Over the course of the offseason the question was a simple one for the Eagles: How do you replace DeSean Jackson’s production?
In the 2013 season Jackson had a career year with 82 catches for 1332 yards and 9 TD’s. He might have cured cancer and found the Lindbergh baby too for all I know–there was quite an uproar when he was cut and rule of thumb is that you can’t cut game-breaking, baby-saving talent like that. Meanwhile, Jeremy Maclin was a forgotten man as he recovered from a torn ACL during the madly scientific success of 2013. He was also Jackson’s perfect replacement.
Again, the question was always “how do we replace Jackson’s production” not “how do we replace that qualities that Jackson has?”
It has not been a banner few weeks for the National Football League. I should feel compelled to write about the Bills starting 2-0 after being purchased by a local owner, determined to keep the beloved small-market team in the market that loves it so. I should want to write about how dumb Lovie Smith was for thinking Josh McCown was a viable starting quarterback, or the Chargers beating the Seahawks, or how the Cowboys defense has been so much better than that collection of players has any business being. It isn’t as though these have been two boring weeks on the field. Even so, the first two weeks of the NFL’s 2014 season have been defined by stories of domestic abuse and the appropriateness of corporal punishment. I did not think it was possible for the return of America’s favorite sport to take a backseat to other stories in the sports scene, but that’s exactly what has happened.
Fortunately, Roger Goodell is on the job (said no one ever). And his solution to the NFL’s current image problem is to send every player to seminar programs on domestic violence, presumably during the upcoming offseason and possibly future offseasons: another completely empty gesture that accomplishes nothing, being done exclusively for appearances. Wonderful. Goodell’s inexcusable job performance over the last month is well-documented, perhaps overly so, so let’s focus on this particular course of action, unveiled at a press conference after a week of hiding, where every word was carefully selected and every question balletically tip-toed around. There is no argument to be made in favor of this seminar.
Why shouldn’t the players learn about domestic abuse?
By suspending Ray Rice for an incredibly lenient two games, Roger Goodell displayed a staggering lack of awareness with regard to everything about domestic violence. It seems like HE is the one who has a thing or two to learn on domestic violence. He’s sending the players to learn about it instead. What a message to send to the Union you’re going to be negotiating with in the future: If I fuck the dog, YOU are going to be the ones who end up making it right. “Why not?” is not a good enough reason when you’re starting from that position.
By learning about domestic violence, players will be less likely to abuse their spouse/fiance/girlfriend.
This argument is complete bullshit that’s based on the premise that hitting your partner is a reasoned choice.
All couples argue. The Ray Rice incident in Atlantic City is an example of what happens when an argument becomes a fight. Not all couples fight, and whether or not they do is based on how violent either or both involved parties are. That doesn’t excuse or diminish anything he did. Nothing that happens in a domestic abuse seminar is going to curb anyone’s violent tendencies. That’s the type of thing that requires years of therapy.
I would guess that a large majority of NFL players would never escalate an argument with a loved one to the point of physical blows. For those players, this seminar is a complete waste of time and energy. And for those like Ray Rice who clearly would, this seminar is not going to stop them from doing it, making it a complete waste of time and energy for them as well. Let me explain.
When Ray Rice knocked his fiancé unconscious, I don’t think he was thinking clearly. I think that he has certain violent tendencies and that he snapped. In future tense moments, and they will happen, no person capable of domestic abuse is going to have the presence of mind to summon what they learned in a seminar. They’re going to see red and they’re going to lose it.
This seminar is not going to protect future victims. It’s just Goodell’s way of trying to make you believe that he “gets it,” or that the League is “getting its house in order.” Don’t buy it.
We’re bringing awareness to the issue:
Again, we are so aware of domestic violence that a suspended, past-his-peak running back on an average team has upstaged the first two weeks of the season.
A United States Women’s National Soccer Team friendly match against Mexico generated headlines because of Hope Solo and the domestic violence case that was so un-talked about that everyone had to talk about it immediately.
Even casual fans now know the names of Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer.
