Load up the weapons

By Eric Feather

This off-season will determine the fate of this Eagles franchise for the next two to three years. It is no secret that this team lacks the star quality on offense to be a strong Super Bowl contender with their current philosophy; if Joe Banner and Andy Reid don’t snap out of their delusional, stubborn state then disappointment will be waiting once again in January 2010. This is what they must do to avoid the pain that plagues this franchise and its fans.

Objective # 1: Ocho Cinco

Now I understand that when you hear Chad Johnson the nightmare of Terrell Owens creeps into your mind. But, remember that the Eagles aren’t afraid to bring in a big ego guy—keep in mind they were tantalizingly close to signing Randy Moss last year who doesn’t have exactly have a squeaky clean record. Bringing in Johnson, who has publicly stated he would love to play with McNabb, would be a Brady-Moss scenario. Johnson would be a revived player whose talents would flourish under a new team just like Moss. A first rounder for a guy who has legally changed his name to the incorrect Spanish term for 85 is a small price to pay. Chad, Desean, Curtis = DANGEROUS!

Objective # 2: Derrick Ward

Anyone who is having their Madden fantasy dreams of signing Brandon Jacobs or trading for LT needs to put it to rest—it isn’t happening. Derrick Ward proved to be a great complimentary back to Jacobs this year, and he is a tough in-between the tackles runner who can pick up that one yard that led to so many Eagles losses over the past few years (ever think you’d pine for Dorsey Levens after he left?). Ward will only make Westbrook more of a threat because he’d give #36 more flexibility to rove outside or motion to the slot while Ward would still pose a legitimate threat in the backfield. It’s a win-win.

Objective # 3: Address the O-Line

Runyan or Thomas? One of them is most likely to go. If the Carolina Panthers do not franchise tag Jordan Gross, expect the birds to go after him full throttle and I think they should. One of Andy’s only strengths when it comes to personnel is evaluating talent on the offensive line. If Gross gets franchised, then OT Jason Smith from Baylor should be on the radar. This kid is 6’5, 300 pounds, and will hopefully not pull a Winston Justice (you’ve had your mulligan Andy). The return of Shawn Andrews and emergence of Nick Cole will greatly improve the line in ’09.

Objective #4: Tight End

LJ Smith is GONE, thank God! He’s been an underachiever since his first game in the league and it’s time to give up on this guy. Brent Celek proved that he could be the red-zone catching tight end that McNabb needs. However, his blocking is suspect. It is hard to argue with Mattare on this one; Jim Kleinsasser is the ideal candidate. He can be used in and out of the backfield for both pass and run blocking. He’s not flashy but he’s been productive and reliable throughout his career.

These are the moves that will get this offense over their NFC Championship woes in 2009!


One Last Run....

By Matt Mattare

If the Birds are going to take this roster and gear up for one last run before age and impatience leads to blowing it up and starting over, it's time to go full-throttle this off-season.


He's not happy. The Cardinals won't give him up for a King's ransom--doesn't matter. The Birds can package picks (1st, 3rd, and 5th) and Lito together. If they want the McNabb-Reid tandem to be effective they NEED a stud like Boldin to make it go. He's a better alternative than TJ Houshmanzadeh (who I'm not convinced would be the stud Donovan needs) and would make the slew of marginal receivers that litter the roster better (by keeping them off the field). Tell me that McNabb wouldn't improve with Boldin, Curtis, and Desean to throw to?


Jennings is a big, bruising running back out from Liberty. He's EXACTLY what the Eagles need to complement the increasingly fragile Brian Westbrook. Two years from now he could be replacing #36. This sleeper is going to shoot up draft boards in the next couple months, just watch...Snatch him in round two and don't look back.


Signing Kleinsasser would kill two birds with one stone. He can replace LJ Smith in two tight end sets (sliding Celek into the starting spot) and provide a legitimate fullback which anyone with a set of eyes and a brain can see.


They're aging and won't be worth long-term contracts, but unless they want to shell out more big bucks for Jordan Gross it'd be the best way to maintain stability. I'm all for shelling out some big bucks for young studs that could be useful for years, but first of all I realize the front office has its limits and second of all people are going to be severely overpaying for Gross because he's good and young...he's definitely not worthy of the MONSTER contract he's going to get.

