By Bill Campbell
No Hurricane at the Linc
Delaware Valley residents just faced a period of indecision: they had to figure out whether to focus upon Sandy or Andy. The Eagles’ performance against the Atlanta Falcons probably led many to one conclusion: watch Sandy. When a hurricane is coming, you can at least board up the windows and sandbag the doors to hold off impending doom.
Sandy was projected to be a problem for just a few days. Andy and his issues might last a while longer depending on the reactions of Jeffrey Lurie. The sounds heard of the shuffling of feet as fans wended their way to the exits at Lincoln Financial Field after the Eagles’ latest loss on Sunday were similar to those one might hear in a church or at a funeral parlor following the loss of a cherished friend. Steps taken in grief. Certainly it was a sound that should influence a responsible team owner – especially one who has shown much patience over fourteen years – and lead to some decisive action. But so far, nothing has happened, nothing has been said by The Boss. Last winter, Lurie said that 8-8 was unacceptable and would be at the end of this season. How much better would 9-7 be than 8-8? Perhaps he can explain the difference but I don’t see one. Do you? In light of this lack of reaction from the top, it’s more than understandable if we all paid more attention to Sandy.
The Eagles’ effort, or lack of same, against Atlanta was really surprising. They had ten days to prepare for the Falcons. Suppose it had been a Sunday to Thursday “short week” – which is not uncommon in the NFL? The Birds had time to change things but, other than the Castillo sacking, they persisted in looking like the same old Eagles: disorganized and dispassionate. And the final score said it all. Next on the calendar are Drew Brees and company in a Monday night affair in New Orleans. At 3-4 now, the Eagles need some immediate changes just to achieve 9-7. That means six more wins to have a chance at the play-offs like the Giants did last season, winning the NFL East at just two games over 500. It doesn’t look very likely at the moment.
I can’t help but mention the words of Atlanta future Hall of Famer, Tony Gonzalez, after last Sunday’s Falcons’ victory. Glowing with pleasure, he commented how pleased his team was to have beaten the Eagles, noting, “They have a bunch of superstars over there on offense and defense.” Really? He must have been kidding. If he’s correct, what is the Eagles’ problem? Does he have an answer? Andy Reid had better, soon. Meanwhile, Sandy has come and gone.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Penn State story hit a roadblock on Saturday before 107,000 white-clothed fans at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions came face-to-face with reality and were soundly out-played, out-coached and over-powered by the Buckeyes of Ohio State. It was a contest for a half but Ohio State dominated in the third period, outscoring Bill O’Brien’s team 21 to 3 on its way to a 35-23 triumph. Thirteen of Penn State’s 23 points were meaningless, coming almost as an after-thought in the fourth quarter. The Nittany Lions were soundly thrashed. The running portion of their vaunted no-huddle offense was held firmly in check – a tribute to Ohio State’s coaching staff, which did a superb job of preparation, and to head coach, Urban Meyer.
After running 90-some plays per game of late, Penn State was limited to half that on Saturday. Quarterback Matt McGloin went 27 for 45 with one interception. The ground game was no factor, even for McGloin who tried to run four times for minus 37 yards. And it would be difficult to list any individual player’s performance ahead of what Ohio State’s QB, Braxton Miller, accomplished in the Penn State game. He carried the ball 25 times for 134 yards, scored 2 touchdowns and threw a 72-yard scoring pass. Penn State couldn’t stop him. The game was pretty well summed up by Coach O’Brien who said, “We made mistakes but we win as a team and we lose as a team. It starts with me.” Considering all that happened last summer in Happy Valley, the Lions deserve much praise for their record so far. But there was no mistaking that this big game at Beaver Stadium belonged strictly to the Buckeyes.
It also was a jarring weekend for college football throughout the Philadelphia area. Only Penn prevailed over Brown, 20-19. Temple was blitzed by Pitt, 47-17. Villanova was trampled by Towson, 49-35. Rutgers was upset at home by Kent State, 35-23. Better luck this coming weekend.
