December 20, 2012

A preemptive goodbye to Andy Reid.

It's time for Andy Reid to go.

Everyone knows it. Some even want him out this instant.

But when the day comes and Jeffrey Lurie makes it official, I'll miss him.

Not because he's being unjustly canned: The Eagles are 42-35-1 since 2008, with a points differential that's been consistently plummeting (127 in 2008, 62 in 2010, -122 so far in 2012). Two seasons in a row they've put together a talented roster on paper, only to see it fall apart on the field.

Assistant coaches have been unjustly hired, and then awkwardly fired. Entire drafts turned out to be total disasters. Big free-agent signings like Jevon Kearse and Nnamdi Asomugha tanked. And, oh yeah, Michael Vick.

But good coaches are hard to find, as Bill Barnwell noted quite recently, and Andy Reid is (or was) a good coach. The man is 130-91-2 in Philadelphia, record-breaking numbers that may never be topped in this itchy-trigger-finger era of lightning-quick coach turnover.

Yes, it hasn't been quite the same since his army of disciples -- John Harbaugh, Jim Johnson, even Brad Childress -- were lost to other jobs or illness. And yes, one of the main reasons things got so bad is the futility of almost all of Reid's replacements for the departed players and coaches.

But that doesn't mean Reid's five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl appearance go away. He doesn't have to abdicate his wins because his team officially fell apart in his 14th season as head coach.

Reid was a proud man who probably took on too much responsibility, and he ultimately paid for his mistakes. Maybe his strong suit isn't having final say on personnel; maybe he lost the ability to properly analyze and critique his staff along the way.

Apart from this season, however, disasters were few and far between. The team did sneak into the playoffs three of the last five seasons. It wasn't all doom and gloom; it never felt like we were watching the Cleveland Browns or the Oakland Raiders.

And I think people will recognize that as time goes on. Much like Donovan McNabb is slowly working his way back into everyone's good graces -- being remembered for his successful career as a whole instead of a few high-profile failures -- I expect Reid will eventually attain something close to mythic status.

A new coach will come in and, inevitably, he'll screw up. Maybe it won't be as egregious as making Tony Hunt the fullback, J.R. Reed the punt returner or three wispy ghosts the 2011 linebacker trio, but it'll probably be something close. And folks will call WIP to bitch and moan, wondering where the glory days of the 2000s have gone.

Maybe they won't pine for Reid specifically, not right away. But ask a fan of the Buffalo Bills, or the aforementioned Browns, or even the Dallas Cowboys or Chicago Bears, and they'll tell you what it's like to deal with an oft-moronic string of incompetent head coaches. It's a very difficult job, and there's a reason you hang onto the great ones.

Reid will never be Buddy Ryan, who never won anything either but was beloved for it anyway. But he set the bar high and turned his franchise into one of the league's best, bringing Philadelphia nine playoff appearances when most cities would kill for one.

The best coach in team history is about to depart for greener pastures. Even if we don't applaud on his way out, let's try and remember what he did to make football in Philadelphia special again.

December 8, 2012

Does Revere plus Young equal Hamilton?

I don't think anybody thought Ben Revere and Michael Young would end up being the centerfielder and third baseman, respectively, for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013.

Nice moves? Sure. Revere is cheap speed and defense (although I'm not sure why Ruben Amaro couldn't get him for just Vance Worley), and Young only has a year left on his contract. No one knows if we'll get the 2011 (.338/.380/.474) or the 2012 (.277/.312/.370) version, but for just $6 million it's worth the gamble. And I'm saying that as someone who would've vomited a little at the thought of Michael Young three months ago.

But the real question is, what comes next? This lineup is still short a power bat at one of the corner outfield spots.

To put it more clearly, this lineup is short Josh Hamilton.

Yes, Hamilton is a lefty, but his career .808 OPS versus LHP would've ranked second on the 2012 Phillies. Not second versus lefties, second total. That team as a whole hit .235/.300/.392 against left-handed pitching; they could use some right-handed help, sure, but what they could really use is help in general. And Hamilton is the only bat on the market that might really make a difference.

He's also possibly the biggest wild-card in baseball. Every single team appears hesitant to give him a four-year deal, and every single discussion involving him comes with this mandatory disclaimer: Nobody knows when his body will break down. Also, I'm not sure if you've heard but the Phillies are already saddled with one disastrous contract.

