Monday, December 31, 2012

Like Him or Not, Andy Reid is the Greatest Eagles Coach in the Super Bowl Era

Yesterday was the final game of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia, as the coach who roamed the sidelines starting at the Vet in 1999, onto Lincoln Financial Field and ending his tenure at the New Meadwolands was officially given his pink slip on New Year's Eve, 2012.

(via The700Level)

While the pathetic 42-7 loss to the Giants put an emphatic stamp on an all-around dreadful season, this loss, this season, the past three seasons really were simply proof that time has and probably already had come for Reid in Philadelphia. Ever since Donovan McNabb and Jim Johnson left, the Eagles have not been the same team as they were during the lion's share of Reid's tenure.

But that doesn't take away from the fact that Reid turned around a laughingstock of a franchise, raised expectations and had some remarkable success. Ultimately, he was never able to get to the summit, but he damn near always had the Eagles in position to be there at the end. It's no secret that he was frustrating over the years, but it's also no secret that he was one of the most successful coaches in NFL history.

And I'm tempted to say he's the greatest coach in franchise history, but then I heard Ray Didinger say he was the second best coach in Eagles history in his mind, behind Greasy Neale, who coached the Eagles to back-to-back championships prior to the Super Bowl era. So maybe Reid isn't' the best coach in franchise history, but he is unquestionably the best Eagles coach of the Super Bowl era. He had unparalleled success, and ultimately, he made us care even more about the Eagles again. For that, I will be forever thankful.

Now, I could probably go on a lot more than I already have, but truthfully, I've already done that earlier this season here and even last season here.

So instead I'll defer to two of best Eagles writers out there, in my opinion: Sheil Kapadia (who actually was on the sports staff of the Daily Collegian at Penn State with me) and Rich Hofmann.

"Cheat Sheet: Ten Thoughts On the Eagles"
5. I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating: Eagles fans can appreciate what Reid accomplished and still think it’s time to move on. That point seems to be lost on many in the national media, and you’re going to hear a lot of analysts next week talk about how under-appreciated Reid was in Philadelphia. But the truth is, this team is 12-19 in its last 31 games. The franchise has not won a playoff game in four seasons. The coaching staff has been in disarray. And the quarterback situation is up in the air. Reid has accomplished a lot and given fans many great memories, but it’s time to go in a different direction. It’s really as simple as that.

"Andy Reid's legacy: Raised expectations for Eagles"
Reid was different. He did not connect on an emotional level with the fan base. He simply coached well enough and consistently enough to raise their expectations to a place where they had never been. He threw too much, and he butchered the clock for years, and he lost every press conference, but he made the playoffs nine times and went to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. It was not enough for him or for you - but the reason was because of those raised expectations.

Think back to the early 1970s, if you are old enough, or to 1983, or 1994, or 1998. Through most of those decades, failure was the house guest who never seemed to leave for very long. For the Eagles, for much of their history, the good times were just hiccups. A run of nine playoff appearances in 11 seasons would have been inconceivable.

Make no mistake: Reid deserves to be fired. After 8-8 and 4-12, it is time. But as he sped away on that security cart on Sunday night, heading for an unknown future, it was hard not to wonder about what life is about to become for the Eagles. Because whoever replaces him has to know that the job is harder than the one Andy Reid took over in 1999 because the expectations are so much greater. That is the man's legacy.

As I said yesterday:

(via CSNPhilly)

Friday, December 28, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

So I know I've been pretty much absent here the past couple of weeks, but I do plan on getting back into the swing of things in 2013. I've just been so damn busy and a little burned out here to close out 2012. I blame the Mayans.

Anyway, to make amends, here's Rasheed Wallace, Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson and Will Blalock singing Jingle Bells way back when they were all Detroit Pistons. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

Also, this. I don't care if he's hurt and a bit player. He deserves it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

The New York Knicks are not only playing incredible basketball, but they are without a doubt one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA. Watching Carmelo Anthony go bonkers against the Nets the other night was just awesome, and as much as I despise New York sports teams being from Philadelphia and all, the Knicks are fun to watch.

As it turns out, the Knicks also have a rapper among their midst, their best on-the-ball defender Iman Shumpert. And while the second-year guard has yet to play this season due to injury, he'll only make the Knicks better when he gets back.

