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The Case for Nick Foles

March 5th 2015 14:46
Nick Foles has won 14 of his 18 starts under Chip Kelly.

When it comes to polarizing figures these days, the likes of Kim Kardashian, Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke Blue Devils, and Obamacare have nothing on one Nick Foles, especially in the Delaware Valley. The mere mention of his name on a radio talk show or on a Twitter timeline elicits strong and opinionated responses from fans on both sides of the argument, and there is seemingly no middle ground in this civil war that has divided Eagles Nation.

The Foles supporters have seen enough positives through 2 ½ seasons – the 14-4 record under Kelly’s tutelage, the 27 TD and 2 INT performance in 2013, the 119.2 QB rating that was the third highest in NFL history, the Pro Bowl MVP award – to believe that he is the right man to lead this franchise for the foreseeable future, and eventually lead the Birds to that elusive first Super Bowl title.

The Foles doubters, well, let’s just say they’re not nearly as impressed.

“What’s he do well?” is the common question I see thrown around in Twitter debates, just after the statistical points are made and shortly before the personal insults start flying.

So, let’s kick things off with a look at that…What’s He Do Well?

Well, for starters he wins – and has done so 77.8% of the time he’s taken the field since he relieved Michael Vick as the starter in 2013.

Since the start of the 2013 season (minimum of 16 starts), only Denver’s Peyton Manning and Seattle’s Russell Wilson have a higher winning percentage (.781, 25-7 each) than Foles, who bested the likes of New England’s Tom Brady (.750, 24-8), Arizona’s Carson Palmer (.727, 16-6), Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (.720, 18-7) and Indianapolis’s Andrew Luck (.688, 22-10) during that time span.

Now granted, he played in fewer games than everyone else on the list, but you can only go by the games he got the starting nod and/or was healthy enough to play. And for the sake of full disclosure, his record for his entire career is 15-10, which includes his six-game stint in the disastrous 2012 campaign that saw the Dream Team finally and mercifully crash and burn.

Secondly, he competes, and has shown a knack for fighting through adversity, rolling with the punches and finding ways to put the team in a position to win in the 4th quarter regardless of how things have gone during the course of the game.

Case in point: Foles battled through some early inaccuracy and compensated for a lack of a running game in the NFC Wild Card round against the Saints following the 2013 season to lead the offense on a pair of second half scoring drives, including the late 4th quarter march that ended with the Eagles ahead on the scoreboard, 24-23. While detractors are quick to point out Philadelphia ended up losing that game 26-24, he left the field for the final time with the lead and the defense and special teams coughed it up.

Despite an overall awful day against the 49ers in Week 4 last season, Foles again rallied the troops and made some sensational throws in marching the team into the red zone with a chance at reclaiming the lead as time wound down in the 4th quarter before a key Riley Cooper drop and some uncharacteristically dubious play calling stalled the drive just short of the goal line.

He also has earned the respect of his teammates, and it was never as clear as when left tackle Jason Peters sprang to his defense after Washington’s Chris Baker planted the QB with a blind side cheap shot and instigated a full-on brawl that led to Peters’ ejection.

And for those keeping score at home, he followed up that hit with a pair of scoring strikes for a key come-from-behind NFC East win.

Bear in mind, former Falcons’ head coach Mike Smith made a point during a coaching staff meeting that was featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” in August about the team needing to be tougher, and his point was in reference to their franchise QB Matt Ryan getting drilled at the end of a scramble during the 2013 season and not one teammate coming to his defense.

During my research for this piece, I’ve also found that there seems to be a great deal of what I believe to be misinformation out there regarding Foles, so let’s take a closer look at some of the theories that are floating around.

One of the most common misconceptions is that the 4th year signal caller lacks arm strength. In reality, Foles has more than enough arm strength to make, as the draftniks love to say, “all of the throws”.

This is proven in a series of deep strikes in 2013 and especially in 2014 to Jeremy Maclin that were thrown on time, on the money, traveled 50-plus yards through the air and, in this case, thrown under duress.

The arm strength of Nick Foles is one of many concerns for Eagles fans.

Foles’s release in my opinion is the football version of Roy Halladay’s, as like the former Phillies’ ace his loose and effortless arm action belies the fact that the ball is coming out of his hand with plenty of steam, and like the former Cy Young Award winner he has the ability to reach back and put a little extra heat on his fastball when he needs it.

Now the naysayers are quick to point he throws an inordinate number of lobs and “rainbows” up for grabs, and it’s a valid argument – but it’s certainly not a reflection of his arm strength, or lack thereof.

Based on my film study it appears, especially during his rookie 2012 season, that he was trying to be too fine and put too much air under his throws in an effort to drop the ball perfectly into his receivers’ hands and just over the defense, instead of just letting it rip as we see here and letting his receiver go get the ball.

He also tended to do the same on some intermediate, seam and out routes that required touch throws, and while he, like all QB’s, had a few throws he’d like to have back, he’s also improved in that area as we see here.

Another knock on Foles is that he’s injury prone, and can’t be counted on to make it through a full season. There is some proof there, as he’s missed time in each of his three seasons with a broken hand (1 game in 2012), a concussion (1 ½ games in 2013) and a broken collarbone (8 ½ games last season).

Meanwhile, the afore mentioned Aaron Rodgers has suffered a pair of concussions, a broken collarbone and a torn calf muscle since 2010, and yet despite the striking similarities in their injuries, there doesn’t seem to be the same level of concern regarding his durability as there is with Foles.