But this team is made up of elderly guys -- sans Revere and lottery tickets Darin Ruf/Domonic Brown -- who aren't getting any younger. 2013 could be the last year in Philadelphia for Chase Utley and Roy Halladay. The prospect cupboard, at least in terms of position players, is pretty bare. The Washington Nationals, already a tremendous young squad, just traded for Denard Span and signed Dan Haren. Dark days may very well be ahead, much worse than going 81-81 in 2012.

So perhaps the smart thing to do, really the only thing to do, is make one more big splash this offseason. If there's a power bat on the trade market and Amaro can dig up the resources to bring him in, fantastic. But it seems to me that these two trades were designed to fill holes and save some money, and I don't think Amaro likes having cash burning holes in his pockets. He's a spender.

Maybe it's not Hamilton; maybe it's Nick Swisher (although I doubt it). But either way, I suspect another move is just over the horizon. And something big, something Hamilton-sized, could both fire up a frustrated fanbase and send a message to an aging group of guys: We're going for this.

"Here are some older dudes who used to play for the Texas Rangers; win us a World Series before they fall apart."

Josh Hamilton or no Josh Hamilton, I don't think the Phillies are actually going to win the World Series in 2013. But I really don't think they're going to win in 2014 or 2015. So if your only option is to overpay a question mark and gun for that outside chance, well, what's the harm in trying?

December 4, 2012

Tips to save your Sunday.

Things you can do instead of watching the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday:

1) Read a book! I just finished Alan Sepinwall's The Revolution Was Televised, an excellent look at 12 series that have shaped television over the last decade. Next on the list is Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, which my brother has been begging me to start for months now. And I've also got A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger currently staring at me from its spot on the bookshelf. Do not read anything about football, even inspiring stories about games from 40 years ago. It'll only stir up bad memories.

2) Go to the movies! I've already mentioned Holy Motors on this site, but I know that's only playing in a few specific cities. Which is a damn shame. My brother heartily recommends Lincoln, which is sure to take home a few Academy Awards and should already be on most people's radars. And I'll be taking my lovely girlfriend to see Silver Linings Playbook tonight, which (coincidentally) has a few storylines that feature our very Philadelphia Eagles! It's kinda like watching the game, but with a lot less heartbreak. Approved.

3) Watch other games! There are a few 1 o'clock games with playoff implications, including Cowboys/Bengals and Ravens/Redskins. Those should be fun. Saints/Giants and Packers/Lions will probably be entertaining, high-scoring affairs, and Texans/Patriots is an excellent Monday night game. You'll be amazed to discover that other teams have smart, talented players that make big, exciting plays, especially on defense.

Things you should not do, under any circumstances:

1) Watch the Eagles on Sunday. Don't give them your time, your money, or your love. They don't deserve it. I was mentally prepared to abandon the team three weeks ago, but a matchup with the local Redskins and two nationally broadcast outings meant I couldn't escape. They were gonna be on my TV, so I had to watch.

And I did, and I hated it. An optimistic person could've dug maybe 15 minutes of joy out of the Cowboys game, and that's if you ignore the two losing teams battling for no purpose and no glory. Each weekend brings with it a 60-minute mess, and they just keep on coming.

2) Bet on the Eagles on Sunday. Two weeks ago, the opening spread turned out to be the Eagles giving 2.5 points to the Carolina Panthers. I remarked to my dad that this seemed to be a very enticing line for gamblers (not me, of course), and he admonished me for even discussing the idea of betting against your home team:

"Come on. You'd end up rooting for the other guys!"

I don't entirely agree (I'd be anticipating yet another Eagles meltdown -- which happened anyway -- not actively hoping for it) but I understand where he was coming from. It's tough when you root for a horrible team that could possibly be exploited for personal financial gain.

You active bettors out there, though, ones with no rooting interest in Sunday's games: take Tampa Bay -7.5 and don't look back. If the Bucs don't score 40 points, I'll be surprised.

3) Think about football and smile. It's all downhill from here, gang. You didn't think it could get any worse, but every Sunday is a new adventure in futility. Will no Jason Babin and no Jim Washburn fire up the troops? Maybe. There are plenty of sites out there that'll analyze such matters. For me, it's time to get away from the Eagles and pray for sunnier days in 2013. I recommend you do the same.