Sunday, September 17, 2006
The Time Lord
A terrible coach facing a season so long he can't count the minutes.
PSAYINGS.5S.9-11: The Philadelphia Eagles ended their 2006 season today in their second game of the year, losing 30-24 in overtime to a NY Giants team they utterly dominated for 40 minutes and once led 24-7. That's the problem. The head coach of the Eagles seems to have mustered a team that thinks it's only necessary to play football for the first 40 minutes to win. A perennial problem that has gotten much worse under Reid's command, not better.
We wouldn't mind so much if we hadn't listened to SportsTalk Radio in Philadelphia for the past two years or so. Have you ever listened to Sports Talk Radio in your neck of the woods? Then you know what we're talking about. A bunch of bored, superior know-it-alls like WIP's Howard Eskin, who seize on trivia, headlines, and a modest amount of technical knowledge to browbeat their listeners while they miss everything important in their analysis.
The sports gospel in Philadelphia has had it that the Eagles lost the Super Bowl by misfortune and self-destructed in 2005 because of one Terrell Owens, girl wide receiver. (They don't put it that way. We put it that way. He was never worth the amount of press or angst he inspired. He's just Barbie in a football uniform, always checking himself in the mirror on the field and off.)
Today, the Eagles' real problem was on display. The Eagles have talent and enthusiasm. What they lack is character and adult attention spans. They were excited, spectacular, and confident for two-thirds of the game. Then they got bored and wanted to go home or out for a party. The Giants kept trying to win the game, no matter how bad it looked for them at the moment. So they finally did. It's no accident that the Eagles made fools of themselves in the concluding two-minute drill of the 2005 Super Bowl. They -- including their Yogi the Bear impersonator head coach -- lack all sense of time. The entire organization suffers from ADDS. The symptoms are numerous:
The Eagles, including their vaunted quarterback Donovan McNabb, do not win come-from-behind victories in the final two minutes a la the Raiders of old, John Elway, or Johnny Unitas. When they win, it's usually because they're convincingly ahead by the time the fourth quarter arrives. By the end of 60 minutes, they can no longer focus sharply on the job at hand.Net net. Disaster. Season over.
Under Andy Reid, they've never had a running game. Instead, they pamper and cling to sporadically brilliant running backs who have never played a full season in the NFL because their glass limbs doom them to season-ending injuries -- every year: Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter, and, before them, Deuce Staley. None of these backs has ever gained 1,000 yards rushing in a season, and yet Eagles coaches and fans continue to sing their praises because they can't understand the strategic value of a durable running back, which is that in 60 minutes of football it's necessary to give the defense a rest and eat precious minutes and seconds off the clock by some means other than vain zero-gain staggers into the middle of the line.
Eagles players, including over-praised all-pros like Kearse, Trotter, and too many others to mention, get tired and ineffective in the fourth quarter but never connect that fact with their ostentatiously juvenile celebrations after individual plays in the first 40 minutes of the game. They dance, swagger, and engage in elaborate acts of victorious pantomime even when the outcome is still hugely in doubt, expending energy they never seem to have when extraordinary last minute heroics are needed. That's the point at which they crumble and quit. Though he doesn't celebrate as much, Donovan McNabb is just as bad, because he gets so caught up in the momentary fun that he can't resist clowning around to show how "loose" he is -- even when the game itself is on the line. Elway may have grinned a lot (it always looked like a rictus to us), but Johnny Unitas and Bobby Layne never did. Not until the game was won. For that matter, we never saw Fred Biletnikoff, Jerry Rice, or Jimmy Brown stomping and grimacing around the field like a clown, either.
Andy Reid insists on calling offensive plays himself, though his grasp of the relation between offensive strategy and time remaining in the game is so vague as to be invisible. His team still has no effective two-minute drill, and he routinely blows all decisions -- pass-run, punt-play -- in which the clock is a factor. Since football is played against the clock, this makes him a gross incompetent at his profession, regardless of any other virtues, including his excessive, non-responsive humility in post-game press conferences.
Here's the big picture for the long-suffering, oh-so-patient and oh-so-deluded Eagles fans. The Eagles are a mediocre team, Reid is a loser of a coach, McNabb will NEVER win or even play in another Super Bowl, and the oh-so-superior sports geniuses of WIP in Philadelphia are idiots. That goes double for Howard Eskin, who makes a very nice living indeed doing no work at all and who should have the decency not to talk down to the credulous fans of Philadelphia like some condescending Einstein of a sport he clearly knows little about.
Howard Eskin, tin god of mediocrity.
Start booing, Philadelphians. Sit on your hands through the first 40 minutes. Wait for the final 20. Champions are defined by how they act and how they rise to the occasion THEN. Forget T.O. He was a sideshow last year, and he's less than that now. If you really want to do something useful, start demanding that the Eagles do what this blue-collar town has long been a football loser because it never knew to do -- get coaches and players who are grown up enough to know the difference between the big hand and the little hand. And one more thing: Start demanding that Andy Reid's giant ass be fired today, because it's going to take some time to get it done whenever you start. You hear that? Time. It's your first lesson in becoming a winner.