The injuries he and Rodgers sustained are what I would consider to be football injuries, and aren’t repeated ACL tears like those suffered by the Rams’ Sam Bradford, a chronic back condition that afflicts Dallas QB Tony Romo, or a potential career-threatening neck injury that forced former Colts’ star Peyton Manning to the bench in 2011 and ultimately out of town to Denver in favor of a younger and healthier option via the draft in Andrew Luck.

Football players are going to sustain football injuries, and short of the sports science staff at NovaCare putting an extra shot of milk in his post-practice smoothies or developing some sort of bubble wrap pads, injuries from big hits like those that have sidelined Foles over the past three years are going to happen.

One thing that people on both sides of the discussion can agree upon is that he is inconsistent – maddeningly so at times as he’ll throw a few wounded ducks off of his back foot that has us screaming in disbelief at the television, and then deliver a laser beam through heavy traffic that hits his target squarely between the numbers that takes your breath away.

His numbers reflected from the past two seasons reflected that inconsistency as well, as after firing 27 TD and only 2 picks in his breakout 2013 campaign, he coughed up the ball more frequently, to the tune of 10 picks in 8 games to go along with 13 touchdowns.

But here’s the thing: it’s OK that he’s inconsistent! He’s only started 24 games, and in three seasons has had two vastly different offensive systems and is now on his fourth QB coach in as many years.

And as I touched upon last season, Foles’s 46 TD:17 INT ratio through 24 starts (28 games) stack up very favorably to the elder Manning (52 TD: 43 INT), as well as the Giants’ Eli Manning (30:26), Brady (46:16) and former Green Bay great Brett Favre (37:37) in their first two seasons of action.

And while there’s a good chance Foles won’t ever reach that level of “elite” status, because very few do, this just goes to show that for the most part young quarterbacks struggle with turning the ball over early in their careers, as Foles did in 2014.

Even with those 10 picks in 8 games last season, he still is among the top ten in league history in the fewest turnover per game category, and his 0.6% interception rate in 2013 was the 3rd lowest ever.

Another huge benefit of Kelly sticking with Foles over a new QB (Marcus Mariota, for example) is that in a league built on parity, this team is really not that far from being a Super Bowl contender with a few key additions in the defensive secondary – and a reported $50 million in cap space to do so.

Investing a large package of picks and players to move up in the draft while pinning this core group’s hopes on a rookie who many believe is a product of his college system – even if it is Kelly’s system that is still being run at Oregon – is a big gamble that could set the franchise back a few years.

And while there are many, many other layers to this argument, let’s cut to the chase now:

Is Nick Foles an elite QB at this point and a sure fire Hall of Famer? No.

Is he as great as his stellar 2013 season, or as shaky as his 2014 season? He’s probably somewhere in the middle at this point, and it’s reasonable to assume that he’ll be closer to the 2013 end of the spectrum as he continues to gain experience.

For me (at least in support of today’s side of the argument), the best way for Kelly and the Eagles to proceed is to stick with Foles at QB. In doing so they can use their draft picks that they would have to unload to move up in the draft for Mariota and next week’s free agency period to rebuild the secondary, add more talented depth in all areas, and continue building on the already solid foundation Kelly has established in two short years.

Now, I’m sure that based on the title of this article alone, the Nick Foles haters are loading up for bear for an all-out assault on the his deficiencies, and produce any and all reasons – some with merit – on why #9 is not a franchise QB, and why he should be shipped out of town for as little as a bag of deflated footballs to clear the way for Oregon’s Heisman Trophy-winning QB.

But don’t get too bent out of shape just yet if you’re a card carrying member of the anti-Foles contingent, because in the next installment of my series on the Eagles’ quarterback conundrum, I will be delving into The Case for Marcus Mariota.


The Morning After in Philly...

March 4th 2015 16:08
The Birds capped a busy day by dealing LeSean McCoy to Buffalo.

Having had the chance to catch out collective breath, the Phaithful would like to take this opportunity to take a look back at the happenings with the Philadelphia Eagles that shook up the Delaware Valley and the entire NFL yesterday…

News broke late yesterday morning that the Eagles had parted ways with embattled cornerback Cary Williams, who was as known for his interior designing tastes and his hair-trigger mouth as he was for his play on the field during his two years in Philly. In releasing Employee #26, the Birds shed his $8.1 million salary cap hit for 2015, and netted $6.5 million in cap space.

Now Williams certainly wasn’t a Pro Bowler, but he was a pretty solid and physical performer while here. But he got off on the wrong foot when he skipped the team’s OTA’s in 2014 to reportedly pick out sconces for his new home, and didn’t help matters this season when he openly griped about Chip Kelly’s up-tempo practices and how they were causing them to have less-than-fresh legs to start the game.

Moral of the story: the 3-year, $17 million deal he inked in 2013 was designed to be a two-year deal all along, as he had no guaranteed money for the upcoming season and releasing him would open up more cap space with very little dead money. He and fellow free agent Bradley Fletcher were brought in as economic stop gaps for a secondary that was moving on from the “Dream Team” debacle, and it’s clear now that Kelly’s plan all along was to address the defensive deficiencies this year.

CSN’s Geoff Mosher tweeted out a little later in the day that despite previous reports of veteran OLB/DE Trent Cole’s mutual interest in restructuring his contract, the talks were not going well. A few hours later, news came down that the Eagles were planning to release the 10-year veteran, jettisoning his $11.625 million salary for 2015 and saving $8.425 in cap space.

