All posts by Steve Brown

Saying Thank You To A Legend

Brian Dawkins

Legend (noun) “One that inspires legends or achieves legendary fame”

The word “legend” is thrown about all too often. In fact, that last sentence is too.  Who, though, would dare argue that Brian Dawkins is not worthy of the title?

I talked episode 135 about why Brian Dawkins is so special to me as an Eagle and as a human being. The way he gave absolutely everything on every single down would have been enough for most players, but Dawk gave more than that. He gave leadership, inspiration, fight and a lot of heart. If the fate of the world had rested on Brian Dawkins’ shoulders each week during his career, he wouldn’t have been able to play any harder. That’s the greatest compliment I could ever offer him.

Lots of people have shared their thoughts on Brian’s greatness, most of them far more qualified than I am. Old team mates, coaches and members of the media have all heaped praise on our eternal #20 and there’s nothing I can add to that. What I would like to do, however, is share my experience from inside the Linc for those who were not privileged enough to be there.

Walking around central Philadelphia during the morning, I was greeted with shouts of “Go Birds!”, “BDawk!” and many others. But then, I was wearing a Brian Dawkins jersey and it was his day. When I arrived at the tailgate, the party was already in full swing. Eagles fans were out in force and the threatened rain was nowhere to be seen. There were a few Giants fans about, but they were very heavily outnumbered as you’d expect. Chuck and I were joined by Eagles Girl and the time flew by. After cheesesteaks and beers, it was time to head to the stadium.

As we entered the Linc, we were handed posters of Brian as Weapon X. The challenge was to keep them in perfect condition over the next few hours and Chuck did a great job with a little assistance from my jacket! We found our seats and the atmosphere really started to build. The Giants ran onto the field to a chorus of boos and then it was the turn of the Eagles.

The Offensive starters were announced one by one, before the screen flashed up images of Brian and Weapon X. I nudged Chuck and said, “he’s going to exit the tunnel”, scarcely able to believe that I could be so lucky to see it live. I’m not sure Chuck believed it either as all he could say was, “I hope so.” I had seen Brian “acting the fool” plenty of times on TV, but never at the Linc. We waited anxiously for the video on the huge screens to finish and then it was Brian’s moment. And mine. And every other Eagles fan.

It’s difficult to put that moment into words. Right there was my favorite Eagle, my hero, bounding onto the field at the Linc for the final time and the crowd went nuts, I mean NUTS. Every Eagles fan was standing, applauding, cheering, thanking Brian from the bottom of their hearts. As I looked around, a little embarrassed that I had a tear rolling down my cheek, I saw that I was far from alone. Even as I write these words I feel very emotional, such was the power of that moment.

We reached half-time and the players left the field. Just as we were about to discuss the first half, all of the lights in the stadium went out and the crowd roared. The video screens showed a tribute to Brian as various laser messages flashed across the field; “#20″, “Weapon X”, “determination”, “heart” and many more. Fireworks on the field erupted into the sky and then Merrill Reese introduced the man of the moment.

“HALLELUJAH!”, exclaimed Brian as the crowd pumped up the volume. He thanked a number of people, Jim Johnson’s name receiving the biggest cheer of course. Then came something even more memorable, even more emotional. Brian asked if the fans would do him a favor; could we all sing the Eagles Fight Song together one last time? While “Fly Eagles Fly” was being sung by 60,000+ Eagles fans, Brian pumped his fist in the air and soaked up all the energy. He was excited, he was pumped, he could have played the second half! He thanked us, but really it was us thanking him.

I was truly honored to have been at the Linc for this very special game. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I loved every second of it. After the game, we headed to a bar near the Linc and partied like it was 1999! After a late night cheesesteak, I arrived back at my hotel around 4am. Could I sleep? No way! If I was still on such a high, I can’t even imagine how Brian felt.

Oh and we beat the Giants!

Cheers from Philly and GO BIRDS!

Image courtesy of Steve Brown

The Value Of A Win

Each win is worth the same at the end of the season, but this one means so much right now. Despite turnovers and penalties, the Eagles are finding a way to win and, as we all know, winning becomes a habit. The performance last week was embarrassingly poor, but it all changed on Sunday.

The Ravens are genuine Super Bowl contenders. It may sound a bit backward, but I’d have almost been more content had we narrowly lost than I was with the win at Cleveland. That week one debacle felt like we had picked up a win by the Browns beating themselves, rather than our sparkling array of Offensive talent actually doing anything.

I criticised Andy Reid and the Coaches last week for not making adjustments during the game, but this week appeared to be different. The second half was better than the first with fewer mistakes and better play calling. There are early signs that everything may just be coming together.

However, if it wasn’t for two late drives, the Eagles would be 0-2 today and facing a very long season. If the turnovers continue, defeats will happen. There is some basic coaching to be done to eliminate schoolyard errors. It’s hard to criticise Shady, but two fumbles in two games? Come on man, you’re better than that!