One of the League’s marquee players is on indefinite suspension because “if hitting your spouse is so inexcusable, what makes hitting your child any different?”
Awareness has been brought. We have been made aware. All the NFL is hoping to do with this seminar is make you feel less aware of its own incompetence.
During Goodell’s tenure as Commissioner, my NFL fandom has changed. It has grown in scope thanks to fantasy football, and in passion as I’ve invested more time and energy into my team. As my fandom has grown, I have become more aware of this sport’s incredible ability to completely maim those who play it, and its League’s tendency to look the other way on performance-enhancing substances that exacerbate its potential to do so. I’ve seen the League stand by Daniel Snyder as he wages a campaign to insist that a catch-all term for a non-white race of people chosen by George Preston Marshall — a despicable pig of a man who was an openly racist, avowed supporter of segregation with an affinity for minstrel shows — was ever intended with honor or respect. I’ve seen Goodell mock sincerity by claiming to care about player safety. This, while John Abraham is being allowed to return to football after another concussion the season after essentially saying, “I am losing my memory. Pieces of my brain are GONE.”
I love football and I love following the NFL. Those 17 football sundays of the regular season are 17 of my favorite days of the year. And it is getting harder and harder to ignore the feeling that Roger Goodell’s continued status as Commissioner demands that I suspend my values to take enjoyment in watching. And now, by suggesting that Step 1 in “getting our house in order” is sending every player to a domestic abuse seminar, the Ginger Hammer is asking me to suspend my intelligence as well.
I hope no one falls for it. I hope no one believes that this in any way makes up for the Catastrofuck that has been his complete mismanagement of ALL of the League’s current image issues. This seminar is a non-idea from a non-idea, empty suit of a league commissioner. If Roger Goodell really cares about “protecting the shield” and “getting [the NFL's] house in order” then his next course of action should be obvious: get as far away from the house as possible.
In this installment of MFWE our good friend and Washington Sports obsessive Pete Curtin returns to answer some questions about the division rival!
1. DeSean Jackson has had a few months in town at this point. Any headaches yet?
There haven’t been headaches, but there hasn’t been anything to be too happy about either. He hasn’t caused any particularly big ripples in the locker room, on the field, off the field, or in front of the media. That may be precisely the problem. DeSean Jackson was Washington’s biggest offseason acquisition and he has yet to make an impact. It’s only been two weeks and he was injured early against the Jags, but you would have thought or at least hoped that we would have seen SOMETHING by now. Apart from a long completion in the 1st quarter against Jacksonville that was incorrectly ruled an incompletion, he has yet to be the game-changer he was brought in to be.
2. The nation seems to be down on the ability of RGIII, is DC not believing in him too?
This is a very contentious issue that brings out the worst in every fan, so let’s all take a moment to compose ourselves … okay … There are many fans of the Washington Football Team who are down on the abilities of Robert Griffin III. Those fans are convinced that Kirk Cousins is a superior option and, potentially, is a franchise QB. These are people I do not understand.
So there’s been a lot going on in the last week and so I’d like to get through it all in a rapid-fire style:
Eagles vs Colts:
- Nick Foles looked below average again this week. He missed a number of screens, deep balls, and seemed generally like he had drunk goggles on. Some decent decisions on the read-option, but that’s about it.
- Can we all agree that Riley Cooper stinks again? Hauling in a single catch for 8 yards against Indy, the most productive thing that he’s done was tell Sproles to give the ball to the refs following a long run to keep things moving.
- If I could reincarnate as anything in the world it’d be Darren Sproles. Respected by the big boys, but small enough to be allowed on the slide at Dutch Wonderland.
- Our defensive line is by no means a sure thing this year despite the level of talent available. If they continue to play this poorly, I think you need to look at the scheme.
- No real use of the stack formation from the Eagles yet. Not a huge deal, but certainly surprising.
- Parkey has finally done us wrong, but he came through when it mattered. Do you have any doubt about him?
The National Football Legal Issues
- Ray Rice was the major topic on last week’s episode of sports beyond Measure. Check it out here!
