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September 15, 2015

The 2015 Eagles are going to be just fine: I guarantee it

There is panic in the streets of Philadelphia today as Eagles fans deal with the shocking disappointment of last night’s 26-24 season-opening loss to Atlanta. Here are the highlights from four hours of soul-baring phone calls on my WIP radio show:

     • Chip Kelly is a fraud.

     • Sam Bradford is a loser.

     • Byron Maxwell is a stiff.

     • Cody Parkey is a choker.

Fortunately, the Eagles still have 15 games left on the schedule, so the fans are saving their real venom for later in the season. What they did accomplish right now, however, is to force everyone who endured that debacle to take a stand.

Were we all horribly wrong about the 2015 Eagles?

No, we were not. The Birds are going to be just fine, thank you. They are going to win the NFL East, they will play deep into the playoffs, and yes, they might even get to compete in that really big game at the very end of the season.

The bottom line is, some teams need more time to mesh than others, and that is especially true of these new and improved Eagles. But they will mesh. They will get better.

What I took from that muddle in Atlanta – believe it or not – is that the Birds are going to be everything we hoped they would be. All of the potential of Kelly’s new roster was there on display. You just had to look past the clutter of penalty flags, busted coverages and dumb decisions.

For example, the three straight touchdown drives in the second half that erased a 20-3 deficit and gave the Eagles a brief 24-23 lead were the Kelly offense in its purest form. Even behind a makeshift line struggling mightily with holding calls, Bradford threw dart after dart right into the hands of his young receiving corps.

The Falcons couldn’t breathe by the end of the third quarter, let alone stop the Eagles’ offense. Does anyone really believe those drives were a fluke? Or were they a preview of a time when these players have had more experience together? Even the game-deciding interception was a perfect throw that slipped between the hands of Jordan Matthews.

Sam Bradford is not a loser. He is about to become a superstar.

And Kelly is not a fraud, though his decision to try a field goal with 2:32 left was illogical, given the recent struggles of Parkey and the prospect of Matt Ryan getting the ball back on his home turf – where he was 7-0 in openers – even if the kicker made the 44-yarder. Kelly’s problem was, he wanted to show faith in Parkey – way too much faith.

Meanwhile, Maxwell’s struggles were worrisome, to be sure, but there were some major extenuating circumstances there, too. Julio Jones is a challenge for any cornerback, and the Eagles’ new secondary is still a work in progress. Maxwell deserves more than one bad game to seal his fate, doesn’t he?

There was so much for Eagles fans to embrace in the loss, so many promises obscured by the loss. Kiko Alonso’s interception in the end zone was astonishing. Jordan Matthews dropped a big pass, but he did hold onto 10 others. Zack Ertz made a brilliant, leaping reception during the comeback. Darren Sproles was unstoppable.

The bottom line is, some teams need more time to mesh than others, and that is especially true of these new and improved Eagles. But they will mesh. They will get better.

I have built a reputation over the past quarter-century of being the first media person to push the panic button, to spray my vitriol all over the sports landscape. I have no patience for failure – especially one as painful as Monday night’s loss in Atlanta.

But not this time, Philadelphia.

The 2015 Eagles are going to be just fine. I guarantee it.


When the news broke seven years ago that the New England Patriots were secretly taping the practices of opponents to gain a competitive advantage, my first reaction was one of utter outrage. The Eagles had one chance in over three decades to win a Super Bowl, and their opponent was cheating? Really?

Yes, really. In fact, after revelations came out last week by ESPN that the scandal known as Spygate was far greater in scope than anyone knew at the time, Eagles fans had no clue how to react. Do the 2004-05 Eagles deserve the Lombardi Trophy? Two players on that team (and now colleagues of mine on WIP radio), Ike Reese and Hollis Thomas, think so.

I don’t agree, only because no championship by forfeit is going to replace the joy of winning it right then and right there. What fans have not focused on enough, then or now, is that the thieves involved in this crime are still in place, making millions every year, despite their misdeeds.

Roger Goodell, the commissioner, reportedly ordered assistants during a meeting with the Patriots in Foxboro, to stomp on the illegal videotapes, literally to crush the evidence. Goodell is still running the league. How is this possible?

