What Would Buddy Do?
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.

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

cardinalsloss.JPG

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.

Jim Johnson questionable for Sunday; “We’ll just see how he does here,” explains Reid.
Posted on January 15th, 2009 at 10:44 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was omitted from both Andy Reid’s Wednesday press conference and the team’s official injury report:

Injury Report: “(RT Jon) Runyan and (RB Brian) Westbrook will not practice today. (WR Jason) Avant will do some things. (Avant) went through the walkthrough. Basically, they all went through the walkthrough. Avant will go through the practice.”

But what of Jim Johnson’s balky back and cane requirements?  Surely this merits mention, no?  Especially with a five-hour flight to Arizona looming?  That can’t do wonders for a 67-year-old guy with back issues.

Luckily for Jim Johnson, there are no known performance-enhancing drug restrictions for the coaching staff.  So shoot that old guy full of happy juice and send him to Arizona!  We’re going to need him at the top of his game!

(Other fun facts about Jim Johnson that I picked up when reviewing his bio on PE.com: he was a college quarterback at Missouri (huh), and played tight end for two seasons in the pros (with Buffalo).  Wouldn’t have guessed that he’d played offense.)

Monday Eagles Hangover: the cure for hangovers is obviously EAGLES AWESOMENESS
Posted on January 12th, 2009 at 8:42 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

thatza touchdown

Been quite an interesting 36 hours for your humble author. From a windswept and cold tailgate at the Meadowlands to the best Eagles game in recent memory to the Happiest Place On Earth ™ and back, I can’t certainly complain of a lack of variety in my stimuli. And as I return home this evening in my big-boy pants and assorted standard-issue Banana Republic work clothes (with my cold-weather Eagles costume furtively stuffed into my carry-on baggage like some sort of smuggled sports-feelings WMDs), I’ve still got a glow about me.

Surely that’s the only way I made it through this little trip, which should have left me pretty worn out and haggard.  (Certainly my decision to “celebrate” throughout the day alone should have left me a little slow.)  Nope. I’m feeling great. Been feeling great all day. Such is the impact of this level of Eagles Awesomeness: it might have the power to cure hangovers and remove the need for sleep. We’re having scientists, trained scientists, look into it right now.

My day-after storylines and bulletpoints (written mostly without my usual embarrassingly exhaustive review of the mainstream post-game content, but we’ll take what we can get):

All hail the defense. Um, so at what point can we suggest that this is the best Eagles defense since 1991? What will it take? That defense, you might remember, didn’t shine like this one has in the post-season, and were more consistently dominant. They also had a bit of mean-spirited swagger that doesn’t seem evident in this team. For all the ferocity that this Eagles defense brings on the field, they’re not bullies. They’re not the Ravens. They just succeed, but without seeming to engender many bad vibes from opponents.

All that said, the worst thing I’ve ever heard uttered about Brian Dawkins. I actually heard someone a few rows back say, “I hope Brian Dawkins breaks his leg.” Out loud! Doesn’t he know that God might be listening and will surely punish him dearly for such a remark?

One of these weeks someone will figure it out. Westbrook doesn’t have it. He doesn’t. He’d love to prove us all wrong (like he did on the screen pass against the Vikings), but the jump isn’t there. We probably won’t get a straight answer on how hurt he is for a long time — some knee thing, the dread high ankle sprain, the ribs — hopefully at least three weeks. But he isn’t the weapon that we imagine him to be. Part of that probably has to do with the defenses he’s faced in the last month, but he just doesn’t look quite as quick. Still, as long as he’s willing to step on the field, folks will have to ignore him at their peril — especially in a warm-weather game on grass.

So if B-West isn’t carrying the offense, who is? Well duh. It’s the quarterback and a suddenly consistent group of receivers. Is it fair to say that McNabb has entered a new stage in his career over the past two months? This might be worth it’s own post, but it sure feels like he’s bringing the polished passing skills he’s acquired in the past couple years together with a determination and desperation (especially on third down) that he seemed to have last had in 2002. And I’m probably imaginging things here, but he actually seems more confident than he has in a while. Even when things haven’t gone well the past couple weeks, he’s been fairly unflappable. Makes me smile.

