I did something incredibly stupid last week. I became a Dallas Cowboys fan. In my twisted mind, I thought I was somehow hastening the departure of a coach I can no longer stand, Andy Reid. But it was stupid just the same.
Rooting for the Cowboys is an act of desperation reserved only for the drunk and the insane. Of course, my reward for quietly cheering Tony Romo, Rob Ryan and (gulp) Jerry Jones was a 34-7 spanking by an Eagles team that finally matched its preseason hype. Wouldn’t you know it? As soon as I bail on the Birds, they play a clean, efficient, dominating football game. Just my luck.
Looking at the game from a different sideline did give me a new perspective. What I saw in the Eagles was a club unrivaled in talent — yes, including the Packers — and maybe even still a threat to reach the ultimate goal established during the free-agent frenzy last summer. The Eagles are very good, especially when their coach is using common sense.
For example, is there a better running back in the game right now than LeSean McCoy? After weeks of neglect, Reid has given McCoy 58 carries in the past two wins. Is it possible Reid finally realizes that there are other ways to score points than constantly risking injury to Mike Vick?
And what about Nnamdi Asomugha? A bust for the first few games after signing a mammoth $60 million deal, he smothered Dez Bryant on Sunday. Maybe he really can play at a Pro Bowl level if he’s simply asked to provide his specialty, man-coverage.
While we’re talking about adjustments, did you happen to notice the wide-nine defense that was such a disaster the first month is now the much-narrower-nine, with far fewer of the huge holes for opposition running backs?
Suddenly, new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo doesn’t seem so clueless.
What I saw in my brief time as a Dallas fan was an Eagles team that had finally corrected many of the mistakes of August and September, all of which the fans had identified long before the coach did. What I also saw as a Cowboys fan is a rival that deserved the hype, a foe that may still be the class of the NFC East.
What happens next will tell the real story of this season. If Reid gives these players a chance to excel — if he doesn’t outsmart himself again — the Birds might still surprise a lot of people who had written them off.
Especially people who were so dumb that they became Dallas fans.
Phillies survival guide
After three weeks in a deep depression, Phillies fans can now emerge with renewed hope. Hey, at least we’re not the Rangers, who were one strike away from their first World Series title twice, and still found a way to lose.
Finally, the Phillies can begin the process of making some tough decisions about their aging roster, and — of course — I’m offering my services at no charge. Here’s what I would do if I were GM Ruben Amaro Jr.
Step 1: Say goodbye to Jimmy Rollins. Yes, it’s hard. He is the face of the most successful era in team history. But now that Amaro and manager Charlie Manuel are looking for patient, contact hitters with high on-base percentages, Rollins simply doesn’t fit.
Step 2: Use a big chunk of the available money to sign a closer. Most fans are assuming Ryan Madson will be that man, but he’s only third on my list. First, I’d make a call to Jonathan Papelbon, then Heath Bell.
Step 3: Find a new third baseman. Placido Polanco is done as an everyday player. He gets hurt too much, and he doesn’t provide enough power at a corner infield position. Polanco will help them better as a utility player.
Step 4: Light a fire under Manuel. As a hitting guru, he was AWOL in 2011. He needs to know that the window is closing on an amazing pitching rotation, and a first-round failure will not save his job. It’s time for Manuel to earn his undeserved folk-hero status.
Honesty still best policy?
The angry snarl of Philadelphia has claimed more than a few weak-hearted players, but never one with $51 million and a Stanley Cup dream. Meet Ilya Bryzgalov, either the latest victim of our demanding nature or a troubled soul seeking escape from a nightmare.
After one month of the new NHL season, it’s too early to draw conclusions about the signing of the Russian goaltender to a mammoth contract. Unfortunately, he may already be drawing some conclusions himself.
In one of the most honest and painful confessions ever by a local athlete, Bryzgalov said last week: “I have zero confidence in myself right now. If you throw a ball instead of a puck, I’m not going to stop it. I’m terrible and I want to apologize in front of the fans, in front of my teammates. I have no answer for you guys … I’m lost in the woods.”
Bryzgalov temporarily found himself with a 5-1 win Saturday, but his exploits so far show just how fragile the psyche of a goalie can be. In fact, the team announced a bizarre series of restrictions on when he will and won’t talk to the media.
Well, despite that announcement, here’s one voice of support for the struggling Russian. Anybody who respects the fans enough to say what he did last week deserves the benefit of our doubt.
– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
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