What Would Buddy Do?
For the avoidance of doubt
Posted on December 23rd, 2008 at 4:27 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

I was actually going to do a post where I just listed and linked all the articles in the local papers about how many times the Eagles threw the ball on Sunday, and how each and every one of those sportswriters is bored of the Run-The-Ball-Andy meme.

Then I realized that not only was I sick of reading those same stories, but I’m also sick of my meta-critiques of the abundance of said stories.  (Also, it would have actually taken too many alt-tab-ctrl-c-ctrl-v keystrokes to actually link them all, and I’m feeling lazy.  Seriously, I counted and we got to double digits very quickly.)

Instead, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the profound cruelty of last night’s Chicago - Green Bay game.  My takeaways/ reflections:

1. How do I allow myself to get so agitated about a game where the exact placement of the ball between downs is both (a) absolutely essential to deciding the outcome of the game and (b) maddeningly imprecise.  Did the Bears really get that first down?  Did they?  They need to get lasers in that shiznit stat.  How has Vegas not gotten this done yet?  Don’t they have a vote?

2.  I know, I know, DeSean Jackson is a rookie.  But so is Matt Forte, and Matt Forte made all the plays he needed to at the end of that game to give his team a great chance to win.  He did not wilt under pressure; he embraced it.  I’m just saying.

3.  Whilst craizer things have certainly happened in the NFL, there was something especially mean-spirited about the ending of the Bears game last night.  Not that it really actually mattered for the Birds, but I had convinced myself that it did, and the way it all went down (the blocked FG?  the penalty on the first drive of overtime?) just felt all too appropriate.  OF COURSE the Bears were going to win in the most improbable fashion possible!  Of course!

Posts are going to be a bit slow over the next couple days.  Duty calls.  Just remember — Phillies World Series DVDs make GREAT gifts.

Monday Eagles Hangover: time for the airing of grievances and the shaving of beards?
Posted on December 22nd, 2008 at 1:15 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

almostreggiebrown.jpg

Okay, so football season ended a week earlier than it probably should have.

We got to live the dream a bit over the past month — a dream that definitely didn’t exist after the gloomy Cincy-and-Bal’more fortnight — and now it’s 98 percent over.  Sure, crazy things happen in the NFL, and they’re not out of it yet, but they’re pretty much out of it.  Certainly we as fans have it better than the players and coaches: at least we can mentally move on at this point and maybe even enjoy unwrapping a Phillies DVD on Christmas morning.  Those poor bastards still have to pretend they’re in it for another week and get ready to be pushed around by the Cowboys.  Consider yourself blessed!

Day-after storylines to help you nurse your hangover.

For the avoidance of doubt.  Andy Reid’s Monday presser was a predictably grim affair.  When pressed to explain who might have been at fault on the game’s final play — the one that ended six inches short — Reid actually answered the question (obliquely, at least).  He observed that he thought the quarterback did a good job getting the football into a tight spot, but that the route needed to be run into the end zone.  Hmmm.  I hope Reggie Brown doesn’t have too much trouble selling his house in these wintry economic times!

Run-the-ball-Andy meme.  That old chestnut?  It was tough to find an article/ game report that didn’t highlight the run-pass ratio.  It predictably came up again in the Monday presser, in the context of “Does it feel like you’re answering the same questions every week?”  Reid’s answer was that the reporters weren’t very creative, but, well, I’m not sure that they’re the ones lacking for imagination in this one particular case.

Westbrook isn’t well.  A theory on Brian Westbrook’s health — this is the first game in a month for which he didn’t have an extended period of rest (and in fact lost a day).  He had two full days of rest from Thanksgiving to the Giants’ game, and then an extra day ahead of the Monday Night Game.  At this point, it probably all matters to a guy like Westbrook.  Oh well.  That’s what happens when the offense depends so heavily on one guy (and that one guy, while awesome and deserving of my man-crush, sturggles to be healthy every week).  Depth in the backfield needs to be addressed in the offseason.

Peter King update.  No mention of the Eagles play-calling this week.  Funny, that.

Playoff Beard update.  It looked like Andy Reid hadn’t shaved yet, but it’s unclear if the rest of the locker room is still on board with the beards.  If you shave, does that mean the team has given up entirely?  Perhaps there’s a hybrid solution that would appropriately reflect the Birds’ post-season prospects: little Hitler mustaches?  Slightly longer-than-average sideburns?