Anyway, here is Shumpert rapping. Enjoy your Friday knowing you don't have to watch the Eagles this weekend, who very clearly still suck.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Joakim Noah Is The Worst

Listen, unless you are a Chicago Bulls fan or a Florida Gators fan, you already know that Joakim Noah is the worst. No, he's not the worst player in the league or the worst person in the world … he just seems like the worst person in the world when he's playing against your favorite NBA team.

Noah is a classic case of a player you'd love if he's on your team but absolutely loathe if he is not. If you are a Joakim Noah fan and not a fan of the Bulls or Gators, I think you need to get your head checked. Not because Noah is nothing but an agitator — though he most assuredly one of those — because Noah certainly has game. He is a tenacious defender, all hustle all the time, a guy who does the dirty work, and oh yes, a player who has gotten better every single year he's been in the league. Hell, he even has a semblance of a jump shot now and can hit free throws, even though his shot itself is comically horrid in its form.

That is precisely why Noah is even more annoying. He is a good player. He doesn't need to do these childish things. But he does because he knows it gets under opponents' skin, or perhaps even more importantly, opponents' fans' skin. And boy oh boy was Noah at his annoying best last night in Philadelphia.

See, I headed down to the game last night with silver fox, securing upper-level, center-court seats for $5 via StubHub, all set to watch the Sixers take on a Bulls team without not only Derrick Rose, but Kirk Hinrich as well.

I figured with the Bulls down to Nate Robinson and rookie Marquis Teague at the point, Jrue Holiday would have a field day and propel the Sixers to victory. For a while, it sure seemed like that was going to happen. Holiday came out gangbusters, absolutely abusing Robinson and Teague damn near every time down the floor, and he had the hot hand. Along with a strong performance by Evan Turner, the Sixers led early and became frontrunners, albeit not by a large margin.

While Holiday and Turner were balling, Chicago was able to stay in it thanks to its size. It's no secret that the Sixers are struggling in the big man department since you know who has not and may not play a single game this season. As a result, Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng were doing some damage rebounding and scoring inside.

And of course, every time he did something well, Noah made sure to let the Philadelphia faithful know it. Apparently, Noah was not pleased at the Philadelphia fans' reaction when he got injured last year in the playoffs, so he wanted to get a reaction out of them last night. Mission accomplished. After hitting a wide open 15-footer at the end of the first quarter, with his team still trailing, Noah broke out the finger guns, back-in-the-holster celebration. After a 15-footer. In the first quarter. With his team trailing. God I hate him so very much.

Since the celebration got the exact reaction Noah was looking for, a chorus of boos, he continued this charade the rest of the game. The guns-in-holster routine, the loud, annoying clapping on defense, the encouraging fans to rain down more boos — the entire repertoire. Seriously, he's the worst.

It made it all the more agitating that Noah had an outstanding game. He finished with 21 points on 7-10 shooting, nabbed seven boards and dished out five assists. On top of that, he made some absolutely tremendous plays down the stretch, including a few spectacular passes that led to buckets. He was without a doubt one of the players of the game.

However, a big key to why the Sixers lost last night — besides going an absurdly terrible 5-11 from the foul line — is due to Doug Collins.

Normally, Doug gives me little reason to criticize him for his in-game coaching. However, last night he completely dropped the ball in the fourth quarter. There is no disputing that Holiday was having a tremendous night through three quarters. He was aggressive on the offensive end and scoring almost at will. He was the reason the Sixers were winning at half.

To start the fourth, Collins gave Holiday a breather, not out of the norm. With how much the Sixers rely on Jrue, he needs to get a blow every now and then. Here's where I have an issue. Chicago had begun to assert itself behind Noah and a resurgent Luol Deng, who suddenly found his shot after not doing much in the first half. As the Sixers' offense looked pathetic to begin the fourth with Holiday on the bench, I thought for sure Jrue would be back in after a couple of minutes — a quick breather then back out there to keep his hot hand going.

Instead, he sat, and the Sixers became stagnant. By the time we reached the TV timeout, I thought for sure Jrue would be checking in. No dice. In fact, Holiday didn't check in until there was less than 7 and a half minutes left in the game. Collins left his best player, the guy who was carrying the load offensively, on the bench for almost 20 minutes of real time, and when Holiday came back, he was not the same player. The time on the bench clearly cooled him off, and the player who had taken command in the first three quarters turned into an ice-cold turnover machine.