That's the offensive side of the ball. Feather, Tim, Chuck, anybody--SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT!


And now for the main event...

By Tim McManus

I wonder, now that the Eagle green mist is beginning to lift, what life will be like when the Phillies fully regain the spotlight.

The Eagles run and ultimate fall in the postseason -- and the fans' hard line stance of win or go away -- disproved those who thought Philadelphians would morph into a kinder, gentler fan base now that the championship clock has been reset to zero.

The standards are still there, along with the you've-cut-me-deeply-and-I-will-get-my-revenge reaction when the standards aren't met.

But that was with the Eagles...the bridesmaid dress-wearing, time's yours spewing Eagles. Do the same harsh rules apply to the World Champs?

Only thorn-less roses have been thrown at their feet during the post-championship tour, a symbolic bronzing of a team that will only grow in legend over time. When this team dismantles and all are retired from the sport, every member will be canonized.

What of the present playing days though? What happens when the victory lap ends and 2008 stops feeling like the present? Will there be a one-year love affair? Will it last up until their first absence from the postseason, or will it subside as soon as they drop a series to the Mets?

For many, this is a great mystery, for much of the population has never experienced a post-championship season. It is tough to decipher whether a loss will sting less because there is a trophy to buffer it, or more because we'll be chasing euphoria even harder now that we know what it feels like.

It's confusing: Can we put our heart into booing Shane Victorino when he strikes out with the grand slam image rattling around? Can we come down on Cole Hamels for anything anymore? Where does the automatic applause for last season end?

For the team, the owners, and baseball flag wavers, perhaps, the important thing is not the answers to these questions, but that the questions are being asked.

Whether this is the start of a full-out love affair or a complicated love-hate relationship, it is most certainly the start of something grand in scale. Something energy-infusing; a major spike in the history chart.

The red mist is settling back in. Better run out and get an umbrella.


After further review...

Sunday, Blood Sunday – Again

By Pat Callahan, This Week in Pro Football

Get your FAQ straight:

Q: Why did the Eagles lose Sunday to Arizona?

It had to be preparation and coaching. It seems unanimous that Philly had superior overall talent; Donovan really didn’t play that badly (26-47-1, 325, 3TD); and while home, Arizona had not enjoyed a bye week. So what happened? Well, clearly, the Eagles were not ready defensively for what Arizona’s offensive brain trust threw at them in the first half. The D seemed completely out of sync and, if not for a very dicey call on a Rackers pooch kick at 24-6 (remember that, Eagles fans who think the Birds were robbed at game’s end on the 4th down pass to Curtis), the game could have been out of reach at halftime. Dawkins was a non-factor and the pass rush schemes did not seem to anticipate Warner’s quick releases, the slants to Fitzgerald or the effective screen passes.

Q: Has the satanic life force departed Quentin Demps’ body?

A: Yes, but not before (1) making QD look like a Mummer on a three day bender, on that flea-flicker to Larry Fitz; (2) spinning Demps’ helmet and head around, then knocking Kurt Warner down about five minutes after the play, giving Arizona a not-needed 15 free yards; and (3) causing QD to not wrap Tim Hightower up at the two yard line on that fateful screen pass late in the 4th quarter. Think about it: if Demps tackles Hightower there instead of mosh-pitting him and bouncing off, the Cards settle for a FG and the Eagles play-calling dynamic changes on the ensuing last minute drive, especially when they get to midfield.

Q: Why have they now lost four of five NFC title games?

A: The only common thread I see is (surprise) a lack of talent at WR manifesting itself in games where the defensive talent they are facing is very good. This is clearly why they lost to Carolina, partly why they lost to Tampa and again Sunday. Is Kevin Curtis a go-to guy with two minutes to go on Championship Sunday? No.

Q: Donovan?

A: Like I said, he played pretty good. But here it is: he simply can’t elevate his team to that Canton-inducing drive at the end of a Conference title game or Super Bowl. Consider:

at St. Louis – can’t convert from 1st & 10 at midfield, two minutes left,
down 29-24.

Vs. Tampa – down 20-10, he leads them on one of those clock-eating,
18-plays-of-six-yard-pass drives, then fails to find Ronde Barber (or I should say finds him easily, for a 97 yard pick six) and it’s 27-10, game over.