Reflections on a losing record in the NFC East.  I mean, do you really think a team — which has won one (1) of its five division games so far — that can only win 2 out of 6 division games should be in the playoffs?  That sounds pretty mediocre to me.  Stranger things have happened, but it’s not like we can complain about unfulfilled potential or tough breaks or whatever.  You are your record, and the Eagles’ division record is 1-4.  Yuck.

Yeah, that’s what I’ve got for you today.  Yuck.

Andy Reid in not-so-slimming horizontal stripes?
Posted on December 18th, 2008 at 3:00 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Now competing with Kendra Wilkinson’s MySpace Pics and the Phillies new ballgirls on Philly.com is a charming Andy Reid photo retrospectivepreslimmingblack7.jpg

Obviously, the good stuff is found in the (chronologically) early part of the set, which features not just one, but two photos of Big Red controversially clad in something other than Slimming Black.

Yes, you can imagine my shock and astonishment when I stumbled upon these.  Especially since it’s not like he’s wearing midnight green in lieu of the now-favored black.

No no, Big Red seems to have been briefly convinced that it was a good idea for a dude pushing 330 to wear horizontal stripes.  Did Tammy sign off on this?

Anyhoo, it’s worth flipping through the photos if only to enjoy gems like Andy eating ice cream and Andy in a Hawaiian shirt (+ utility belt) at the Pro Bowl.

Tuesday Eagles Hangover: Well, that was mellow
Posted on December 16th, 2008 at 11:30 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

SEXYTIME

The first sign that this was going to be a low-stress affair in South Philly was the complete absence of traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel at 5:45 on a weekday.  We actually thought something was wrong (a bomb?  the tunnel was closed?).  Nope.  Nothing wrong, and nothing but a smooth ride all the way down the turnpike.  Said smooth ride continued in the stadium, as the Birds cruised in a game that was completely lacking in any sort of anxiety and/ or drama.  About the most stressful moment of the whole affair was the part where we walked up the wrong stairs to get to our seats and had to watch the Curtis TD from behind a Miller Lite cart.

Other talking points and observations:

Dunavin was sharp sharp sharp.  It didn’t hurt that the Browns didn’t really manage to pressure him all that well, but he seemed to really enjoy playing against the Browns’ zone.  That was definitely a you-only-get-to-see-this-in-the-stadium sort of thing, but McNabb and the Eagles receivers were extremely methodical about gaining 10-15 yards in front of the Browns’ safeties and deep cover guys.  Of course, McNabb was also pretty sharp against the man defense that he saw (the extremely tight ball to Avant on the intermediate crossing route comes to mind).  Yeah, pretty solid stuff from the QB.

Slightly less solid stuff from Dorsey.  God bless that Ken Dorsey, but this looked really hard for him.  What balls he did complete were essentially bailouts from a very talented (and sure-handed, at least tonight) Braylon Edwards.  Both picks were pretty bad (balls thrown directly to Eagles), and Hanson should have had a third (which was slightly less bad).  We shouldn’t make fun, because this sort of thing can/ has happened to the Birds as well.  Somewhere, Mike McMahon was reliving 42-0 at home on Monday night in 2005.

Why were people booing Stallworth?  Lots of boos for Donte Stallworth.  What did Stallworth do to offend us?  I didn’t get that.  Hank Fraley was at least the guy who snitched on Dunavin puking in the Super Bowl (until the video tape also snitched on Dunavin puking in the Super Bowl).  As I remember it, Stallworth was a solid part of the 2006 team, which I believe we should all remember fondly.  Then the Eagles said thanks-but-no-thanks and he signed with another team.  Um, that’s chill.  I don’t get it.

Shaking head, staring at ground.  Big double-you-tee-eff in re: Asante Samuel “pulling a D-Jack.”  Who do you think has the least patience for that sort of thing in the Eagles’ locker room (after Andy Reid)?  I have to assume it’s Runyan, right?  As in, he goes over and picks up Samuel by the scruff of his neck and reminds him to “Never f*cking do that again”?  The only cool part of that play was that my buddy got a GREAT photo of it in realtime — we’ll post it as soon as he sends them out.  Very very solid work, and the folks sitting near us appreciated our own instant replay.

Speaking of DJack.  I know it worked in the Redskins game, and we all appreciate his boyish confidence out there.  But dude, enough with the “It’s just like college and I’m fast enough to loop around the back side of the punt coverage” sh*t.  Forward, young fella.  Forward.

