By: Bill Campbell
The Eagles’ unexpected victory over the Giants last Sunday night was not a classic, by any means. But it was a win and it gave the Birds some playoff breathing room, however shallow. Overall it was pretty much a pedestrian affair full of penalties and miscalculations on the part of both teams.
Andy Reid did remember, however, that DeSean Jackson does wear an Eagles uniform. He caught 6 passes for 88 yards. He set up the Eagles’ first touchdown with a great punt return. And he also drew a penalty for taunting. All perfect examples of how great a player Jackson can be when he manages to escape his frequent moments of stupidity.
Shady McCoy, who was allowed to carry the ball a few extra times in this game, carried it 23 times for 113 yards. Brent Celek contributed 5 catches for 60 yards and Riley Cooper’s 5 receptions for 75 yards didn’t hurt, including the last one for the victory.
And how about Vince Young? At the risk of sounding a bit smug, I might have been among the few in the Delaware Valley who sincerely thought that the Eagles might win this game because of Young. He was not all that spectacular but I have long believed that it’s easier to block for a guy who, for the most part, stays in the pocket to throw a pass rather than one who runs all over the place. I think the execution of that very principal played a big part in the Eagles’ victory. Having said that, I have little doubt that if Michael Vick has healed when the Patriots come to town, Coach Reid will go back to him as the starter. But let’s give Vince Young his due. He is an experienced player, has been around the block a time or two, and in this victory over the Giants, he went 23 for 36 for 258 yards and 2 touchdowns.
And the Birds did not collapse in the fourth period – which was really the big story.
On the other side of the ball, Juan Castillo’s defense had probably its best day since he got the coordinator’s job. Just as the game was about to end, the stage was set for another failure. The Eagles were pretty good for 3 periods, but then came that infamous fourth quarter. The Giants tied the score on a pass to Victor Cruz and you could hear that phrase, “Here we go again” everywhere. But Young drove the team 80 yards. However the Giants got the ball back with 2:39 to go and they penetrated to the Eagles’ 21. But the defense came up big. Eli Manning was chased out of the pocket, hit hard by Jason Babin, causing a fumble which tackle Derek Landri recovered. A storm of relief permeated the Delaware Valley — and Juan Castillo resumed breathing.
Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha covered their men tightly and the defensive line did a good job. Their strong rush chased Manning out of the pocket and the “wide nine” ends were effective. And Julio Hanson, playing in place of the injured Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, did well. The secondary also got a lift with the return of safety Nate Allen who missed the Cardinals’ loss due to concussion symptoms. A far cry from 5 previous blown fourth quarter leads.
The Eagles seem to have come up with a new defensive leader in Cullen Jenkins. While new to the team, he’s an 8-year veteran, a Super Bowl champion with Green Bay last year, who came up with an inspiring sack against the Giants and a crushing tackle on D.J. Ware. He seems like a guy who’s ready to play from the opening kickoff. He and his teammates seem a more prepared to face New England and keep their playoff hopes alive.
If someone asked you to name the highest paid jobs in the country, I doubt if many of you would have listed college football coaching. But according to various polls and social critic Richard Lapchick, whose father was Coach Joe Lapchick, and who’s now the director of a sports business management at a Florida University, the figures are astronomical. The average compensation at the top schools, according to recent figures, is $1.47 million. If someone asked me to name the head coach at Auburn, I would have to do a little research. But his name is Gene Chizik and he just got a one-year increase in his salary bringing his total pay to $3.5 million a year. Dan Mullen at Mississippi State was making $1 million a year and has just been raised to $2.5 million. Jimbo Fisher at Florida State goes from $950,000 to $2.75 million. Bret Bielema at Wisconsin has been raised from $800,000 to $2.75 million. And Steve Spurrier at South Carolina goes from $800,000 to $2.8 million. Just in case someone should ask, we now have 65 college football coaches in this country making at least a million dollars a year. We have 32 of them making at least two million. Nine make at least three million, three are making four million. And there’s one making at least five million: Mack Brown at Texas tops the list at $5 million in total compensation. Bear in mind that for many Americans, these are grim days of recession.
There is another team in town having its own version of Eagles’ troubles – namely, having a tough time winning at home. After losing 4-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes in mid-week, the Flyers’ record in the Center is 5-4-2. They did play Carolina with Pronger, Coburn and Jagr missing. But goaltender Bryzgalov, called injuries part of the game, which should not be used as excuses.
The baseball question of the week is: who will sign Albert Pujols and when? A very local, loyal fan base and the lack of wealthy financial suitors would lead one to believe that Pujols will remain with the Cardinals – the team that has employed him for his entire 11-year career. The St. Louis area just loves the Redbirds, a team that has drawn over 3 million fans in 13 of the last 14 seasons. On August 27th of this past season, when the Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out of first place, 35,812 fans attended a St. Louis-Pittsburgh game in St. Louis — the 26th ranked city on the American map. The team rewarded such loyalty by going on to win the playoffs and the World Series. It’s hard to imagine Pujols playing for any other team for something over $200 million. But he reportedly turned down $19 million last year from the Cardinals. So what and when he makes his decision could be close to being the sports story of the year.
So much for my little essay on poverty in sports.