Cole had a stellar career with the Eagles after being selected in the 5th round of the 2005 draft, as in 155 games he amassed 85.5 sacks, 19 forced fumbles and one famous interception of Eli Manning in 2006 that he snatched out of the air over a swatting Tiki Barber and returned 19 yards for a touchdown. His sack total is the second most in Eagles history, trailing only the legendary Reggie White, and he was named to a pair of Pro Bowls following the 2007 and 2009 seasons.

Trent Cole will be doing his QB hunting elsewhere in 2015.

Cole’s ouster followed last week’s release of fellow 2005 draftee Todd Herremans, who after being drafted as a tackle out of Saginaw Valley State in the 4th round went onto to be one of the steadiest performers along the Eagles’ O-line during his 10-year career, and one of the most versatile as he saw time at right tackle and both guard spots.

Mosher also reported at the time that last-minute contract talks with pending free agent and fellow OLB Brandon Graham were also not going well, and it appears the 2011 first round pick will be testing the free agent waters next Tuesday.

But the BIG news came down around dinnertime, as word began to spread of a reported trade involving the Eagles’ franchise running back and career rushing leader, LeSean McCoy. Similar rumblings were heard late last week when there was a deal rumored to be “imminent” that would send McCoy, QB Nick Foles and a trio of first round picks to Tampa Bay in exchange for their first overall pick in the draft.

Turns out this rumor had some fire to go along with all that smoke, as ESPN’S Adam Schefter reported Philly had agreed to send McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for inside linebacker and 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year Kiko Alonso, who played his college ball at…


The move was again a cost cutting endeavor, clearing Shady’s team-high $11.95 million cap number, and again netting a cool $7.55 million in cap space.

And it also fills a glaring need at inside linebacker following the season-ending Achilles tear suffered by DeMeco Ryans, who presumably will be the next veteran to be shown the door – at a savings of his full $6.9 million cap figure.

Alonso missed all of 2014 with an ACL suffered during off season workouts, but will reportedly be ready to roll for 2015 and will provide a very dynamic inside linebacking corps with incumbent Mychal Kendricks.

I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews from NFL experts and the Eagles fan base, already divided by the Foles/Marcus Mariota debate were now vehemently weighing the pros and cons of trading away the league’s leading rusher (6,155 yards) over the past five seasons, and a lot of fans saying he’s washed up.

So let’s avoid the revisionist history here. McCoy was a scintillating performer here who provided some highlight reel runs during his six-year career in midnight green. He took his game statistically to a whole new level under Kelly’s up-tempo offensive system, winning the NFL rushing title with 1,607 yards in 2013, and despite a patchwork offensive line still managed to accumulate 1,319 yards in 2014, good for 3rd in the league.

At the same time, the shelf life for an NFL running back is far less than that of a wide receiver of quarterback, the other premium skill positions that are subjected to far less of a workload and much less weekly pounding. McCoy has amassed 1,761 touches from scrimmage (1,461 carries, 300 receptions) in six seasons, or an average of 293.5 per season. And over the past two seasons he has eclipsed the 300-carry mark twice, to go along with 80 receptions, for an average of 340 touches per year.

And so, here’s what we learned from the moves of the past week:

Chip Kelly is indeed in charge of the team’s 53-man roster, and is hell bent on making over this team with his players.

The releases of Cole and Herremans, while disappointing from a fan’s perspective, were not a huge shock to anyone as both are on the wrong side of 30, and the moves cleared cap space to address other needs on the team.

2015 will be the year of fixing the defense, as the Birds will enter free agency with an estimated $52 million and change (based on the current estimate of $46 million and the likely release of Ryans) and safety Malcolm Jenkins the only starting D back left from 2014.

There will be a bevy of options for the Eagles to choose from, including the likes of New England cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Devin McCourty (if both are not re-signed before Saturday, which is the unofficial start of free agency), Seattle corner Byron Maxwell and Denver safety Rahim Moore, among others.

Turns out DeSean Jackson really did have no trade value last off season, as the Eagles were able to trade a player who is likely to decline within the next two seasons, at a devalued position with a huge salary and get back a potential cornerstone player for their defense. Fans killed Kelly and Howie Roseman for not getting anything in return for their speedy but mercurial wide receiver, but this shows just how tough it must have been to get anything for him.

The next likely move is going to be a trade to get near the top of the draft to acquire Kelly’s Oregon protégé Marcus Mariota to run his up-tempo offense, and we will look at that very issue coming up later this week.

And finally, it’s not wise to purchase an Eagles jersey with a player’s name and number until after the final cuts have been made!

It’s been a wild 24 hours for Philly fans everywhere, and the craziness should only intensify as the countdown to next week’s free agency period continues.

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Statistical information from

Who Will QB the Eagles in 2015?

March 2nd 2015 16:10
Will Nick Foles be under center for the Eagles in 2015?

In the home of the birthplace of our great nation, the Philadelphia sports fan, like our esteemed forefathers who penned the Declaration of Independence, holds certain truths to be self-evident.

And in our case, these truths are not viewed from the perspective of an inspired group of patriots trying to free itself from a tyrannical power from across the Atlantic Ocean while forming a fledgling nation.

No, in our case they are viewed merely from the point of view of a beleaguered fan base that has been subjected to more sports travesties than any other major metropolitan area on the planet – really, is there anyone anywhere outside of the Delaware Valley who can go bummer-for-bummer against us and come remotely close? – as they pertain to our local pro sports teams:

That every Flyers’ season be sabotaged and ultimately derailed by a goaltending controversy that manifests itself in the form of injury, a lack of talent or depth, having an overpaid crazy person between the pipes, or some other inexplicable calamity that can and usually is blamed on Braydon Coburn.

