Archive for November 2008

Eagles “RUN” past Cards

November 28, 2008



Well, it only took 12 weeks, but Andy Reid and the Eagles finally figured out what a running game can do for a football team.


The Eagles effectively mixed the run and pass in a 48-20 stomping of the Arizona Cardinals Thursday night.


It was really enjoyable to watch good football again. But, at 6-5-1, it’s still a long shot to make the playoffs for the Birds. In some ways, this game was even more frustrating than a loss because it showed what the Eagles could have been doing all season long if they were running the ball.


I mean, how/why did Reid watch his pitiful offense week after week and not figure out sooner that running the ball would help? I just don’t get it.


Anyway, this victory was set up with the opening drive that was a thing of beauty.


12 plays, 70 yards. 7 runs, 5 passes. One of the runs was a Donovan McNabb scramble (nice to see that again, huh?). So, the drive consisted of 6 called runs and 6 called passes. A balanced offense. Imagine that?


Again, why, oh why, did it take 12 weeks to figure this out? (Just shaking my head).


And how great was it to see to see fullback Kyle Eckel rumble for two yards and a first down on 3rd-and-1 on that opening drive?


The Eagles continued to run the ball and McNabb, given time without a defense teeing off on the pass, looked sharp all night.



McNabb finished 27-for-39 for 260 yards and 4 TDs. There were 33 called running plays. Westbrook got the bulk of the runs, rushing for 110 yards and 2 TDs on 22 carries. He also caught 2 TDs.


Mike Quick said on the radio during Sunday’s brutal loss to Baltimore that football isn’t rocket science; it’s about blocking and tackling. You saw that Thursday night.


And you saw a running game. It’s no coincidence that you saw a win, as well.


Just wish it didn’t take so long for Reid to figure it out.



Thoughts on broadcast:


–It’s too bad we don’t get NFL Network on Comcast in the Philly market, because Cris Collinsworth makes a broadcast enjoyable. He gives point-on analysis and isn’t bashful with his opinions. On Reid not personally telling McNabb he wouldn’t play in the second half Sunday, Collinsworth said, “It was a mistake, there’s no way around it.”


–Also enjoyed Bob Papa’s play-by-play. Having not watched an NFL Network broadcast all season, I’m not sure what happened to Bryant Gumbel.


–You wouldn’t expect otherwise from an ex-coach, but NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci embarrassed himself in the pregame by using the injuries excuse when explaining the failures of the Eagles’ offense this season. Then, he really put his foot in his mouth by saying they’re really playing well. Huh? What games has Mariucci been watching. And, more to the point, why bother being an analyst if you’re going to say something so stupid.


–By the way, was that Reid’s son on the sideline as a ball boy early in the game?



Kendrick on a short leash? Not that it comes as a surprise to anyone, but Phillies Nation is reporting that Kyle Kendrick will be on a short leash next season, saying he’ll have until June to prove himself or be traded.

(update 8:45 a.m. Friday)

We’re talkin’ ’bout practice: The more things change, the more they stay the same…A.I. skips practice in Detroit.



Weekend sked





Carolina at Flyers, 1



Sixers at Boston, 7:30


College football

Akron at Temple, 1


College hoops

Towson vs. Villanova at Palestra, 9




Flyers at Toronto, 7


College hoops

Penn at Albany, 7

Temple at Buffalo, 4

Penn State/Rhode Island vs. Villanova at Palestra, TBA




Chicago at Sixers, 5



That’s all for now.



So, now, it’s the wide receivers?

November 27, 2008


I had to chuckle while reading Bob Brookover’s article in Wednesday’s Inky in which two Eagles front-office “sources” (I believe Joe Banner gave himself away by using “unalterably” in a quote) backed Andy Reid while placing blame on the offensive line and wide receivers.


The wide receivers. You know, the ones who are good enough because the system will make them good enough.


Forget about adding a proven weapon (Anquan Boldin) or drafting a receiver that can make a difference, the Eagles’ philosophy – despite the screams of the majority of fans – has been to say you don’t need great receivers to win.


Now this…


“We’re dropping way too many balls,” the source said.


Amazing. Absolutely amazing.



Could tonight be the end of the Donovan McNabb era?



Sixers fall: Watched from courtside Wednesday night as the Sixers fell to the Magic, 96-94. The Sixers played well in the second half and got a boost from Marreese Speights (what a difficult name to spell!) and Theo Ratliff (remember him) in the second half.


And the Sixers look like a good team in the making, one that has a chance to make the playoffs and win a series, maybe two.


