the natives. And that’s cool. Frankly, it would be unnerving if they did.
Anyway, someone should tell them to abandon the hard sell. No one’s buying it. [Emphasis mine.]
Well, I’m buying it.
Especially after reading the following:
“He presented with the back pain the week of the Minnesota game,” Burkholder told Daily News and Inquirer reporters in a hastily arranged call from the San Francisco airport, where Burkholder was changing planes for his trip to the Pro Bowl. “We got him an MRI right after the Giants game, and the MRI looked funny. We thought he was going to have a disc problem, because of the symptoms, but it actually looked like there was a tumor beside this stress fracture in his spine. That alerted our doctors that something else might be going on. They did further testing, further scans, had him see some other doctors, and it looks like the melanoma is back, in his back. It’s manifested itself in a tumor in his spine….
“Thursday and Friday, going into the Arizona game, we were suspicious that he needed more testing. He had more testing done on Monday, when we got back, and that’s what proved for sure that it was cancer,” Burkholder said.
Without going into too much detail, those don’t seem like the sort of decisions you make if you don’t care deeply about the team and your job. If anything, I think you could argue that maybe Jim Johnson cared a little too much. I sure as hell would have taken the weekend off, big client meeting — or whatever — be damned (sorry, employer!).
Anyway, I’m sure Eagles fans everywhere will have Johnson and his family in their thoughts. I sure will.
Shout out to Jim Johnson
Posted on January 29th, 2009 at 5:41 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie
Scary news indeed.
Best wishes to him and his family.
Unambiguous? Overwhelmingly the view of the fans, huh?
Posted on January 27th, 2009 at 12:46 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie
Amidst the curiously significant volume of non-news in re: the Eagles, including a few pieces that I would have considered too much of a stretch for even a blog (that the players don’t care because they partied hard after a tough loss; an odd comparison of Eagles and Steelers fans), we have some fresh remarks from team president Joe Banner.
While the full interview won’t go public until tonight, CSN has released some excerpts, and it sure sounds like certain people who play certain positions are in the good graces of the senior leadership team these days:
“I thought and still think my answer was unambiguous. We thought that was important to clarify it because you don’t want those things to take on a life,” Banner said. “The reality is, my view and our view is unambiguous, that we can win a championship with those people, and they will be back. We believe we’re very lucky to have them. The good news is, that’s overwhelmingly the view of our fans. I know it doesn’t always come out that way, but Andy is a heck of a coach.”
To summarize, not only do we think Andy and Dunavin are doing a bang-up job, but we’ve also spoken to some of the customers, and they seem to be cool with these guys being the core features of the 2009 edition as well.
I actually think it’s kind of interesting that Banner was so confident regarding the view of the customers. Do they poll? Focus groups? Or just check out the message boards and listen a bit to WIP and call it a day? “Overwhelmingly” is a strong word.
By the way, we personally can’t get enough of Paul Domowitch’s ongoing class rage in re: NFL ownership and layoffs in various front offices. Stick it to the man, Domo! We can’t help but wonder how much of this rage is motivated by the precariousness of your own profession.
After further review, a more reasonable (and oddly enthusiastic) take on the recent unpleasantness
Posted on January 24th, 2009 at 3:28 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie
Like Andy Reid says, “This is a very sudden thing when you lose in the playoffs.”
Certainly for the players and coaches this makes sense, but it also feels a bit sudden for us fans. Over the past week I’ve had to go cold-turkey on my daily feeding of Eagles content (the other Eagles blogs, Football Outsiders, the local papers, the team videos, PFT, you get it), and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice. With the Eagles out of the playoffs, I really just lost interest. Could barely make it through the high-end NFL Films highlights on Inside the NFL. And I wasn’t happy about it (I like reading/ watching all that crap).
With time comes acceptance, and now I feel like I have to move on and do things like “start paying closer attention to the rest of the world.” Can’t say that’s been particularly thrilling, what with the ongoing global economic meltdown, a tough week for my employer, and the bitter cold darkness of winter. I suppose the inauguration thing was nice, but that was just a brief pause from the aforementioned global economic meltdown. Should be fun.
Still, a few days off from consuming the content and writing about it has afforded me a bit of clarity regarding the 2008 Eagles. After losing the NFC Championship Game, I wasn’t sure if this season was a success or a failure, or if I was happy or bummed about it. I mean, I was as pissed about the game as anyone, but that’s not the right time to try to assess the full season. But now I’m there.
