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By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Maybe Vince Young was on to something last summer when he uttered the infamous “Dream Team” reference in describing the Philadelphia Eagles. The bankrupt former back-up quarterback was just off a word.
A quick adjustment and Young may have pegged it if he instead said, “This is like a Me-Team.” Jason Avant got it right, when he used the term, “me-first football” after the Eagles’ disastrous 10-point, fourth-quarter collapse to Detroit.
So in talking to a handful of Eagles, gathering their thoughts and the opinion of others, it seems the Eagles, circa 2012, are rife with dissension, stemming from Me-First players who don’t care much about the guy next them other than what their individual stats say.
It’s funny how general comments like Avant’s go swirling out there in the breeze without naming names.
Here’s a highly unofficial list of cancerous me-first guys that may have more to do with the current state of this team than anything else. We’ll also compile an opposing list of players who seem to be team-first guys, willing to risk anything, and put their butts out there no matter what the cost.
The All-Me Eagles:
1. Jason Babin heads this list. Maybe it’s the mousse he baths his hair in that has sunk into his brain, or he just doesn’t care what anyone thinks. This free-agent signee is riding one great year, his 2010 season in Tennessee, which gave him a big contract and another big year in 2011 with the Eagles.
Now his playing time has been cut because he has 2.5 sacks and 13 tackles in seven games. He’s a one-dimensional, third-down specialist. Nothing more. Other than picking up glossy numbers with sacks, Babin does little else other than tweet stupid things about Eagles’ fans and their lack of loyalty, hawk t-shirts and talk about running with bulls. His myopic stance is to check his numbers. That’s where his limit for winning ends.
He’s a wind-up pretty boy in need of a shut-up switch.
2. Trent Cole, Babin’s opposite, falls under the me-first category because he seems completely clueless. For Cole, just pressuring the quarterback is as good as a sack. He may not be as engrossed in his sack count as Babin. Then again, Cole has only 1.5 in seven games. We’re sure in his mind that may actually translate into 10.5 sacks with all of the non-existent pressure he’s putting on quarterbacks.
3. DeSean Jackson seems to pout each time he doesn’t get a pass thrown in his direction. “D-Jack” responded, “You never know until it happens” when asked Tuesday morning on the NFL Network if benching Michael Vick will help the team.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the quarterback whose job it is to get him the ball. Jackson considers himself in the elite class of receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker and Victor Cruz.
He’s not. He may never be. There is some diva in Jackson, and a selfishness that it’s all about him and his touches.
4. Nnamdi Asomugha has many likable attributes. Fading ability on the football field isn’t one of them. He’s clearly not the player the Eagles, Andy Reid, or the Eagles’ rabid fanbase thought he was when he signed a huge deal two years ago.
His nonchalant, passive-aggressive demeanor doesn’t help. It reeks of a hired gun playing for a paycheck. He says he felt bad over the comments that helped usher out former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo after the Detroit loss, though he’s a highly intelligent guy who still said them publicly.
5. Whether Mychal Kendricks deserves to be on this list is debatable. The rookie has shown a great work ethic and flashes that he will be a great player if he continues to improve. He seems like he cares. He also seems as clueless as Cole at times, too. Missing meetings affects the team. It’s why he was benched on the first series on Sunday against Atlanta. He knew the importance of the game. He knew when he had to be at the meeting. It’s inexcusable. It comes from a trace of me-first mentality.
Being oblivious to the obvious is, too.
When Kendricks responded to the media after the Eagles’ 30-17 drubbing against the Falcons, who scored on their first six possessions, he thought the Eagles missed “A couple plays here and there. Nothing too serious.”
What game did he play in?
The All-Team First Eagles:
1. LeSean McCoy is angry. He has a right to be. The All-Pro Eagles’ tailback gets pounded each week, and for what? For a bunch of guys who don’t care about winning or losing?
Some of that anger spilled out after the Eagles lost to Atlanta.
A dejected McCoy sat in front of his locker and questioned whether his teammates had any pride, and even made himself accountable, “Not at all,” McCoy said. “At least if we did, we didn’t show it. I’m just saying what it looked like. How we played, how the game ended, I didn’t see any pride. I didn’t see any heart. This is the whole team, myself included. We didn’t get it done today.”
2. Brent Celek falls under the same category as McCoy. He gets racked going down the middle, or is asked to stay in block, it doesn’t matter. You can tell he wants to win by the crashes he’s willing to endure and rise from.
3. Michael Vick is scrambling for his life almost every play now, and if everyone cared about winning as much as Vick, maybe the Eagles wouldn’t be in this fix. Yes, he’s thrown nine touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven games. Yes, he’s terribly flawed, and no longer the “Michael Vick” he used to be. But when he takes off down the field, he’s not afraid to go barreling head up for a first-down marker. He’s been gutsy, and shown determination.
He also needs this team to win, because this is likely the last chance Vick will ever have to start in the NFL. Plus, there is something to be said for Vick’s commitment to Reid, who was willing to give him a chance when not many others were after he got out of prison.
4. Jason Avant is that great veteran presence every team needs in a locker room. He’s the nuts-and-bolts guy willing to do anything to win. Remember the block that freed up Jackson on his memorable 65-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Eagles’ 38-31 comeback against the New York Giants on December 19, 2010?
That was classic Avant.
It’s too bad Avant isn’t more talented. His words might carry more weight in this apathetic locker room.
5. DeMeco Ryans thought he was joining a winner that had Super Bowl possibilities. Apparently, he thought wrong. It’s one of the few things he got wrong. He’s been a great addition to the Eagles, on and off the field. The one damning aspect is that it’s Ryans first year with the Eagles, and he may not be as willing to speak up when it comes to addressing the selfishness that permeates this team. Being a fixture, as he was in Houston, comes with alpha status. He’s working his way up with the Eagles.
But will it be too late? Will the Me-Team prevail in this locker room tug-of-war? It looks like they may have already.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.