But…and this is a big but…despite the closeness of the game, Philly clearly is an inferior team to Orlando. They just don’t have the guns on offense and, maybe more than that, don’t defend well enough (especially from the perimeter) to be considered an upper-echelon Eastern Conference team.


I’ll still follow them all season because I love basketball and enjoy the NBA, but this is a team that has no chance of winning an Eastern Conference title unless some major changes are made at the trade deadline.



For whom are you thankful: Have received some responses to my post about Philly sports figures for whom I’m thankful. I’d love to hear from more of you.



Thursday sked



Arizona at Eagles, 8



Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of your families!



And Happy Birthday to Jimmy Rollins. We’re still not front-runners though!

Time to give thanks to Philly sports figures

November 26, 2008


Now is the time to look around and give thanks for all that we have, time to take a break from the criticism and cynicism that we all get caught up in and spin positive.


So, here are some Philly sports figures for whom I’m thankful:




Charlie Manuel: The manager put aside the criticism and directed the Phils to their second world title, ending the city’s 25-year title drought. Enough said.


Ryan Howard: The big man persevered through an early-season slump and delivered when it mattered, finishing with a league-best 48 homers and 146 RBIs. He came up huge down the stretch, too, hitting .352 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in September. Worth every penny of that $10 million!


Chase Utley: The epitome of a Philadelphia athlete … tough, clutch, determined, ferocious. Played with an ailing hip for most of the season and still hit .295 with 33 homers and 104 RBIs. More than his numbers, Utley’s intense approach to the game is contagious amongst his teammates.


Cole Hamels: Earned legendary status with his beyond clutch postseason performance, going 4-0 in 5 games with a 1.80 ERA, 30 K’s and 9 BB’s. That’s the definition of an ace.


(Update 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Shame on me for accidentally leaving closer Brad Lidge off this list. Mr. 48-for-48 has to be here.)




Brian Dawkins: Age has slowed Dawkins, but there hasn’t been a better Eagles safety in the team’s modern history (sorry Wes and Andre). He’s still exciting and fearless.


Jon Runyan: Like Dawkins, age has had an effect on him this year. But is there anyone tougher in pro football? Runyan has played in 139 straight games … and counting. Good enough to get him on this list.




Mo Cheeks: He has directed the Sixers with the same class and poise with which he played. Cheeks got through to his young players last season with his upbeat approach, and led the team on an unlikely run into the playoffs.




Paul Holmgren: While hockey isn’t my forte, I’ve always admired the Flyers’ willingness to go for it all year in and year out. In Holmgren, the team has a GM who has been able to get the team back on track after Bob Clarke burned out.


College hoops


Phil Martelli, Jay Wright, Fran Dunphy: Put them all in one category. The coaches of St. Joe’s, Villanova and Temple, respectively, are three of the best in the business. That they all ply their trade within 10 miles of one another is a stroke of luck for Philly.


Media outlets


Comcast SportsNet: CSN has the Philly sports fan covered, whether it’s Daily News Live, Post Game Live or SportsNite. Plus, you go here to watch the Phils, Flyers and Sixers. No Philly sports fan can do without CSN.


950-ESPN and 610-WIP: I’ve heard sports radio criticized as an evil in sports. Perhaps there is some merit there, but I view sports radio as an outlet for fans. When the teams are struggling, the radio gives fans a voice for their displeasure. And when the teams are going well, it’s a place for fans to rejoice.


Note: CSN and 610-WIP both appeared on a similar list in my Courier-Post sports media column on Nov. 24, 2006.


TV/radio personalities


I like media members who are objective, straight with fans and not afraid to ask tough questions and tackle tough issues. These gentlemen embody that for me:


Ray Didinger: Eagles analysis always is on point.


Michael Barkann: Makes Daily News Live what it is.


Jody McDonald: As knowledgeable as anyone.


Mike Missanelli: Entertaining and opinionated.


Glen Macnow: On the fans’ side.


Anthony Gargano: Like listening to your friend.


Angelo Cataldi: Over the top at times, but holds people/teams accountable.


And here are the announcers I most enjoy in Philly:


Harry Kalas: Nothing like his voice on a warm, summer night.


Scott Franzke: Never thought Kalas would have an equal in the radio booth – until now.


Merrill Reese: No home team announcer is more objective.


Note: Barkann, Didinger, Kalas and McDonald appeared on a similar list in my Courier-Post sports media column on Nov. 24, 2006.