- Adrian Peterson being suspended is a bad case as well, but doesn’t it feel like the public is exhausted from all of this NFL stuff now? There’s not nearly the same level of uproar.
- The NFL is finally getting something right and changing the drug policy. About time!
Sixers and Flyers
- We’re almost at the best time of the year: The Sixers, Flyers, and Eagles all going at once. Nerlens Noel, Scott Laughton. There’s some young blood to be excited about, people!
Eagles vs Skins
- We have a Making Friends with the Enemy on the way. Stay tuned.
When reflecting on yesterday’s game I can’t help but think that this was the best possible outcome for the Birds. The first-half thrashing by Jacksonville was a fitting calibration for the team and fans alike as we move from the inflated expectations of the offseason into the reality of the NFL.
Some of the major points of emphasis?
1. Nick Foles is by no means a god. He was miserable and then he got worse before balancing out in the second half. Errant throws, holding on to the ball, and underwhelming with his deep power. This kid still has a lot to work on. He’s by no means a star.
2. The secondary is still a major point of concern. Cary Williams specifically was awful as he was regularly torched by an undrafted rookie wide receiver. Malcolm Jenkins also bit on a screen that led to a touchdown. Then you consider that the team’s best defensive playmaker in Brandon Boykin was sidelined because of personnel packages and my confidence wanes. They have a lot to prove this year.
The wait is finally over. All of the preseason news about nothing, the trash talking about you inevitably miserable fantasy team, the Sundays spent being productive come to a screeching halt at 1pm. Rejoice! You’ve lived to see another Sunday of NFL football!
Through the rest of the season I’ll make sure to provide what to watch for for the Eagles, but for now I’d like to make a season overview.
My predictions of the Eagles, the division, and beyond:
- Assuming the team stays healthy, the Eagles go as far as its defensive line. They’re the true X-factor.
- Eagles go 10-6 carried mostly by a weak division.
- Sproles runs the ball more than you think. Perhaps three to five times a game.
- Mychal Kendricks makes no such leap that people have suggested. He stays middling.
- The Giants will be the second best team in the division with an 8-8 record.
- Dallas has 6 wins this season. Jason Garrett is finally put out of his misery and allowed to find a real job.
- Nick Foles proves to be stable (not amazing, but solid). He’ll be extended for $14 million a year for four years.
- Also, the Eagles had 98 passing plays and 24 rushing plays of 20 yards or more last year. That number drops quite a bit.
- Washington goes 7-9, DeSean makes a middling impact (~950 yards, 6 TDs) and he makes news being an asshole.
- The Packers lack of defense leaves them as an average team. Chicago takes the NFC North.
- Carolina falls off of a cliff. 12-4? Never again. In fact, they don’t make the playoffs.
- Why? Three NFC West teams make it in.
- The Saints go to the NFC title game. Last season no longer matters, San Fran is creeping downhill.
- Ray Rice has a pretty solid season. The team won’t but Rice gets over 1,400 total yards despite the suspension.
- Riley Cooper is benched for Matthews heading into the Arizona game, which follows a bye.
- The guy you kill yourself for skipping over in fantasy football? Knowshon Moreno
- The guy you totally overdrafted? Andre Ellington
- I’m in seven fantasy leagues this year. I will win at least two. Yeah, I said it.
- This entire season is nothing but waiting for Denver and Seattle to meet again. Just being honest.
- Even if Denver wins the Super Bowl this year, Peyton Manning comes back next season. He can’t step away.
- The Houston Texans will be a playoff team this year and Chip Kelly’s name will be entwined with Bill O’Brien for the forseeable future.
Agree? disagree? Let me know!
The only reason that a new rule was created is related directly to the fact that Ray Rice is a star player that was caught in the act on film. If it had not been for that video this case, while disappointing, would have been just another day in the NFL. Since 2008 there have now been 14 different instances of players getting arrested for domestic violence, though not all were charged.