The things we carried.  I took a commemorative white towel with Giants’ logos all over it from a marketing/ promotions drone when I entered the stadium. The attendant looked at my Trent Cole jersey and Eagles hat and gave me a “Really?” “I want a souvenir to remember this by.” Pretty happy with that decision. I’ll put it on the shelf with my Phils towel from the NLCS and my plastic coffee mug from Fourth-and-26.

Stoppable (!).  I couldn’t tell who turned on Eli first: the fans or Tom Coughlin. Folks in section 108 were not happy with young Mr. Manning yesterday. The pick to Samuel prompted a chorus of anti-Eli haterade from the assembled Giants’ fans. I cannot explain how happy this made me.  To see them turn so quickly: it meant they were very much on edge heading into the game, and suggested that they were rightly terrified of the Eagles.  And with so much time to play!  It was truly glorious.  Though I guess Coughlin wasn’t far behind the fans, in that he essentially gave up on throwing the ball in the second half.

Speaking of, you know who loves to say, “I told you so?”  Everyone.  But mostly Derek gets to say it today.  When he wrote this, I was just psyched that he was telling us the Giants wouldn’t win the Super Bowl (I was happy with “anyone but the Giants” at that point).  But to have the Birds be the ones to beat them, TWICE?  Heh heh heh. Take a bow.

And one more shot at the Giants’ fans.  Dude, y’all certainly left that stadium puh-retty early — certainly a lot earlier than I was personally convinced that the game was over.  I guess my pessimism about games not being over until they are actually over — which is what happens when your team surrenders two blocked-kick TDs at the end of the first half in a single season — is stronger than your willingness to cheer your team, THE DEFENDING SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS, until the final whistle of the season.  I mean, really, why bother?

Yeah, I’m still soaring with this one.  Go Birds.

(Correction: I unforgivably misspelled Brodrick Bunkley’s first name in an earlier post.  No excuses.  Bad form from me.  Sloppy.)

NERD ALERT: Possible Cylon on Birds’ coaching staff
Posted on September 26th, 2008 at 8:40 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

colonel-johnson.jpg

In honor of the kind words being heaped upon Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Johnson in this morning’s papers, I’d like to play another round of the people-who-look-like-other-people game.

I’ve got a treat on this go-round for all the sci-fi dweebs out there in the audience: how bouts Jim Johnson looks like the recently outed Cylon Colonel Saul Tigh from Battlestar Galactica.  Beyond just looks, they both have a certain gruff, no-nonsense demeanor. No word yet on whether JJ shares Tigh’s drinking problem, hot traitor wife, and general levels of pissedoffedness in re: Starbuck.

Of course, this could all be nonsense; as noted earlier, all white people look alike to me.

(Feel free to call me a giant dork in the comments.  N.B. that I’m also super into the Terminator show, but that’s mostly because I completely believe that killer robots will be the death of us all.)

Birds outshove Steelers, make Ed Rendell smile
Posted on September 21st, 2008 at 9:14 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

In the game that was the inverse of last Monday’s shootout against Dallas, the Eagles roughed up the Steelers in a tough-ass defensive struggle, 15-6. 

Quick-hit reactions to a very satisfying TV show:    

Jim Johnson and the defensive front, take a bow.  Six days after giving up 34 points (I won’t blame them for the special teams TD), the Birds’ defense channeled the 1991 Eagles and just humiliated the Steelers.  The ball was snapped, and the line immediately moved two yards backward on pretty much every down.  It seemed like the Steelers gave up running the ball pretty early, and stubbornly instructed Roethlisberger to try to throw the ball.  Nope.  It wasn’t just a couple plays worth of pressure, it was pressure on every single down.  Darren Howard, Juqua Parker and Trent Cole were monsters.  The body language from the Steelers’ receivers was the most telling part — you could tell they were sick of running routes and not even having the ball come out.  Jim Johnson and the defense have officially made it up to us for the Dallas game.

Speaking of making it up to us after the Dallas game.  I guess the Dawkins retirement can wait another week.  His pterodactyl Makhtar (Editor’s note: Makhtar is a slang term used to describe the act of violently smacking an object out of another’s hand; derived from Makhtar N’Diaye and his proclivity for clumsy fouls) on Big Ben was the best Eagles’ play of the season so far. 