Michael Vick is making some poor decisions, but he has pulled it out when it counts. Of course, the counter argument is that it is somewhat down to #7 himself that the team has been in a position where those game-winning scores were needed. Vick must improve his decision-making on his “quest for greatness.” Having seen the mic’d up video last week, his leadership and confidence is not in question.

And how about those receivers? DeSean looks like he’s finally happy to play, Maclin is playing great, Jason “Hands” Avant is as reliable as ever and there have been really important catches made by Harbor and Celek too. A couple of injury worries, but not as serious as Jason Kelce. The bearded warrior is out for the season, yet we still put together a game winning drive against a very good Ravens Defense without him. This is a team with a lot of fight.

The Eagles Defense looks light years ahead of last season’s unit. Juan Castillo took a massive amount of criticism all through 2011, but today he deserves high praise. He has his guys playing and needs to keep them on top of their game. If he can do that for an entire season, it will turn an Andy Reid “goof” into a master stroke. It is often said that Defense wins Championships, well the Eagles Defense has certainly played a huge part in the 2-0 start.

Cut out the penalties and turnovers, then we’ll see just how good the 2012 Eagles are. Get down to Arizona and beat Kolb, then we’ll show the Super Bowl Chumps… I mean Champs… what we’re all about.

Cheers from the UK and GO BIRDS!

Playoff Bound!

As an Eagles fan living in the UK, timezones can be a real issue. Primetime games start at 1.20am and keeping in touch with friends in Philadelphia is difficult because when I want to chat during the evening, they’re still at work or spending time with the family. However, there are advantages.

1pm and 4.15pm games start here at 6pm and 9.15pm respectively which is very convenient. I can spend my Sunday doing whatever I like and then settle down for an evening of football. Also, breaking news late in the afternoon is often when I’m free in the evenings and so I can tune in to sports radio and Tweet away.

The news of Nnamdi’s signing broke quite late in the evening for us Brits and it was exciting! Not only had we snatched him from under the cosmetically enhanced nose (allegedly) of Jerry Jones, but it was a serious upgrade of our defense. Twitter almost exploded as Eagles fans all over the world celebrated the news and in Las Vegas, the bookies quickly slashed the price of a Superbowl win for the Birds.

It was late in the evening here though and many of the UK bookies had called it a day. A few were aware enough to cut their odds, but many of them had no idea what had happened so I was able to back the Eagles to win the Superbowl at 16/1. By the next morning, the best price on offer was 10/1 and this went even shorter as the other signings rolled into the City of Brotherly Love.

The start of the season certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations for us Eagles fans. But with the rest of the NFC East also struggling to dominate, the season is far from over. It’s not even that unlikely that an NFC East team could clinch a wildcard spot. The NFC North will probably grab one and that leaves the South and East to fight over the other.

At 3-4 the Eagles must be a pretty big price to win the big one though, right? Wrong! The best price quoted today is just 14/1 for the Vince Lombardi Trophy to finally head to Philly. There are 14 teams in the NFL with a better record than the Eagles but with less of a chance in the post season, according to the bookies. That’s a HUGE vote of confidence in the team and the coaches.

We’re third favourites for the NFC title, almost joint second with New Orleans. Obviously, Green Bay are expected to be crowned champs but we’re hanging in there. The NFC East title looks a cert for Philadelphia too with every bookie I can find making us clear favourites. I wonder how the 5-2 Giants feel about that?!

For me, the next four games will decide our season. If we can win three of them – and the Giants game is a must – then we should be able to win the division.

After that, it’s a case of ‘any given Sunday’…

Cheers from the UK and GO BIRDS!

NFC East Prediction 2011

This time last year I was talking about the new era under Kevin Kolb and how the Eagles could well be a team in transition. Now, Kolb’s career in Philly is over. Blink and you’ll have missed it!

Was last year a transitional season? I think it was meant to be. I don’t think that many Eagles fans truly believed we’d get to the playoffs and one of the main reasons we did was that the NFC East was in such a mess. I didn’t expect McNabb to crash and burn so spectacularly in Washington and who could have foreseen Dallas challenging Carolina for last place in the NFL until their form picked up under Kitna?

The other main reason that the Eagles won the NFC East and marched into the playoffs was the star reborn, Mr Michael Dwayne Vick.

When Vick signed for the Eagles, I had a #7 jersey shipped over to the UK right away. I knew he was going to be a back-up for McNabb and I knew about his previous problems, but he was still one of the most exciting players ever to play the game and he was an Eagle! At the end of that first season there were talks of a trade and then Kolb was named starter, but I still wore my #7 jersey. Then week one came, Kolb was KO’d and Vick took over the team. And how!

There were certainly areas, especially on defense, where the Eagles were lacking. The secondary was decimated and it really started to show as the playoffs loomed. Even the offense had problems. Short yardage situations were a nightmare and Vick often took it upon himself to singlehandedly make first downs. This led to injury and meant that when I flew in for the Falcons game I saw Kolb rather than Vick at QB, not that I complained after his performance that day!