When you consider that the NFL stepped in at all it’s a bit of an anomaly. Out of those 14 who were charged, the NFL issued two suspensions: AJ Jefferson was suspended four games in 2013 and LeRoy Hill was suspended for one game and lost an additional game check in 2008. Otherwise, all players involved in domestic disputes were punished by their teams. This usually resulted in a release and nothing more. However, in one extreme instance in 2012 the Vikings suspended cornerback Chris Cook indefinitely (ultimately 10 games) for his gruesome domestic attack that left his girlfriend bloodied and in the hospital.
In other words, the system wasn’t broken. In a case by case approach teams—specifically the Ravens—should have handled the issue themselves without the NFL’s direct involvement. Teams have always done so in an appropriate manner. Instead, desperate to maintain an artificially clean image, the league office stepped in.
“I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.” These were the words from commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday as he issued the new policy. Don’t believe it.
Goodell is a man who doesn’t make brash decisions. Before issuing Rice’s two-game suspension he consulted with the Ravens organization, Rice and his fiancee (now wife) Janay, members of the league office, and likely the police as well. He knew every element of this case and decided that two games was fair given the circumstances. Is it truly reasonable to believe that Goodell, the straight-laced, image conscious, disciplinarian, would find himself to be that gravely wrong on his decision? C’mon man! This is nothing but a PR move, don’t buy into it.
**(Hey so remember when I said that I was stepping away from the Cooler? That was apparently a lie.)
Have you ever seen baby turtles hatch from a nest? It’s frantic free for all. Hundreds of minute-old turtles scramble for their lives on the beach as seagulls swoop down from above and eat them whole. It’s a truly mesmerizing and horrific scene found in nature. The same happens with NFL quarterbacks. There are countless young players from robust programs with their own pages of the record books that are indiscriminately swallowed whole and crapped out onto your car. The benching of Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Johnny Manziel is a welcoming reminder of that fact.
Why? All three quarterbacks were taken in the first round and none of them will be starting on opening day. Many fans will see this news as a disappointment on the player’s part or a poor managerial decision by the coaching staff, which is grossly unfair. Just because it has become the norm for teams to trot out rookie QB’s doesn’t mean that it’s right. The main argument from the angry masses:
“He’s a first round pick!”
I hate this complaint. It’s short-sighted and misguided and generally makes me want to slap you in the face (it’s more rewarding than a punch!). Let me explain by stating a few simple things:
- College football and professional football and not the same game. Out of the 11 Heisman winners prior to Manziel in 2012, seven of them have been duds at the NFL level. The other four (Carson Palmer, Mark Ingram, Cam Newton, and Robert Griffin III) have had varying degrees of success. Success in college does not directly translate to the pros. the same even goes for coaches.
- First round picks in all sports are based on potential, not immediate impact. Sure, I could use a Thunderstone to evolve my Pikachu at level 5, but my Raichu is not going to be nearly as badass, nahmean? Some top talents need time to develop. Remember Drew Brees in San Diego?
- Human error exists. This last fact more or less covers the idea that some players get selected in the first round that have no business doing so. These players were misjudged by often desperate and/or simply bad teams and were then unfairly classified. For examples, consult your local Raiders fan!
With that argument dead and buried, let’s move on to the next major complaint:
“He should get the experience!”
This is slap-worthy as well because the phrase by default means that sitting on the bench is not a means of gaining experience. However, there is value in waiting and watching and learning. The idea of “the game slowing down” is often mentioned by players who are looking to make the leap. The adjustments within the system come naturally, allowing them to play without hesitation. Also, when you consider that a rookie QB has four to five months before the season starts and the majority of that time is spent in shorts against no pressure, it’s reasonable to believe that some aren’t ready to play, no?
So while Bortles, Manziel, and Bridgewater are first round picks and starting experience would be nice, it’s important to understand that sometimes the best way for a turtle to reach the ocean is to zig-zag rather than run a straight line.
I’m developing matching calluses on my palm and forehead. This is Ruben Amaro’s fault. Every time the man speaks these days I face an uncontrollable instinct to bury my face in my hand with increasing haste, as if this could somehow shield me from his wanton disregard for reason.
Thus far, my efforts have been unsuccessful.
