QB Jalen Hurts Hunter Martin/Philadelphia Eagles

Stubborn

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In 1985 Norman Braman, then the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles was strongly considering hiring David Shula to be the head coach. Marion “The Swamp Fox” Campbell had just been fired after three seasons and Braman was enamored with the idea of hiring the legendary coach Don Shula’s son. David Shula was only 26 years old and would have been the youngest head coach in NFL history. Braman was pretty high on the idea and the two sides were talking seriously.

Obviously it didn’t happen and the Eagles hired Buddy Ryan.

What would have happened if the Birds had hired David Shula? What would that have looked like in a parallel universe?

Well, sometimes fate gives you the answer. In your own universe. 

Shula was hired to be the head coach of the CIncinnati Bengals seven years later. He coached for almost five seasons and amassed a record of 19-52 and is generally acknowledged as one of the worst head coaches in NFL history. 

Disaster avoided in Philadelphia.

He was young and did not have a lot of experience. Seven years later he was still pretty young.

You know who else is young and does not have a lot of experience?

Nick Sirianni.

Well, actually the head coach of the Eagles is of the ripe old age of 40 but the rest of his staff, except for offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, is young. As a matter of fact they are the youngest coaching staff in the NFL. 

This is from Jeff McClane of the Philadelphia Inquirer back in April:

“The Eagles have the youngest coaching staff in the NFL — Gannon is 37, Steichen 35, and special teams coordinator Michael Clay 29 — with an average age of 35 years. The NFL average is 47.6 years. And of the four only Steichen has logged any time in his current position. And of the four only Steichen has logged any time in his current position. He was the Chargers’ offensive coordinator last season and his one year gives the Eagles the least amount of collective experience in the league and is well below the average of 21.4 years.”

Wow.

Youth isn’t always bad, Just ask the head coach of the Rams, Sean McVay. 

But as the RT’s own David Baz said on October 3:

“…how many coaches on the Eagles staff are what would normally considered to be abnormally young?  Do they have the experience to develop a second year QB like hurts?  And I would agree, last week’s play calling was absurd.  How do they decide its a good idea to keep the ball away from one of their best play makers, Sanders!  Basic experience tells you, that’s a bad idea.  Somethings just are the way they are – run the ball!” 

That was back on October 3 and Sirianni is still not handing the ball off to Sanders. Both he and Jonathan Gannon are sticking to the same game plan that worked so well in the Atlanta game. Bubble Screens and Cover-3…Bubble Screens and Cover-3…Bubble Screens and Cover-3. 

If we know that this is happening then you better believe that the opposing defensive coordinators know that this is happening. 

Young. Inexperienced. Stubborn.

That’s it. Stubborn. 

Dig in your heels, shake your head and hold your breath.

But remember… 

If you do what you’ve always done then you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

Stubborn.

You saw that stubbornness on full display last Thursday when the Eagles were crushed by the Tampa Bay Buccanears. Once again Miles Sanders was reduced to a blocking back at best or a decoy for Sirianni’s RPO offense at worst. When he finally did get the ball the Eagles were able to get within six points of Tampa Bay. Six because the Eagles went for the two-point conversion on their final touchdown drive to bring them within six instead of seven points. Some say it was analytics that pressed that decision but I think Sirianni was trying to help us Eagles fans who took the Birds and the points. 

Thanks, Coach!

Even though the Eagles seemingly had a chance to win that game after battling back from a 28-7 deficit it never really felt like they had a real shot at winning this game. Tampa Bay’s final drive consumed the remaining 5:54 left of the clock and the Bucs had only one third down conversion that was more than one yard. Brady and company, like the rest us, pretty much continued to watch Leonard Fournette give Alex Singleton a piggy back ride all afternoon. 

Of course this drive by Tampa Bay was aided by yet another ridiculous and unnecessary taunting penalty by Eagles linebacker Genard Avery. As these penalties go it was a minor infraction at best and the guy was excited after making a big play and feeling that momentum was on his side but the NFL is cracking down on this. Giving Tampa Bay an extra 15 yards did not help the Eagles cause. Just a tremendous lack of discipline. 

I do have to say that I enjoy Troy Aikman’s color commentary. Especially when he critiqued Jalen Hurts. Obviously as a Hall of Fame quarterback he has some insight into the position so it was educational to hear him break down what Hurts was doing wrong and what he should actually be doing. This could have been Jalen’s worst game as an Eagle and Aikman is not one to pull any punches.

My brother Michael and I were talking about this and he even suggested that Aikman was a closet Eagles fan. Respect for a former foe perhaps? My brother might be onto something as apparently Aikman considered coming out of retirement to quarterback the Eagles at the request of Andy Reid. Of course, former Dallas columnist Skip Bayless almost had his ass handed to him when Aikman took exception to comments that Bayless made regarding Aikman coming “out of the closet.” 

Both of those stories are here. Just scroll down:

https://www.sportscasting.com/skip-bayless-once-insinuated-troy-aikman-was-gay-and-isnt-even-sorry-about-it/

Remember when the Eagles were playing the Giants many years ago and McNabb had just sealed the game with a improvised running play and ended up out of bound on the Giants sideline? He picked up a sideline phone and pretended to call someone mouthing the words “we just made the playoffs.” 