$57 million seemed like a lot, but, well, we like interceptions.  Asante Samuel is definitely earning it after three weeks.  I’ll argue that he’s actually been a little lost in the media shuffle so far, and that he’d definitely be a big story in most other towns, but given the unique, ahem, landscape of storylines amongst the local blathertariat, he’s gotten off pretty easy.  I can’t say I’m anything but impressed by this guy. 

I don’t think I’ve ever been that excited about the punter.  Get ready for a week of “This is the week it clicked for Sav Rocca” though he’s been pretty good so far this season.  He absolutely made a difference today. 

And suddenly it’s the third quarter of a preseason game.  When Kolb checked in with Buckhalter and Booker in the backfield and Baskett and Avant split wide, well, it got pretty chill in my apartment.  It got a little warmer when McNabb checked back in, but even that was an Eagles team without its starting backfield, Pro Bowl guard and presumptive top wideout.  Yikes.

Booker is a liability in pass defense.  Booker whiffed horribly on the McNabb pick, kind of fell down in the act of not even getting a finger on the blitzer.  Not so impressive.  Westbrook and Buckhalter don’t miss like that.    

Think happy thoughts. Let’s pretend the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook isn’t actually hurt and will be back at practice on Wednesday.  Somewhere GCobb is working on a blog post about how Westbrook can’t stay healthy. 

Also, The NFC East still hasn’t lost a game to anyone but an NFC East team.  Though I hope the Cowboys lose in a barrage of injuries to fix that.  Obviously.

Great game.  Go Birds. 

Facci Sognare!
Posted on December 16th, 2007 at 1:49 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

dallas fans eat catsI really wish I was a little more excited about the game this afternoon. The Birds’ season is pretty much through, and I’m mostly concerned that the team has already quit — meaning that I’m going to watch them capitulate to the Cowboys this afternoon with little to no resistance.

That would not be sweet.

All I can think of as kickoff approaches is the opening lines from the very fabulous A Season With Verona by Tim Parks:

FACCI SOGNARE says the banner. Make us dream! Please!”

And really, that’s what I’m asking for this afternoon. I know there are no playoffs (much less a Super Bowl) in the Birds’ immediate future. I’m rational. That’s all done.

I just want something to get excited about. Something to convince me that these guys are worth rooting for and that next year might be better than this one. (Read the rest of this story.)

Let us all towel off and assess what happened
Posted on November 26th, 2007 at 5:56 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

the Birds actually got sacks
For the avoidance of doubt, the Eagles did not win a game on Sunday night.

Yes, they most certainly covered the largest spread in 25 years against the best team in football, but they didn’t win. It’s an L. Same as the losses against the Giants, the Redskins, the Cowboys, the Bears, and the Packers.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said I was anything but giddy about last night’s game/ loss. It didn’t count as a win, but as a piece of entertainment — and as proof of the vitality of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise — it was the best thing we’d seen all year. Hands down. The Birds lost, and this was still the best Eagles game of the season. If we can say nothing else about Sunday night’s affair (don’t worry, we can say plenty), it is this: the loss against the Pats makes me want to watch them again — makes me want to believe (!). Makes me want to believe like the Carolina game last year. Or like the Week 15 win against the Giants. It made me think that this is team worth rooting for (something I hadn’t really felt all that often this season).

And really, that’s all I’m asking from the Eagles TV show/ live event.

Now for some actual game analysis:
(Read the rest of this story.)

Jim Johnson is charging his oversized novelty mobile phone as we speak
Posted on November 14th, 2007 at 11:37 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

roaming charges do not apply
What’s that gigantic tall thing over there in the corner?

Oh, that’s right. It’s Jim Johnson’s oversized novelty mobile phone! The one he’s going to use on Sunday to DIAL UP SOME BLITZES against the Dolphins and their rookie quarterback who’ll be starting his very first NFL game:

“John Beck, the oversized novelty mobile phone is for you.”

“Cool — do you know who’s calling?”

“Someone named Quintin Mikell. He says he wants to break your jaw on a safety blitz from the blind side.”

“Oh cool, put him through.”

(Read the rest of this story.)

Posted in Jim Johnson, D-Fence | No Comments 

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