December 04, 2017

Once again, Eagles are on the wrong side of a Tony Corrente-reffed game

Opinion Angelo Cataldi
AP_859346236438.jpg Stephen B. Morton/AP

Referee Tony Corrente.

At the risk of coming across as a spoilsport or even a crybaby, I feel an obligation to dedicate the top of today’s column to the atrocious officiating last night of veteran NFL referee Tony Corrente and his abysmal crew.

The Eagles lost, 24-10, to Seattle, and to Corrente. The Seahawks deserved to win because their quarterback, Russell Wilson, played much better than Carson Wentz and because their coach, Pete Carroll, was far more adept on the sideline than Doug Pederson. The Eagles didn’t lose the game because of the officials.

But that doesn’t alter the reality that they got robbed by a crew the NFL knew would provide a major advantage to Seattle. How else can you explain the Seahawks’ 18-5 record when Corrente is the referee, compared to the Eagles’ 5-10-1 mark? The NFL is keenly aware of those numbers. So why did they assign Corrente to that game?

It came as no surprise to me – since I speculated about it on my WIP radio show last Friday – that Corrente’s crew would play an integral part in Seattle’s success. In fact, they made key calls against the Eagles in all three of the Seahawks’ touchdown drives.

They handed Seattle an early lead with a phantom pass-interference call against Ronald Darby, keyed the next TD drive with flimsy defensive-holding calls against Patrick Robinson and Corey Graham, and then missed a forward lateral that led to the clinching score.

Three of those bogus flags fluttered from the same hand, that of field judge Buddy Horton, who has served on the crew of another Eagles’ nemesis, Pete Morelli. In games when Horton is on the field, the Eagles are 0-8.

Any questions so far?

The officials were also horrendous on plays that did not lead to touchdowns. Has any quarterback gotten blasted like Wentz did on an offsides play the way Frank Clark did in the third quarter? Or how about punt returner Kenyon Barner getting rolled after calling for a fair catch? Or Zack Ertz getting knocked out of the game with an early hit on a pass play? No call. No call. No call.

In a game filled with injustices, the most outrageous came when Seattle’s Bobby Wagner grabbed hold of Barrett Brooks by the facemask and waved the lineman’s head around, in full view of the TV cameras, for at least three seconds. How could the officials miss that one? (I posted it on Twitter.)

When I pointed out all of these outrages on my WIP radio show this morning, I was called a spoilsport, a crybaby and worse. As my co-host, former Eagle Hollis Thomas, put it, “real men” don’t whine after they lose, especially when coaches wimp out the way Peterson did, or quarterbacks fumble from inside the one-yard line like Wentz.

Maybe so, but how can a game analyst watch three hours of these one-sided decisions by officials who have a record of favoring Eagles’ opponents and ignore them? How can a fan watch pass interference be called one way for Seattle and another for the Eagles? Why pretend all of those calls didn’t have an impact on the game?

Call me a sore loser if you must. I don’t care. Last night the Eagles got robbed by Tony Corrente, Buddy Horton and their blind friends.

If you didn’t see it – or just don’t want to talk about it – that’s your problem, not mine.

***

Ron Hextall has been a terrible general manager in his three-plus years with the Flyers. There, somebody finally said it. Not only is his team almost impossible to watch this season, but it also ranks as one of the biggest disappointments in the NHL.

Thanks for nothing, Hexy.

If there were any doubt left that the former elite goaltender is clueless, it came during a series of insulting appearances last week that were designed to defend the biggest mistake so far of his tenure, the hiring of zombie head coach Dave Hakstol.

Hextall had the audacity to proclaim after the Flyers lost their ninth straight game last Tuesday – a home defeat so brutal, the late boos were interrupted only by “Fire Hakstol” chants – that his team was “not playing poorly.” He even suggested that if the media were actually paying attention, it would see what he has been seeing.

Well, I have been paying very close attention, and what I see is a team with no energy, unreliable defense, an endless succession of stupid decisions and a propensity to choke late in close contests. They are not playing poorly. Poorly is too kind a word to describe their play.

Because he’s Ron Hextall, of course, the bold GM then doubled down on his opinion the next day by saying “Dave Hakstol is our coach, and he’s going to remain our coach.”

Translation: I can’t admit a mistake, even when it is as obvious as this one.