That every Phillies’ team be short on basic fundamentals and execution, and long on inconsistency, poor at-bats with runners in scoring position and a payroll loaded with bloated contracts with easily attainable vesting options bestowed upon aging veterans by an “old school” GM and his nostalgic bosses in one last futile attempt at clinging to the glory days.

That every Sixers’ season (at least the last couple) be a race to the bottom of the standings for a shot at the top of the draft, complete with annual stockpiling of second round picks for a rebuilding plan that may or may not come to fruition in our lifetimes.

And that every Eagles’ quarterback’s every move be subjected to the same level of scrutiny and over analysis and that is normally reserved for investigations into improprieties by Senate Subcommittees or triple homicide crime scenes by forensic techs on “CSI”.

We’ve done it with Randall Cunningham (he runs too much, his release is too slow, he needs to stay in the pocket), with Bobby Hoying (he’s our new franchise QB after two starts because unlike Rodney Peete and Ty Detmer, he can actually throw a spiral over 25 yards), with Michael Vick (Andy and Marty are turning him into a real quarterback!) and with Mark Sanchez (he’s revitalizing his career in Chip’s system!).

We’ve seen it reach new heights (or depths) during the Donovan McNabb Era, who from the time he was lustily booed by WIP’s Angelo Cataldi and his “Dirty 30” at the 1999 Draft to Easter Sunday in 2010 when he was shipped off to Washington was the cause of much consternation and angst for the Phaithful.

It’s hard to believe that #5 really still loves us, considering we took to the airwaves of sports talk radio and to the comments section at every local online news outlet or blog and hammered him for everything from his lack of accuracy (Low Throw McBlow was my personal favorite message board moniker), to his alleged vomiting in the Super Bowl, to his perceived lack of leadership, to his siding with management in the T.O. debacle, to his air guitar, to not being as efficient at running the offense as the likes of Jeff Garcia and perennial Pro Bowler A.J. Feeley, and on and on it went.

But all of that pales in comparison to the furor surrounding 4th year veteran and incumbent starting QB Nick Foles, and his viability as a franchise quarterback, versus the prospects of Kelly striking a mega deal on draft day to acquire his former Oregon protégé, Marcus Mariota.

With the draft still a shade under two months away and all of the local teams that don’t have midnight green in their color scheme wallowing somewhere between mediocrity and irrelevancy, the Foles/Mariota debate is already THE hot button issue for Philly fans everywhere, and the speculation and heated Twitter debates are only going to intensify as the march to the draft continues in earnest.

And with that in mind, we’re jumping headfirst into the fray, so stay tuned this week as we take an in-depth look at the Birds’ quarterback situation with a series of write ups, starting with our first installment Tuesday: The Case for Nick Foles.

Eagles Primed for Free Agency?

February 1st 2015 15:14
Will Chip Kelly have Jeremy Maclin back in 2015?

With the 2014 NFL season coming to a close when the clock shows 0:00 at the conclusion of Super Bowl XLIX this evening, the league’s calendar will officially turn to 2015, and with it will come the usual hype, hysteria and build up surrounding the league’s two biggest dates of the off-season – the opening of free agency in March, and the NFL Draft in May.

Hope spring eternal for all (most?) of the 32 teams come February 2, and for those organizations whose bean counters have shrewdly managed their salary cap, they have a license to spend exorbitantly on players who hit the free agent market.

Heck, even some teams that don’t have the financial flexibility can do so, as the New Orleans Saints proved last March when they inked the top safety in free agency (and the Phaithful’s most coveted commodity), Jairus Byrd, to a 6-year, $54 million deal despite reportedly having just under $2 million in cap space.

As is usually the case for the Philadelphia Eagles, the recently deposed/reassigned former GM Howie Roseman managed the salary cap in a thrifty fashion, and they once again find themselves with the financial wherewithal to address practically any and all of their needs as they see fit. The reported $20 million in cap space the Eagles have for 2015 – which could be even higher if they are to cut ties with the likes of Trent Cole ($11.6 million cap figure), Cary Williams ($8.1 million) and James Casey ($4 million) to go along with a potential restructuring of deals by LeSean McCoy ($11.9 million hit) and the afore mentioned Cole – puts them squarely in the top five in the league in most space available.

And as per usual, the Phaithful Philly fans, seeing all of those zeroes, are already clamoring for a spending blitz once the market opens for business.

But let’s pump the brakes for a moment here before we pencil the likes of Devin McCourty and Byron Maxwell into the Birds’ beleaguered secondary.

While there presently are a slew of attractive names on the pending free agency list, the shopping list in March is going to look a lot different than it does today as teams either re-sign their own players to long term deals, or retain their rights for another season by slapping the franchise or transitional tag on them.

If recent history has shown us anything, it’s that the Eagles have positioned themselves this far under the cap to first and foremost do just that, and retain those players already on the roster who are now eligible for contract extensions or are pending free agents.

The Eagles reportedly already have attempted to re-sign one of those free agents, Brandon Graham, during the regular season. But the natural 4-3 defensive end turned pass rushing 3-4 outside linebacker is likely to have a lot of suitors should he hit the market, and might want to go back to the role he was originally slotted to play after being picked in the first round in 2011.

Presumably, the first order of business for Chip Kelly and his newly-minted VP of Player Personnel Ed Marynowitz will be to bring WR Jeremy Maclin back into the nest.