Aikman paused in his analysis of the game, there was a few seconds of dead air and then he simply said:

“Sometimes I just don’t know what goes through that guy’s head.”

And Aikman nailed it when he said three minutes into the game after both he, Joe Buck, the sideline reporters and all of the guys in the studio just kept going on and on about how great Tom Brady was:

“Philadelphia fans are saying ‘will you two shut up about Tom Brady’”

Or to put it in more vibrant terms, the best color man in the business, K-Webmasterfunk used to say as we watched games together in our Noe Street apartment:

“These guys just like to s—k the d*** of anybody who happens to be doing well at that particular time.” 

Insert laughing emoji here…

The Eagles are a three point underdog on the road against the Raiders in las Vegas. How many of you circled this game on your calendar as the road game that you wanted to attend this year? 

https://www.yahoo.com/sports/eagles-fans-apparently-taking-over-144901879.html

We saw this coming a mile away. Eagles fans in Las Vegas? I can’t wait for the stories.

The Raiders have regrouped after the Jon Gruden scandal and played one of their best games of the season. At 4-2 they are among the second tier mediocre teams in the league. Derek Carr is a serviceable starter and they have a couple decent weapons in Henry Ruggs and Josh Jacobs. Their defense is middle of the road. 

This is a winnable game for the Eagles who are 2-4. Yes, 2-4 but if you think about it, this is where they should be. When we looked at their schedule before the season started and charted out wins and losses, 2-4 seemed reasonable at the time. Granted, it has been an ugly 2-4 but now the softer part of their schedule begins. Don’t get me wrong, there are no easy games in the NFL but the Eagles should be favored in a few of the games coming up. 

Although they are not favored in this one I think that Sirianni finally, Finally, FINALLY calls some designed running plays and not just RPOs. Maybe he gets some guys in motion a lot more and does a better job disguising his formations and takes some of the pressure off of Jalen Hurts. Jonathan Gannon blitzes a little more and mixes in some man-to-man coverage which works a lot better for this defense. In other words they will stop being so stubborn. And Lane Johnson is back. I have spoken at length regarding his importance not just to the offensive line but to this team in general. Therefore, I like the Birds this week in a close game. 

A few more odds and ends:

Much respect to former Eagles tight end Zach Ertz who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a pack of cigarettes and a bag of Doritos. It might be an unpopular move for the fans but with the salary cap issues, the ability of Dallas Goedert and the potential of Tyree Jackson it had to be done. It’s pretty clear from this move that the Eagles are 100% in rebuilding mode. I’m just surprised that they got so little for him from Arizona. A sixth round pick and a third string cornerback? Maybe Zach will get another ring with the Cardinals. He deserves it. 

All-Pro Center and greatest orator in the history of Philadelphia sports Jason Kelce inserted himself into the Ben Simmons “meshugas.” Here’s what he said:

“If you’re fixing free throws and getting better as a player, none of this is happening,” Kelce said. “Everybody can bitch and complain about how tough this city is to play in. Just play better, man. This city will love you.”

The man knows us as well as any athlete that ever played here. He’s also pissed off like every Sixers fan and, as a sixth round pick out of Cincinnati, probably takes exception to the self-entitlement that Simmons is displaying. Kelce had to work his ass off to get where he got and from everything we see from him takes nothing for granted. This further endears him to this fanbase and I will say once again that I think he should be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame when he retires. 

Finally, I have been railing on the fair weather fans in the Bay Area pretty much since I moved here. Last week the San Francisco Giants lost their series to the Dodgers on a called strike on a check swing. Unbelievable way to have their season end. I got the usual “It’s just a game” bulls—t from a few of my clients as I tried to find any semblance of the anguish that real fans feel when they have invested so much of their time, blood, sweat and tears into something that is totally outside of their control. 

Later that day in the gym I asked one of my colleagues how he was doing. Just saying hello type of thing. When given the opportunity to vent he proceeded to tell me that he has been wrecked all day thinking about how the Giants lost. He said that when he taught his group fitness class he played Metallica as loud as he could and was dropping F-Bombs throughout the entire session. He made it clear to his class that he was pissed off because the Giants lost. He also told me that a friend/client of his who was a Dodgers fan texted him shortly after the game with some pretty intense trash talking. He said he wrote the guy a check for his remaining unused sessions and told him that he would not train him anymore. 

Now this guy is a fan!

An extreme reaction, perhaps? 

Nah…

Passion is something that we celebrate in ourselves and others. Passion for life, love, food, art, music, etc. is something that most people can understand and appreciate. 

So, why should someone say “it’s just a game” when the real fan is passionate about that particular thing? That would be like some meathead sports fan saying “It’s just a picture of some chick” when discussing the Mona Lisa. 

As I sit here finishing this essay at 5:00 a.m., I am still troubled by the Sixers blowing a 10-point lead with 5:33 left in the game last night. And, after burning James Franklin in effigy because Penn State lost in nine overtimes (yes 9!!!) to a team that they were favored to beat by three touchdowns I can relate to my depressed colleague. 

I probably would not let it affect my business but everything else? We are simpatico, Brother!

Go Birds!

Eric Written by: