Monday, November 19, 2012

Embracing the Suck

Yesterday, my friend Matt and I were watching the beginning of the Eagles-Redskins game, a 31-6 whooping by Washington, in which the Skins scored less than two minutes in. We both agreed that in some perverse way, we're accepting and even enjoying the Eagles going into the toilet.

It's the type of absurd, masochistic mind-set that comes with growing up as a Philadelphia sports fan.

You see, until the Phillies won the world series in 2008, I had gone my entire life without witnessing a single Philadelphia professional sports team win a championship. Worse yet, as a child of the 1980s and 1990s, my teams weren't just championship-less — they were horrible. The Phillies sucked with the exception of one year in 1993, when they blew two saves in the World Series to lose in six games. The Sixers were a complete joke, changing uniforms and players more often than they won games. Once Charles Barkley left town, the biggest stars were Clarence Weatherspoon and Dana Barros until some little guy from Georgetown came storming into the city.

The Flyers were irrelevant in the late, late '80s and early '90s until this Eric Lindros fellow came along, but his era was marred by concussions, playoff disappointment and those god damn New Jersey Devils.

And the Eagles, shit, they were the worst of the bunch. The Buddy Ryan-Randall Cunningham era produced exactly zero playoff victories. Then came running joke Rich Kotite, followed by one deceptively good year by Ray Rhodes before the Eagles turned to shit again. And until Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb continually came up just a little bit too short, the Eagles sucked.

So for long stretches in my lifetime, all four major professional sports teams in my city have sucked, some longer than others. It's a scenario I'm fully familiar with, and one that I am now beginning to embrace as the walls come crumbling down around the Philadelphia Eagles.

Where the Phillies still have a big payroll and star-studded pitching, the Flyers have young hope in Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, and the Sixers have new management and potentially a new star in Andrew Bynum, the Eagles have absolutely no hope right now. None.

Following that 31-6 embarrassment Sunday, which came after five straight embarrassments before that, the Eagles sit at 3-7 and are on a six-game losing streak. The Andy Reid era is all but over, with the MIchael Vick era set to expire as well at season's end. And the most sobering part of it all is that this team that is supposed to have "so much talent" is a whole hell of a lot farther away than a new coach from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

The Eagles are a fundamentally flawed team that is simply not built for success. They have terrific skill position players in LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. But outside of that, there isn't much. The defensive line is a muddle of heralded players who simply aren't getting it done anymore. The offensive line was built around Jason Peters, an unquestioned star, but not much else. With Peters out for the season and perhaps never quite being the same after rupturing his achilles twice in a few months, the rest of the offensive line consists of late-round picks, scrub free agents and a first-round bust.

The linebackers, outside of DeMeco Ryans, are still unproven. After a fast start, Mychal Kendricks has regressed as the Eagles have deflated. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is a high-priced bust. This team has no safeties to speak of. Its supposed "pass-catching" tight end cannot, in fact, catch passes.

And worst of all, there is no franchise quarterback in the midst, not with Vick regressing over two seasons — woeful offensive line or not — and not with Nick Foles playing scared and probably scarring him for the future with this putrid team.

Outside of kicker Alex Henery, who has been the lone Eagle doing his job and doing it well all season long, there isn't another player on the entire roster that you can say has had even a decent year. Shady, for all his talent, can't get on track when he's getting hit as soon as he receives the handoff. Vick and Foles are getting battered and making terrible decisions. The offensive line is not one capable of playing in the NFL.

The defense is soft and troubled and confused. They can't generate pressure, can't stop the run and can't cover anyone. The heralded corners have woefully underperformed, while the defensive line has been completely invisible.

The special teams, outside of Henery, are perhaps the worst in the league. They can't cover kicks or punts, and they can't return kicks or punts.

And the coaching has been abysmal, almost laughable. Bobby April deserved to be fired long before Juan Castillo, as did Marty Mornhinweg. Todd Bowles did a terrible job with the secondary and has continued to do a terrible job as the defensive coordinator. And Andy Reid continues to make the same mistakes he did 14 years ago, only now he doesn't have the talent or the defense to mask those mistakes.

Worst of all, this team has completely and utterly quit on its coach, on the season, on each other. No one looks like they're having fun. Yesterday's debacle against a mediocre at best team was more proof of that.

DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper were spouting off at each other. DeMeco Ryans felt compelled to celebrate after back-to-back tackles as his team was getting embarrassed in the fourth quarter. Nick Foles looked scared. The defense, for the thousandth time this year, looked like it didn't want to hit anyone.

The Eagles suck. There's no two ways about it. Instead of getting all worked up and feeling the blood pressure rise, it's time to embrace the suck. We've all seen it before, and it's happening again.

This franchise is lost. The team has quit, the head coach checked out. So now it's time for us to do the same. We'll still watch. We'll still cheer and boo and follow. But instead of losing your cool and getting frustrated, just sit back and watch the train wreck. It's a lot more fun that way.

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