By Bill Campbell
It has become increasingly difficult to keep Andy Reid and the Eagles off the front page, even on weekends when the Eagles don’t play like the one just past. Coach Reid has been severely criticized over the past two seasons for poor decisions and miscalculations, but none as serious as allowing his troubled son, Garrett, free access to his team and his players. We now know that Garrett, who had struggled with drug addiction for years, had steroids and needles in his room at Lehigh at the time of his death. Yet he was around Eagles players every day. For that misjudgment alone, Andy Reid could have been immediately dismissed. There is no doubt that Coach Reid acted out of love and concern for his son, but in so doing he has cast the light of suspicion on his team, particularly in this period of full investigations into the lives and conduct of professional athletes.
These last two sorry Eagles seasons have been the direct result of poor decisions by the head coach on and off the field. This latest one should have led to his immediate dismissal by ownership. For failing to do so, Jeffrey Lurie must be held responsible. In an effort to help cure a sad situation with his son, Andy Reid made the wrong move. In prolonging the making of a final decision about the coach, so did the owner.
The 76ers ran into the Los Angeles Lakers the other night at the Wells Fargo Center before a crowd of 20,000. It was a homecoming for Kobe Bryant. It was a nightmare for the Sixers.
The former Lower Merion star played up to or over his All Star reputation as the Lakers pounded the Sixers 111 to 98. The Lakers haven’t dazzled anyone so far this season but with the help of Bryant, just one of six double-figure scorers, they handed the Sixers their heads. Ron Artest, now known as Metta World Peace, had 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
The Sixers’ Nick Young also had a career-high 30 points, but his team had a devilish time trying to defend against the Lakers’ 3-point shot. The Lakers made 10 of 15 beyond the mark in the first half, a floor record for most 3’s in a half as they roared out to a 60-30 lead.
The Californians ran their lead to 87-73 after 3 periods and never looked back. The Lakers, who changed coaches in their fifth game after a dismal start, are now 11-14 while the 76ers fell to 12-12 and the Lakers won number three in a row from the Sixers.
The schedule for Doug Collins’ team is rather imposing. On Friday they will meet Lou Williams and the Atlanta Hawks and, beginning with back-to-back games this week at Dallas and Houston, 11 of the next 13 games are on the road. It might get a bit better if Jrue Holiday returns to the lineup. He missed the last couple of games, including the Laker mess.
However, there is some encouraging news on the Andrew Bynum front – a subject we can’t get away from. He’s said to be feeling a lot better and the papers tell us that his appearance in a 76ers uniform could be sooner than most of us have been led to believe. We shall see.
A Dream Coaching Job:
Matt Rhule had a dream: to be Temple’s head football coach. He was interviewed for the job a couple of years ago but didn’t get it. Steve Addazzio did instead. He held it for only 2 seasons. Talked a good game, didn’t win many. In fact, he lost 5 of his last 6. When another opportunity came along at Boston College, Addazzio took it, allowing Matt Rhule’s dream to once again emerge.
For most coaches, working in the NFL is the Big Dream. But for Matt Rhule, becoming head football coach at Temple was the big one. He was once an assistant to Al Golden at Temple for 6 years. When Golden left for Miami, Rhule went with him. He now returns to Temple after serving a season as assistant offensive coordinator for the NFL’s New York Giants.
Returning to Temple is more than a dream for him. It’s a homecoming, a return to the university where his wife still works and it presents him with the chance to spend more time with his young son. Rhule recruited most of the present Owls’ team. He’s well-known and highly regarded on the roster, a familiar figure to the players and their families. He always was the odds-on choice for the job since Addazzio announced his departure. It’s great to see him get this chance.
Rhule’s arrival will maintain continuity within the program. Several former and current players including the Owls top 2013 recruit, Williamstown linebacker Buddy Brown, urged the hiring of Rhule. So his presence should ensure a rather seamless transition.
Uppermost in Rhule’s mind is attempting to restore some pride in the Temple football program which won 26 games and made 2 bowl game appearances during his last 3 years as a Temple assistant. Last season’s team struggled almost all the way, finishing at 4-7. When asked about Rhule’s appointment, Chicago Bear Derrick Dennis, a former Temple lineman, said, “They got a good coach who really cares about his players. He’s going to push them to play their best but be more genuine and not as cliche-ish.”