Vs. Carolina – never got it going.

Vs. New England – that death march, ten minute drive, down 24-14 in the
4th quarter, will never be forgotten.

Vs. Arizona – four straight incompletions, at the two minute warning.

I like Donovan. He’s a good, solid, immensely talented QB who can really
play football. But you pick your poison with Number 5. He can get you there,
but there’ll be no ring.

Q: So now what?

Here’s my plan for 2009:
- Redo McNabb’s deal, or else it’ll be a distraction. There is no way
the Eagles are going to release or trade him, so get it over with.
- Go hard after Giants RB Brandon Jacobs or Derrick Ward. The evidence is overwhelming that running the ball is a huge plus for this offense, so acknowledge that Brian Westbook’s best days are already played, and get ready to move on.
- If you get a healthy Westbrook for ’09, release Buckhalter and let him try to start elsewhere. There is something the Birds’ brain trust simply dislikes about the guy.
- Sign a quality, but not mentally unbalanced wide receiver. Stop pretending this hasn’t killed you over the years.
- Draft Dawkins’ replacement, or groom Demps for the job.
- Get Akers some healthy competition. That was bad Sunday, and his they-lost-it, -not-me in the locker room was worse.

Hey, catch our last show of the year, Super Bowl Saturday, from ten to noon, on 950 ESPN!

Cardinal nation is growing!

Good news:

John Lennon is alive, he lives in Wisconsin, and he's a Cardinals fan.


Cardinals fans busted

Winning really does make a difference. Apparently, they're Cardinals fans that are really nuts about their team. Either that or they hoped on the bandwagon after Jake Delhomme's fifth interception in the NFC Divisional Playoff game. But before the NFC Championship game, two guys decided to destroy the grass on Donovan McNabb's front lawn of his Arizona home. Thankfully, they were caught.

Deadspin did some looking around and the Arizona Republic says they've been caught.


32-25: A Microcosm of Another Frustrating Season

By Eric Feather

Sunday’s NFC Championship game loss had all the components from this emotional rollercoaster season. The Eagles looked like the team who got blown out in Baltimore after being almost run out of the building in the first half, 24-6. Lets not kid ourselves—not many of us believed this team could come back and win just like we didn’t think they could make the playoffs. However, Donovan McNabb and the defense were heroic in the third quarter just as they had been in most of the past six games. After a juggling catch by Desean Jackson to grab the lead it seemed as if this team was truly destined to reach the Super Bowl. Instead, the defense couldn’t get off the field in the fourth quarter and Donovan was not able to drive for a game-tying touchdown.

You have to keep things in perspective though: it is amazing that this team got this far and being one of the final four remaining teams is a huge improvement from the last three years. However, the reality is that this is just another huge disappointment in the Reid-McNabb era. There are hard questions that must be asked this off-season including whether Reid and McNabb can ever get this team over the hump in a big game.

One man’s opinion: McNabb is the man for the job and while Reid doesn’t deserve to be fired I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually see a Tony Dungy-Jon Gruden situation play out. Dungy had good teams in Tampa Bay, but couldn’t win the big games. Gruden came in with that team and won a championship. It’s just a thought, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Eagles organization headed down that path.


Eagles Predictions

I'll add to Tim's with my five predictions...

5. The Eagles will get to Kurt Warner and force at least three turnovers

4. The Eagles inability to run the ball will make this game closer than it should be

3. Donovan McNabb will not be able to bring the Birds back if they fall behind late

2. The Cardinals will be down more than two touchdowns and claw back late...but it won't be enough

1. Eagles 20 Cardinals 13...thank the Birds defense, it'll be bring the noise on Warner all day and that will ultimately be the difference

Bonus Prediction: Steelers 31 Ravens 10...Ravens run out of gas, Flacco proves he's not Joe Montana

Eagles-Cardinals predictions

The "nobody believed in us" card is as effective as any in the NFL, and it will be used by the Cardinals this Sunday.

Expect the Arizona special teams to set a frisky tone from the opening kickoff, and for it to carry over through the first half.

The crowd will be into it, and it may seem that the roof is about to collapse on the Eagles season at some point in this game.

