Category Archives: Opinion

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!

Back To Eagles Football

Ah, the smell of burgers on the grill and the sight of leaves changing colors. The familiar chant of E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLESSSS rising out of the Linc is about to deafen opposing teams again. Yes, people. It is September once more, and football season is finally here.

As we get prepared for another season filled with hopes of a Super Bowl for our Birds, it’s easy to look past all of the transformation this team has undergone over the past couple of years. It seems crazy now to think that Brian Westbrook, the mainstay of Eagles teams over the past decade is now RETIRING.

However, one man who has been here since 1999, and hasn’t changed (ok maybe his weight has) is Andy Reid, who will be entering his 14th season. In what will be perhaps his most pressure-filled season as Head Coach, Reid has already dealt with the pain of burying his son and the looming comments from owner Jeffrey Lurie that anything less than “substantially better than 8-8” will most likely result in his firing.

The “Dream Team” fiasco from last year, combined with the turbulent offseason the Eagles have endured hasn’t seemed to affect analysts, many of whom are predicting a Super Bowl run for these Eagles.

I hate to be a downer, but my opinion was last year and still is this year that the Eagles, while surely talented, are not a Super Bowl caliber team.

Blasphemy, you say?

Or have WE, as fans, overlooked the key deficiencies of this team? Lets explore together, shall we?

First of all, lets look at passing and third down conversions. The Eagles were 9th in passing last season, but the only team in the top ten who completed less than 61% of their passes (59.6%).  They converted on third down 41.5% of the time, good enough for 9th in the league in that stat as well. I look for both of these numbers to remain around the same as last year, UNLESS Michael Vick suffers an injury.

The bottom-line with passing numbers? Keep Vick healthy, and the Eagles are unlikely to have as many turnovers as last season, and they won’t have to play a rookie backup quarterback who, while impressive in the preseason, probably won’t be able to win but maybe two of the four or five starts he might have to make if Vick gets sidelined.

The running game is the biggest area I expect the Eagles to decline in this year. Although I love Shady McCoy’s talents as a runner and receiver, the loss of Jason Peters will become very apparent early in the season. They should drop from 6th in the league to somewhere around 10th adding in Vick’s running ability. That may seem like an insignificant drop, but I believe that the ability of the receivers to stretch the field is going to be predicated on play action passing, which Andy Reid is quite fond of. Bottom-line? The inconsistency of the running game (and of calling running plays) will show up this year again and be an Achilles heel of the team.

The running, passing, and receiving game all go hand-in-hand with offensive line play, which is the other area I expect a lot of struggle this season. The lack of Jason Peters on the left side not only closes huge running lanes, but forces the Eagles to use young players at other positions, and although I am quite a fan of Jason Kelce’s beard, he (to me) is too small to be a center. This group will have great games and horrible games this season.

The ONE area that this team is going to improve a lot on is Defense. Not necessarily an improvement in talent (outside of Demeco Ryans) but in cohesiveness and in maturity. After a year of learning Juan Castillo’s system, they will still be undersized and a little slow in the middle, but hopefully won’t make as many bonehead miscues as last season, and should finish around the same spot in total defense, or at least in the top ten.

Overall, expectations are very high for this team. Are they merited? Absolutely. This is clearly the most talented roster in the NFL. However, I don’t believe they will win a Super Bowl.

Call me a typical negative Eagles fan, or call me crazy.

Whatever the case may be, I see them going 13-3, splitting with the Giants and losing to Pittsburgh and New Orleans. I see them getting to the Super Bowl, but sadly I think the season will end with another Super Bowl loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots.

I THINK that is what will happen. But who am I, and what do I REALLY know? Not a whole lot more than any other passionate fan. I’m hoping that this is the year. Only God knows what will happen. But not knowing is all the fun right? It’s a new season, and we are blessed to be fans of the greatest team playing the greatest game in the world.

So sit back, have a beer, and relax. Football is back.

 

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!