Ladies and Gentlemen:
Well, well, well.
Look who just kicked in the door of the new and convoluted NFL playoffs.
The coach that no other team interviewed with his train wreck inaugural press conference, rock, paper, scissors with potential draft picks and comparing his team to the roots of a flower. Yes, that guy just became a first year playoff coach. That’s even more impressive considering he inherited a 4-11-1 cap strapped team and essentially a rookie quarterback.
Speaking of the quarterback, the one who had to endure and still endure the rumors regarding the guys who may replace him. The quarterback who talked about flushing a “deuce.” The quarterback who is a team leader and has slowly but surely improved throughout the season. Just watch as he fires up his teammates:
This offensive line who, more than any other unit, turned this season around and helped this team become the most devastating rushing offense in the league.
The defense, led by an undrafted third year linebacker who made the most of his chance.
These are just a few tidbits from the feel good story that is the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles.
But they almost blew it.
They almost let this Football God given bye week slip through their fingers.
The Washington Football Team was ready to die. They just needed someone or something to take what little life out of them that they had left. But, no. The Eagles once again got off to a slow start and also, once again, failed to put any pressure on Washington Quarterback Taylor Heinicke. The Football Team scored on every drive in the first half. It was so bad that on Washington’s final drive of the half they appeared to be content to run the ball and run out the clock with approximately 50 seconds left. The Eagles defense was so passive that The Football Team was able to march down the field and kick a long field goal.
Jonathan Gannon’s defense adjusted and shut Washington out in the second half. Still, the game was not decided until the Eagles were able to overcome a terrible pass interference call on Avonte Maddox and Rodney McCleod made a beautiful interception in the end zone.
So, this little love fest that we are all enjoying could have been much different. The Eagles cannot get off to a late start against Tampa Bay, Arizona or the LA Rams next week in the playoffs. If that happens then this amorous extravaganza and the season will come to a screeching halt.
Yes, I know that there is still one more regular season game against the Cowboys. And, yes, you want to win every game. Momentum, staying sharp, 10-7 looks much better than 9-8, yada, yada, yada. These are all important things but you know what’s even more important?
Not getting injured. Resting tired bodies. Allowing old nagging injuries to heal.
There is only one team that gets a bye week in the playoffs this year in each conference. Two teams will watch as the other 12 battle it out. The Eagles were handed a golden opportunity to rest their star players and get ready for the playoffs. Another thing to consider is that 12 Eagles were on the Covid list this week so those guys should probably see limited action as well. That was another ironic gift from the Football Gods. The only time the Birds are really affected by the Covid quarantine is the one game that they really don’t have to win.
And I’ll tell you something else that relates to sitting the starters for the Dallas game. In my opinion it’s the biggest reason for the Eagles success this season and is something that no one is really talking about.
Injuries. Or, more accurately, lack of injuries.
This is from the first Round Table posting of the season “A Necessary Distraction (Part 4)”
Speaking of staying healthy, one of the things that I will be watching closely is how many players end up on the injury list with soft tissue or non-contact injuries. This is a compelling story because for the last four years the Eagles have have been decimated by injuries, including the year they won the Super Bowl. Over the last three years, the Birds have finished 32nd, 21st and 30th in adjusted games lost, and only two other teams over that span (the 49ers and Jets) have lost more games to injury.
In four years the Eagles have had three different Chief Medical Officers. But there has been one constant over those four years. Coach Doug Pederson. I am curious to see if there will be fewer non-traumatic injuries And, if so, one could argue that it was his style of running his team (practices, recovery) that may have been responsible for some of those injuries. Chip Kelly did an excellent job keeping his players healthy and Nick Sirianni has similar philosophies so this will be interesting to see.
To be clear, I’m not taking anything away from Doug Pederson who will forever be my hero for that 2017 Super Bowl season. But some of these old school coaches run their practices in an old school way and with the NFL season now 17 games, injuries and for that matter team depth take on a higher level of importance.
There are always going to be injuries but the Eagles have managed to keep their team relatively healthy from the standpoint of soft tissue and non-contact injuries. The offensive line, which was like a subway turnstile last year has been pretty solid since Brandon Brooks and Issac Seumalo went down in the beginning of the season. The secondary has remained intact as have the receivers which were two units that have experienced a lot of injuries over the previous two or three seasons.
I guess you can argue that the running backs have had their fair share of injuries but every one of them has been able to come back.
