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Starting With Endings

(Credit: CBS 3)

(Credit: CBS 3)

Campbell_Bill-FEATURE-img Bill Campbell
Bill Campbell, known to all Philadelphia sports fans as “The Dean,”...
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By Bill Campbell

The Eagles

On the last Sunday of 2012, the Eagles squad should have stayed home to play with their kids and their new Christmas toys. Instead, they traveled to Met Life Stadium in New York to meet the New York Giants. Their effort was conspicuous in its absence. The Eagles were abysmal, losing 42-7. Ironically, despite their 35-point rout of the Birds, the Giants failed to make the play-offs. So it was a worthless afternoon for everyone.

The Eagles did provide one notable spark, though it turned out to be a deceptive one. They opened the game with an on-sides kick – and it worked. Probably the only thing that did for the Birds all day. Alex Hennery drilled the ball into the ground and Brendan Hughes received it 10 yards down field. It was a comparatively exciting moment giving the Eagles early possession and, you’d expect, some momentum. But that push lasted for only five plays before starting quarterback, Michael Vick, threw an interception. Once that happened, the Birds resumed their futile ways and the game was doomed to failure. They were down by three touchdowns at the end of the first quarter and the game was as good as over. By the next morning, Andy Reid had been given his walking papers and the search had begun for a new head coach. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Michael Vick’s post-game comments on Sunday were a lot more interesting than his play. He vented his frustration with his team-mates to the press, implying that the Eagles’ only hope for a more successful future is to clean out the Bird cage and to do it soon. Vick said, “You watch us play and we don’t exhibit the things that we do in practice. It’s frustrating, it’s difficult because, believe me, I leave it all out on the field. I give it everything I’ve got. Sometimes I wish I could play another position but I can’t. But I leave it all out there on the field.” All of which implies that he believes some of his team-mates don’t. Many in the locker room would quarrel with Vick’s statements and the suggestion that he’s one of the few that gives 100% each week. But Vick’s words indicate that the Eagles locker room contained more than a few players who didn’t enjoy, and didn’t commit to, playing together. If Howie Roseman is going to be left in charge of the cage, he will have to address this fundamental issue and clean house of such influences before next season. That’s the job requiring Roseman’s immediate attention – as well as a decision about the quarterback for the future.

When media members told Vick that this was the first time that he had been critical of his team-mates, he said he was not intentionally doing that but he didn’t withdraw his statement. Rather , he added, “Every guy in the locker room who has to come to the [press] podium should be ready to say the same things I say, verbatim.” So it’s clear that Vick blames a lack of effort on the part of unnamed team-mates for the team’s embarrassing season performance. When asked if he still wanted to be with the Eagles next year, Vick, who had been fairly optimistic until the final game, changed his tune a bit. He answered, “I don’t know. I have to take time to think about everything that happened this season and reflect on it.” In his reflections, he’ll have to think about his own stats: he was 19 for 35 for 197 passing yards in this final game, scored 12 touchdowns , threw 10 interceptions and had 5 fumbles this season. His won-lost record as an Eagles QB is 14-16 overall, 3-7 this season. Yet Vick insisted that he has become a better quarterback this year and felt good on the field last Sunday despite missing 8 games. “No one man can do it on his own and that’s as candid as I can be at the moment,” he stated before leaving for home. He doesn’t plan to restructure his deal. He’s guaranteed $3 million if he is on the Eagles roster on February 6th. He believes that there are better days ahead for him. The question is, where?

The Eagles brass has many important decisions ahead and some will be even more difficult than replacing Andy Reid or selecting the right quarterback to bank on for the future. These decisions include the fates of players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha, Danny Watkins, Nate Allen, Fletcher Cox, Chris Polk, Kurt Coleman, Jeremy Maclin. The joint should be jumping at the Nova Care Center in the coming months as the powers that be make some necessary choices.