Just in case you thought the Eagles were perfect and weren’t the same team from a month ago.  Can I roofie myself for the last two minutes of the first half of Eagles games from now on?  Is anyone keeping stats on this?  The Birds’ penchant for sniffing out and then embracing the most unlikely of calamities as the first half ends is uncanny.  And when you layer on the comical clock management and general level of disorganization, well, it’s just not very impressive.  The was covered thoroughly (and appropriately) in this morning’s papers.  A f*cking illegal formation penalty coming from a timeout?  Dude.

Speaking of the timeout.  The stadium announcer actually preemptively called timeout over the PA before Andy Reid got it in (and the Birds lost a few seconds as a result).  This prompted a discussion of having the “clock coach” just sit next to the PA guy and call Andy’s timeouts for him.  Just completely take it out of Reid’s hands and have the voice of God boom out the timeouts over the loudspeaker.  That way Andy can be pleasantly surprised by the appropriate use of the timeouts.

Three cheers.  To Jason Avant, for catching pretty much everything thrown his way, including some high-degree-of-difficulty snags.  To Trent Cole, for another dominant game on the left side of the line (I say this expecting him to get snubbed for the Pro Bowl).  And to B-Dawk, for breaking the team record for games played.  That’s just extremely classy.

Appropriate booing.  I mean, sure, it’s a small sample size, but, um, does Kevin Kolb look like the guy?  Maybe Dunavin has paid him off to throw picks in mop-up duty?  Dunavin’s owed like $9 million next season — you think it isn’t worth $20K to him to get Kolb to look terrible out there?  Or is Kolb just not very good?  One of those.   I’ve got a lengthy follow-up post coming on this topic.

The Birds defense (and the NFC East) warms my heart.  I really like what we’ve got going on in the NFC East right now in re: teams playing some nasty defense.  All four teams in the top 13 on Football Outsiders coming into this week, with Dallas the lowest-ranked team (the Cowboys D looked completely scary against the Giants last week).  Very old skool, very classy.

Go Birds.

Andy Reid knows we exist (maybe)!
Posted on December 12th, 2008 at 12:30 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Anyone else in the Birds nerderati/ blathertariat catch this remark from Andy Reid’s presser yesterday?

On whether he has any idea why his teams often finish the season strong: “No, (jokingly) but I know there’s an Ivy-leaguer out there somewhere that will figure it out.”

That’s us!  The football nerds!  He knows we’re out here!

Did he also know that we went and saw this movie this past week AND caught a quarter-and-a-half of Ivy League football back in October?

Friday Eagles Hangover: this week, it’s mostly just the turkey (and all the alcohol)
Posted on November 28th, 2008 at 10:17 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

donovancards.JPG

What a pleasant surprise: 48-20? Happy Thanksgiving!

In a game that couldn’t have gone better for the Eagles (save for Max-Jean Gilles getting hurt), all the flailing parts of the team suddenly looked competent and the team rolled over a Cardinals team that wasn’t actually ever in it. The quarterback was accurate and focused, the running back looked spry, the offensive line played their best game in months, the wide receivers held onto balls that didn’t hit them square in the chest, and the new-look secondary made a bunch of plays against the best wide-receiver combo in the league.

My day-after observations:

Oh no, this is going to make Andy Reid especially smug, isn’t it.  Let’s see, capture early lead throwing the ball, force other team to throw, run the ball against humiliated, desperate defense, pin ears back on defense, cruise to victory against tired opponent.  Great.  You were right all along, Andy!  Feel free to chuck it 55 times against the Giants.  The road to 7-8-1 is paved with wins like these!

The lines came to play.  When was the last time the Eagles pushed another team around this thoroughly at the line of scrimmage (on both sides of the ball)?  I can’t even remember.  The play consistently took place on the wrong side of the Cards’ line of scrimmage.  I guess the boys on the offensive side must’ve really taken those anonymous comments to heart.

The Cards must have really suffered in the short week.  Must not have been time for a lot of film study.  I mean, how else to explain not seeing the shovel pass?  Everyone in the Delaware Valley as well as each of the Birds’ NFC East opponents knew that was coming.  Comical.

Looks like opponents are taking the CamelCased One seriously.  Dare we say more seriously than the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook?  The Cards completely overpursued Jackson on the fake end-around that Westbrook took down to the three.  Huh.  Can’t say we hate that.

Take that, Prime Time curse.  The Eagles finally won one at night!  With the Browns looming on Monday Night in a couple weeks, well, they might even win a second.