May I now present my summary and non-specific (no talk of specific players, games, etc, plenty of time for that later) judgment regarding the 2008 Eagles: inconsistent teams really make for excellent TV shows, and this was both inconsistent and wildly entertaining.
This was not a great team. Their record and the circumstances that propelled them into the playoffs (a 13.5-point favorite losing at home in Week 17) were fair and to be expected. 9-6-1 sounds like a slightly better than average team. If the Eagles had been consistently good, they wouldn’t have needed such an absurd set of circumstances to get into the playoffs. But, given the chance, they gave us a spectacular treat: a couple of playoff wins, and a trip to the NFC Championship that was painfully close to working out. And there was nothing that wasn’t awesome about that.
So I think we’re allowed to be bummed about all the missed opportunities throughout the season, but maybe the reason the Eagles didn’t prevail in some of those winnable scenarios was that they weren’t really that much better than their opponents. They were in the mix throughout, sure, and when the bounces went their way — say a failed snap by the Vikings, a stop on fourth-and-2 against the Giants — there was much rejoicing. But for every bounce that went their way, we can all remember a few that didn’t — fourth-down plays against the Bears and Giants, Quintin Mikell not getting off his block on fourth down against the Cardinals, the ball dropping through DeSean Jackson’s hands against the Skins. We tend to focus on the misses as if the team should expect to convert all of their opportunities, but it doesn’t work that way. There’s a bit of randomness in there, and when you’re a slightly better than average team, well, you can’t expect much more than a random distribution of happy outcomes. So the Birds were a bit “unlucky” at times, but they also had more than their share of “lucky” moments as well.
In that context, I think the last four weeks were an absolute treat. Sure, they lost in the NFC Champsionship again, but they also destroyed the Cowboys (in what I hope will be remembered as the “Eagles porn” game), and beat the Giants in the playoffs! On the road! The Cowboys still haven’t recovered from that loss, by the way, and who among us isn’t loving that we get to enter the 2009 season with significant bragging rights versus the Giants? Also the defense played super cool and Andy Reid had a ridiculous beard! This is pure goodness.
Despite what they sold us last summer, the Super Bowl was not this team’s birthright — they weren’t that good. But they still almost got there! As customers, how can we be bummed about that? Leave the sunk costs — and deep emotional scars — of NFC Championships past behind you, and admit that this was all a blast, and certainly a whole helluva lot more than you thought you were getting from this team in November or October.
Like any good drama, this season had a twist and a surprise ending. It may have been occasionally ponderous and sometimes dreary, but you can’t argue with the trick ending. Thus shall I remember this team fondly: they weren’t actually that good, but I sure walked out with a smile on my face. To borrow a phrase, the Eagles outkicked their coverage a bit, and I really enjoyed watching it.
Administrivia: we’ll be mostly dark around here for the next couple weeks, with a bigger announcement looming. I’ve got a couple season-review pieces I’d like to post in the next couple days, though. Bear with me.
Quintin Demps, that was the lamest attempt at a KillShot ™ we’ve ever seen
Posted on January 21st, 2009 at 12:19 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie
While it’s certainly old news at this point, as we deal with the altogether unpleasant realities of No More Eagles Football, it would be a dereliction of duties if we did not address an as-yet-unexplored aspect of Sunday’s game: Quintin Demps’ personal foul penalty.
It has been suggested that Demps’ after-the-play shot to Kurt Warner’s chest was intended to rattle the veteran QB, and even that this maneuver might have even been authorized by the Eagles’ coaching staff. While I don’t believe that anyone called in a hit from the sideline, I’d still like to question Demps’ judgment.
That is, if you’re going to take the fifteen-yard penalty, why not make it worth it?!?!?!? If you’re going to hit him, really hit him. Make it a KillShot ™ and win the game. Quintin, in the heat of the moment, you need to ask yourself: What Would Tony Siragusa do? Why, he would pummel Rich Gannon (Kurt Warner), take the penalty, and make plans for the Super Bowl.
For shame, Quintin. For shame.
Monday Eagles Hangover: at least they found a new and innovative way to FAIL
Posted on January 19th, 2009 at 12:55 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie
You know, I really thought they would win yesterday. I thought they would win because their defense was good enough to best the Cardinals’ offense, and that the Eagles’ offense would be able to score against a Cardinals’ defense that wasn’t as tough as the Vikings or Giants.
Instead, the defense — the one I felt confident calling the best Eagles defense since 1991 — was exposed and fooled by a very clever Cardinals team. We all sort of knew that the Birds would struggle to handle the Larry Fitzgerald superhero act, and he hurt them, but I didn’t expect the linebackers to look so confused and for the tackling to be so sloppy. All credit to the Cardinals and their coaches for outcoaching and outscheming the Birds.