Who are you thankful for? Tell me.



Sixers tonight: I’ll be at the Sixers-Magic game Wednesday night. I’ll give my thoughts about the game here Thursday. Speaking of the Sixers, two new gigs for ex-analyst Steve Mix.



Wednesday sked



Orlando at Sixers, 7:30


Flyers at Carolina, 7

College hoops

Saint Joseph’s vs. Alabama in Maui, 2










Defending Philly sports fans

November 25, 2008

It’s a tired argument when you hear over and over again how Philadelphia athletes’ undoing are a result of the town’s “tough” sports fans.


I buy tickets and sit in the stands next to those so-called “tough” fans. I’ve been going to sporting events my entire life in this town, listening to sports radio, reading the papers and have worked in the media business here.


My take on Philly sports fans: They demand effort, they want a winner and they care about their sports as much as anyone in the country.


If anything, that makes them the best fans in the country – not the worst. Just ask the teams’ owners, who get rich based on the interest of the fans.


Do Philly fans boo? Absolutely. But so do fans in every other city in the country (OK, maybe not St. Louis!HaHa!). The bottom line is there are a few jerks in the crowd at every game, most of the time helped out by an adult beverage (or two, three, four or five).


But Philly fans are great fans and it’s bothersome to constantly hear them derided by people who don’t know what the heck they’re talking about…


Like some blogger named Tom Peters, who rips Philly fans on PCP Sports.


Here’s some of what Peters says:


“You’ve made (Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb) more unpopular than the current President”


“You don’t need a quarterback taking you to four straight NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl.”


My take: As for the first argument, fans have not made Reid and McNabb unpopular. Fans have questioned Reid’s coaching and McNabb’s play, especially lately, when they deserved to be questioned.


Have Reid and McNabb ever really been embraced in this town? No. Why? Because Reid and McNabb, through their press conferences, have made themselves very difficult to embrace. Reid comes across as arrogant and McNabb as aloof, making it hard for fans to like their personalities. Regardless of that, Philly fans would love the duo if they ever brought the town a championship (see Charlie Manuel).


As for the second argument, this is something you hear all the time. The Super Bowl was four years ago and those NFC Championships were four-to-seven years ago. That’s an eternity, especially in NFL years.


Sure, those guys have had success but you can’t base your present judgment on past success. That goes for anything, especially professional sports.


Moving on…



Sal Pal on Eagles: Sal Paolantonio, one of the best ESPN reporters, said on Mike Miss’s 950-ESPN radio show Monday that the Eagles’ decision to start McNabb Thursday is all about money.


He said management wants McNabb to start Thursday to ensure that fans will show up, reasoning that Kevin Kolb in the starting lineup will make the game seem like an exhibition and, thus, fans would stay home – especially given that it’s Thanksgiving.


And he felt the team needed McNabb to play to improve his trade value in the offseason.


My take: I like Paolantonio, but I think this is a stretch. I believe Reid is starting McNabb because he thinks it’s the best way to win. It probably is but, as I’ve said, I think the best thing for the organization is to end the Reid/McNabb era and see what Kolb can do.



(Update, 10:30 a.m. Tuesday)


FredEx delivers bashing: Ex-Eagle Freddie Mitchell criticized Donovan McNabb yesterday on 950-ESPN. I missed the interview but you can read about it here or listen here.



(Update 1 p.m. Tuesday)


Who are you thankful for? I’m going to do a Thanksgiving bit on Philly sports people I’m thankful for. Let me know who you are thankful for and I’ll include yours.

(update 4 p.m. Tuesday)

College hoops news: Darrin Govens hit a career-high seven 3s to lead St. Joe’s over Indiana today. Of course, it’s Indiana in name only this season.

Also, the A-10 has made some changes to its postseason tourney starting in 2010, with the big news being the final will be broadcast on CBS.



Tuesday sked


College hoops

Monmouth at Villanova, 7:30

Penn State at Penn, 7:30

Saint Joseph’s vs. Indiana in Maui, 1:30

McNabb got jobbed; bench Reid (update with Reid Monday PC)

November 24, 2008

Donovan McNabb got jobbed. Simple as that. He shouldn’t have been pulled.


That’s my evaluation after, doing my best Andy Reid, going back and looking at the tape.


Before giving my explanation, let me say that last week I called for the Kevin Kolb era to begin, mainly because I was tired of seeing the same-old, same-old week in and week out.


That said, McNabb didn’t deserve to get benched after the first half of Sunday’s 36-7 stomping by the Ravens.


