The Eagles are on a magical four-game winning streak right now because head coach Chip Kelly is an inspirational leader, quarterback Nick Foles never makes critical mistakes, the defense is terrific under pressure and because I’ve been delivering pies to the NovaCare Complex.
Huh? Delivering pies? What does that have to do with the other perfectly logical reasons for a month of football success? Uh, nothing— unless you happen to be one of the millions of superstitious fans who refuse to tempt fate. Since I happened to bring a pecan pie to Kelly’s office during a visit five weeks ago, they have demanded on my WIP radio show that I continue doing so until the Eagles lose.
Initially, I rebelled at the idea of confection perfection, but no more. Now I am embracing my pie karma, with deliveries every Wednesday. Why not? I really have no other logical explanation for a college coach turning a 4-12 team into a 7-5 playoff contender.
The 2013 Eagles are becoming one of the truly improbable sports stories of the past generation in Philadelphia. For example, here are the ratings of the top four quarterbacks in the NFL: Nick Foles, 125; Peyton Manning, 115; Aaron Rodgers, 108 and Drew Brees, 107. Foles, who wasn’t even the best quarterback on his team three months ago, is the best in football right now.
And then there is the defense, which for two straight games has refused to surrender with the game in jeopardy. Imagine giving up an ungodly 412 yards per game— second-worst in the NFL— but an average of only 23 points. The Eagles are doing that this season, with their biggest stops coming in the biggest moments.
Behind it all, of course, is Kelly, a man who is revitalizing football in Philadelphia while revolutionizing it throughout the NFL. As Arizona head coach Bruce Arians was sneering at Kelly’s “college” offense last week, other NFL coaches were stealing pieces of it. Since Arians just lost, 24-21, to a college offense, what does that make him, a high school coach?
Kelly said something brilliant the other day when he was asked about his many critics in football. It was a lesson people can use in all walks of life. He said if he accepted the words of the naysayers, he would be shortchanging himself. You either believe in yourself or you don’t. Kelly believes in his system, his players and, above all, in himself.
As for me, I predicted nine wins and a playoff berth before the season started, but I will not pretend I saw Foles emerging this quickly, the defense becoming a strength instead of a weakness, the amazing clutch punts of Donnie Jones or the resurgence of Trent Cole— or any of it, really.
When it comes to the Eagles, I am no expert these days. Until they lose, I have only one job now. I deliver the pies.
Doug Collins is a fraud
Doug Collins came back to Philadelphia, made a bad team worse, insulted a fan base that revered him and left without even a small dent in his reputation. If you’re looking for the biggest fraud in Philadelphia sports for 2013, you can stop the search now. It’s Collins.
The sad part about his infuriating three-year tenure as Sixers coach is that his mistakes keep reverberating through the organization, even though he is safely hidden away now in an ESPN studio. A case in point is Nik Vucevic, the stud center who led Orlando to a thrashing of the Sixers last week in Orlando.
When Collins was here, he saw no point in developing his first-round draft pick, even though the coach had no other logical solution in the middle. Vucevic sat on the bench for most of the season, averaging 16 minutes in only 51 games. After the season, he was included in the disastrous Andrew Bynum trade.
The fact is, Collins was a horrible influence on all the young Sixer players. Just look at how much better Evan Turner is playing now that Brett Brown is in charge. Collins was also a lousy tactician, a moody leader and a sports figure who had no connection with the people rooting for his team. Do you know anyone else clueless enough to ask fans to pray for Bynum?
Collins had an excellent career as a player here, and his fiery style was a perfect fit for our city. But the statute of limitations on his good deeds has run out. It’s time to see him for who he really was as a coach – one of the biggest phonies in Sixers history.
Character counts against Schilling
The new ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame came out last week, and there he was in all of his blustery glory, back for a second try. Curt Schilling’s candidacy is a very personal one for me, both because I admire his big-game talent and because I loathe everything else about him.
During his early days with the Phillies, he would call my WIP radio show often— usually unsolicited— and he appeared several times on my TV show, “The Great Sports Debate.” Even then he believed his ability to throw a baseball 95 mph somehow gave him an intellect to match.
I was never able to hide my contempt for Schilling because it was clear from the beginning he was the most shameless self-promoter in Philadelphia sports history— from the time he draped a towel over his head to call attention to himself in his rookie season all the way to his bloviating days in Boston and Arizona.
At the same time, though, his ability to perform brilliantly under pressure can never be understated. He won championships in two cities starved for the ultimate success, and he might have won another if the Phillies had overcome their own deep distaste for him. When it mattered most, he was extraordinary.
In the end, though, I would not vote for him to join baseball’s greatest players in Cooperstown only because the Baseball Hall of Fame incorporates character into the decision. After his baseball career, Schilling fleeced my home state of Rhode Island out of $75 million on his ill-fated video game company, a debacle for which he has displayed no genuine regret.
Schilling was a winner in the game of baseball, but in the human race, he will always be at the back of the pack.
Idle thoughts …
» Just when you think you understand sports, a question like this one pops up: Who has more value in a trade right now, Robert Griffin III of Washington or Nick Foles of the Eagles? A year ago, NFL experts would have scoffed at the notion. Today, they’d take Foles.
» Chip Kelly really likes Nick Foles, but if you were watching Oregon beat Oregon State, 36-35, last weekend, you already know why Kelly absolutely loves Marcus Mariota. The young quarterback was built for Kelly’s system, with fast feet and a big arm. Stay tuned.
» Well, against all odds, it happened. Former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee got a job. He will be minor-league pitching coordinator in Atlanta, where his miserable demeanor should crush the hopes of the Braves pitchers of the future. Bravo.
» Much is being made of Jason Kidd’s dropped-drink ploy and Mike Tomlin’s near-tackle of an opponent running for an apparent touchdown. Yes, the Nets and Steelers coaches, respectively, violated the rules, but they did so in the spirit of winning at all costs. Good for them.
» After his third straight loss and some more time-management issues Sunday, Andy Reid is quickly losing favor in Kansas City. Now even the mild Midwesterners are wondering if his fast start with the Chiefs was all just a mirage.