Bill Belichick, who oversaw a surveillance project that encompassed seven years and at least 40 different games, is still winning Super Bowls – under equally dubious circumstances – in New England. Were a $500,000 fine and the loss of a first-round draft pick a sufficient penalty for such an extensive breach of NFL rules?

In the midst of one of my radio tirades years ago when Spygate first became public, the late Sen. Arlen Specter called my show and threatened a congressional hearing into the scandal. He would have been frustrated last week to learn that he was actually Goodell’s biggest fear during the cover-up. The commissioner would have faced jail time for perjury if he lied to that committee under oath.

It is far too late for the teams cheated out of a fair chance to win Super Bowls to gain the justice they deserve, but there is no statute of limitations on punishing the people behind one of the worst episodes of cheating in modern sports history.

Is it asking too much for Goodell and Belichick to pay a much steeper price for their disgraceful behavior? Then why is there no public outcry? Where is the next Arlen Specter when we need him the most?


A very strange thing happened after Phillies fans finally got what they wanted last week when GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was fired. Suddenly, history was totally revised. According to his bosses, some overly generous fans and even a few media sentimentalists, Amaro’s seven-year tenure was really not so bad. Hey, he did a lot of good things, too.

Oh, please. Ruben Amaro was the worst GM in Philadelphia sports history. He took a world championship roster and turned it into the worst team in baseball. That’s not an opinion; it’s a certifiable fact. The Phillies had just won the World Series in 2008 when he took over, and they had the worst record in the game when he left. Look it up.

All of the kind remarks offered last week were a sappy and silly attempt to revise history because Amaro was also an accessible and interesting man who showed as much respect as any GM ever has for the customers, even though he sometimes criticized them. He was no Sam Hinkie. Amaro cared about Philadelphia fans.

But to turn that one attribute into an undeserved final bow is absurd. It ignores the terrible trades (Cliff Lee, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino) and even worse contracts (Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Ruiz). It conveniently forgets the promising young players he let go (Brandon Moss, Jason Grilli) and the dreadful ones he added (Phillippe Aumont, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez).

The most idiotic part of this redefinition of Amaro’s tenure is the new argument – provided by owner John Middleton and president Andy MacPhail, among many others – that the GM redeemed himself at the trade deadline this season. Yes, the Phils made some smart moves. And the final word on every one of those transactions was outgoing president Pat Gillick, not Amaro.

In the end, the truth about Amaro was contained not in the bogus tributes but in the timing of his departure. With only a couple of months left on his contract, the Phillies told him to leave immediately and installed his assistant, Scott Proefrock, as interim GM. If Amaro was such a plus, why dump him early?

Ruben Amaro was one thing, and one thing only, during his time as GM – a demolition expert. He took the best roster the Phillies ever had and made it into the worst team in baseball. Any other conclusion about his tenure as GM is ridiculous.

And finally ...

     • Moses Malone, the foundation of the last Sixer championship team in 1983, passed away – way too soon – at 60 over the weekend. Engaging on the court and quiet off it, he embodied a tireless work ethic and a commitment to success that will never be forgotten. He was the ultimate hero in Philadelphia sports – a winner.

     • Jeff Lurie remains the master of the hollow platitude, but his impromptu news conference last week did reveal something fascinating. The Eagles owner said ex-pal Joe Banner’s prediction of a Birds’ Super-Bowl win this year was “just noise to me.” Sounds like he and Banner still haven’t patched things up.

     • John Middleton is going to be the best sports owner in Philadelphia, if he’s not already. His testimonial to the fans during the Ruben Amaro news conference last week was encouraging, as was his admission that he chastised the GM for ripping them. Middleton became a billionaire by knowing the customers of his cigar company. He will do the same with Phillies fans. Believe it.

     • Now that Ruben Amaro has finally left the building, can we finally end the Dom Brown experiment – after six years – and send him packing, too? No player better symbolizes the ineptitude of Amaro’s reign than Brown, a delusional and lazy player who was enabled by a clueless GM.

     • Jonathan Papelbon came back to town with the Washington Nationals this week, and the closer immediately declared that he was one of only a few Phillies who actually cared about winning this season. Unfortunately for him, we no longer care what he has to say. Keep talking, Jonathan. It’s all just noise to us now.