A stronger, faster, meaner Mike Vick dragged the team right into the playoffs and it appears that the Eagles’ Front Office were as impressed with #7 as the rest of the world. This off season, they’ve gone out and spent dollars. Lots of them. It’s almost as if they realized that in Vick they have something very special, a Quarterback capable of winning the big one. If this was a game of poker, the Eagles just went “all in”.

It’s difficult to predict the future, but last season I was only 5 games out when looking at the NFC East as a whole. How did I do it? Well, I figure that the most relevant season in history is the last one, so I’ve awarded 10 points for each win during 2010. This gives the Eagles 100 points (10 wins x 10 points). Then in 2009, I’ve awarded 9 points per win which means that the Eagles bank another 99 points for their 11 wins. I’ve followed this all the way back to 2001 where the 11 wins are worth 1 point each, so 11 in all. Adding the points for each season together gives me a total of 540, but in order to convert this to a single season win record I need to divide by 55 (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10). I then end up with 9.82 (540 / 55) and so from the record of the last 10 NFL seasons, I predict that the Eagles will end up 10-6 in 2011.

Interestingly, the stats have come up with exactly the same prediction for the NFC East as it did last year:-

Eagles 10-6
Giants 9-7
Cowboys 9-7
Redskins 7-9

Of course, what actually happened last year was:-

Eagles 10-6
Giants 10-6
Cowboys 6-10
Redskins 6-10

The prediction for the Eagles was spot on, the Giants and Redskins were just 1 game out and even historical data couldn’t predict the horrible mess in Dallas (haha!).

Eagles 10-6 in 2011? I’d be disappointed with that, to be honest. With the hype surrounding this team and the massive upgrade in personnel, I believe we should be looking realistically at between 12 and 14 wins. The Giants are likely to be the biggest threat in the division, 9-7 or maybe 10-6 for them. The Cowboys… well… can we dare wish for more comedy from Jerry’s circus? I’m sure all their fans are predicting 16-0 like they do every year, but it would be a big turnaround if the managed a winning season at all. And the poor Redskins with Rex Grossman leading them. Can they get 7 wins? They do have some pretty average teams on their schedule, but I still think that 7 wins will be a stretch.

I’m not too confident that the stats system will be as accurate this year, but then I didn’t expect the ‘transitional’ Eagles to achieve 10-6 in 2010. As it happens I was spot on. Only time will tell. Well, time and #7 staying healthy for the season.

Cheers from the UK and GO BIRDS!

NFC East Prediction 2010 – Review

Back in September, I attempted to predict the 2010 NFC East regular season standings based on the previous decades’ records for each of the teams. You can read the original article by clicking here.

After much number crunching, I came up with:-

Eagles    10-6
Giants     9-7
Cowboys    9-7
Redskins   7-9

How accurate did this method turn out to be? Well, what we actually ended up with is:-

Eagles    10-6
Giants    10-6
Cowboys   6-10
Redskins  6-10

As you can see, the Eagles were bang on form. I thought that we may have been facing a year of rebuilding with Kevin Kolb as Quarterback (who didn’t?!) but he was knocked out of the game in week 1 and Vick 2.0 stepped in. Kolb still played his part by dismantling the Atlanta Falcons, but the Eagles quickly became Vick’s team and flourished. But for Vick’s injury and the strange last 2 weeks, we could quite easily have been looking at a much higher win ratio and #1 seeding. Very positive going into the playoffs with, hopefully, a fully fit and rested #7.

The Giants ended a game better than the prediction. They didn’t have massive personnel changes in key areas of the team and it was no surprise that they were very close to the predicted 9-7. It did take a ‘miracle’ to keep them down, but we’ll take that!

The Cowboys were the big losers in the division, falling 3 wins behind the predicted 9-7. There’s no doubt that Quarterback injuries hurt the team and they actually recovered from a disastrous start to the season under Jon Kitna of all people! I remember when he won MVP for Barcelona Dragons in the NFL Europe “World Bowl” 1997. He’s certainly been around for a while! Poor coaching, penalties and dropped catches all contributed to a poor season for Dallas in the year that they were going to win the Superbowl in their own stadium. Really, Jerry?! That sort of arrogance often comes back to bite you in the butt.

There were Quarterback problems in the Capital too. All those questions about the McNabb trade appeared to be answered in Andy Reid’s favor this year as the Redskins, who I predicted to achieve 7-9, didn’t even manage that. Whether McNabb didn’t know the 2 minute drill, wasn’t fit enough or simply not good enough, few could argue that the Eagles missed him this year. Yes, the Redskins’ O-Line is a debacle and maybe McNabb will bounce back in a better team next year, but this season his performances were disappointing. He finished with 14 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a rating of 77.1.

In total, my predictions were 5 games out across the division which isn’t bad at all. Especially taking into the account the Quarterback changes/issues/controversies. I even got the 4 teams in the correct order!

I’m not sure how I could work out a post season formula to predict the playoffs, so I’ll just say this. Let’s bring it home for Jerome!

Cheers from the UK and GO BIRDS!