What Would Buddy Do?
In response to this week’s Donovan McNabb non-story, I offer you a quiz
Posted on February 5th, 2009 at 12:26 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Cheers to Derek for admirably tackling the Donovan McNabb non-story yesterday (and if you’re not reading Igglesblog this week, you should be — TONS of great stuff over there, heavy on the charts) — this is yeoman’s work!

In lieu of actually engaging in said conversation, I’m going to offer an observation and a link.  The observation is that our attraction to Donovan McNabb is no longer a sports attraction, it’s a celebrity attraction.  It’s not Elton Brand, it’s Britney Spears.  That is, we’re just following drama at this point, not sports.  And for a page-view hungry Philly.com, well, this is just a bear on a bike for them.

If we (or the local media) were really interested in local sports this week, they’d have plenty to talk about: two showdowns with top-of-the-table Boston teams (both close losses — yes, I’m counting the Flyers as a close loss), and the realization that maybe Elton Brand is stealing from the Sixers.  But no, we get some hearsay from Jeremiah Trotter and Hugh Douglas, amplified by an all-too-willing cadre of local blathermonkeys.  Whatever.

If you’re hung up on Dunavin this week, might I suggest that you click this link and take a little quiz.  Consider it a reminder of how bad things could actually be.  For the record, I got 11 of 27.

(Who’s going to be the enterprising Iggles fan who will create one of these quizzes for Eagles QBs since Jaws retired.  Who?  Pointing at nose, staring at ground….)

Posted in Blathermonkeys, Dunavin | 9 Comments 

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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.

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.

Wow. It’s getting pretty meta in here. We’d better embrace soon!
Posted on January 17th, 2009 at 2:11 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Full slate of pressers on Friday, with Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and Brian Dawkins joining Friday regular Andy Reid at the podium.  With, ahem, a lack of fresh material for another full round of interviews, the topic of conversation kept to turning to the players and coaches’ relationship with the media and the fans, specifically what it will take for the city of Philadelphia to finally hug Andy Reid’s fat belly.

Showing the form that’s made them the scourge of the local press detachment, Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb had little to offer on the topic of Reid “being embraced” by the media and fans.  From Reid,

On what it takes to be completely embraced by this town and how he and Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel are “text” buddies: “Honestly, I don’t think about all that.  That’s for you guys to take care of.  Charlie’s (Manuel) a heck of a guy and a great manager and I just think he did a tremendous job.  We were supporting him 110 percent, our football team, and their baseball team has been great.  Our players are close and Charlie and I communicate and he did a great job.  I’m not going to get into all the comparisons and embrace myself.”

And then McNabb:

On what it will take for head coach Andy Reid to be fully embraced by Philadelphia: “That’s a question that I need to ask you. If we had the answer, then it wouldn’t be a problem. But, you know what? The thing about it is winning cures everything. When you’re winning, nobody digs deeper into finding much of what’s going on. I can personally tell you that we don’t get affected by what people may say on the outside too much. You use whatever you want as motivation and you move on. You can’t impress everyone. Not everyone is going to like you, but you just go out and you do your job and you enjoy doing it. That’s something that I can definitely say that hasn’t wavered by any means from Andy and it trickles down to the rest of us. You can’t let what people may say on the outside become a distraction of what you do here at your job.”

Right right.  These guys pay attention to their media training, so you can’t expect much more than that.  But maybe we’ll get something more interesting from Brian Dawkins, right?

On what he thinks it will take for head coach Andy Reid to be completely embraced by the city of Philadelphia: “You have to understand where we are. Here in Philadelphia they love you to death but they are still going to criticize you. They are still going to get on you. They are still going to ask questions. You have to have thick skin to play here, to coach here. Everybody can’t coach, everybody can’t play here. So obviously Andy is doing something that a lot of coaches could not succeed in by having thick skin, holding fast to what he believes in, and continue to move on. They are still going to question you regardless of success. As soon as you have a string of failure they are still going to question you, so you understand that. You just go out and do what you do and that’s what Andy has done; he has stayed the course in what he believes.”