Meanwhile, Flyers fans cannot stomach the stone face and the robotic words of the coach, so much so that 82 percent voted in an Internet poll last week that they wanted Hakstol fired. Among the voters who called into my WIP radio show were season ticket holders paying $100 and up for games they have no desire to attend.

The day after that wave of disapproval, 55 percent voted in a separate poll that they did not want Hextall to leave, at least not yet. The only thing that number proves is that Hextall has not yet spent all of the goodwill he accumulated as a player.

Whether Hextall would still be here if chairman Ed Snider – who had zero tolerance for bad hockey – were still alive is a matter of conjecture. Snider did tend to hang onto his favorite Flyers players, even when they proved inept as GMs (see: Bob Clarke, Paul Holmgren.) But Hakstol would be gone. Believe that.

After Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Boston – increasing the streak to 10 straight defeats – the Flyers embarked on a western swing through Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver – not too far from where Dave Hakstol enjoyed far better success in North Dakota for 11 years.

If they keep losing, the Flyers could drop Hakstol off on the way back. And if Ron Hextall doesn’t agree with that obvious conclusion, they should drop the GM off with him.

***

Gabe Kapler is not like any manager or coach Philadelphia has ever encountered. He eats healthy (but not too healthy), speaks with a confidence that belies his lack of experience and should bring immediate excitement. He is the best thing that has happened to the Phillies since Rhys Hoskins – or the worst thing since Dom Brown.

After spending the better part of an hour with Kapler last Thursday, I was more astounded than ever that conservative, boring GM Matt Klentak took such a huge risk by bringing in someone who is so unconventional in his thinking. If this grand experiment works, Kapler will be beloved for his idiosyncrasies. If it doesn’t, ugh.

Much has been made of his identity on social media, where he has proposed a controversial new way to use coconut oil – among many other oddities – but he refuses to be defined by those quirks. In fact, he laughs some of them off now as the product of youth. What he doesn’t do is hide from them.

His most impressive moment during his WIP radio visit came when I asked him how he – an overachiever who played like his hair was on fire – would handle a lazy player like Odubel Herrera. He said the key was communication – making the player know what’s right without creating a crisis. It was a credible answer.

Although he has many unusual fitness ideas, Kapler was quick to dismiss the notion that he is a food fanatic, or even a health nut. He said he still enjoys a thick, juicy steak just as much as any other Phillies fan. The important thing, he said, is to know how to work it off later in the gym.

Kapler has one year of experience as a manager – he went 58-81 in Greenville (A) a decade ago – and is certainly nothing like the Charlie Manuels and Pete Mackanins who have preceded him. He might be really good, but he also could be a disaster.

All I can tell you is, before he ever manages a game for the Phillies, I find myself rooting for Gabe Kapler.

And finally …

     • The only thing holding the Sixers back from truly competing in the Atlantic Division against Boston and Toronto is their own front office. Last week, the medical staff benched Joel Embiid for “load management” though there is no science to suggest playing the young center on successive nights would increase his risk of injury. The Sixers lost that game to the Celtics. The next time Embiid is benched for no good reason, he should tell the doctors where to go. And I don’t mean Qatar.

     • Former Sixer Scott Brooks rolled out a new strategy to stop his former team last week when his Wizards hacked Ben Simmons on 12 consecutive trips down the floor, exploiting the rookie’s ineptitude on the foul line. The plan nearly worked, leading fans to ponder how the Sixers can counteract it. It’s pretty simple, really. Simmons has to get a lot better at free throws.

     • Doug Pederson complained after the Eagles lost to Seattle, 24-10, last night, that his team had a bad week of practices leading up to their first loss in 10 weeks. OK, fine. But what is the coach’s excuse for that final minute before the half? Why did he let the clock wind down when he was 15 yards from a field goal? In that sequence, the coach looked every bit as ill-prepared as his team.

     • Most fans have forgotten that the Eagles were serious about hiring Ben McAdoo as head coach two years ago before the Giants swooped in with an offer to keep him in New York. Now, the Birds are happy with their choice, Doug Pederson, while the Giants fired McAdoo today because of the Eli Manning debacle last week. Sometimes, it really is better to be lucky than good.

     • This is a huge week for Atlantic City, as Governor Chris Christie takes his five-year fight for legal sports betting to the U.S. Supreme Court. Christie has screwed up almost everything he’s touched in the final years of his tenure, but he has been right about the need for sports books in the second-biggest gambling city in America. Here’s hoping he wins this battle – just so we can all bet legally against his beloved Cowboys.