Philly’s brass attempted to re-sign Maclin to a long-term deal prior to last season, but Maclin did his best Joe Flacco impersonation, instead betting on himself with a one-year pact and winning big, as he turned in a Pro Bowl-caliber season that should earn him a contract that will put him among the highest paid wideouts in the NFL.

Maclin reiterated this week that he wants to come back and that the team expressed that they want him back, so all signs point to the Birds’ 2009 first rounder being back next season and beyond.

As for players who are eligible for contract extensions for the first time, the most likely candidates will be emerging and young defensive stars Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks, who are entering the final years of their rookie deals they signed following the 2012 draft.

Cox has become a dominant force along the defensive line, thriving in his second year as a 3-4 defensive end, smoothly making the adjustment after being drafted as a 4-3 tackle.

Kendricks’ speed and athleticism makes him arguably the Eagles’ most dynamic defensive playmaker, as like Cox he made a successful transition from being a 4-3 outside linebacker to a 3-4 inside linebacker, where he has excelled against the run, in pass coverage and as a pass rusher.

Fellow 2012 draftees Nick Foles, Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin are also eligible to renegotiate, but all could best be considered question marks at this point.

Curry, for example, had 10 sacks last season in limited snaps as a situational pass rusher. Like Graham, Curry was drafted as a 4-3 defensive end, and while he has thrived in his situational role, he is not considered a prototypical, every-down 3-4 end that would warrant a long-term deal. And, also like Graham, he presumably may seek greener pastures elsewhere in a system where he can slide back into his customary 4-3 end spot.

Boykin is widely considered the Birds’ top playmaking cornerback, as his six interceptions in 2013 suggest. But Kelly prefers taller, rangier corners to play on the outside, which has relegated Boykin to the nickel, or slot corner spot. The good news is that Boykin has excelled in that role; the bad news is that the team stays in their base defense more times than not, which means a lot less of #22 on the field than the Phaithful would like to see.

Odds are he either walks via free agency after 2015 to find a starting opportunity elsewhere, or in anticipation of his departure the team could opt to deal him to at least receive some draft considerations in return for him.

The million dollar question – or more like the $100 million dollar question – is the long-term status of Foles. After his scintillating 2013 performance, it looked to be a no-brainer for the team to ink their emerging QB to a long-term pact that would cement him as the franchise quarterback.

But after a maddeningly inconsistent performance in 2014 that was cut short by a broken collarbone, the future for Foles in Philly is much cloudier. And if all of the rumors and grumblings are to be believed the Birds are as likely to trade or allow Foles to walk via free agency following the 2015 season. We’ll delve deeper into this situation in the near future.

DE Cedric Thornton is again a restricted free agent, and he’s a lock to return and continue to form one of the most promising D-lines in football, along with Cox and 3rd year nose tackle Bennie Logan.

The landscape of free agency is guaranteed to look considerably different than it will after the Patriots and Seahawks decide Super Bowl XLIX, but look for the Eagles to be busy taking care of their in-house business before the madness begins at 4:00 on March 10th.

Chip Kelly & The Search for a GM...

January 26th 2015 16:48
Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman's front office split has left a void at the general manager position.

One thing that my fellow Philly fans have proven to be short on over the years is patience.

And who can blame us? With the last Eagles’ championship coming before the majority of us were nary glints in our daddy’s eyes, and only two Super Bowl appearances since the Kelly green-clad Birds handed the legendary Vince Lombardi his only postseason loss in the 1960 NFL Championship Game, seeing the big picture and saying “wait ‘til next year” isn’t something we are readily embracing anymore.

Now, to say we totally lack patience isn't totally true. We did temper our expectations after Andy Reid was fired at the close of the 2012 season. The general consensus was that we’d be in store for a lengthy rebuild, and a playoff appearance by the 2015 season would be a realistic and reasonable goal.

Of course, a year later Chip Kelly’s 10-6 season that led to an improbable NFC East title kickstarted the Super Bowl-or-bust machine back up again, and after this year’s disappointing 10-6 season ended with Dallas atop the division and Philly on the outside of the playoffs looking in, it’s safe to say the honeymoon is over for Kelly and his Eagles.

The worst thing for the fans is unanswered questions surrounding the team that are left unanswered for an extended period of time, as it’s debatable as to which we enjoy more: the actual season, or the months of speculation and playing armchair general manager that has made the Eagles, and the NFL, a year-round story.

Remember two years ago, when Jeffrey Lurie and Co.’s search to replace Reid meandered and snaked its way through the playoff season like a lazy river at an amusement park on a hot summer day? The candidate list went on and on, with new names popping up every day, yet the job was still vacant in mid-January.

The local media (predictably) was all over Lurie for not moving faster. The national media made disparaging remarks about the search process, including former Eagles great-turned-talking-head Donovan McNabb saying at one point that they were “just picking names out of a hat”.

As fans, we were as starved for an answer – any answer – as we were for that elusive Super Bowl title. We spent weeks looking for any hint of a signal as to who was going to be leading the flock.

Remember the hysteria when Seattle’s defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was reported to be coming here for an interview, with fans tracking his flight to Philadelphia International online and the “Gus Bus” references that whipped fans into a freznzy?

And then a day later, with the locals hammering Lurie for allowing Bradley to leave without a contract, the announcement came that the Eagles did, in fact, have their man, and it was Kelly, the offensive mastermind from Oregon whom they had coveted from the start.