Three different Chief Medical Officers in four years and one coach. Then a new coach comes in and the whole injury landscape changes.
You can read about how Sirianni gives veterans like Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox extra days off. Or how he changed his practices so that Wednesdays were walk throughs and not full contact practices like they were earlier in the season. More time off and practices that are easier on the body. Makes sense.
A few years ago a client of mine was training for her third marathon. She was running with a friend of hers and they were following a protocol from some running magazine that had them running five and sometimes six times a week. About four weeks before the marathon she tells me that her IT band hurts, she feels tired all of the time and she doesn’t want to run anymore.
All I told her was to take a week off. Don’t run for the entire week and by the time Sunday rolls around you will be aching to get back out there. She was skeptical but did it. Refreshed, she resumed with a modified running schedule and achieved a personal record.
Her body simply needed a break. The previous running had produced the muscle memory that she would need to continue her training and complete her race.
It’s not some amazing or innovative program that you will see Jillian Michaels plugging on late night TV. It’s just physiology. Muscles get stronger in recovery. It’s the actual exercise that breaks them down. Stronger muscles, stronger bones and stronger connective tissue are more resistant to pulls, breaks and tears.
Nick Sirianni and his staff gets this. I understand that there are a lot of reasons that players get injured but placing such a great emphasis on rest and recovery seems to have made a huge difference between this year and the previous five in regards to soft tissue and nagging injuries.
Again, as I wrote four months ago, this is not an indictment on the coaching style of Doug Pederson. He did what he had to do and won a Super Bowl for this city so I will never say a bad word against him. Besides, there could have been many other factors that contributed to the amount of injuries that this team endured through his coaching tenure. We’ll revisit this next year.
So, let’s see what Taron Jackson and Milton Williams can do. How about all of those young guys in the secondary? I see a big day for Kenny Gainwell. Let newly christened Gardner “Balls” Minshew increase his trade value.
Speaking of Balls…
It turns out a few of you took exception to some of the qualifications it takes to be designated a ‘Balls” player. Specifically the part about the player having to be a white guy.
I get it. In 2022 politically incorrect jokes like these are going to offend some people. But before you get pissed off again and try to quantify what it takes to be a “Balls” player remember that Alex Singleton was designated a “Balls” player because he was Canadian and had a mullet.
Now there is nothing wrong with being Canadian or with having a mullet for that matter, it’s just unique to the NFL. Besides, a few weeks ago I went through a list of statistics explaining how every player in the NFL is among an elite group of athletes.
It’s just a joke. In other words:
And this is certainly not the first time that white guys have been the brunt of the joke:
But, like both of those movies, and pretty much all of my cultural references, they are from 25 years ago. And times have certainly changed
I was discussing this with my client, friend and diehard Packers fan Brendan “No Squat Jumps” Rees and he suggested that we create a new designation. Something that every player qualifies for. Something that really means something.
So, for this we harken back to the second RT of the season when I quoted the great Betty White who passed away days before her 100th birthday. Ms White said:
Why do people say ‘grow some balls?’ Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.
She will certainly missed.
Brendan was inspired by her and suggested that in addition to the Doug Pederson “Balls” Designation we also give out the Betty White “Vagina” Designation.
Genius. Pure genius.
Now this designation is not the typical, male oriented way you would call another man a vagina/pussy/wuss, etc. That’s offensive and, as we already covered after the Atlanta game, simply not accurate. Besides, if that was the nature of this designation then Antonio Brown would win this award hands down. There would be no suspense whatsoever.
No, the Betty White “Vagina” designation goes to the player, any player, who can take a pounding and come back for more.
A player who can absorb repeated blows from a blunt object over and over again and not get overwhelmed.
A player who can take a lickin’ and keep on ticking.
I look forward to you comments or nominations.
Great, moving on.
The Eagles are a 4.5 point underdog against he Cowboys at the Linc this Saturday night. If the Eagles needed to win this game then I would have been really pissed because it will be the fourth games that the Eagles play in 19 days. This is an even better reason to rest their players.
Mike McCarthy said that he is playing to win and that his starters will be on the field. I doubt that you will see Dak, Zeke, Anthony, Micah and the rest of the starters for anything more than a quarter. The Cowboys have a slim chance of becoming the number two seed but it is unlikely. Why risk getting your players injured.
With all of that in mind it’s pretty hard to gauge how this game will go so I will be laying off this week.
Keep everyone healthy, get through this game and get ready for the playoffs.
And let’s keep this ride going for as long as we can.