No two ways about it, Holiday was terrible in the fourth quarter. And while he's definitely not absolved of blame, I put a lot more onus on Collins for sitting a guy so hot for so long.

Once Jrue went back in, it all fell completely apart. The Sixers started to turn the ball over, take quick, bad shots, miss free throws and get abused underneath. Noah and Deng led the way, and Chicago walked away with a victory, Noah acting like an ass the entire time but earning it with his tremendous play.

This was a game the Sixers absolutely could have and probably should have won, but they didn't. Holiday and Turner were very good through three, terrible in the fourth. Thad Young was efficient but quiet. And Spencer Hawes, who somehow managed a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, was horrible, missing shots and quite literally playing ole defense. Spencer Hawes is back to being terrible again, so that's fun.

Last night confirmed once again that while the Sixers are without a doubt a fun team to watch at times and a bunch that won't quit, they desperately need a guy like Andrew Bynum inside. It also confirmed that Joakim Noah is, as everyone already knew, the worst kind of worst — a great player who also relishes being an agitator in the most annoying way possible. But god damn is he a good player. Trust me, it pains me to say that.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Let the Nick Foles Rhetoric Begin

Let's get the particulars out of the way early, shall we? Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles played exceptional football yesterday in a thrilling 23-21 victory over a Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad fighting for a playoff berth. Foles was 32-51 for 381 yards, 2 passing touchdowns, a real-time, slow-motion rushing touchdown and zero turnovers.

Oh, and he also happened to lead a game-winning drive in the closing minutes, throwing the winning touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin on the final play of the game. No two ways about it, Nick Foles put on one of the most impressive performances by an Eagles quarterback since Mike Vick's video-game explosion against the Washington Redskins in 2010.

Naturally, in a season where finding any sort of silver lining has been nearly impossible, people are grasping on to Foles' performance, with the rhetoric flowing all over the damn place.

I get it. I really do. The Eagles have been so dismal and searching for something, anything to be positive about. Nick Foles has provided that with his play so far in his rookie season, and he's certainly looked more polished and competent running the offense behind a revamped line than Michael Vick did this season.

But good lord, has the freight train of optimism been out of control. I don't mind the excitement and the praise so much. Foles has earned that with his play, particularly the last two weeks against the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's the seemingly definitive statements: "cementing his place," "definitive game," etc. Let's not forget we've seen plenty of quarterbacks shine in the short term only to fizzle into obscurity. I'm not saying that Nick Foles will do that, but I'm also not ready to declare him the great white hope either.

The man has started a grand total of four games, taking snaps in five overall after relieving Michael Vick in a home loss to the Cowboys. His record stands at 1-3 following yesterday's victory, playing behind a team that has seen its season spiral out of control. He's thrown four touchdowns while tossing 3 interceptions. And while he most certainly has gotten better with each game, it's relevant to point out that the past two weeks, Foles' best two performances, came against the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Cowboys, while boasting a top 10 pass defense this season, are a dysfunctional team in their own right, while the Bucs are dead last in the league in pass defense. And let's not forget that Foles threw an atrocious pass on that final drive yesterday that should have been intercepted to end the comeback bid.

Don't get me wrong, Foles was really good against the Cowboys and really besides that errant throw tremendous yesterday. He really was. There is reason for optimism and maybe even some hope, but I think it would do us all a little good to give it some perspective. So yes, enjoy yesterday's performance and victory, because while it didn't help their draft position any, it was fun to watch. Andy Reid certainly enjoyed it. (Seriously, I have never seen Andy so happy after a victory, including when the Birds went to the Super Bowl. I guess after all he's gone through this year, he needed that victory.) But let's just enjoy it for what it was: a great performance and exciting victory, but just one impressive performance in an ultimately completely meaningless game, at least for the team.

I hope Nick Foles is the answer under center. I hope he develops into a franchise quarterback and leads the Eagles to prominence. I'm just not ready to say he is and he will. As we like to say at The Sports Fan Journal, it's never a good idea to crown someone too soon.