Which brings us to the present day, where we are faced with another key vacancy in the Birds’ front office, and a lengthy search process that has put the Delaware Valley’s stress level squarely at Defcon 4.

When news broke that Philly’s VP of Player Personnel, Tom Gamble, was unceremoniously dismissed and escorted from the NovaCare Complex by security on New Year’s Eve, we wanted answers!

What warranted firing a guy who was widely viewed as a top ally of Chip Kelly?

Was it due to GM Howie Roseman’s alleged ire drawn by Kelly’s gushing about Gamble’s football expertise, while merely describing his relationship with Roseman in a suspiciously high-pitched voice (see: Curb Your Enthusiasm) as “good”, and referencing his prowess as a salary cap manager and not as a “football guy”?

And, most importantly, did this confirm all of the rumblings during the season that Kelly and Roseman weren’t getting along, and that in this power struggle the GM and Lurie’s trusted confidant had struck a major blow that could force Kelly to leave?

Well, Kelly debunked a lot of the whole going-back-to-college talk when just a few days later, Lurie issued a statement announcing a restructuring of the personnel department, with Kelly becoming the football czar, and Roseman getting “promoted” and given a substantial raise to oversee contract negotiations, salary cap management, and the team’s medical and equipment staffs.

As a part of that statement, Lurie said Kelly will have final say over any and all roster decisions, and will be in charge of selecting a general manager/director of personnel of his liking to work hand-in-hand in constructing the 2015 Eagles and beyond. This move made Kelly only the third head coach in the NFL to have such autonomy, along with New England’s Bill Belichick and Seattle’s Pete Carroll.

And here we are, in an eerily similar situation to Reid’s ouster, where almost a month later there has been a lot of smoke but not a lot of fire surrounding Kelly’s interview process in his search for Roseman’s replacement.

They had no GM present at the Senior Bowl workouts last week. Several pundits said this is a terrible situation, and that there is no direction in the personnel department and they are going to be way behind schedule as a result.

The point of view the Philly scribes are pushing hard to the Phaithful is that this job really isn’t attractive to any truly qualified or worthy candidates because it doesn’t have the final say aspect that most jobs with that title have.

The credentials of the candidates who have been rumored to be in the mix have been poked and prodded by the media and fans alike more than a prospect at the NFL Combine, with the general theme being that the list was a weak-to-awful one, based on the current place of employment of the candidate, and not the man himself.

Brain Gaine of the Texans? What have they ever won?

In-house candidate Ed Marynowitz? Too young (30 years old), and if they hire him it proves Chip just wants a yes man.

Brian Polian of the Jaguars, and formerly of the Colts? The Jags have a pair of two-win seasons to show for all of his expertise, and didn’t he run the Colts into the ground the year Peyton Manning was on the shelf? And didn’t he get that job in Indy because his dad was working there?

True, all of this doesn’t look too promising. But before we storm the gates of NovaCare with torches blazing and pitch forks ready for action, let’s all take a deep breath and take a look at where things are for the Eagles.

First of all, while they didn’t have a GM at the Senior Bowl last week, they did, however, have Kelly and his coaching staff there, along with the team’s scouting department. So the prospects showcased there were evaluated by everyone who is going to be involved in the draft process, including Kelly, who now has final say on the roster.

And presumably, whoever the Eagles next GM is going to be was also there in Mobile, Alabama, seeing and evaluating all of the same prospects for his current organization. So while there was no one officially in a GM role for Philly, whoever is hired has seen all of those same players – and players throughout the country during the college season – and will no doubt be able to compare notes and share their opinions, which is certainly not a bad thing.

Secondly, I find it hard to believe this position that will ultimately not have total autonomy and has to answer to Kelly isn’t attractive.

Kelly will enjoy the same type of personnel autonomy as Pete Carroll does in Seattle.

For example, Seahawks’ GM John Schneider jumped at the chance to leave Green Bay and one of the top personnel departments in football to work in a similar non-autonomous role with Carroll, and formed a partnership that has produced a deep and talented roster – primarily through the draft – that has produced two consecutive Super Bowl appearances, and potentially a second consecutive Super Bowl championship.

And in New England, former GM Scott Pioli worked with/for Belichick in constructing a roster that produced three Super Bowl titles and one of the most consistent teams in NFL history, and even parlayed that into a GM job with Kansas City.

So clearly, this front office personnel model has proven it can be successful.

In regards to the candidates and their qualifications, or perceived lack thereof, I don’t see Kelly as someone who goes into a search process like this and just randomly calls guys to see if they want to work for him. He clearly had a plan in place and didn’t just come up with the front office coup to sweep him into power, and my guess is he’s taken the time to find out as much information as possible about the candidates before he even contacted them for an interview.

Houston thought so highly of Gaine that when Kelly reportedly wanted to speak with him a second time, they promoted him to get him to stay. Marynowitz, while young, was Nick Saban’s top recruiter at Alabama and is widely regarded as an emerging front office star.

And Polian has reportedly emerged as the front runner for the job, as Kelly interviewed him for a second time over the weekend. True, he was fired along with his father, Bill, following the 2-14 2011 season. But the Colts had been among the top teams in the AFC since the senior Polian drafted Peyton, and their success was always predicated upon their QB and their offense and when he went down, Curtis Painter certainly wasn’t the answer – much like we found Mark Sanchez wasn’t the long term answer here, and Ryan Lindley wasn’t in Arizona, either.

In addition, I would surmise that he’s probably spoken with Carroll and Belichick – two peers with whom he has close relationships – about their own experiences in overseeing personnel and working with a GM. He’s also reportedly spoken with Tony Dungy about the GM search, as he and Kelly have ties from Dungy’s son playing for Kelly at Oregon.