Amaro: “Right now, we’re trying to win as many games as possible… At the same time, at some point, we’re going to have to start looking to the future. And once we’re ‘eliminated’ … listen, is it a long shot to get back into this Wild Card race? It is. Numerically it’s not impossible, but right now obviously I’d be foolish to say it’s something that’s probable…. And at some point, we may be looking more at what we have to do for 2015 as far as what’s going on, on the field. But until then, we’ll make the decision when it’s the appropriate time, when it’s time to start to looking to 2015 and beyond. We’re not quite there yet.”
Trying to win as many games as possible. While that might be a nice thing to hear from a player, whose present entertainment value and future paycheck rely entirely upon his immediate performance, this is an impossibly ignorant and disheartening thing to hear from the general manager of a woefully uncompetitive major league baseball team. It has become clear at this point that self-reflection is not Amaro’s strong suit.
Perhaps Amaro, Montgomery, and the rest of the Phillies’ brass would be better served by a lesson that comes not from self examination, but from history. Not baseball history, but Mediterranean.
King Pyrrhus of Epirus was always a warrior. He was not a king that came from the political class. While he was indeed the heir to the title by birth, he was expelled from power four years into his reign, and had to take to the battlefield to regain his throne. So in 281 B.C.E., King Pyrrhus was already an expert battlefield commander when he answered the pleas of the beleagured city of Tarentum, which was under threat of destruction at the hands of Rome. Pyrrhus, sensing an opportunity to expand his kingdom, sailed to Italy with an army.
After early successes in the field, in 279 B.C.E. Pyrrhus turned his troops north towards the city of Asculum. His army numbered around 40,000, and the Romans met him with an equal number. The battle lasted for two days, and at the end of the second day, the Roman forced had been decisively defeated. But Pyrrhus was hardly in a position to celebrate. Although his army had killed twice as many Roman soldiers as it had lost, winning the battle had cost Pyrrhus a strategic defeat.
The Greek historian Plutarch sums up the aftermath: “Pyrrhus said to one who was congratulating him on his victory, ‘If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.’ For he had lost a great part of the forces with which he came, and all his friends and generals except a few; moreover, he had no others whom he could summon from home, and he saw that his allies in Italy were becoming indifferent, while the army of the Romans, as if from a fountain gushing forth indoors, was easily and speedily filled up again.”
This is the event from which we draw the term Pyrrhic Victory: winning the day with grave consequences for the future. Unfortunately for Phillies fans, this is precisely the kind of win that Amaro is referencing above.
The Phillies’ misguided attempts to win today, or indeed during the second half of the 2014 season, have prevented them from making the moves that must be made in order to start building another championship-caliber roster. By holding onto aging, but still productive, talent, the Phillies have already lost out on too many opportunities to get any better in the future. Likewise, they’re pushing themselves further and further away from the highest picks in next year’s draft, which this team sorely needs in order to start replenishing its decimated farm system.
Actually, comparing Pyrrhus to Amaro and Montgomery isn’t very fair to Pyrrhus. At least he realized the cost of glory. He demonstrated an ability to remove himself from his personal pride and see the ultimate consequences. This Phillies management group has repeatedly proven incapable of thinking with such lucidity. Every extra win that this team earns in the waning days of summer could rightly be termed a Phillic victory, and they should be “celebrated” accordingly. It would serve the Phillies – and more importantly, what remains of the Phillies’ fan base – to see that the net result of their current philosophy can only lead to ultimate failure.
So as you may have heard recently Ray, Turtle and I have been given the opportunity to try a podcast with a big company. While I’m really excited for the opportunity it hurts to say that the Wooder Cooler is now officially on hiatus. I’d like to thank you for taking the time to check in on the Philly sports thoughts of myself and our staff over the past two plus years. You’re–as they said back in the day–“the bomb”.
For all of the people that have made this thing happen: Hank, Ray Boyd, Ransom, Nick, Bill, Pete and Ray McCreavy…thank you. I’m still holding out hope for a drunk podcast.
So much love and kisses that it would probably weird you out even if we were married,