I hope Lito Sheppard doesn’t have trouble selling his house.  Let’s see, undrafted free agent Joselio Hanson not only starts but picks off a pass, and Lito Sheppard had the coverage on not one, not two, but all three Cardinals’ TDs.  Looks like we’ve found the weakest link.

Pass me a vial of whatever they stuck in Brian Westbrook.  Didn’t look too gimpy last night, though most of his running was vertical and between the tackles (not a lot of stretch plays or sweeps).  Whatever.  It was a treat to have B-West making plays.

And we’re off.  Actually hitting up the Flyboys this afternoon, and looking forward to it.

At this point, why would we boo McNabb Thursday?
Posted on November 25th, 2008 at 11:43 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

I was admittedly a little baffled by the question at the end of Andy Reid’s Monday presser regarding the potential fan reaction to Donovan McNabb on Thursday night:

On whether it concerns him that McNabb might not be well-received by the fans Thursday: “You can’t worry about all that, man. You take care of what you can control and you get rid of the ‘if’s’ and you play.”

Seriously, though, why would we boo McNabb?  I mean, beyond the standard he-threw-an-incompletion-on-third-down sort of thing.  Even if the guy is done in Philly (and he is), isn’t our anger better directed at the general manager and architect of this failing offense?  Booing the quarterback won’t make the offensive line any younger/ better, it won’t make a healthy running back or a real fullback materialize on the roster, and it won’t improve the playcalling.

I dunno, call me naive, but I actually think Philly might just skip past Donovan as a whipping boy for this ongoing disaster.  This is not to say they/ we won’t boo on Thursday night — we will — but I think we’re bright enough as a group to realize that the whole team deserves our scorn, not just the quarterback.

(I’m being naive, aren’t I.)

Monday Eagles Hangover: saved by Gossip Girl, 90210, MLS Cup
Posted on November 24th, 2008 at 11:47 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

andyravens.jpg

So I had set the DVR to record the Eagles game yesterday. My plan was that I would watch it Sunday night after I got off the plane. Sure, I’d know the result (I’m not one of those people that can avoid an Eagles result), but I tend to enjoy watching the games anyway. That was the plan.

Mercifully, fate intervened, and I was spared the indignity of viewing what was essentially a snuff film starring Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.

(Apparently what happened was that I had set two recordings before I split for the weekend, the Birds game and MLS Cup. Note that I do enjoy soccer, and support the NY/ NJ Vodka Red Bulls. So no excuses/ regrets there. The issue was that there wasn’t enough room to support both recordings on the DVR, due to the presence of, wait for it, a season’s worth of saved-and-do-not-delete episodes of Gossip Girl and 90210. I kid you not. So the DVR probably recorded the Birds game, then immediately recorded the soccer game over it.)

Seriously, this is for the best. I would have sat there working myself into an unholy lather and still been upset this morning. As it was, I watched Shaun of the Dead and went to bed early.

As such, my only observations can be from the meta-narrative; some quickies ahead of the much-anticipated Andy Reid presser at noon:

Not telling Dunavin directly is “Tie-gate” Lite: I loooooove that the dumping-via-text-message has become a story. It makes it so much easier to rally the masses against Andy Reid. The blathermonkeys are doing excellent work with this — no one is standing up for Big Red on this. Bee-yoo-tee-full. No one can defend that…except, of course, McNabb himself, who was willing to spin it as an unfortunate consequence of a short half-time period. NERD!

The part of the game that I absolutely can’t believe. They really dressed two running backs? And six wideouts? When one of their running backs is admittedly hobbled? Seriously? And we don’t imagine a Buck-gets-dinged-up scenario? Can we even be surprised by crap like this at this point? It must be that we morons in the stands don’t understand the subtleties of football — we think you might want to have things like punt returners and fullbacks on the roster. No no! We can convert players to new positions! We’re geniuses! Bill Belichick does it, why can’t we?

The other benchings. It’s really really hard to not acknowledge the contract situations of the other players who were benched yesterday. L.J. Smith hasn’t performed this season, sure, and there have been rumblings about Omar Gaither’s allergies to heavy contact, but that Lito Sheppard is starting to sound a lot less crazy, isn’t he? When he talked about getting blackballed if you refuse an extension (which Gaither apparently has done)?