And while the length of this search might prove to be frustrating because we all want to know who will be the guy yesterday, look no further to the length of the search that ultimately brought Kelly to Philadelphia. I’d certainly rather Kelly take some more time and find the right guy than just hurry up and bring someone in.

Remember – Lurie could have hired Bradley instead, who is the man ultimately for that pair of two-win seasons in Jacksonville.

And what would our stress level be if that had happened here?

Eagles Offseason Primer...

January 24th 2015 00:04

It's been a busy month of January since the Philadelphia Eagles' 2014 season came to a disappointing end, as despite finishing with a second consecutive 10-6 regular season, a three-game swoon cost the Birds a repeat of both the NFC East title and a return trip to the NFL Playoffs.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking an inside look at all of the ins and outs of the Eagles' offseason moves to date, attempting to project who will and will not be back in midnight green in 2015, and I'm guessing we'll take a look at the chances of Chip Kelly landing a certain Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback whom he recruited to Oregon.

So stay tuned Philly fans, as we'll be your source for Eagles news, as well as the latest on the Phillies, Sixers and Flyers.

What To Do With Cole Hamels?

November 26th 2014 22:11
Could Cole Hamels be on the move?

When Cole Hamels inked his six-year, $144 million extension back in July of 2012, the thought of trading the ace lefthander was the furthest thing from everyone's mind.

The Phillies were in the midst of the most glorious run in their franchise's checkered history, and were awash with cash from MLB's lucrative TV deal and the highest attendance figures in all of baseball. So lavishing a lucrative contract on the youngest of their aces that would keep Hamels in red pinstripes through his prime years was a no brainer, and a move that provided them with with a bona fide ace to anchor their rotation.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years and three losing seasons later, and GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. - who is primarily responsible for the said losing seasons - is now faced with the question of whether to begin the rebuilding process with Hamels as the cornerstone of the foundation, or to jettison the Phils' most valuable trade chip in an effort to accelerate the rebuild by bringing back a slew of young talent.

Let it be said here that the best option for Amaro and Co. is to hang onto their ace lefty, and go about returning the Phillies to a contender with him atop the rotation.

There is said to be a trade market for Hamels, with teams like the Red Sox, Cubs (who put a waiver claim in on him in August) and most recently the Dodgers all having reported interest in acquiring the 30-year old.

And why wouldn't there be? When the other options on the free agent market currently are Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields - all of whom are presumably looking for contracts long in years and heavy in zeroes - Hamels' four years remaining on his deal at $90 million is a relative bargain.

He is also coming off of one of his best statistical seasons, as despite his 9-9 record due to his customary lack of run support he posted a career-best 2.46 ERA, allowing three earned runs or less over his final 23 starts while limiting opponents to 176 hits over 204 innings.

2014 also marked the sixth season in which he has logged 200 innings out of seven, with the outlier coming in 2009 (193 2/3), and he again hit the 30 start mark (30) for the seventh straight season.

So in Hamels, the Phillies have a dependable and durable top-of-the-rotation lefty ace, who has a reasonable salary through the next four seasons (five if the Phils pick up his 2019 option).

My other reasoning for hanging onto Hamels is the repeated failures of Amaro to identify and secure talented prospects when making trades. He has been proficient in dealing away all of the top talent in the Phils' own farm system, but when dealing the likes of Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence, he has yet to produce a player who became a regular on the Major League roster for an extended period of time.

So to think that Amaro will be able to bring back a Joc Pederson from the Dodgers, a Jorge Soler from the Cubs or a Xander Bogaerts and/or Mookie Betts from the Red Sox is a stretch, to say the least.

It's still early in the Hot Stove season and the trade and free agent markets are just heating up, but the Phillies would be wise to hang onto their ace and invest their time and resources elsewhere.

Signing Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas would be a nice start...

Birds Looking to Soar to 4-0...

September 28th 2014 02:38
The return of Jeremy Maclin has played a large part in the Eagles' 3-0 start.

The 2014 season for the Philadelphia Eagles has been a wild ride for the Phaithful thus far.

There were the three sketchy first halves that saw them get outscored by a combined 54-27 - lowlighted the general ineptitude of the pathetic, season-opening 30 minutes that left the Birds down 17-0 to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars - and raised the collective blood pressure of fans across the Delaware Valley.

Then there were the three magnificent second halves, which saw Chip Kelly's resilient charges roar to life on both sides of the ball, ringing up a combined 74 points scored against a stingy 26 allowed that left the team standing at an improbable 3-0 heading into their NFC showdown against the formidable yet struggling 49ers.

There have been sparkling individual performances, from Darren Sproles' torching of the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football in Week 2, to rookie wideout Jordan Matthews' two touchdown coming out party against the Redskins last week, to newly acquired safety Malcolm Jenkins' pair of clutch 4th quarter interceptions the past two weeks, and Jeremy Maclin's dominant, 8 catch 154 yard outing against the 'Skins last Sunday, which featured his third score in as many contests.

There have been a myriad of injuries along the offensive line, with Pro Bowlers Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce out with knee and abdominal injuries, respectively, until November at the earliest. Starting RT Lane Johnson has served three of the four games from his suspension for violation the NFL's substance abuse policy, and his replacement, Allen Barbre, was injured in the first half against Jacksonville and is out for the season.

There have been some scuffles, notably the full-scale brawl after Jason Peters (wisely) took exception to a cheap shot on QB Nick Foles following an interception and attacked the offending party in DL Chris Baker.

