Voice of Philly Sports Fan: Rooting for Eagles early, not often

Andy Reid is coaching for his job. We all know that now that Eagles owner Jeff Lurie has made it clear that another 8-8 season will end Reid’s 14-year tenure. Bravo for the new and improved Lurie, who won’t accept excuses for mediocrity.

Unfortunately, Lurie has presented a major quandary for fans: Should we root for or against the Birds this year? With the season just a few days away, should we pull for a Super Bowl miracle, or for a new coach with a new approach? What exactly would a face-saving season with an early playoff exit accomplish?

After much contemplation, I am now prepared to offer a solution to this dilemma. As much as I dislike Reid and his muddle-headed, game-day coaching, I will be rooting as hard for the team as ever — but only in September.

When the Birds face the Browns on Sunday, go Eagles. Against Baltimore in the home opener the following week, it’s E-A-G-L-E-S. Ditto for Arizona and the Giants.

But that’s as far as I will extend my loyalty. If indeed Reid has changed his tired act, if Mike Vick really has learned to preserve his health, if Juan Castillo has figured out how to coordinate a defense, great. The 2012 Eagles have enough talent to do some special things this season.

On the other hand, if they start slowly — as they have done almost every season under Reid — then I will be the first one jumping off the bandwagon. If Vick is back down on the ground, holding his ribs (or knee, or hand), I’m out. If a defensive back gets confused and a Brown or a Giant prances into the open for a game-winning touchdown, forget it.

I think I speak for all Eagles fans when I say nothing short of a championship is good enough, not after a ridiculous 52-year drought. I think I represent every fan draped in silver and green when I say enough is enough with the blown timeouts, the missed tackles, the fatal turnovers, the moronic comments. If Jeff Lurie means what he says — and I believe he does — there is zero tolerance for all of that now.

This is already a time of transition for our favorite football team. In 2010 we lost the eternally annoying Donovan McNabb, and a few months ago the negative buzz in the front office ended the moment president Joe Banner took his sourpuss to Cleveland. Reid’s departure would be a welcome trifecta for all of us. Unless he changes the pattern with a great September, setting the tone for a better season.

So what will happen? Here are two predictions: The Eagles will win nine games this season. And I will be rooting for them to lose — and for Reid to leave, by Halloween.

QB arrives in the Nick of time

The Eagles are still five days away from the new season, and already the plot for 2012 has featured a surprising and fascinating twist. Remember when all of the so-called experts (including me) said the team’s fate hung on the fragile health of Mike Vick?

Well, maybe not.

You can count me among the many fans who have contracted Nick Foles Fever. This is the closest thing to love at first sight you will ever find in Philadelphia, the sudden emergence of a young quarterback with an accurate arm and field presence that suggests stardom.

The contrast between Foles and Vick is startling. Foles has a quick release; Vick winds up like a pitcher. Foles is already deft at escaping sacks; Vick often takes defenders head-on. Foles looks like a quiet, calm field leader; Vick is far less predictable, far more spontaneous.

Of course, we are basing our impressions on four preseason games, when many starters are not playing and others are just going through the motions. Maybe when the games count, Foles will revert to the form of an unheralded third-round draft pick from Arizona. Or maybe he will become every bit the leader we were expecting Kevin Kolb to be two years ago.

At this point, there’s only one thing to say about Foles and the overnight sensation he has caused in our football-crazed city: Two weeks ago, we were all worried about what would happen if Mike Vick got hurt again. Now, we’re not all that concerned. We’ve got a new weapon. His name is Nick Foles.

Jimmy ‘no-hustle’ strikes again

Charlie Manuel announced last Friday that he’s the manager of the Phillies. He is at the end of his eighth season in that job, but he still felt compelled to point it out. Why, you ask? Because he has rarely bothered to manage one of his star players, Jimmy Rollins.

Rollins started the latest dust-up when he failed to run out a pop-up that dropped untouched on the infield in a game against the Mets. After being benched, the lazy shortstop explained that he was merely reacting to the disappointment of another lost at-bat. Yeah, right. That insulting response implies that he really busts it out of the batter’s box most of the time. He doesn’t.

The only time Rollins gets caught is when a fielder botches the play. That’s what happened two weeks ago when he refused to run out a grounder in Miami, and that’s what happened this time, too. Rollins almost never plays hard. He has no respect for the game that has made him a millionaire, nor for the fans who have fawned over him for more than a decade.

And the fault lies not just with Rollins, but also with Manuel. Ask yourself this: If Manuel had not tolerated this behavior for years, would Rollins continue to abuse the game? If Manuel benched his lead-off hitter every time he jogged to first, would this be a problem?

Manuel announced that he is the Phillies manager last week because there was every reason to question his status after Rollins made him look like a fool again. For every punishment like this, there have been dozens of times when Manuel looked the other way, or waved off the misdeed as “Jimmy being Jimmy.”

By the way, Rollins was back at the top of the lineup for the next game. Rollins said he had learned his lesson this time. He has not.

– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30-10 a.m.

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