When Philadelphia sports fans sit down for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, they will have a genuine reason for gratitude— the rebirth of the Eagles under new head coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Nick Foles. A December of important games awaits a city starved for a team truly worthy of their passion.
And make no mistake, the current team is far easier to root for than any during the Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb era. These new Eagles actually respect the people who buy the tickets and proudly wear their apparel. Kelly answers questions with honesty and wit. Foles has no agenda other than to win. Reid and McNabb presided over the most successful era in Eagles history, and nobody misses them. Nobody.
For example, Reid blew a game Sunday for the Chiefs with his usual clock-management mistakes, and then passed it off with his usual “got to do a better job” nonsense. For the first time, Kansas City is asking some pointed questions about their new coach. Meanwhile, McNabb launched into a public tirade last week after former teammate Shawn Andrews accused him of bullying. At no point did it occur to McNabb that his over-the-top reaction proved Andrews’ point.
Kelly has been here for less than a year, and already he has demonstrated how much easier it could have been for Reid and McNabb if they had simply acted with more honesty and civility. The new coach reveals no state secrets with his daily media musings, and yet there is none of the contentiousness that was so prevalent with Reid.
Of course, it helps a great deal that Kelly is the brightest coach (or manager) this city has encountered in a very long time. He has taken a roster of Reid’s mistakes that finished 4-12 last season and turned it into a team with not just a winning record, but also a winning personality. There is no Nnamdi Asomugha eating lunch in his car at the Novacare complex, and no Jason Babin firing off insulting tweets to fans.
And no McNabb crying out for attention at every opportunity. Foles is so different from McNabb, it’s hard to believe they play the same sport. The young quarterback was buried in boos during his only bad game this season against Dallas four weeks ago, but he shrugged at the reaction. McNabb still won’t stop talking about the boos at his draft 14 years ago. Foles may never become the player McNabb was, but he already understands much better how to react to adversity.
Being a fan is no easy endeavor, especially when your team hasn’t won a championship in 53 years. Enduring sourpusses like Reid and McNabb only made the experience that much less rewarding. But they are gone now, finally, and the people who replaced them are worthy of our loyalty and support.
Happy Thanksgiving. This year, thanks to Kelly and Foles, it actually is.
Flyers are still flawed
Don’t be fooled by the recent run of success by the Flyers. They are a deeply flawed organization reflecting the bull-headed impulsiveness of chairman Ed Snider. How flawed? They never even bothered to check with one of their own, beloved former Flyer Rick Tocchet, before throwing away $51 million on nutcase goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov two years ago.
On my WIP radio show last Friday, Tocchet said he was never asked about Bryzgalov even though Tocchet was an assistant coach on the Coyotes in 2007, when the Russian goalie was developing his reputation for eccentricity there.
“If the Flyers had asked me, I would have said no, don’t sign him,” said Tocchet. “He was just a very strange guy.”
Tocchet said Bryzgalov was a loner even then, early in his career, and was regarded with puzzlement by his own teammates. Of course, it became clear within weeks of signing his huge free-agent contract here that the goaltender was no fit in the locker room, as he spouted his theories on everything from the American media to the vastness of the universe.
How much due diligence was behind the decision to sign Bryzgalov if the Flyers didn’t even bother to check with a respected member of their own family before making that major investment? Since the men behind that panic move, Snider and GM Paul Holmgren, are still running the Flyers, exactly how much faith should fans have in them?
Ironically, the Flyers finally seem to have found some answers to their chronic goaltending problems now that Bryzgalov is gone, having replaced him with the far cheaper— and more emotionally balanced— Steve Mason and Ray Emery. But Tocchet’s words should worry every fan who wants to believe the Flyers are being run by competent people.
Amaro struggles with impulsiveness
Ruben Amaro shares an obsession with Phillies fans, a desire to win right now regardless of the consequences. That’s why Carlos Ruiz got a third year on his $26 million contract last week, and why Marlon Byrd will make almost as much money ($16 million) at ages 36 and 37 as he did in the first 12 years of his big-league career.
Amaro made an unscheduled appearance on my WIP radio show last week to defend what I have proclaimed to be a terrible start to the offseason. He argued Ruiz and Byrd were his best options at catcher and outfield in a money-rich free-agent market. At one point, he even expressed disappointment fans weren’t embracing his aggressiveness.
What Amaro doesn’t understand is that aggressiveness has never been his problem. His failure as the Phillies GM— remember, he took over a championship team six years ago and finished 73-89 last season— is that he has no plan for the present or the future. There is a huge distinction between aggressiveness and impulsiveness that the GM simply cannot grasp.
Philadelphia has rarely, if ever, had a GM whose attitude so closely mirrored that of the fans, a win-now philosophy that works far better in theory than in reality. Our best hope right now is that this will be Amaro’s last offseason employing an approach we already know is doomed to failure.
Idle thoughts …
» One week after snapping at a reporter who asked why Kwane Brown was still on the Sixers roster, GM Sam Hinkie released the useless center. Brown walked away with $6 million for doing nothing, while Hinkie went back into hiding. Good. The less Hinkie speaks, the better.
» Michael Vick’s comment last week that Foles has won the Eagles starting quarterback job was yet another example of his amazing maturation this season. Knowing these are his final days here, Vick could be bitter that he lost his job because of a hamstring injury, but instead he is accepting his fate with dignity.
» The video on NFL.com of Kelly on the sideline during the recent Washington win is must-see viewing for all Eagles fans. The new coach is even more committed to speed than we imagined, clamoring for the “faster, faster, faster!” running of plays by his offense. If you like him now, you’ll love him after watching the tape.
» Bob McClure accepted the Phillies’ pitching coach job last week, ending a nearly two-month search. McClure’s last position was on the horrible 2012 Red Sox team managed by Bobby Valentine. Before that, he ran the dreadful Kansas City staff. Just one question: Why didn’t the Phils offer the job to Jamie Moyer?
» Jose Canseco got pulled over by a cop last week in Ft. Worth, Texas with two goats in the back of his car. The disgraced slugger said he was filming a documentary on fainting goats. And we all thought he had reached rock bottom when he got knocked out in that stupid Atlantic City boxing match against Vai Sikahema.