There's even been a little drama following what was a relatively quiet training camp, courtesy of veteran CB Cary Williams - who never met a microphone he didn't like - and his postgame comments regarding the overly strenuous nature of Kelly's midweek practices that the resulting lethargy from the overuse of his legs.

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde factor with this group has fans and media experts alike wondering which team is the real 2014 Philadelphia Eagles? The group that at times looks like it's still in the middle of the summer preseason schedule, or the squad that is firing on all cylinders on offense, and making just enough plays in key spots on the defensive side of the ball to pull out the all-important W?

The common themes the team has shown thus far is that they are an extremely resilient bunch, who don't let a lot of things faze them and get their focus off of finding ways to win games. Down 17 early? Come back with 34 unanswered. Get in a huge brawl and lose Peters to an ejection? Stay poised and score the next 10 points of the game to put it away.

The afore-mentioned Kelly practice program has also played a big part in the early successes, as the team's collective conditioning has been on display in the 4th quarter of every game thus far as they were able to cap off comebacks and put teams away with big plays on both sides of the ball.

Following tomorrow's showdown in San Francisco, we should all have a better handle on who, exactly, this Eagles team is. The Niners present the biggest test for the Birds by far, as Jim Harbaugh's group has won 37 games over his first three seasons at the helm, and advanced to three consecutive NFC Championship games, including a Super Bowl appearance two years ago.

Some key stats to keep in mind: the 49ers are the highest scoring first half team in the league, at 19.7 points per game, but are the lowest scoring team after halftime, posting only a field goal through three games, and 0 in the 4th quarter.

If the Eagles can keep it relatively close in the first half, the numbers play right into their second half excellence, and they have a real chance of getting out of this huge matchup with a key road win and the team's first 4-0 start since 2004, when Andy Reid & Co. went to Super Bowl XXXIX.

Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s lack of deadline deals this year has Phils' fans scratching their heads too.

After months of smoke, no fire.

Despite rampant speculation that the Phillies, who have been languishing in the NL East basement for most of the season, would be sellers as today's trade deadline loomed, the 4:00 PM witching hour passed with little fanfare at Citizens Bank Park.

While the 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox became the first team in MLB history to trade three starting pitchers who had all won a game in the Fall Classic the previous season, the Phils were content to let this train wreck of a season careen wildly down the tracks until it officially crashes (mercifully) to a halt in late September.

The closest thing to a trade today for Ruben Amaro, Jr. was a report on Twitter that the Phils had dealt veteran OF Marlon Byrd to the Yankees, but that was almost immediately debunked as a bogus report from an equally bogus Twitter handle.

And while the passing of today's trade deadline does not officially mean Amaro won't be looking to deal in August via waiver trades, the fact that no deal was struck shows two things:

First, that RAJ's proclivity for including easily-attainable vesting options in free agent contracts and/or veteran contract extensions have bitten the organization in the behind, specifically in Byrd's case, who reportedly would only accept a trade to the Mariners (a team on his no-trade clause list, another Amaro favorite) if they agreed to pick up said option (at $8 million for 2016). Various reports indicated that teams interested in anyone the Phillies had to offer were scared away by these vesting options, and made the Mariners specifically unwilling to invest $16 million and change in Byrd, who would be 38 when 2016 rolled around.

Secondly, it shows just how bad this roster that Amaro assembled is, and how little value trade value there is on it. Ryan Howard's ridiculous contract cannot be moved unless the Phils eat a significant chunk of his remaining salary; Chase Utley, thought to be one of their more valuable chips, had little value due to his $13 million plus salary next year at age 36 and his balky knees; Jimmy Rollins' option for $11 million in 2015 vested already last week, and he, like Utley, is a 10/5 guy (10 years service time/5 with same team) and can veto any trade Amaro comes up with; Cliff Lee's $27 million club option and $12.5 million buyout at the end of his contract would scare away most third world countries; and Cole Hamels, their most valuable chip, has been pegged by Amaro as a guy who can bridge the Phils gap between the heady days of 2007-2011 to the next winning era, which seems to be a long ways away.

So here we are Phillie least we'll always have 2008, and the Eagles are in full swing at training camp.

Cole Hamels delivers a pitch during the Phillies' 4-3 loss on Sunday.

For the third time in as many days, the Phillies and Mets treated the Phaithful at Citizens Bank Park to some free baseball, playing yet another contest that finished tied after nine and went into extra innings.

And after splitting Friday and Saturday's 14-inning affairs, the Phils dropped the series finale this afternoon 4-3, courtesy of a Lucas Duda 2-run homer off of the recently called up Philippe Aumont that snapped the 2-2 tie in the top of the 11th.

The Fightin' Phils responded in the bottom of the frame, cutting the lead in half when Marlon Byrd launched a solo shot into the left field stands. But Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard followed with ground outs to end the game, and lost their third game of the rare five game set (Monday night's matchup is a makeup from a rainout earlier in the month) from their rivals from New York.

Cole Hamels' seven solid innings of two-run ball (one earned) with eight strikeouts was wasted, which for anyone who has followed the Phils over the past few seasons knows is a relatively common occurrence. Howard blasted his 11th home run of the season, a two-run bomb that was his fourth in his last seven games.

The Phillies now find themselves at 24-30 on the season, and in dead last in the National League East, 6 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves, and will head to the Nation's Capitol to take on the Washington Nationals to start a three-game set following tonight's finale with the Mets.

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