Nope.  Maybe Brian Westbrook?:

On what it will take for head coach Andy Reid to be completely embraced by the city of Philadelphia: “I think everybody knows that Coach is a good coach. He’s done a great job here and in his ten years I want to say he’s one of the top two or three winningest coaches in that tenure. He’s done a great job for this team, and I also feel that he’s been great to the players here as well. Different people are always going to have something negative to say, but I think his players respect him and the people that know football respect him around the NFL and as a coach. I think that’s all you really can ask for. I think the fans are going to go up and down sometimes with the wins and losses. But, the true mark is how do you follow up those losses, and he’s done a great job of bringing this team back this year and now we’re playing for the NFC Championship and a lot has to do because of him.”

Though, in Westbrook’s defense, he did let down the guard a bit when they asked him the meta-question about how it feels to answer questions about his knee every week:

On whether he gets tired of answering the same questions every week: “It gets a little repetitive. I appreciate you bringing that up. It definitely gets a little repetitive, but my knee’s fine. I think, it hasn’t been said, but a lot of times, throughout games when you have injuries, you’re going to tweak your injury no matter what injury it is. This wasn’t the only game that I tweaked my knee, but it happens throughout football games.”

To summarize, no one can really say why the public doesn’t “embrace” Andy Reid (perhaps it’s because we all know that our arms would never make it all the way around his generous mid-section?), but Brian Westbrook is just as sick of answering the same questions as the press are of asking them.

So it wasn’t the benching; let’s try the human interest angle
Posted on January 14th, 2009 at 9:14 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

In an act of extreme patience and restraint, the media assembled for today’s round of Eagles pressers managed to not mention Donovan McNabb’s Benching Against Baltimore, as has been their recent custom.

I suppose they got just as tired of asking as we did of reading.

So today they tried another angle.  It wasn’t the benching that was the turning point — the benching was just a result of McNabb’s anxiety about his wife’s pregnancy.  A ha!  Perhaps this would work — I mean, it wouldn’t be showing weakness to admit that maybe one was a bit preoccupied by an extremely complicated pregnancy, right?

Try.  Again.

On whether there was a point, during his wife’s pregnancy with twins, that he thought about stepping back from football: “No. Family is family and football is another issue. It was tough, but we all have been through difficult situations, whether it deals with family or football.”

Of course, as Lew Bowen has some aptly pointed out, McNabb’s media training is such that he’s unlikely to agree that the sun rises most mornings without first offering a “Not at all.”  So you can’t think you were going to get an easy win out of Donovan.

So why not try the more reasonable — and less skittish around the press, for good reason — Brian Dawkins?

On whether it was difficult for QB Donovan McNabb to concentrate on football due to concern for his wife and expected children during the delivery process: “I would say yes. I’m not in his shoes obviously, but I just know where I was as my wife was going through the ordeal with our babies. Had that been during the season, it would have been very, very tough to focus.”

Voila!  Hit up the guy whose wife ALSO had a complicated pregnancy and ask him the hypothetical!  Without speaking for Dunavin directly, Dawk’ll give you what you wanted.  There you go — now you’ve got copy for a sensitive piece that probes the quarterback’s complex psyche for Thursday morning.

We won’t comment on whom we expect to write tomorrow’s pregnancy story.

For the avoidance of doubt, I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about
Posted on January 13th, 2009 at 10:45 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

In the interests of fairness and accountability, please see below for an excerpt from my post following the Ravens game:

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.

Yup.  As noted, I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.  Guilty as charged.

(And I really couldn’t be any happier about being wrong.)

Yes! They’re going to rip you! They hate you! (Please keep winning.)
Posted on January 12th, 2009 at 8:51 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Dude, the grand master plan in which Donovan McNabb plays the me-against-the-world card continues to work to perfection.  Personally, I can’t get enough of it.  From Michael Silver’s column on Yahoo:

On a day in which McNabb had once again provided the people who criticize his personality with ample ammunition – he was called for a personal foul with three minutes remaining after scrambling out of bounds, picking up a phone on the Giants’ sidelines and pretending to have a quick conversation with who knows who – the quarterback was ready for the inevitable barrage.

“I’m gonna get ripped,” he said, looking over to teammates DeSean Jackson and Hank Baskett, and a few other amused players dressing nearby. “That is the story of my life. It’s something to talk about: ‘Donovan, what an idiot.’ ”

The subject turned to Mondesire, a Philadelphia newspaper publisher who charged that McNabb “played the race card” to explain a decrease in rushing attempts.

“That guy ripped me because I wasn’t black enough!” McNabb said, drawing more laughs. “What do you mean, brother? Damn, do I need to hit a tanning salon?”