Even with all that, the Birds were leading this game with five minutes to play (!). It was there. But neither the offense nor the defense were good enough to win the game in the fourth quarter. It was there.
It’s been there before, and we can only hope it will be there again. Ouch.
Some day-after storylines:
I didn’t expect to be down on Jim Johnson this morning. It’s just not what we expected, right? That Jim Johnson, who was rightly praised for the efforts of the defense over the past seven games, would be a goat this Monday morning? The Cardinals saw something on the right side of the Eagles defense, and certainly seemed to prey on Akeem Jordan a bit. They got it a bit figured out at halftime, but, um, that was after they’d surrendered more points than they had since the Baltimore game. Ouch. Also, Stew Bradley looked like a first-year starter for the first time in a while.
Brian Westbrook was a non-factor. Save for the great fingertip catch and sprint out of bounds on the Birds’ final drive, Westbrook didn’t really make a difference. It actually looked like the Eagles’ offensive line was getting a good push on their running plays, but big plays did not result. The Eagles got away with a win last week sans a big effort from Westbrook, and they almost repeated the feat this week. It doesn’t matter if he was injured or just old and slow, but that was not a dangerous Brian Westbrook the past couple weeks. And that hurts.
Speaking of, the dread run-pass ratio. I’m sure the score had something to do with this — as well as the state of the Cardinals’ pass defense –but the Birds did end up throwing on 72 percent of their plays. Luckily they were doing a fairly decent job of throwing it, but they didn’t look very committed to balance.
Speaking of, please, enough with the crying about the wideouts. Sure, there were a couple drops and none of our guys look like Larry Fitzgerald, but the Birds’ wideouts made some huge plays yesterday. I feel pretty good about Jackson, Curtis, Avant and Baskett (assuming they bring Baskett back). This is not a position of concern heading into the offseason.
Positions of concern heading into the offseason. Running back! Running back! It’s either a gimpy B-West or a free-agent Buckhalter. Or Lorenzo Booker. Or Kyle Eckel. Yes. It’s feeling very cold in here. Also offensive tackle — both those guys looked their age yesterday.
Are we really talking about Donovan McNabb’s future? McNabb missed a couple throws on that final drive, and the haters will focus on that, but he also had the cape on for the better part of the second half. No running game, a lot of pressure from the edges, and the guy actually brought the team back from an 18-point halftime deficit. Dude. McNabb was not the problem for the Eagles yesterday.
Too much hitting, not enough tackling. Whilst we like the idea of dropping a couple big hits on the opposing team to let them know it’s going to be a physical afternoon, it sure seemed like the Eagles’ defense was throwing shoulders and not wrapping up at all. Shoulders aren’t enough against Larry Fitzgerald.
A guy we hate to admit didn’t make the big play. Quintin Mikell almost — ALMOST — made a season-saving play on the fourth-down run in the fourth quarter. Ugh. That would have been nice for Mikell.
Asante Samuel. Sigh. After picks in two consecutive games, we can overlook a weak effort from Samuel yesterday. Apparently he ducked reporters after the game? Don’t know about that, Asante. Philly doesn’t appreciate that sort of thing. Even if you were hurt.
Guys who didn’t really duck reporters, but could’ve been forgiven for it. Reggie Brown, L.J. Smith, it’s been a pleasure. I guess the Birds thought Greg Lewis had some big-game magic in him? Ummm, not so much. Still, Brown didn’t even dress? Yikes. And Brent Celek’s big day yesterday really makes it that much easier to pretend there never was an L.J. Smith; I wonder what rookie will get #82 next summer?
Lucky breaks we’ve likely forgotten already. How about that DeSean Jackson forcing a fumble for the Birds after the pick? Pretty lucky break! Though not as lucky as the Abiamiri call on the kickoff. Whew. Close one. If you’re whinging about pass interference in the fourth quarter, you need to keep that kickoff call in mind.
Was Akers going to make a fourth-quarter field goal? It sure seemed like he was Chuck Knoblauch unable to find first base by the third quarter. A missed PAT? The kickoff out of bounds? Mercifully the Birds needed a touchdown and not a field goal for the go-ahead points. Kind of a meltdown, no?
That’s it for now. I’ve intentionally avoided the good season/ bad season ruling. Plenty of time for that later this week.
Gravy or 1-4?
Posted on January 18th, 2009 at 6:44 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie
Aw man. That felt depressingly familiar.