Penn State Sanctions
The NCAA sanctions imposed upon Penn State snapped back into the news this week. In an hour-long forum at the City Club of Chicago, NCAA president, Mark Emmert, said the four-year bowl ban against Penn State was the right course of action instead of imposing the “death penalty” against the football program itself. “The collateral damage imposed in this case would have been on people who were essentially innocent bystanders,” Emmert said of the decision not to dismantle Penn State’s team for two years. “The case had nothing to do with the marching band or the Mom and Pop hotels in State College or the guy who sells hot dogs, all of whom would have been profoundly affected by a multi-year football ban.” He added that the bowl ban was put into effect, “so that Penn State would work on changing the football culture at Happy Valley and getting it right.” In response to a question as to why the NCAA took away 112 football victories from the past, Emmert stood by the decision but added that the players who played in a Bowl Game at that time can still look back with pride despite the vacating of those victories. They may not quite agree. Of the present administration at Penn State, Emmert stated, “I’ve been extremely impressed by football coach Bill O’Brien. He’s been doing a great job weathering this and it seems to me he has brought unique energy and a new set of values to the program.” As for the decision to move five NCAA title events from New Jersey to other venues because the state is considering allowing sport betting, Emmert said that NCAA by-laws are clear on this point. He dismissed the criticism of New Jersey Governor Christie on the ruling and held his ground. It’s not always easy to ignore that guy.
The Baseball Giants
Before closing the book on the 2012 baseball season, a word on the San Francisco Giants is in order. Some observers are calling them the New York Yankees of the West. That may be stretching the point a bit but there can be no doubt that the Giants have joined the baseball elite by defeating the Detroit Tigers on Sunday at Commerce Park in Detroit. The Giants won seven consecutive post-season games and became one of only three National League teams to win two championships in a three-year span since World War II. They join the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati of 1976-76 and the Los Angeles Dodgers of 1963-64 in baseball history. Giants’ manager, Bruce Bochy, said of the amazing bunch, “They love each other. They are completely unselfish. They play for each other and their attitude is ‘Never say die’.They are not a fluke-y team. They don’t use gimmicks. They simply play hard and a team has to play harder to be on the same field with them.”
Bochy became irritated when his team was described as being lucky. He responded, “You don’t get lucky winning 94 games, You don’t get lucky when you sweep the Detroit Tigers. We have great talent, grim determination and a lot of heart. We made our own luck.” He’s right. The Giants dominated the post-season after being down three games to one in the NL Championship series to the St. Louis Cardinals. They outscored their opponents in the last seven games, 36-7. They went 56 straight innings without losing the lead, the second longest such streak in the history of post-season baseball. And their starting pitching rotation gave up just four runs in the World Series, three of them coming on Sunday in the last game. The Tigers hit 159 and their clean-up hitter, Prince Fielder, was almost completely shut down, hitting 071, striking out twice in the last game on Sunday and failing to hit the ball out of the infield. The statement from Detroit manger, Jim Leyland, summed it up. “I am completely flabbergasted,” he said, “I never would have thought that we would have swept the Yankees and I never would have thought that the Giants would have swept us. It’s a freaky game. But it happened.”
Bob Quinn, former general manager of the Giants, Yankees and Reds, said, “I couldn’t be more proud.” The current Giants’ GM is Brian Sabean, former Yankees scouting director, who was Bob Quinn’s first hire. His director of player personnel, pitching coach, two previous hitting coaches as well as his advance coach and assistant coaches are all former Yankees. From his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, Quinn added with some humor, “Just look at that Yankee influence.” Bochy was right: it had to be more than luck.
Things to Think About
If Andy Reid sits Michael Vick next Monday night, will he be admitting a mistake? If so, will it equal or possibly exceed switching Juan Castillo from the offense to the defense? Is mid-season a reasonable time to fire head coaches?
We are told that Hunter Pence is the MVP of the San Francisco Giants’ locker room. He reportedly made an eloquent, motivational speech to his team-mates before Game Three of the NLDS when the Giants trailed in the series, 2-0, to Cincinnati. He told them he wanted at least one more day on this team, that being a Giant was the most enjoyable experience of his baseball life and he wanted to see it continue. Pence said that they owed each other at least one more day together, that he wanted to play another day in defense for pitcher Ryan Vogelson because he had never been to the play-offs. After that, as we all know, the Giants went on to beat Cincinnati and sweep the Detroit Tigers for it all. Just imagine: Pence was playing right field for the Phillies in July. Look how the season ended for him. Look at how it ended for the Phils.
Finally, last week every Dallas Cowboys ticket holder received a letter from the Cowboys which read in part, “We need every Cowboy fan to get on their feet in Sunday’s game, to get loud and help the defense get a stop. Starting this week against the New York Giants we will have a new third down graphic on the video board and we want you to get involved in the game. When you see the video graphic playing on the video board, get on your feet and get loud.” How did it all work out? The Cowboys lost, 29-24. The crowd thought they’d won when Del Bryant caught a pass in the end zone but, though he landed safely, his fingers were out of bounds. Despite all the graphics and the “loud”, the Cowboys managed to blow a 23-point lead.
The last sound you heard was that of Tony Romo, whining. Loudly.