In other notes of interest to football fans, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson came close to a single season record as the Vikings nudged out Green Bay, 37-34. Peterson had 199 yards in his final regular season game for a total of 2,097 yards, 8 short of Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 set in 1984. Also, Drew Brees made NFL history before the regular season ended. He threw for 396 yards, becoming the first player to pass 5,000 yards three times. He threw for 4 touchdowns, giving him 43 for 2012. Brees is the first QB in NFL history with 40 TD passes in consecutive seasons
The coming weekend should make for great football as Cincinnati plays Houston and Minnesota meets Green Bay on Saturday. Indianapolis will battle Baltimore and Washington D.C. will play Seattle on Sunday. Don’t miss any of it.

The Coaches

The guy who first said, “Coaches were hired to be fired” knew what he was talking about.

Jeff Lurie, the Eagles’ owner who pronounced last season that 8-8 this year would be unacceptable, finally spoke up on Monday and ended the Andy Reid charade. What took him so long? Now, according to Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman will be held accountable for the next draft, for trades and for the reshaping of the Eagles’ future. It will be interesting to see how that pans out. Mentioned as possible Reid replacements are Chip Kelly of Oregon, Bill O’Brien of Penn State, Mike McCoy of Denver, Jay Gruden of Cincinnati. Rumors also are flying about Green Bay assistant Ben McAdoo, former Steelers’ coach Bill Cowher, Steve Mariucci, the Redskins’ Kyle Shanahan and San Francisco’s Greg Roman as candidates for Reid’s job. All of them are guys who were hired only to be eventually fired and hired some place new. It’s a crazy business. Reid, meantime, is said to be heading to Arizona for an interview with the Cardinals. Is there a reunion with Kevin Kolb in his future?

While Reid’s departure received most of the publicity in our area this week, it didn’t take much research to find a brigade of others who were hanging by their fingernails for their jobs – and lost them. San Diego’s Norv Turner ended his duties on Sunday with a 24-21 win over the Oakland Raiders as a nice going-away present for his owner. Kansas City Chiefs’ coach, Romeo Crennel, lost his last game to Denver, 39-3 on Sunday and his job on Monday. The Chiefs’ consolation prize for their 2-14 record this year is the first pick in the player draft. Jacksonville’s Mike Mularkey is only in his first year but losing 38-20 to the Tennessee Titans didn’t bode well for his job security. Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt lost on Sunday to the 49ers, 27-13, as did the Cleveland Browns Pat Shurmur to Pittsburgh, 24-10. They both lost their jobs too. Surprisingly, Rex Ryan held on with the New York Jets. But don’t look for any of these guys in the unemployment lines. Since coaches were hired to be fired most, if not all, of them will turn up on the sidelines of other teams when training camps open in August. A few general managers also lost their jobs this week: Mike Tannenbaum of the Jets, Gene Smith of the Jaguars, the Browns’ Tom Heckert and Arizona’s Rod Graves. Like coaches, these fellows also tend to turn up with other pro teams as time goes by.

Of note to me among all of these departures, however, is the firing of Lovie Smith, who’s Chicago Bears were 10-6 this season, just missing a spot in the play-offs. His overall record with the Bears was 84-66, including one Super Bowl loss and one NFC title game defeat. I mention Smith because his firing on Monday is the only personnel change involving a coach where a key player voiced a bitter objection. Receiver and kick return specialist, Devin Hester, was quite vocal over Smith’s ouster, commenting, “The media, the false fans, you all got what you wanted. The majority of you all wanted him out. As players, we wanted him in. I guess the fans, the false fans, out-rated us. I thought he was a great coach, probably one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever been around, probably the best.” This, mind you, was said in Chicago, not Philadelphia, where the fans are reputed to be the toughest, where they even boo Santa Claus. Remember? Kudos to Hester. It has to make the firing a little less painful for Smith.

So a new Eagles ‘ coaching era will soon begin in our city. See you here next week as we watch the possible contenders for the Super Bowl come to the front of the pack. Maybe there will be a hockey deal by then.

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