I’m trying to focus on how I got to watch three more weeks of Eagles games and not on how the defense played their worst game in months and how Reid and McNabb are now 1-4 in the NFC Championship game.
(I’m actually not as bummed as I expected to be. I’ll be sure to give it time, though.)
Eagles - Cardinals Game Preview: If it’s the NFC Championship, shouldn’t it be fraught with anxiety?
Posted on January 18th, 2009 at 11:59 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie
There were a couple years there where “NFC Championship Game” was a phrase that had a certain “High Ankle Sprain” set of connotations for me (and I suspect many other Eagles fans). By the time the Birds actually won one, we’d already suffered enough through enough disappointments — none more cruel than the loss to Tampa, that was the effing worst — in those games that the resulting emotions were more about relief than elation.
Well, well, well — doesn’t that feel like a long time ago!
Am I going to feel relieved if things go the Birds’ way this afternoon? No way! I’m going to be giddy. Am I nervous as the game approaches? Sure, but there’s no sense of dread or fear. I actually couldn’t be more excited about seeing what happens. For the first time in a long time (well, at least since the Phils won, but still…), I will approach a big Eagles game with nothing but cheerful anticipation.
(I know, I know. Crazy. But I really do almost feel like a normal, rational human being about this game.)
I imagine that a lot of the good vibes here have to do with the part where I don’t think the Eagles will lose. Certainly we’ve been shocked before, but this time my heart and my head are agreeing on things.
What I’ll be shouting about:
It’s the defense, stupid. The Eagles certainly can’t win without playing well on offense, and casual fans tend to focus on the skill position guys (dudes they might know from their fantasy team or the highlight reel), but if you’re paying attention to the team at all, you get that the Birds are rolling because of their defense. Right? Everyone gets that? Points allowed over the past seven games (most recent game first) = 11, 14, 6, 10, 10, 14, 20. As noted yesterday, passer ratings allowed over the past seven games (most recent game first) = 40.7, 45.4, 55.8, 65.7, 28.3, 73.5, 65.7. This is the best Eagles defense since 1991. That’s not a bad asset to have heading into the NFC Championship game.
Further along with the defense-matters line of reasoning. The charming folks at Cold, Hard, Football Facts (CHFF) have a statistic called Defensive Hog Index that has correctly predicted the outcome of 18 of the past 19 NFL playoff games (the only one it missed was the AFC Championship from last year, when the #7 Pats beat the #5 Chargers). The Defensive Hog Index:
The top defensive front is that which posts the highest average rating across the board. The Defensive Hog Index is based upon these criteria: YPA – Yards Per Attempt. So simple, even you can understand it. This rates a defense’s ability to stuff an opposing ground game.NPP% – Negative Pass Plays, expressed as a percentage. This is how often an opponent’s pass plays end in either a sack or interception. Defenses that get after the quarterback and overwhelm the opposing offensive line naturally force sacks and INTs. These negative pass plays are calculated as a percentage of attempts. So if a team forces two sacks and two INTs in 40 pass plays, their NPP% will be 10 percent (4/40).3down% - Opposition success rate on third down. The lower the percentage, the higher the defensive success.
As an FYI, the Birds are ranked 2nd and the Cardinals are ranked 17th. The Steelers are actually #1 and the Ravens #3 (the Vikings were #4 and the Giants #9).
Speaking of, for those who are overly concerned about the Eagles’ offense. Note the rankings of the Vikings and the Giants above. While the Cardinals’ defense has played well in recent weeks, it will be the worst-rated defense that the Eagles have faced in the playoffs. Certainly that must bode well for the Birds.
I hope being three-point favorites hasn’t ruined the “Nobody Respects Us” thing. In a moment of extreme weakness, I attempted to watch the Donovan McNabb Show on PE.com. It’s definitely worth a quick look, if only for the intro sequence, which includes on-field footage from just before the start of the Giants’ game last Sunday. They have this bit where Dawkins goes around the horn with the other guys in the secondary and explains to each of them why the Giants don’t respect them (”Hanson, you’re too small to play football — THEY DON’T RESPECT YOU!” and so on). It’s very worth it. (Bonus sideline audio: I really liked hearing A.J. Feeley making the case against the intentional grounding call in the footage on Inside The NFL. Very solid.)
Looks like there will be chances for the kids to shine. Like the Vikings, the Cardinals are crap in the return game (good details at the FO NFC Championship Preview). DeSean Jackson scored TDs in the state of Arizona the past two years in college…that has to count for something, no? And Quintin Demps might feel at home in the Southwest? I’m reaching here, but the bigger point is that the indicators point to a big play in the return game.