Time to update my comparisons. I’ve been prattling along about how the 2008 Eagles were really just the 8-8 2007 Eagles (but with a better punt returner). Until two weeks ago, I’d felt pretty good about that. But that’s no longer applicable. The 2008 Eagles are actually the 2005 Eagles (but with a better punt returner). Let’s see…locker room dysfunction, a banged up Westbrook, a humiliated Donovan McNabb, rumblings that the locker room is divided/ pissed at management, yup, this is the 6-10 2005 team. Sweet!

Didn’t want to do it; felt I owed it to them. Call me a giant jerk, but when do we start the Brian Westbrook - Shaun Alexander comparisons. You know, have a huge season at running back in your late 20s, sign a big contract, get hurt, never be right again? We can’t pass judgment until camp next summer, but, well, this would be pretty terrible.

Instant pre-analysis of the noon announcement. If it’s Kolb, we are officially done with the season. If it’s McNabb, well, at least his swan song will be at home. (I assume the Birds lose Thursday and Andy takes the extra time ahead of the Giants game to prep Kolb.)

Smile, everyone!

At least there’s no more Illusion of Competence; it’s actually better this way
Posted on November 23rd, 2008 at 8:06 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

So when I last checked in, the Birds were down 10-7.  I was following the game on my phone, sitting on the tarmac, and I texted my brother to ask him if the commentators were talking about a potential McNabb benching.

Perhaps!  A benching and then some!

I haven’t seen the game yet, but have already caught up on the meta-narrative in the pressers and the papers.  I’m intrigued by the story regarding the manner in which the quarterback change was communicated (you really didn’t talk to either of them about it, Andy?), but the bigger story is that it’s all over. Reid-McNabb-Dawkins is over.  I’m not interested in offering my take on their obit quite yet (plenty of time for that in December), but can I admit that the 36-7 score that I saw on my phone when my plane touched down at EWR was actually very freeing?

It’s done.  This group of guys is finally done.  The three fraudulent wins tacked on the end of last season’s 5-8 effort snookered us into thinking these guys might have one more go in them.  Nope.  Today was their last chance to convince me that I could get excited about the 2008 season, and they blew it in the most spectacular way possible.  The Emperor weighs close to 400 pounds, and he is nekkid as the day he was born.

(In my head, I envisioned a close win against Baltimore, then a short week with an opponent who had to handle a cross-country flight then some extra time off before the Giants — yup, I’m a sucker.)

Whew.  We don’t have to worry about this season or this team anymore.  The fraud is over.  Now we can discuss ENDGAME.

I’m definitely in the blame-Andy camp, though I acknowledge that Donovan McNabb is done in Philly (he’ll be a much happier person for it).  The thing that distresses me (mostly because it’s what’s going to happen), is that they’ll rationalize this season as being somehow about Dunavin and a hurt Westbrook and insist that they were just a little bit off.  They’ll fire Mornhinweg and Heckert and Andy Reid will be back leading the circus next summer, pretending the poor roster design and game planning isn’t his fault.

It’s 2008.  I’m ready for change.  Seems to be the thing these days.

Way-back machine: Eagles invite Ravens for Halloween, back when the Eagles had some attitude
Posted on November 21st, 2008 at 11:05 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

he was on stilts

I was in the stadium the last time the Eagles played the Ravens, and I remember it fondly.  People were rocking the Halloween costumes (including some guy on stilts, going through security, above) and the Birds were rolling (undefeated at the time).

The Ravens played the Eagles tough that day; given the deficiencies of the Baltimore offense, the Ravens’ defense played very proudly.  It took all of Donovan McNabb and T.O. at the height of their powers to score on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass — which included some post-contact effort from T.O. — and eke out a 15-10 win.

Of course, what followed that touchdown was one of the season’s more memorable moments, as T.O. parodied Ray Lewis’s entrance dance as a post-score celebration.

Say what we will about T.O. (and we’ll all say a lot), but I kind of wish somebody on the Birds had the stones to pull a stunt like that.  This team has looked lifeless for the past couple weeks.  They could use something obnoxiuos, and proud, and loud like that to get them fired up.  It doesn’t need to mock the other team (though we don’t hate that idea), but it needs to change the tone of the conversation for the Eagles.

Who’s going to be that guy?

Right now, I feel like the Eagles are watching called third strikes.  They’re telling us they’re working on it, and playing their hearts out, and all that, but it doesn’t look like it.  They seem a little too nice.  I dunno.  Maybe it’s the lingering hangover from a draw, but I’d like to see more desperation this week.  Something random, something angry, something that at least suggests they aren’t going quietly.

(Yes yes, I’ll print out a copy and send it to Andy Reid.  Go team.)



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