The numbers say McNabb was 8-for-18 for 59 yards, 2 INTs and a fumble, but he wasn’t nearly as bad as the numbers would have you believe.



Not even close.


Go back and look at the tape and you’ll see McNabb made one bad throw under pressure, one bad throw with no pressure and one horrible throw (the Ed Reed INT).


So, basically he was benched for that. (BTW, extremely weak by Reid sending his QB coach to give McNabb the message. After 10 years, McNabb deserved to hear it from his head coach.)


What I saw on tape were receivers who are subpar, blockers who can’t protect and a coach who can’t call plays.


Worse than Andy Reid’s shoddy play-calling (why call a pass on 3rd-and-1 in the first half and, worse, on 2nd-and-goal from the 1-inch line in the fourth quarter?), is his talent evaluation.


How much longer do we have to put up with receivers (sans DeSean Jackson) who can’t get open, can’t catch when they’re open and can’t help their QB out on so-so throws?


How much longer to we have to watch play-calling that doesn’t believe in a running game?


How much longer to we have to watch tight ends who can’t block – or catch?


How much longer do we have to watch an aging offensive line give up constant pressure, of course not helped by the fact they are always playing on their heels due to the play-calling?


How much longer…you fill in the blank?


No, the problem isn’t McNabb – far from it.


The problem is the guy wearing the headset.


Andy Reid is the one who needs benching.



Reese, Quick blast Eagles: Merrill Reese and Mike Quick were none too happy with Reid’s play-call in the fourth quarter to pass on 2nd-and-1. Check the previous post to read what they said.



(Update 6:15 a.m. Monday)


ESPN heads blast Philly fans?: 610-WIP’s Rhea Hughes relayed that Chris Berman and Tom Jackson blasted Philly fans prior to Sunday’s game. Didn’t see it. Anyone have anything on this?



Sixers win: The Sixers got a nice performance by Elton Brand, defeating Golden State Sunday night. I was there but I’ll save my thoughts for another post. Today is all about the Eagles.


(Update 12:05 Monday)


Andy Reid names McNabb QB: Andy Reid named Donovan McNabb his QB Monday. Another bad decision. Every question was about McNabb, giving Reid a pass on his poor coaching.


For what it’s worth, here’s what Reid said:


Donovan McNabb will be our starting QB for the Arizona game on Thursday. Sometimes you have to take a step back to step forward in a positive way, and Donovan will do that. It has nothing to do with Donovan’s performance or Kolb’s performance. I think it was the right thing to do and I would not change my decision on that.


Donovan is going out to play, that’s what he’s doing. Sometimes it’s good to step back and look at things from a different angle. I expect him to go out and play his heart out.


I think I know Donovan McNabb probably better than anyone in this room. Six turnovers is not Donovan McNabb. That’s not his game, that’s no part of his game. You back up an inch and he should be able to step forward a mile.


He’ll work through this. I have confidence he’ll work through it. I’m telling you he’s my starting quarterback.


I’m not going to get into all that. I need to coach better. Donovan needs to play better and the guys around Donovan need to play better.


I can’t answer ifs, I’m not going there. I’m going with Donovan’s going to do it and that’s the approach I take.


I will make every decision for what I think is best for this football team. That’s the seat I sit in and that’s the way I’ll approach it.


We’ll see. We’ll see. I just think there’s a point where you step back and look at it. I always try to win the game. I’ll always do what’s best for the team. Don’t pick things out. Listen to the whole thing.


That’s not what we do. That’s how things are. I really don’t care what anybody else thinks. The coach coaches that player and he tells them and that’s how it goes.


I’ve been around Donovan for a long time so I trust he’ll get his part right and the guys around him will.


I talked to him afterward, as I did the other quarterback. At that particular time, you’re in a tight time situation….It’s not a matter of disrespecting Donovan.


It’s something I felt like I had to do at that particular time.


You can’t worry about all that. You get rid of the ifs.


I don’t want to leave here until you understand that. Donovan is the QB for this football team.




Monday sked



Sixers at Charlotte, 7



Dallas at Flyers, 7


College hoops

Saint Joseph’s vs. Texas in Maui, 3 …


…and Phil Martelli blogs about it.



That’s all for now.




Reese, Quick blast Eagles

November 24, 2008

Merrill Reese and Mike Quick probably spoke for every Eagles fan when they voiced their disgust on the radio with Andy Reid’s play-calling in the fourth quarter of today’s 36-7 pasting by the Ravens.