This counts as a home game for McNabb. Finally, a chance for Dunavin to play in front of his neighbors and friends: people who love him, not like those jerks back in Philly who are always complaining and criticizing. The important thing is that McNabb remain focused on how much everyone in Philly hates him and how the only way to really stick it to those losers is to play really really well and win again.
Also, let’s not pretend that we don’t like that sly smile from B-West. I dunno, if Brian Westbrook is saying things like the following,
On how he feels right now: “I feel great.”
On whether today was the most he’s practiced all week: “Yes.”
On how the knee feels after practice: “It feels good.”
On whether it feels better than last week: “Yes, I would say better.”
On what has changed that his knee feels better: “It just feels good. I don’t know what it is.”
On whether it’s something about playing the Cardinals that makes his knee feel better: “I don’t know if it’s the Cardinals, I just feel good right now.”
Then we can’t feel too too terrible about how he might play in this game? Sure, he seems gimpy, but, well, maybe he has one more big game in him?
The only letdown is for the fans. In the early part of the week, I was concerned that this had the potential to be a letdown game for the Birds. GCobb was chasing this as well. But after listening to the team all week, I don’t think this’ll be the case. I think the Birds will be appropriately focused. For me, well, yeah. This is a letdown game — the Giants game was the biggest one I could imagine. But luckily I don’t actually play.
Actual game prediction. I think the Eagles will win because their offense is better than the Cardinals’ defense, because their defense is better than the Cardinals’ offense, and because they’re better than the Cardinals on special teams. Puh-retty straightforward. Crazy things can happen, McNabb could turn into a turnover machine, the wideouts could drop the ball like the Washington game, a kickoff could be fumbled and returned for a TD, etc etc. But even if some crazy things go down, I think the Birds will still get it done, and I’ll be making travel plans for Tampa by the end of the afternoon. Eagles 27, Cardinals 17.
One last chance for the media as well: local writers, we salute you!
Posted on January 18th, 2009 at 11:46 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie
There were a couple thoughtful pieces in the paper this week regarding the Eagles’ veterans, and how this year’s playoff run might be the last big chance for these guys. For the six guys who’ve been to all five NFC Championships — Donovan McNabb, Correll Buckhalter, David Akers, Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan and Brian Dawkins — it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this might be their final opportunity to add a championship to their resume/ legacy.
The playoff run has postponed the conversation about the futures of Thomas, Runyan, Dawk, and McNabb, one that I assumed would consume most of the month of December. Certainly these guys can’t enjoy having their age and continued employment discussed in the press, but such is the plight of the professional athlete. This very well might be their last chance at a ring, and we may not see these guys in Eagles green next season.
The thing is, this isn’t just the end of the road for the players. Turns out that a lot of the guys writing those end-of-the-road stories are facing similar situations in their own careers. That is, the press contingent following the the Birds is unlikely to look the same next season. In case you’ve missed it, the American newspaper business is in its final days. The Seattle P-I could go web-only this year; the New York Times is facing a cash crunch. For an industry that was going to collapse anyway (thanks to the introduction of new media options, as well as the crippling impact of Craigslist, blah blah blah), this global economic meltdown thing did not show up at an opportune moment.
Will Philly still have two daily papers next fall? Will the regional/ suburban papers survive? It’s extremely unlikely that they’ll all be there for the 2009 Eagles season, which means that some of your favorite writers (inasmuch as we have “favorite” writers) won’t be on the beat, and certainly coverage will be scaled back across the board. This is probably the last hurrah for these dudes.
While I’m certainly not above the occasional criticism of the local media (yes yes, the ones I call blathermonkeys), I do appreciate their work and enjoy reading them every day. They will be missed. Join me in pouring some out for these guys — it’s been a great run for all of them.
I think I need to opt out of JinxSpam
Posted on January 17th, 2009 at 3:16 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie
So I’ve now received two (2) e-mails from NFLShop.com regarding NFC Conference Champions gear. While I’m certainly feeling confident ahead of tomorrow’s game (and have spent a fair amount of time pricing flights and hotels for Tampa), I haven’t actually bought anything yet. And I certainly don’t see myself getting involved with imaginary championship gear, which, despite the fine-print promise of a refund should the Eagles lose, doesn’t feel like a productive retail decision.
Also, I’m as big a sucker for merch as the next fellow, but I don’t understand the implied urgency that would lead one to feel compelled to pre-order one of these shirts or hats. What, so I can get it Tuesday instead of Wednesday? And wear it to the office?
Things must be pretty grim/ desperate at NFLShop.com.
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