Donovan McNabb will be in charge of bringing the team back from a minor deficit, and will do so...thanks to some quality field position set up by the defense.

Bottom line: there are too many veterans on the Eagles side who are burning way too bad for this. They'll find a way.

Eagles 27, Cardinals 23
-- Tim McManus


Stay classy, Giants fans

Not sure if you've seen this. Giants fans, after the loss to the Eagles on Sunday, take out their anger on a Posche and later, a truck. How is this not getting more national play?


950 ESPN's Mikey Miss on ESPN this morning!

He was on to discuss the excitement that's enveloping the city during the Eagles run and defended the fans' treatment of Donovan McNabb. When ESPN analyst Smarty Jones--I mean Dana Jacobson (pictured on the left)--said that the unfair treatment of McNabb started during the draft-day booing in 1998, Mike pulled out a sugar cube and fed it to her.

Jason Whitlock is a big Donovan fan

Jason Whitlock said some pretty interesting things in his column on FoxSports.com. Some of them will blow your mind, some might make you think he's never seen an Eagles game or talked to an Eagles fan before (read No. 9).

Here it is.

McNabb answers the call

As the Birds head to the NFC title game, here's a look at how McNabb closed out the last two games.

With the game already in hand, McNabb had to make a quick call after he ran out of bounds on the Giants sideline.

Remember this from the end of the Vikings game.



By Matt Mattare

Too much has gone on over the past few weeks to choose a single thing to write about, so let’s touch’em all from the Birds to Happy Valley to Sir Charles to Pat the Bat.

I don’t think you can call him the MVP (because that distinction belongs to the offensive line), but Brodrick Bunkley had himself a ballgame and showed up in two of the games defining moments. His penetration on both failed Giants fourth downs blew up New York’s offensive line and any hope of a first down. Has he lived up to the hype of being a first round draft pick? I’d say on the whole no and I think he’s probably too inconsistent to suddenly blossom—but times like this show you what he could be capable of.

The people that say Joe Paterno should retire are just wrong. That being said, the people that say he shouldn’t retire because he’s still got it (pointing to a few BCS games in the last four years) are delusional. At this juncture JoePa is simply a figure-head while Tom Bradley and Galen Hall run the real show, but Penn State owes Joe Paterno everything. He put their football team on the map, he’s raised and given back millions of dollars to the University, and he’s poured his entire life into his time in Happy Valley—PSU owes it him to let him retire on his own terms. Why? Because his presence obviously isn’t hurting the team (now you can point to the BCS appearances). He still fires people up at pep rallies, goes out for a few big recruiting visits, and deflects a lot of attention from the “real” coaches while essentially overseeing the operation as Head Coach Emeritus. If things weren’t going well then I think it’d be a different story and it’d be selfish for Joe to continue to coach at the expense of the school he loves—that just isn’t the case right now.

Fearless prediction #1: Steelers over the Ravens in a tight one…the difference will be Joe Flacco remembering he’s a rookie. While we’re mentioning his name, announcers need to just stop with the stupid nicknames for rookie QB’s. Matty Ice? Joe Cool? We get it, they’re mature and composed rookies and we know they’ve started enough games that they can’t really be considered rookies anymore. I’ll give a pass on Matt Ryan because that’s actually his nickname…but Joe Cool was Joe Montana’s nickname. Anyone who thinks Mr. Flacco deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the original Joe Cool probably thinks the WNBA should expand to 32 teams.

That whole thing where McNabb went and picked up the phone on the Giants sideline was just lame. I didn’t think he was a punk for doing it and I’m all about funny things even if they draw a flag…I just thought it was stupid. Leave it to Donovan to give the media some sort of negative fodder to discuss about him after one of the biggest wins of his career. The epitaph of his Philly career will probably read something like “a great player who did everything in his power to make sure he was underappreciated.”

I don’t think Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds will ever have a notable NBA career. I just don’t think he’s got the chops…but on the college level he’s one of the most dangerous people in the game. He’s a microwave guy who is totally willing to take over a game, something that is relatively rare today. Against Seton Hall he threw up 40pts and iced the St. Joe’s game for Nova last month. Villanova isn’t a great team but come tournament time they’re a really dangerous team who could make a Sweet 16-Elite 8 run on Reynolds’s shoulders (just like last year).