Maybe it’s a little cruel that it has to be this way — that this seemingly decent dude can’t actually bask in the glow of all the folks who do adore him — but whatever.  It only needs to work for three more weeks.

A thousand gold pieces to the one who can get McNabb to admit benching had some impact on him!
Posted on January 8th, 2009 at 11:29 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

While most observers of the Birds are willing to concede that Donovan McNabb’s benching at Baltimore was at least an inflection point for the team this season, good luck getting “never let them see you sweat“ Dunavin to admit it.  As far as he’s concerned, the benching didn’t really mean anything, nothing has changed since then, and any apparent evolution is just a coincidence.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped the blathertariat from purusing this angle.  Every.  Single.  Time.  They.  Talk.  To.  McNabb.  For some reason, Dunavin refuses to offer a simple, “Yeah, it’s obvious the team needed a kick in the butt, and it sure looks like things have gone well since then.”  Of course, that would imply that he wasn’t playing his best all season, and that’s not the sort of thing one is eager to talk about when one is asking for a raise.  So we’ll cut him some slack there.

Still, you’ve gotta love the ongoing effort (what dedication!) from the media to coax some sort of reflection out of the quarterback over the past month.  It’s actually a very impressive body of work:     

January 7

On whether being benched has had any effect on the way he has been playing or whether it’s coincidental: “I think it’s completely coincidental. I don’t think that that played a factor into the way that I am playing now. So, that’s in the past and we’ve moved on.” 

December 31:

On what his range of emotions has been since the game at Baltimore: “No range of emotions. I’m happy.”

On whether he was happy after he was benched at Baltimore: “I was happy then and I’m happy now.”  

December 17:

On whether he thinks his benching at Baltimore was an attempt to make the team play better: “I think the team is playing well. I think we’re all playing well together. For me to be used as the guy to motivate other guys, I really don’t think that was needed, but I guess we’ve all seen what happened and have learned from it and moved on. It’s a different situation when it’s really not you that’s being the guy to motivate everyone else. I think, in light of it, I guess we’re all playing well together.”

On whether his relationship with Andy Reid has changed since his benching: “My relationship hasn’t changed with Andy. I guess that would be an assumption that people would make because of the situation and the coverage which it has received. I guess maybe they took it from ‘we’ll have to talk after whenever’, but in this situation, we’re professionals. We know what our job entitles us to do and that’s for me to go out onto the field and lead this team to successful wins and try to get us in a position to make the playoffs. Anything else after that is after we’re done. As far as right now, we’re focusing on what we need to do to beat Washington.” 

December 11:

On whether he thinks that sitting in the second half of the Ravens game has helped him over the last two weeks: “No.” 

Of course, this all would have been a lot easier if he hadn’t allowed himself to be a human being for just a moment after beating the Cardinals, which begat this on December 3:

On his statement after the Cardinals game that he would like to sit down and talk with people in the organization at some time: “I said that I’ll be talking to Andy, (president) Joe (Banner) and (owner) Jeffrey (Lurie).”

On what it is that he wants to talk with them about: “We’ll discuss that when the time comes. I think that at this particular point, it’s just really for us to focus on who we are playing and that will be the Giants and continue on from there. And the conversation will happen.”

On whether he is secure with his position as the quarterback of the team: “I am the quarterback and I will be the quarterback, so if that’s where you’re going with it, I don’t look at anything else that’s happened.”

And so on and so forth.

See!  That’s what you get for having feelings, Dunavin!  Hope you learned your lesson! 

All that said, national media (especially you, Michael Strahan and Deion Sanders), you’re welcome to get f*cked on this front.  This is our issue, and we’ll deal with it locally.  We don’t need your holier-than-thou crap, especially since most of you have been more than happy to casually beat up on McNabb when he struggled (tell me more about how good Tony Romo is, I’m listening).  Go away.

Peter King, we’ve got Igglesblog on line 1
Posted on January 5th, 2009 at 7:22 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

From MMQB:

c. Marty Mornhinweg … Marty, Marty, Marty. You’ve had a good play-calling December, and now, in the playoffs, and you’re my Coach of the Week this week, but … Third-and-one, 80 seconds left in the first half, you’re moving the ball on the Vikes, Minnesota has just scored to move within 16-14, and you throw deep downfield instead of just getting the first down and a David Akers field goal or maybe even a touchdown right before the half. Just get the first down and a fresh set of downs.