However, I am going to go ahead and crown this catch by Jason Avant yesterday as the play of the year for the Eagles.

That was insane.

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Well, seeing as Ben Revere is now the newly minted centerfield for the Philadelphia Phillies, I pretty have to go with Revere sining "Single Ladies," courtesy of The700Level.

I hate that song so very much, like I'm sure a large percentage of the male population does, but looking at Beyonce is never a bad thing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jordan Hill, Larry Johnson and Defensive Lineman U

Due to its long tradition of producing talented, NFL-bound linebackers, Penn State has earned and lived up to the reputation as Linebacker U. From Ham to Millen, from Conlan to Short and Arrington, from Posluszny and Connor to Bowman and Lee, and now with Mauti and Hodges giving way to Hull and the next big recruit, the names ring eternal.

What people may not realize is that Penn State has also become an NFL factory for defensive linemen under defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr., to an almost astonishing degree.

Johnson, father of 2,000-yard rusher Larry Johnson Jr., has been the defensive line coach at Penn State for 13 years, and he's been so damn good that new head coach Bill O'Brien made sure to keep him around. And for good reason.

Johnson has coached seven first-team All-Americans during his tenure and 14 first-team All-Big Ten linemen. The big names include the likes of first-round NFL draft picks Courtney Brown (1st overall), Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Haynes, Tamba Hali, Aaron Maybin and Jared Odrick.

While Brown and Haynes turned out to be NFL busts and Maybin has bounced around, all of them were tremendous college players, and several have thrived in the league. Tamba Hali is a perennial Pro Bowler. Jimmy Kennedy and Penn State linemate Anthony Adams have had long NFL careers, while Odrick and rookie Devon Still are just really beginning their professional journeys.

Johnson's track record is astonishing, especially recently, with Maybin bursting onto the scene in 2008, Odrick being named Big Ten Defensive Lineman and Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and Still following up two years later by duplicating Odrick's honors.

This year, Johnson continued his success grooming monsters on the line, as senior Jordan Hill was named first team All-Big Ten and is sure to play on Sundays next season.

Hill, one of the leaders of the team and another key part in keeping this season from falling apart, was oftentimes a one-man wrecking crew — the same way Still and Odrick were before him. As a defensive tackle, Hill finished fourth on the team in tackles with 64, trailing only starting linebackers Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti and Glenn Carson. He registered 4.5 sacks and had 8.5 tackles for loss, which may not sound like much but is outstanding considering the nonstop double teams he faced. And he was the reason that Mauti and Hodges were able to shine, occupying blockers so the backers could get to the ball.

The best part of all is that Hill saved his best performance for last. Hill said he never even considered leaving Penn State because he loved the place. He loved it so much that he shed a few tears on senior day, his final game as a Nittany Lion, and nothing was going to prevent him from having his moment. Not nagging injuries, not a Wisconsin team with a massive offensive line and the desire to gain momentum heading into the Big Ten title game.

All Hill did in that final outing was completely and utterly dominate, taking over the game from the defensive tackle position. It was a marvel to watch. Hill had 12 tackles, eight of them solo, including three for a loss and two sacks. Every play, he was in the backfield disrupting things, and even when the Badgers managed to move him a little, he found a way to the ball. It was a thing of beauty. Even the announcers were gushing over his dominance.

In his final game of his collegiate career, Hill was far and away the best player on the field, quite literally putting forth the type of performance we saw from Ndamukong Suh at Nebraska.

Hill continued the new tradition at Penn State under Larry Johnson, becoming a standout, NFL-bound defensive lineman. And with freshman Deion Barnes being named the Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the Year, the new Defensive Linemen U is bound to live on as long as Larry Johnson Sr. remains on those Penn State sidelines.

Linebacker U is alive and well, but it's time to make room in the spotlight for the Penn State defensive linemen and their coach.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jimmy V. and the Greatest Awards Speech of All Time

Jimmy V. Week culminates tomorrow night, and as someone who has lost a loved one to cancer this year, I'd be remiss if I missed posting the greatest awards acceptance speech of all time, as I do every year.

This holiday season, if you can, do some good and give your time or money to a worthy cause, whether it be the V Foundation, another cancer charity or any charity of your choosing and remember how lucky we are for the things we do have.