Brian Dawkins has to be inching up the list of most beloved sports figures in Philadelphia history. Has there ever been a player in this town who has worn his emotions on his sleeve and—without fail—shown up giving every ounce of himself for every game of his career? He might be slipping a little bit and losing a step, but the guy deserves a tip of the cap from even the most critical Birds fan.

Fearless prediction #2: Birds will win an ugly game in Arizona…this will lead to two of the most obnoxious fan bases in all of professional sports invading Tampa Bay. Over/Under on brawls started after “Pittsburgh’s going to the Super Bowl” is responded with an E-A-G-L-E-S chant: 23.5. Get two holding cells ready.

I think Charles Barkley is one of the funniest individuals in sports and a lot of times I love hearing his opinions. But what I’ve learned is the more you open your mouth the more likely you are to sound like an idiot. His initial condemnation of Auburn for not legitimately considering Turner Gill for head football coach because of his race may have had some merit, but as he explained himself more and more he lost more and more credibility. I think the race card is played FAAAAAR too much in sports today. Of course racism is still present, but I’d say 90% of the people in power these days just don’t care about the color of a person’s skin—they care about performance. Example: Michael Wilbon’s insinuation that Notre Dame was racist for firing Tyrone Willingham was indescribably ignorant. There are exceptions to the rule though and I think that most of them are found in the Bible Belt. I agree 100% with Barkley that Auburn never would’ve hired Gill because he was black, but to say that he MUST have been the guy they hired is simply ignorant. There are a few coaches that would have been very viable candidates on par with Gill…it’s just that none of them were chosen. Charles I know it’s hard/borderline impossible, but state your point and then get out of your own way.

Pat Burrell’s off-season was one of the most bizarre things I ever witnessed. Like him or not he was a huge part of the Phillies organization over the past decade and the Phillies made it painfully obvious that they had no desire whatsoever to even extend a contract offer. According to Burrell’s agent the Phils barely even talked with him…and the thing is fans were totally ok with moving on to Raul Ibanez and somewhat miffed when he signed with Tampa. The whole thing is just weird. And for the record, Ibanez will not be as productive as Burrell on the whole, but his valleys won’t be as brutal as the slumps Burrell was capable of.

Don’t think it’s possible that the Eagles can pull it off because it’d just be too good to be true? Well consider what’s happened over the past five years: the Red Sox have won two World Series, Phil Mickelson won three majors, Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl, Kansas basketball won a national championship, Tiger Woods won a US Open with a broken leg, Notre Dame football went 3-9, Roy Williams actually won a big game in the Final Four and won a national championship, Tom Coughlin out-coached Bill Belichick won a Super Bowl, the Tampa Bay Rays won the pennant, and the Phillies ended a 100 season championship drought in Philadelphia. Tell me the sports world hasn’t been turned a little upside down right now…

Fearless Prediction #3: The Sixers will not make a run like their fellow Philly teams have in the past few months…I literally have no fear in saying this. Bet the house on it.

I just read that Jim Harbaugh interviewed with the Jets. I watched him coach at Stanford—he will never be a successful NFL coach. Stick to college Jim. Throwing hissy fits on the sidelines may be excused as passion in Pao Alto, but that kind of volatility won’t win the respect you need in the big leagues.

Fearless Big Five Prediction: Temple will be the best team in Philly within three years…Fran Dunphy is a great coach and if he sticks around—which I think he will—then Jay Wright’s Wildcats will have some serious competition for the Big Five title.

Has there ever been a more insignificant player that garnered so much attention than Pacman Jones? He’s a decent cornerback and an above average punt returner…if he didn’t nickname himself Pacman he’d be in a cell next to Rae Carruth right now.


From the papers

Here's some Eagles' news to get you to Sunday.

If Donovan McNabb answered questions like this during his time in Philly, I'm sure people wouldn't accuse him of always making excuses, John Smallwood writes in his column.

The Eagles don't consider themselves last year's Giants, which is good because they would rather be this year's Eagles.

Antonio Pierce doesn't think the Birds are last year's Giants either, according to the Eagletarian.

Bob Ford writes in his column that the Eagles will need to try and establish the run game.