So Peter, you’re sure that Marty Morhinweg decided to go deep on that play?  You’re totally sure it wasn’t the quarterback calling his own plays and having delusions of grandeur?  And even if a deep route was called, are we sure that Mornhinweg wouldn’t have preferred if the ball went somewhere else?

An alternate theory from Igglesblog.

(I really really really need to stop with the Peter King stuff.)

Monday Eagles Hangover: come on, we were all looking past the Vikings
Posted on January 5th, 2009 at 6:29 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

djackvikings.jpg

Maybe the best part of this edition of Monday Eagles hangover is that…I’m not actually hungover!  At all! Note that said hangovers typically have little to do with alcohol consumption and more to do with my sensitive little bruised sports feelings. Said sports feelings are doing just fine today, thank you very much.

My day-after thoughts and bulletpoints:

Stay angry, big fella.  Surely after a season-vindicating playoff win against the Vikings, quarterback Donovan McNabb would be in an ebullient mood, no?  Oh wait.  Someone tried to ask Dunavin how he felt about Jeff Lurie’s comments regarding his future (which were all positive) at his post-game presser, and Dunavin essentially told them that he hopes that means they’ll stop asking him about it (not with a smile) and then cut off a follow-up question with “Nice try.”  He also bickered about the difference between wanting a meeting with the boss and wanting to stay in Philly.  I’d give you the quote but it wasn’t included in the transcription on the Birds’ site; this is the best I’ve got:

“Do you want to be back next year?” someone asked yesterday, reminding McNabb that he had asked for a sit-down with ownership when this season concludes.

“I’m here,” he said with a smile. “Excited.

“Nice try.”

The important thing is that the quarterback continue to think that everyone hates him and the only way he can really stick it to us is by winning many football games.  Keep it up!

Per lo usual, Sheldon Brown speaks the truth.  Nice work by BGN on picking this Sheldon Brown quote out of a post-game interview with Sal Pal:

I would never want to disrespect the Vikings by looking past them… but I kinda knew, we all did that it would come down to a rematch with the Giants.

Sheldon, I couldn’t agree with you more.  That was the thinking that led me to opt out of a flight to Minnesota in the hopes that the Eagles would play the Giants in my backyard here in New York the following week.  And it all worked out.  Excellent.  Let us also note that said ticket for the G-Men game was purchased by 11 pm last (Sunday) night.

And who says Andy Reid doesn’t pay attention to his critics?  From today’s day-after press conference:

On whether he stuck with the run yesterday in order to slow their pass rush: “Yeah, we were trying to get it going. (Jokingly) I can’t even believe that you asked that question, but I kind of feel good that you did. We tried to keep it as balanced as we could so I wouldn’t have to answer that question, but that’s all right.”

Outstanding.  Really.  Outstanding.  For everyone: the reporters, Big Red himself, all of them.  Still, even Andy Reid will have to admit that answering the same question about running the ball is better than the lot of the quarterback (”Dunavin, for the twentieth time, how did you feel about being benched and will you be back next year?”).

What made this not the Washington game.  You could argue that the offense struggled at times yesterday.  They did, especially running the ball.  But the difference for the team yesterday was that they caught the ball.  How many drops were there?  (Dawkins and Sheldon Brown don’t count.  We might even argue that Matt Schoebel shouldn’t count.)  And not all those catches were easy.  The wideouts were actually excellent catching the ball, and Brent Celek reminded us all why it’s so important that L.J. Smith rest up for free agency.  That makes a difference — sure makes Dunavin look good.

Speaking of, in re: tight ends.  L.J. Smith didn’t show up in the injuries portion of Andy Reid’s presser today, and no one asked about him.  Is he okay?  Or has he already been sent to gulag?

Guys who are growing up before our eyes.  Sure looked like Trevor Laws got more than a couple snaps on first down yesterday.  And was that Chris Gocong busting throw the line and blowing up running plays?  I thought that was what that Stewart Bradley fellow did?  And it definitely looks like Demps is going to be trusted a fair amount against the Giants as well, given that he was on the field in the three-safety alignment against the Vikings (you know, the one where the $57 million guy gets a break?).  Here’s to hoping that Demps doesn’t let any deep balls get behind him on the play fake (fingers crossed).

Go Birds.

Sorry for the lack of posts today.  We’ve had some connectivity issues, and the day job beckoned.  We’ll make it up later in the week.



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