Todd Bowles, a former Temple star who is now the defensive coordinator for the Eagles, also interviewed for the job. But Rhule and Mark D’Onofrio, another former Golden assistant at Miami, were the finalists for the slot. D’Onofrio took his name out of contention last week, making way for Matt Rhule to step up to his dream. Here’s to him.
Of the 7 schools leading the Big East Conference, 4 were charter members: St. John’s, Georgetown, Providence and Seton Hall. Add to that group Villanova, which joined the Big East in just its second year. The more recent addition to the conference are DePaul and Marquette.
All 7 have solid histories. Villanova won the NCAA Championship in 1985, had 19 seasons of at least 20 victories out of a possible 32. The Wildcats received 20 NCAA tournament bids under the coaching regimes of Rollie Massimino and Jay Wright.
St. John’s had fifteen 20-win seasons of a possible 33, Georgetown 23 of a possible 33, Providence 6 and Seton Hall 8. But the Big East is changing with additions of smaller schools and defections by some of the larger and most established ones. On Saturday, when it was learned that a potentially profitable TV deal had been cut in half, more teams announced their departure.
Seven basketball-only schools have left the Big East in the last few years, leaving just 9 in the conference: Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Temple, Houston, SMU, Central Florida, Memphis and Tulane. No charter members remain. As for Big East football, 13 teams remain. It’s really hard to believe how this conference has changed.
There’s no denying that the conference is in turmoil due to defections and lost television broadcasting proceeds. The profitability of college football television rights has chipped away at the prestige and profitability of their basketball programs and teams have left to earn more and achieve more over the last few years.
Mike Aresco, the Big East commissioner under fire, recently said that “the league and conference are confident regarding its collective future.” But he’s juggling with knives these days. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.
In the meantime, here in our town, St. Joe’s and La Salle are staying where they are for the moment. Apparently, the Hawks and the Explorers, both basketball-only schools, have no interest in moving to a conference dominated by football. This doesn’t mean that we won’t see more movement as time marches on but for now they are staying put. Some things are fine as they are.
The big story in the National Football League action was what the Atlanta Falcons did to the New York Giants. And that story centered upon quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw 3 touchdown passes and handed the Giants their first regular season shut-out since 1996 in a 34-0 blowout. The Giants went 0 for 3 on fourth downs and missed a short field goal. Penn Charter grad Ryan went 23 for 28, breaking his own franchise record for completions and passing yards. This is the time of year when the Giants traditionally play their best football but on Sunday Eli Manning threw 2 interceptions and saw his team drop into a first place tie with Washington and Dallas, who both scored victories over the weekend. Atlanta’s record is 12 and 2 and it has already clinched the NFL South but some observers are reluctant to give the Falcons much credit. They say that most of these victories have come against inferior opponents. It’s true that Atlanta has yet to win a post-season game since Ryan became the QB. But at least during the regular season the Falcons have yet to lose 2 games back-to-back.
A guy named Asante Samuel – remember him? – helped the Falcons get off to a good start on Sunday. He batted down a short pass intended for Victor Cruz, which helped give the Falcons a 17-0 halftime lead. Samuel did this after he had intercepted a pass to gain possession on the Giants’ 16 from which point the tailback, Michael Turner, ran it 4 straight times for a TD. The last time the Falcons registered a shutout was December 1, 1996 and that victory was – you guessed it – over the Eagles at the friendly old Veterans Stadium.
Elsewhere, Robert Griffin III didn’t play but the Redskins won anyway, beating the Cleveland Browns 38-21. Rookie quarterback, Kirk Cousins, threw for 329 yards and 2 touchdowns for the ‘Skins fifth straight win.
As it looks right now, the NFL MVP could very well be tailback Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, who ran for 212 yards on 34 carries to beat the St. Louis Rams over the weekend, 36-22.
The fact that there is a triple tie for the top spot in the NFC East demonstrates how easily the Eagles could have been in contention with little opposition this year. It makes the Birds’ 2012 story even more disappointing for themselves and the fans. The Eagles face the Redskins on Sunday and the Giants a week after that. Anybody watching?