You know the situation: The Eagles trailed by 15, 22-7, with 2-and-goal from the 1 with just under 8 minutes left. Reid elected to throw and Baltimore’s Ed Reed returned Kevin Kolb’s pass 108 yards for a TD, putting the game out of reach.


Here’s what Reese and Quick said:


Reese: “Why would you throw there? I cannot understand that. … I just don’t understand. Just keep it simple. … I am perplexed.”


Quick: “(The Eagles) are doing things that don’t make sense. The game is not rocket science. (Reference to Reid’s play-calling) make the game more complicated than it needs to be.”


The words on the computer screen don’t come across nearly as well as they did over the air. You’ll probably hear the clip, if you haven’t already, over the next few days.


Kudos to Reese and Quick. I’ve always admired Reese’s forthrightness (a word?) and appreciated his and Quick’s candor. It’s not always easy to be that honest when you’re working for the team.


I believe they spoke for every Eagles fan watching (or listening, as in my case).


More on the McNabb/Kolb/Reid controversy and the entire mess surrounding the team later.


That’s all for now.

Andy Reid to San Francisco?

November 21, 2008

Former colleague and Trenton Times columnist Mark Eckel said on his 610-WIP radio show Thursday night that it wouldn’t shock him if Eagles coach Andy Reid wound up in San Francisco next year as the 49ers’ head coach.


Eckel, as plugged into the Eagles as anyone covering the team, was merely giving an opinion. This wasn’t a factual report. For what it’s worth, according to Eckel, here’s how the dominoes would fall for Reid to wind up as 49ers coach in 2009…


After letting go of quasi-GM Tom Heckert, Eagles ownership would approach Reid and let him know they want to bring in a personnel guy who will have power over decisions – unlike now when Reid has the final say.


Then, they will ask Reid to fire some of his assistant coaches (see: special teams coordinator Rory Segrest and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg).


If this happens, Eckel believes Reid may then decide to bolt rather than give up his personnel power and/or fire his assistant coaches. Of course, Reid also could decide to stay under those circumstances as well.


So, that brings us to San Francisco.


Reid’s good friend and former boss Mike Holmgren is in his final year as Seahawks coach. Holmgren supposedly is going to take a year off in 2009.


But things change.


Maybe Holmgren winds up as GM with the 49ers, who just happen to have an interim coach (Mike Singletary) right now. Needing a coach, Holmgren calls his old friend Reid and Big Red is on the first plane to the Golden Gate City.


Again, it’s just conjecture. But it has some merit, especially coming from Eckel.



Un-friggin’-believable: Bad news from Phillies land as second baseman Chase Utley will miss 4-to-6 months due to hip surgery he’ll have next week. (BTW, pretty cool linking to the Phillies’ Web site and seeing “2008 World Champions” at the top of the site.)


My take: Surgery is always a tricky proposition, always a risk. I hope Utley comes back the same player, but there are no guarantees. The Phillies seem content to use Eric Bruntlett and, possibly, prospect Jason Donald during Utley’s absence. I’d prefer a better option.


In other news, the Phils and Rangers swapped outfield prospects with Philadelphia getting John Mayberry Jr. and Texas getting Greg Golson. Yawn.



So much for 10 bucks: Not that it’s surprising in today’s ticket-buying world, where everything comes with a fee (or fees), but it turns out those $10 Sixers tickets really aren’t $10.


(Update 11 a.m. Friday)


Davis upset with Brand: Clippers guard Baron Davis told the L.A. Times that he “has nothing to say” to Elton Brand. Brand recruited Davis to L.A. this summer before leaving for Philly.


The teams meet tonight at the Wachovia Center. Should be interesting.



Weekend sked (a very busy weekend)




Clippers at Sixers, 7 p.m.


Flyers at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.

College hoops

La Salle vs. UConn in Virgin Islands, 6 p.m.

Temple at Lafayette, 8:30 p.m.




Phoenix at Flyers, 7 p.m.

College hoops

Drexel at Georgetown, 1 p.m.

La Salle vs. Miami or Southern Miss in Virgin Islands, TBA

Monmouth at Penn, 7 p.m.

College football

Eastern Michigan at Temple, 1 p.m.

Penn at Cornell, 1 p.m.

Villanova at Delaware, 2:30 p.m.




Eagles at Baltimore, 1 p.m.


Golden State at Sixers, 5 p.m.

College hoops

La Salle vs. Wisconsin, San Diego, Valparaiso or Iona in Virgin Islands, TBA



That is all for now.